Wednesday, December 22, 2010

book review


Matt and I read this book aloud to each other in less than a week. So immersing is this account of dogsledding and running the Iditarod that any chance we got, we'd say "how about another chapter?" The prologue and the first chapter reveal the danger and the majesty of dog sledding--of being outside in areas of the woods and wilderness that a person would not otherwise see, in all weather. It is clear that Paulsen is revealing his soul here, and reading (or listening), I feel as though I have glimpsed the awesome world of snow in his writing. Yet, the prologue and opening chapter are also misleading, because they lack one other aspect of the book that kept us turning the pages: Paulsen's fantastic sense of humor. The rest of the chapters had us laughing out loud as he chronicles his "appauling ignorance" in the world of running dogs. He sets himself up as the constant--and comic--beginner, and through his fumbles we see just how hard it is to do this right. It is not a good idea, for example, to hook half a dozen raring-to-go, half-wild huskies up to a bicycle. Or a light sled. They will run wild and drag you through the woods and swamp and you might hug every other tree in Northern Minnesota--all that before you lose the team and have to try to find them again. Running at night in the summer, prepare for your dogs to find and try to eat every skunk in the forest. And there are a lot of them. I feel like I have a sense of what it means to run the Iditarod--enough to know how little I know, and that I would never, myself, dream of going near it. A highly recommended read. We're giving two copies as Christmas presents.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hope plant

This summer I picked up a huge plant with trumpet-shaped purple flowers from a table of free plants someone had put out. I kept it with my other ones, set it on the bedroom window sill where it got lots of sun. Over the course of the semester, I watched its big floppy leaves turn brown and crinkly around the edges. Then the flowers started to shrivel, leaving these sad-looking brown stalks left. I decided to get rid of it.

I felt bad throwing out a living thing. I would have left it for someone to talk, but it's December, and so last week I trudged out into the snow and set it out by the dumpster. Just perhaps, someone would see it and take it before it died, and then I wouldn't be killing it. I walked away, and almost made it to the door I turned around. It was crying. I brought it back inside.

I trimmed off all the ugly brown stems and the large, dying leaves. Underneath were tiny fuzzy new leaves unfurling. I fed it coffee grounds, set it away from the sunlight. In the past week, those new leaves have grown 3 inches, and a new flower, fuzzy stemmed, is just about to uncurl. It's my hope plant. Everyday I watch it grow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

a literary facebook!

Check out this article announcing the unveiling of Figment.com, a space for teens with literary leanings to read and write fiction. Certainly, this is appealing to writers of YA as well...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

a message of peace

This morning in church I learned of an interesting example of peace that I'm going to be carrying around in my head this week. In 1944 German prisoners of war who were working on farms in Algona, Iowa--which in itself I find interesting, as I don't think of POWs really being in this country--put their downtime into sculpting an extensive nativity scene. The pieces are half of life-size. When they were able to go home, they left the nativity scene to the town, and a church keeps it up and open to the public to this day. When we talk of enemies at war, we don't think of them as people, let alone as worshipers of God, and certainly not as givers of gifts that remind us of peace. Wishing you all shalom this second week of advent.

Read more about the nativity scene here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

weddings

Some of my students are reading a fascinating book by Asne Seierstad called The Bookseller of Kabul. Set in Kabul, Afghanistan, the book follows each of the family members of a man who has sold books throughout Afghanistan's changing regimes, many of which have rewritten their country's history and banned new sets of books. Fascinating as his story is, the book devotes its time to his family, focusing increasingly at the harsh lives the women in the family lead. (My students often comment on the author's decision not to include herself in the story, though she clearly makes her opinions known through her organization and choice of events--I love inviting students to consider the choices the writer makes in creating a book.) One memorable chapter describes preparation for a wedding, in which the author describes trying to follow two of the women of the family (dressed in burkas) through a crowded market filled with burkas. The descriptions of the following wedding shares some notable resemblances to this Uzbec wedding in Tajikastan that my friend Bethany Gustafson photo-documents here. For example, the bride must not smile, else it will be thought that she is happy to lead her parents' home.

Coming soon: a review of Gary Paulsen's Winter Dance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Faces of Witness

I am absolutely blown away by Faces of Witness, a gorgeous combination of art, testimony, and human rights activism created by my talented friend Elaine Denny. She conducted interviews about the human rights struggles in El Salvadore and composed pen-and-ink portraits of her interviewees--composed entirely of their own testimonies.

Check out the website and art work here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm back!

