"To inspire them to realize more and more of their capacities for living meaningful lives. Because there certainly is meaning to life."
-John Coltrane on Uplifting Others

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Laugh Out Loud

Most of you don't know this, but I'm part of Laugh Out Loud, the improv comedy club on campus. It's similar to Whose Line is it Anyway? and ComedySportz. We have two Halloween shows this Saturday, one starting at the six and the other at eight. There's going to be a costume contest and laughter. Here's a link to the Facebook event. I hope to see some of you there!

An Hour with Brian Doyle

I just finished a lecture with the essayist Brian Doyle. I put my notes online, on my other blog. If you love stories or have an inkling for writing, read these notes. I guarantee you will like it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Understanding Modernism

In order to understand Modernism, I have to share with you the theory of movements behind aesthetics. Whenever there is a major movement in art or literature, there is a major paradigm shift in the world. For example, Romanticism happened as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution; American Realism occurred as a result of the American Civil War and as a rejection of Romanticism.
In Modernism, the chief historical thrust behind its movement was the First World War. Think about it; for the first time, machines are being used to effectively wipe out thousands of men. War became more brutal and dehumanized, with the advent of chemical warfare, machine guns and tanks. This detachment is found in the works of T.S. Eliot ("The Waste Land"), Ezra Pound ("Canto XLV") and Wassily Kandinsky (I would link to one of his paintings, but none are in the public domain). Their works are elevated; they desired to detach art from the masses. Instead of being beautiful for beauty's sake, Modernist demanded that art be art for art's sake. If one doesn't understand, then it is their fault.
As I remembered all those literary discussions on Modernism, I began to wonder how it works or is apparent in today's digital culture. Are there people or companies that elevate their computing language so as to become detached? Is social media leading to a detachment of real and viable relationships? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Month In

I started working for Eleutian Technologies a month ago, and let me tell you, it's boss! Eleutian is part of the growing E Learning community. With this company, I connect with students in South Korea and Japan through Skype, and teach them English.

Let me detail a typical lesson for you:
10:00 PM: make my way into the office
10:05 PM: log into Skype, make sure my recorder is working and that video is clear
10:10 PM: Enter into the Korean website (in English!), where I find my lesson plans
10:11 PM: For the next hour and ten minutes, I go over lesson plans, locate images and cards to help teach the phonetics, check my time, think up crazy games for the kids, double check my lessons
11:19 PM: With just thirty seconds to go, I call my first class. It is a group of ten year olds just learning English. I start class.
11:50 PM: I finish my class, and made the most of the games. I make a quick review of the lesson, self-deprecating along the way. This is done quickly, because I only have four and a half minutes before my next class.
11:54 PM: Same as 11:19, except the class is now composed of twelve year olds. My lesson is completely different, and my vocabulary changes.
12:25 PM: Last class ends. The kids laugh at my inability to pronounce Korean names, so they give me "English" names. I swallow my pride and make my final report.

That is just a brief glimpse into what I do. I also teach one on one sessions with older students, where we just talk and work on sentence structures. I am beginning a new shift where I will talk to teachers and give them tips on teaching English as a Second Language.
Sure the hours are rough (anywhere from 5 PM- 9 AM), but I can't think of a better job. With my decision to become an English teacher, Eleutian is giving me opportunities to prepare to teach, specifically students from a foreign language background. That is just a small case; the big deal resides within. I am learning about myself, my pedagogical views and desire to teach professionally. It is frustrating sometimes, but I love what I do. And at the end of the day, that is the motivation behind teaching. It isn't the money; it's the desire to make the world better, one student or class at a time.

Digital Lab: Thumbscribes

Are you an aspiring author? Or, do you have some things you need off your chest? Then thumbscribes is the site for you.
Thumbscribes is a collaborative writing website, where you can begin a poem, haiku, short story, novella, etc., and have others contribute until the finished project. I created a login name, and decided to create something. So, I started a haiku entitled "Open Source." I wrote, "Struggling for new life," and this is what happened (with commentary!):
Open Source
Struggling for new life, (I know. A little hokey, but I just wanted to start something)
A peer to peer production, (Contributed by another; a pretty good follow up to the initial idea)
Gun pointed at you (What?!! Who jumped the shark?)