It's easy to begrudge the start of school. No more vacation. No more unscheduled, pick-up-and-go summer. Time to write the syllabi. Prepare for the 8 AM class, knowing the students who aren't morning people are equally concerned/in denial about meeting that hour 4 times a week. After a summer of Tevas, back to closed-toes shoes that rub. Back to fitting more than you thought possible into a day--

BUT, yesterday I walked across campus and saw that the freshmen have arrived on campus for their various orientations. They walk across the green, hugging their new notebooks, checking their maps, standing near people they have just met who they hope will be their new friends, wearing the clothes they have carefully chosen to look just right. I remember walking past the English building and catching a glimpse of myself in the window at Williams and just being so incredibly proud, thinking, I'm in college now. You can feel that uncertainty and excitement out on the lawn today.

Leaving the office: the perfect reset button. I am excited to meet my students.

Friday, June 25, 2010

DRAFT 2 DONE!!!



One ream of paper and an entire container of ink later, I've printed three copies (well, almost three copies, darn ink jet) of my "finished" novel, working title /The Violinist/. I have finished draft two and will be putting it in the mail tomorrow. (Which is a bit of a deal, considering it's almost an inch thick.) I say "finished" because there's always the chance my readers will point out enormous design flaws. But I've been writing 5-6 days a week all of June, and it has been joyous. It helps to be able to go for a walk before, after, and sometimes during writing sessions--especially after, when I'm trying to snap out of the written world.

Tomorrow Matt and I head off westward. Look for posts from me describing Montana and beyond.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

sample poetry

Check out the new issue of the lovely Pedestal Magazine, which features, among other things, a poem of mine titled "Monsoon." I wrote it on a writer's retreat 2 summers ago after reading a National Geographic special on India monsoons. It looks amazing to see water fill the streets, people rafting where they used to walk, but I tried to balance that with the reality of what it would be like to live with all that water. Enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

15 miles on the Erie Canal

10 points for you if you can sing the song with these lyrics.

My mother- and father-in-law just completed their sail of Erie Canal. They described the trip so beautifully, I thought I'd share it:

"Our trip through the canal took 13 days. We negotiated 35 locks and cruised 338 miles, plus 7 miles on the Niagara River from Buffalo to North Tonawanda. It might be fun to regale you with tales of our harrowing adventures along the Erie. However, there are no such stories to tell. For the last two weeks, our days have passed with uniform pleasantness. The scenery we’ve watched slide by at our cruising speed of 5 ½ knots has been varied and interesting. The weather’s been good. The people we’ve encountered are lovely. The captain and first mate - those roles, by the way, are interchangeable - still communicate in a cordial manner. Life is good.

For you history lovers out there, construction of the Erie Canal began in 1817. It opened for service seven years later. Its impact was immediate and overwhelming cutting the cost of moving commercial products substantially. Freight rates dropped from $100 per ton to $5 per ton. The travel time across NY went from 6 weeks to 6 days. The canal offered, for the first time, easy, cheap access to the interior of the continent. This opened the gate for uncounted thousands of settlers and tons of manufactured goods to stream west and agricultural products to flood east. The flow of goods and people to and from the interior transformed New York City into the largest, most prosperous seaport in North America. I might add that the Erie Canal did not benefit the Native Americans. In fact, the canal and its traffic hastened the destruction of the culture of the indigenous people.

On a map, the Erie Canal meanders east/west across New York State. It connects Lake Erie on the west to the Hudson River on the east. Any description of a transit through the canal can be conveniently divided into the western and eastern halves, with Oneida Lake smack-dab in the middle.

The western half, where we departed, starts in Buffalo. It took half a day to leave behind the industrial landscape of metropolitan Buffalo. Then, for the next eight days, we slowly cruised through rolling farmland and orchards. “Pastoral” is an excellent description. It even has cows! For many miles on its western half, the canal runs high above the surrounding countryside, sometimes as much as 70ft. We never tired of the panoramic views of rural New York.

Scattered along the canal are numerous old towns. They were excellent places to stop for the night. It was fun to walk their streets, admire the architecture of their old buildings, and talk to the local residents. It was also a bit sad. Once-upon-a-time, these towns were thriving commercial centers. Now, most of the industry is long-gone. Today, most of these towns rely on the vagaries of tourism to make a living. Real prosperity seems to be a thing of the past.

Eight days after leaving Buffalo, we arrived in Brewerton, NY, situated on the western shore of Oneida Lake. Oneida Lake is 21 miles long and 5 miles across. That makes it a considerable body of water and one to be crossed on a mild day. We crossed on a lightly overcast day with perfect conditions for a blunt-nosed boat that dislikes punching into big waves and for a crew that has already had too much sun.