Upside to this site is you can co-create literature with other people. It allows you to connect ideas into something new and unique. The flipside is sometimes what you envision does not transpire. When I think Open Source, I don't randomly put "Gun pointed at you."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Being a Latter Day Saint Today

Yesterday, I received news the Elder Christofferson dedicated Angola to the preaching of the Gospel. While there are about 900 members there in three congregations, the official opening of the doors happened now. I am glad for this, because Angola is part of my mission: the Mozambique Maputo Mission. It brings me joy to know that missionaries can now go over with more fervor than before, to preach the gospel to my dear African friends.
While I have never been to Angola, I take comfort in this news. Being a Latter Day Saint in today's digital world means becoming part of the global church. There are stakes scattered across the globe, where faithful members congregate and share in the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Where I use to send letters to members in Mozambique, I now use Facebook to talk to them. (I know that makes me seem old, but I have been home for four years. That's how much social media has changed.) I can even Skype.
That the church has used technology to further the Lord's work is amazing to me. I was not in class today, but Kristen told me about the full time missionaries whose sole purpose is to do online work. When she told me, I felt a confirmation of the Spirit; this is God's work. How grateful I am to live in a day and age where Jesus Christ's gospel can go the world over.
Here's a picture from the beginning of my mission:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evolution and Medicine

I work in the Widstoe Building on the weekends doing minor janitorial work. That's the way I like to keep my relationship with science: on an acquaintance level. After reading Origins of Species, my mind went back to my acquaintance and a comic strip posted there. It is on a professor's door, I believe on the seventh floor, and it depicts a doctor talking to a patient about TB. The doctor asks his reeling patient if he believes in evolution and whether he would like the disease treated as it once was or as it is today.
That was a really awkward sentence, so let me break it down for you. Diseases are evolving at a rapid pace. It seems that once a new vaccine comes out for TB (Not Tampa Bay!), a new, more deadly or contagious strain arises. Flu is another example of this rapid evolution; in the early twentieth century, it was Spanish flu that caused death and quarantine. Now, populations the world over fear for both avian and swine flu. Even though we have shots, thousands die around the world from the flu.
Science is desperately trying to combat new forms of old threats by understanding their evolutionary patterns, but my question is: Is it worth it? Could man's attempt to vaccinate be causing some of the problems?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dirty Dash: the "Evolution" of Running

I forgot to post this picture after the race, but here's my team after the Dirty Dash in September. Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I'm Reading Right Now

After listening to him read on Friday, I bought a book of poetry by Tomaz Salamun. He is a Slovenian poet and the book I bought is Woods and Chalices.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lyrical Ballads: A Letter to Wordsworth

I would like to thank Kristen and Bri for their presentations on Lyrical Ballads. After reading it, I went to Goodreads to voice my opinion. You may call it a rant, but it is my review of the piece. I fashioned the review in an epistolary fashion. I pasted it here into my blog, but you can also go to my Goodreads widget and click on my review. Who knows? We might become friends on this literary community.

Lyrical Ballads, 1798Lyrical Ballads, 1798 by William Wordsworth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Oh Wordsworth,
How you and I have battled through these years. Ever since that fateful trip to a Daffodil farm in seventh grade have I stuggled to understand your Romanticism. Even now, as I review your first book Lyrical Ballads, I must admit I entered with hesitation. I found some of your poems to be bemusing; I especially enjoyed "Lines Written at a Small Distance From My House." I know the importance of viewing nature, in (how did you describe it?) idleness.
Your writings, Wordsworth, are masterpieces for Romanticism. They should be read and analyzed by English students the world over. Sadly, my critique is that I don't particularly enjoy it. I understand your frustration at this admission of bias, but I feel that it must be said. You may tell Coleridge that I enjoyed "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere" very much.

A Jaded Voice from the Twenty First Century

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Boolean Logic

Aside from having a rocking name, Boolean logic underlies the digital revolution. Essentially, the logic works by simplifying and "[buildings] combinations that will implement any digital component you can imagine." This implementations happen through specific "gates:" not, and, or, nor, nand, xor, and xnor. Explaining these gates would make this post too long, so I'll place the link right here.