East of Oneida Lake the character of the land changes dramatically. Farms become less frequent. Woods are thicker and more prevalent. Two hundred fifty years ago, endless miles of old-growth forest carpeted the area. Now, those great forests no longer exist, but up-state New York is still very pretty to look at.

As we continued our eastward journey, the land became rocky and hilly, almost mountainous. Here, the Erie Canal begins its increasingly steep descent into the Hudson River Valley. Within the last mile-and-one-half, five locks called the Waterford Flight dropped us the last 169 feet to the Hudson River. According to our guidebook, The Waterford Flight has the highest “lift” within the shortest distance of any lock system in the world. Waterford claims to be the oldest incorporated village in the United States. Walking through the town, seeing the old buildings, and reading signs about where George Washington rode past on his way to the Battle of Saratoga, we have every reason to believe that Waterford’s claim is correct."

Sail on!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

city day, country day

Friday was a city day, Saturday was a country day. How fortunate I am to be at least slightly a part of both worlds.

City (Minneapolis): I felt like a hip urban chica hanging out in Minneapolis with my friend and former roommate Katie. The day included a walk to the new frozen yogurt bar Cafe Kem (Vietnamese for Ice Cream, I believe) on Nicollet and 25th-ish. There's nothing cooler, to me, than discovering a hole-in-the-wall gem of a restaurant. Located on Eat Street (aka Nicollet), this one was new enough that you had to hit the handicap button to get in through the sliding door, and it looks, briefly, like you're about to walk into someone's town home. But, turn right and there's a sleek, posh-looking cafe that sells espresso in its various forms, bubble tea, and soon-to-be gelato. The highlight was the self-serve frozen yogurt, which actually tastes likes yogurt and comes in such fun flavors, that week, a lychee and salty plum, as well as old standards like plain and mixed berry. The topping bar included candy and fresh fruit. At 46 cents an ounce, the pricing was about the same as a sundae, and the result was delicious. Check it out, those of you in the area.

Add to that experience a rooftop picnic, writing time in a cafe in the warehouse district, a jucy lucy for dinner from the famous Matt's bar, and a poetry reading at the Loft, with good friends included in all of those activities, and I was having a grand old time, missing the city life quite a bit.

Country: June is Dairy Month, folks, an in celebration we gathered our neighbors and headed to the family dairy farm in Elmwood that was selected to host this year's 17th Annual Dunn County Dairy Breakfast. We feasted on all-you-can-eat waffles with eight or so different kinds of syrup and fresh whipped cream, accompanied by coffee and four other forms of dairy: milk, pudding, fresh-fried cheese curds, and ice cream (if you could fit it in, which we couldn't). Add to that a car show (is it just me or are car shows often a big part of small town events?), a nice line-up of tractors, a church bake sale, a wagon ride, a petting zoo, and a man trying to collect enough ballot to run for...shoot, something in November. It was beautiful to drive through all the farmland in the drizzling rain and know that waffles awaited us.

Of course, what makes both days wonderful, when it comes down to it, was activity with good people, featuring good food. Hard to go wrong in any setting when you have that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorializing / the writing life


Feeling a bit tender around the edges after a plan to celebrate Memorial Day with friends resulted in us watching both /Glory/ and /Gettysburg/ in the same day. That's about 6.5 hours of fighting and dying. Both movies are incredibly stirring and highly recommended, though not on the same day. I think it's neat to know that the way /Gettysburg/ managed to have such huge crowds was have Civil War reenactors be extras in the movie. They came with their own costumes--that, though, is the reason why there is no blood and their uniforms are always clean.

Anyway, monthly writing total. The semester is over. (yay!) It ended mid-May, so I set my goal at double the in-semester writing total. I wanted to write 40 pages, topping off at page 100. Yesterday, I hit 101. Since the novel is 202 pages long, that's precisely half. Woo hoo! I'm hoping to treat the next two weeks at home as a writer's retreat and get lots more done. I'm loving having the time to write.

Speaking of the Civil War, tonight is summer's first Luddington Guard Band (formed during civil war) performance and pie sale at the park in Menomonie. :) Their playlist will include a Broadway review.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

tennis and poetry

I went to college with a guy who used to attend the debates and then sum up what he'd heard in rhyming couplets (composed during the event). I say, the more people are exposed to good poetry, the better. Here's a nice example of the same, courtesy of Yahoo Sports News:

WIMBLEDON, England (AP)—If Roger Federer’s performances at Wimbledon weren’t already the stuff of poetry, they certainly will be this year.

The country that gave the world Shakespeare and Wordsworth will have a “Championships Poet” at Wimbledon to write a poem a day about the Grand Slam tournament.