As you go through these ideas, I wonder how I might simplify my life through these algorithms. Instead of looking at each decision through it various "outcomes," what if I looked at it as a yes and/or no situation?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Four Necessities of Life

According to Thoreau in Walden, man only needs four things: Food, Shelter, Clothing and Fuel. Everything else is luxury, and Thoreau wrote:
Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind (11).
I'm wondering how true his statements are. Aren't human interactions a necessity, or is it a luxury to have friends? Is this concept part of Shelter? I know that even though he went to the woods to experience a primitive life, Thoreau also entertained friends from Concord.

Quote and book found on publicliterature.org. Like the Gutenberg Project, they are digitizing thousands of free books. Check them out for your favorites!
Photo found on talkingtree.com

Rapid Reactions

I just finished skimming our reading for today:
1. A friend mentioned reading "Democracy in America" to me yesterday, and here it is in my reading. I disagree with what de Tocqueville wrote on American's desire to find the shortest route to happiness. I believe it is the idea of social mobility and individualism that drives the American, not "the pursuit of worldly wealth."
2. I find the idea of the frontier shaping American thought more than Atlantic principles interesting and refreshing. In a state government class at Kilgore Community College, my professor broke down voting patterns into three categories: community (the North), aristocracy (the South), and individual (Everywhere Else).
3. I had a different experience from Thoreau in the forest. I spent a week in Canada by myself, but found that I couldn't think straight. Either my thought process is whack, or I didn't take to my task like Thoreau did. Maybe next time, I'll take a copy of "Civil Disobedience."
4. I liked "Civil Disobedience." It reinforced ideas that I've had before, but never had the moral constitution to enact those kind of principles.

There you have it. I also found this quick video on American Expansion. Enjoy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's Talk Romanticism

That's right people. Let's talk some Romanticism: put on some Teddy Pendergrass, dim the lights down low, and forget the Industrial Revolution. Pull out some Goethe, Browning or Longfellow, although, nothing gets the mood against industrialization going like some snippets of Wordsworth. Here's "The World is Too Much With Us," read by Samuel Godfrey George.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Book Ideas

Here are some of the books that have sparked my interested, although what my fellow classmates think should be taken into consideration. These are a few of my interests:

Nothing Like It In the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose
I love trains, and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad opened up American expansion. It is also over 600 pages long, and has a reputation of historical inconsistencies. Maybe this book would best suit my personal library.

The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800- 1890 by Richard Slotkin.
Here are two ideas I would not put together. Slotkin theorizes that the American image of the lone cowboy is an allegory of territorial expansion. Once again, here is a book that is over 600 pages, and the limited time of this assignment (two weeks!) facilitates that such a book be shelved (do you see the word play?! Love it.).

More likely to read:
The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Hawthorne explores the doomed commune of Blithedale against a backdrop of social and cultural issues of the 19th century.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
An immigrant's story, Antonia comes from Bavaria to Nebraska. Underlying her story is Jim's transition from the country (agrarian) to the city (industrialization). Good read.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I now have a class in Korea, which I will begin teaching this Wednesday. I "meet" my Korean counterpart tomorrow night during a Skype meeting at 10 PM my time. Starting in mid October, I will be teaching a group of Japanese students.
As a side note, I guess this teaching job will be the great experiment to see if I can connect with people through a digital medium. Will they listen to me if I'm not physically present?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Digital Scaffolding

As I think about final projects for this class, my mind goes back to scaffolding. Scaffolding in learning means that a group of students with different levels and skills in a concept will, if placed together, learn the whole idea faster than alone. An example of this would be three students living in a foreign land. None of them know the language fluently. However, Student 1 is good at identifying cognates, Student 2 knows verb conjugation, and Student 3 has an ability to understand sentence structure. If they work together, they will learn the language faster and become more fluent than if they stayed alone. Now, this is common sense (at least to me), but how does this transition to Personal Learning Networks and Digital Literacy?

I have a few ideas of how this correlates, but I would like to hear from you. What do you think?

Photo from the Commons on Flickr.