British comedian and poet Matt Harvey is the first bard summoned, charged with writing “on all things Wimbledon.” The All England Club said that includes everything “from umpires and racket stringers to the ball boys and ball girls; from the grass and its bounce to rain and the roof; strawberries and cream and all the unfolding drama of the matches and players.”

The raft of possible topics may well include Queen Elizabeth II, who is planning to attend June 24, her first visit to the grass-court showcase since 1977.

The poems will be made available on the Wimbledon website during the June 21-July 4 tournament and as an audio podcast read by Harvey.

Harvey, who regularly appears on British radio shows, said he was “delighted” by the assignment, “with a little bit of healthy anxiety thrown in.”

“It’s an honor,” Harvey said. “And I’m acutely conscious it’s the only time I’ll come first in anything at Wimbledon, unless you count the queue for strawberries.”

The idea of a Championships Poet came from Honor Godfrey, the curator of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. He said it will “provide a novel and interesting way” of interpreting the tournament.

“It will be fascinating to see both Matt’s take on what we see year-in year-out, and indeed the public’s reaction to the poems,” Godfrey said.

Harvey has already written his first Wimbledon poem, called “Grandest of Slams,” which is available on the website of The Poetry Trust, a British organization collaborating on the project with the All England Club.

In “Grandest of Slams,” he writes of the tournament, “Where tough tennis cookies have cracked and then crumbled in/Top seeds have stumbled, have tumbled, been humbled in/Wimbledon.”

Online:

www.thepoetrytrust.org

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

world photography

The New York Times had anyone with a camera in the entire world take a photo last Sunday at the same time (here it was 10:00 a.m.) Click here to link in with photos from around the world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

pet therapy



Unfortunately, this isn't our campus that's offering pet therapy...maybe an idea for the future?

UW offers stressed students pet therapy

MADISON (AP) - The University of Wisconsin-Madison wants stressed-out students to drop the books and pet some pooches.
University Health Services will offer its annual pet therapy session to help students cope with the pressure of final exams. Counselors will bring in their dogs for students to pet and play with to alleviate stress.
Counselors also will be available to listen to students' problems. Their advice includes setting attainable goals, striving for excellence rather than perfection, laying off the caffeine, deep breathing and maintaining a sense of humor.
The pet therapy session is set for Wednesday afternoon on campus.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

writing life

It's the start of another month, which means the posting of another month's writing total. It seems that 20 pages/month of revision is my rate, at least, during the semester. The last day of April saw me onto page 59 (and it took about 5000 words of writing to get there). It's nice to say that I'm now a quarter of the way through the book.

Also, this past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Children's and Young Adult Literature Writing Conference at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. When I went last year, I was trying to figure out whether I wanted to make the book YA, and all the names that came up were completely new for me. This year, it was nice to recognize the names.

Speaking of which, review of M.T. Anderson's /Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing/ forthcoming soon.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day

On this day, May 1st, five years ago, I met my husband for the first time, randomly, at a May Day festival in Minneapolis. Five years sounds like such a long and short time to have known each other. This got me thinking about how much my life has changed in the past five years. In addition to meeting Matt, getting married, and settling into married life, I've
-started and finished my MFA
-supported my husband through his masters (almost done!!!)
-stayed in the midwest (and moved to WI)--2 things I would never have anticipated
-lived in community in a house in the city with four wonderful roommates (living in the city in community being a dream I had in college)
-moved to the smallest town I've ever lived in (16000 ppl)
-taught at the college level for the entire duration of those five years
-published a chapbook and written two books (one poetry, seeking publisher--one novel, in revision--monthly word count coming soon)
-introduced my dearest friends to Maine (via our wedding)
-been to Ghana, Panama, Amsterdam (twice), and Venice
-learned to bake both pie and cheesecake (and many of the other recipes I know)
-grown my hair the longest it's ever been, cut it short, and started growing it again

You make the time period long enough, and you're bound to come up with some impressive accomplishments. But seriously, it is amazing to think how much has changed from 22 to 27. I can't even imagine what this list will look like in a further five years from now.

What's on your list?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Earth Day

Sad irony that I began Earth Day by accidentally sleeping through my carpool and had to drive myself to work.

In honor of the day, check out this site run by a woman who was in my class this semester. Green Girl Inc is devoted to living more sustainably. I learned quite a bit from reading her papers this semester.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In the News: Professor Removed for Being Too Hard

In continuing my rash of article posting, this thorough article from today's Inside Higher Ed questions where universities really expect average grades to be. It appears that those in power listened to students complain and did not attempt to understand how her class was structured beforehand. I could speculate several ways, but given that I have no more information than this, I'll let the article speak for itself.

Who Really Failed?

April 15, 2010

Dominique G. Homberger won't apologize for setting high expectations for her students.

The biology professor at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge gives brief quizzes at the beginning of every class, to assure attendance and to make sure students are doing the reading. On her tests, she doesn't use a curve, as she believes that students must achieve mastery of the subject matter, not just achieve more mastery than the worst students in the course. For multiple choice questions, she gives 10 possible answers, not the expected 4, as she doesn't want students to get very far with guessing.

Students in introductory biology don't need to worry about meeting her standards anymore. LSU removed her from teaching, mid-semester, and raised the grades of students in the class. In so doing, the university's administration has set off a debate about grade inflation, due process and a professor's right to set standards in her own course.

To Homberger and her supporters, the university's action has violated principles of academic freedom and weakened the faculty.

"This is terrible. It undercuts all of what we do," said Brooks Ellwood, president of the LSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and the Robey H. Clark Distinguished Professor of Geology. "If you are a non-tenured professor at this university, you have to think very seriously about whether you are going to fail too many students for the administration to tolerate."

Even for those who, like Homberger, are tenured, there is a risk of losing the ability to stick to your standards, he said, Teaching geology, he said, there are students who get upset when he talks about the actual age of the earth and about evolution. "Now students can complain to a dean" and have him removed, Elwood said. "I worry that my ability to teach in the classroom has been diminished."

Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Basic Sciences, did not respond to requests for a phone interview Wednesday. But he issued a statement through the university's public relations office that said: "LSU takes academic freedom very seriously, but it takes the needs of its students seriously as well. There was an issue with this particular class that we felt needed to be addressed.

"The class in question is an entry-level biology class for non-science majors, and, at mid-term, more than 90 percent of the students in Dr. Homberger's class were failing or had dropped the class. The extreme nature of the grading raised a concern, and we felt it was important to take some action to ensure that our students receive a rigorous, but fair, education. Professor Homberger is not being penalized in any way; her salary has not been decreased nor has any aspect of her appointment been changed."

In an interview, Homberger said that there were numerous flaws with Carman's statement. She said that it was true that most students failed the first of four exams in the course. But she also said that she told the students that -- despite her tough grading policies -- she believes in giving credit to those who improve over the course of the semester.

At the point that she was removed, she said, some students in the course might not have been able to do much better than a D, but every student could have earned a passing grade. Further, she said that her tough policy was already having an impact, and that the grades on her second test were much higher (she was removed from teaching right after she gave that exam), and that quiz scores were up sharply. Students got the message from her first test, and were working harder, she said.

"I believe in these students. They are capable," she said. And given that LSU boasts of being the state flagship, she said, she should hold students to high standards. Many of these students are in their first year, and are taking their first college-level science course, so there is an adjustment for them to make, Homberger said. But that doesn't mean professors should lower standards.

Homberger said she was told that some students had complained about her grades on the first test. "We are listening to the students who make excuses, and this is unfair to the other students," she said. "I think it's unfair to the students" to send a message that the way to deal with a difficult learning situation is "to complain" rather than to study harder.

Further, she said that she was never informed that administrators had any concerns about her course until she received a notification that she was no longer teaching it. (She noted that the university's learning management system allowed superiors to review the grades on her first test in the course.)

And while her dean authorized her removal from teaching the course, she said, he never once sat in on her course. Further, she said that in more than 30 years of teaching at LSU, no dean had ever done so, although they would have been welcome.

"Why didn't they talk to me?" she asked.

Homberger said that she has not had any serious grading disputes before, although it's been about 15 years since she taught an introductory course. She has been teaching senior-level and graduate courses, and this year, she asked her department's leaders where they could use help, and accepted their suggestion that she take on the intro course.

In discussions with colleagues after she was removed from the course, Homberger said that no one has ever questioned whether any of the test questions were unfair or unfairly graded, but that she was told that she may include "too many facts" on her tests.

Ellwood, the campus AAUP chapter president, said that his group had verified that no one informed Homberger of concerns before removing her from the course, and that no one had questioned the integrity of her tests. He also said that the scores on the second test were notably better than the first one, suggesting that students were responding to the need to do more work. "She's very rigorous. There's no doubt about that," he said.

Based on its investigation, the AAUP chapter has sent a letter to administrators, arguing that they violated Homberger's academic freedom and due process rights and demanding an apology. (No apology has been forthcoming.)

Cary Nelson, national president of the AAUP, said that the organization has always believed that "an instructor has the responsibility for assigning grades," and that the LSU case was "disturbing in several respects." He noted that "the practice of assigning tough grades in an early assignment as a wake-up call to students is quite common" and that "the instructor made it clear that she had no intention of failing that many students when it came time for final grades."

If administrators were concerned, he said, they had a responsibility to "discuss the matter fully with the instructor" before taking any action. And he said that "removal from the classroom mid-semester is a serious sanction that requires all the protections of due process." Nelson said that the incident "raises serious questions about violations of pedagogical freedoms."

Stuart Rojstaczer, a former Duke University professor who is the founder of GradeInflation.com, a Web site that publishes research on grading, questioned whether LSU was really trying to help students. "How many times has Dean Carman removed a professor from a class who was giving more than 90 percent As?" he asked.

LSU's public affairs office did not respond to follow-up questions about the statement it issued, and to the criticisms made by various faculty members.

Homberger declined to give out the names of students who have expressed support, saying that to do so would violate her confidentiality obligations. But she released (without student names) answers to a bonus question on the course's second test. The question asked students to describe "the biggest 'AHA' reaction" they had had during the course.

Many of the reactions were about various issues in biology -- with evolution as a major topic. But a number dealt with grades and work habits. One was critical: "When I found out my test grade, I almost had a heart attack."

But many other comments about the course standards were positive, with several students specifically praising Homberger's advice that they form study groups. One student wrote: "“My biggest AHA-reaction in this course is that I need to study for this course every night to make a good grade. I must also attend class, take good notes, and have study sessions with others. Usually a little studying can get me by but not with this class which is why it is my AHA-reaction."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

best "news" I've read all week

Below is an article from Sunday's New York Post describing real-life masked, costumed superheroes on New York--an article (and a group of people) who made me very happy about humanity. The best part of the article are the pictures and the video, which you can find by following this link here.

NYC's own superheroes

By JAMES FANELLI

With great costumes comes great responsibility.

“Kick-Ass,” an action movie opening this week, spins a tale of average Joes becoming masked crime fighters, but New York has been home to real-life caped crusaders for years.

Gotham’s legion of real-life superheroes includes a leather-clad martial-arts expert who battles drug dealers, a masked religious hipster who feeds the homeless and an engaged pair of relationship counselors, Arjuna Ladino, 42, and Shanti Owen, 50, who don star-spangled spandex as the “Transformational Warriors” to spread the power of love.

“We are just people who really care and try to go out and make a difference,” says Chris Pollak, 25, whose alter ego, “Dark Guardian,” strikes fear in the hearts of drug peddlers in Washington Square Park. “The idea is to be this drastic example of making change in your community.”

The Staten Islander has been patrolling city streets for the last seven years, frequently putting himself in harm’s way. A drug dealer flashed a gun at Pollak once, and he has almost come to blows with thugs.

“My fiancée is very supportive, but she gets worried if I’m doing anything that involves danger,” Dark Guardian said. “When I met my fiancée, I told her I liked to do this thing where I go out and help the homeless and patrol the streets. I didn’t get into the whole costume thing — I waited until a little bit into the relationship.”

Occasionally, Dark Guardian gets an assist from two fellow superheroes, Chaim “Life” Lazaros, 25, and Ben Goldman, 23, a k a “Cameraman,” who has videotaped the Washington Square showdowns. The plucky pair also hands out food to the city’s homeless at least once a week.

Lazaros, who shares a Harlem hideout with Cameraman, said it takes a certain type to don a mask and do good. “They all have extremely strong personalities and a desire to change the world,” he said.

That’s not to say all real-life superheroes seek change through crime-fighting.

“The Phantom Zero,” a 33-year northern New Jersey-based superhero, raises money for charities and donates to the homeless. He has also accompanied Dark Guardian on some of his patrols. “I was scared out of my gourd,” The Phantom Zero said, declining to give his real name.

But his 20-year-old masked sweetheart, “Nyx,” has shown some gumption. Before moving to New Jersey to be with her super man, she lived in Kansas, where she would secretly snap shots of meth labs and send them to the authorities.

“I used to carry weaponry with me. But seeing as how I’m in New York . . . I don’t,” Nyx said.

Monday, April 12, 2010

writers are always looking for good character names...

Hello Mr. Death! Researcher finds rare Chinese names
(Reuters)


BEIJING (Reuters Life!) – Unhappy with your name? Then spare a thought for those rare Chinese families who surnames mean "zero," "ghost" or even "death."

A man in China's southern province of Jiangxi has spent the last 20 years compiling a list of unusual family names, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Most Chinese people share a few common surnames, like Zhang, Wang, Li, Liu and Chen. The Chinese expression for "ordinary people" literally means "the old one hundred surnames."

But Cheng Yinglian's interest was piqued after reading a newspaper many years ago and discovering a person with the surname Gui, meaning "ghost," CCTV said.

Since then, he has scoured newspapers, books and other publications to find similar rare surnames, coming up with about 2,000 to date.

Those he has found include Ling, or "zero," Cu, or "vinegar," Miao, or "second" and Yi, or "one."

Superstitions related to names are still strong in China, and many parents go out of their way to give their children auspicious names which suggest they will grow up to be healthy, strong and rich.

While you can legally change your surname in China, the report did not say how many people had chosen to change theirs if they were unfortunate enough to be born a "death" or "ghost."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Liu Zhen, editing by Miral Fahmy)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poland

I can only imagine what the country of Poland is going through right now after the plane crash accident that took the lives of so many of its leaders. Wars and genocides have begun with the plane-crash deaths of political leaders, and I am so grateful that Poland is a stable, supported country. But I can't imagine. Here is an article I found through the Poland News website.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March writing total

March pretty much stayed like a lamb the whole time, and now we’ve coasted into April. My month as artist-of-the-month at the co-op is over, and it’s time for the monthly writing update. I had hoped, just for the sake of round numbers, to say that the first 40 pages were now solid, but in truth I'm only to the end of 38 (though that’s 1.5 spacing, so in double space it’s longer…) I keep waiting to reach the section where all I have to do is change a verb or two, and 50 pages are all set. That’s the problem with deleting characters...they just keep popping up saying important things that you have to put into someone else's mouth.

Anyway, I wrote 5575 words, which comes out to about 22 pages this month. PLUS on Monday, the first day of my spring break, I spent the whole day writing a 20-page short story from start to finish. It was glorious. I’ve never written that much in one day in my LIFE. Of course, when you set the standard like that on the first day of break, the rest is bound to look a bit paltry by comparison. It was like when I bought furniture out of college, and my very first piece of furniture I purchased (working for Americorps, granted) was a 99 cent couch. After that, my perspective was way off. What??? That tag-sale futon costs 20 couches!!!

I’ve spent most of spring break so far correcting papers and doing some writing, the latter of which makes me a happier person. I’ve decided that my ideal schedule would be 3-4 weeks on (teaching), 2 weeks off to write. Give yourself a whole summer, and the urgency fades. But goodness knows a second week of writing and no teaching sound amazing right now...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Green Bible

I ended up sitting in the car for an extra ten minutes this morning listening to an interview with Dr. Matthew Sleeth, who has written several books discussing how the Bible focuses on caring for the earth. It's wonderful to hear people talking about how intimately connected being a Christian and caring for the environment are--I'd like to read his book! Find his website here, or read the write-up from his website about his new book The Gospel According to Earth below:

"As an emergency room doctor, Matthew Sleeth saw a disturbing increase in asthma, autoimmune diseases, cancers, and other environmentally related health issues. Although he considered himself an environmentalist, he lacked the commitment to do anything about it. One slow night in the ER, Sleeth picked up a Gideon's Bible in the waiting room. Although raised in a Christian home, he had long ago abandoned his childhood beliefs. Reading the gospels that night, Sleeth became a Christian, and to his shock, he began to uncover in the Scriptures an enormous wealth of environmental answers that he had been seeking. As a result, his family took an account of their lifestyle, drastically reduced their reliance on electricity and fossil fuels, and began sharing their inspirational journey with others. Here, Sleeth invites you on his family's journey as they realize that one cannot be a Christian without recognizing the Bible's call to care for God's creation.


"From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is filled with instructions on how we can demonstrate our love for the Creator by caring for the earth. Sleeth leads us on a highly creative journey through Scripture, visiting some of the most important characters in the Bible and discovering what they can teach us about issues such as stewardship, caring for our neighbors, and pollution. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden teach us the importance of physical work in relation to discovering fulfillment and a sense of human purpose, the prophet Daniel calls us to question our dietary habits, and the story of Noah addresses key issues for life on earth: how do we relate to the Creator, to others in the human community, and to the rest of the natural world? With passion and faith, Sleeth provides a new green lens through which we can read the Bible to discover answers to our biggest questions about the environment and how to care for it."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

spring has sprung!

Over the last week and a half in Menomonie, we've had 4 days that hit 60. I've seen a crocus or two, and the daffodils are up 4 inches. But, that's not the sign of spring around here. I'm now finally free to say it's spring, because

the clunker has gone through the ice!

Every winter the Lion's club parks an old car ("the Lions clunker"), stripped of seats and engine, etc., out on the ice. I hear they take bets on when it sinks through, but you have to be a member or know someone for that. Yesterday at 6 PM the car's tires had sunken in, and this morning at 7 AM it was gone. Hurrah! (They'll haul it out and use it again next year.)

So, let spring begin!

Speaking of, Govin's farm in Menomonie, which opens up its barn to visitors who want to see the darling new lambs, etc., just had goats born last night. Apparently, the kids were too weak to nurse that first night, but they still were trying to climb up the ramp in their pen. Adventurous...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

a little Lenten contemplation

The story of the final hours leading up to Jesus’ death (the Passion of Christ) is nearly always told as a story of suffering and sacrifice, of what Jesus allowed to happen to him, since arguably he had the power to prevent be handed over from mob to mock trial to mob to the cross. Our focus during Lent is encouraged to be on how Christ suffered for us and the world and how through all of that, sin was forgiven.

But, what if we looked at it the opposite way? What if we considered what Christ did? How even those last few hours extended what he had always been doing?

In the last few hours, he
• Shared a communal meal with the friend (Judas) who would betray him
• Prayed with others, including the friend (Peter) he knew who would deny him
• Prevented violence (rebuked Peter for cutting off a guy’s ear)
• Healed one of the soldiers out to arrest him (put the ear back on)
• Resisted the desire to fight back or even label the slander for what it was
• Told the truth
• Saved Barabbas’s life dying in his place
• Forgave a convict sentenced to death
• Prayed for the forgiveness of the world

Barabbas's story blows me away. Here is a man who was part of an insurrection, a violent attempt at freedom from the Romans. Many of the Jews were hoping Jesus would lead a rebellion, too, that his "new kingdom" went only to the extent of "Jewish land without Roman occupation." Here is a man fighting to free his people, jailed, sentenced to death...whose life is literally saved when the crowd decides to release him instead of Judas. Yet another recipient of Jesus' grace. And I love the name: "bar" (or ben) = son, "abbas" = daddy.

I have a poem in his voice in my chapbook. I'll post it here soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

creative advertising, continued

My friend Swati Avasti had her first young adult novel _Split_ come out today. Check out her description of book release day here.

And, as promised, here are pictures of my display at the Menomonie Market Co-op. :)


Thursday, March 4, 2010

creative advertising

I am proud to announce that I am the Artist of the Month at the Menomonie Market Co-Op. When you first walk in, just over the sample table and next to the produce aisle, you will find a series of seven original photo-and-poem pairings, mounted on lovely colored paper purchased at the local art store. It was a major project last week; hopefully it will sell some chapbooks (or posters!).

Here's what's fun about this town. I was trying to find flat thumb tacks for hanging my posters. The down town art store was out. I walked into the bead store down the street, who told me, as I feared, that my only in-town options were Walmart or K-mart. Another woman in the store told me to try an office supply store: clearly she was not from town, as the nearest non-Walmart office supply store is almost 30 miles away. But HERE's what's fun: as I was hanging the posters in the co-op, the woman from the bead store walked in and said "so that's why you needed the tacks." And the man from the art store said he'd look for my work--it's just down the street, after all. Hurrah for small down town where people talk to each other.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March!!!

It’s March, and here that means snow on the ground, 12 degrees when the sun is down and high 30s by mid-afternoon. I am beginning to remember spring. Not that I ever entirely forgot about its existence, at least not the concept, but now I remember what it feels like. Specifically
• Birds. The way the two-note whistle of the cardinal interrupts whatever you are doing and makes you suddenly look around.
• Puddles. The big ones that block the side walks, forcing you to walk on the muddy banks of the sidewalk.
• Puddles, freezing and melting. The feel of a huge ice block under your feet when it has spent the whole day considering melting, at the top sheet of ice, just barely thick enough to support your weight, slides. How my car leaves frozen tire tracks in the parking lot ice.
• The sun. How it can beam you directly in the eyes, and not just because it’s bouncing off snow. How warm it is. How bright the windows are at certain times of day. Unlike in January, a bright blue sky does not mean it’ll be -20 out anymore.
• The sun, with us longer. It is already bright when I wake at six. I had forgotten that. For days I was confused that I was coming home at 5:15 and it still looked like day out. I thought, “how am I supposed to cocoon myself when it’s still day out?” I’m not out of my cocoon yet.
• 30-degree swing. There will be a point in spring where we wear coats only in the early morning and at night. Where I can tell whether I was last in the car in morning or afternoon based on whether my dial is set to hot or cold air.
We’re not quite to spring yet. The Lion Club’s clunker is still out on the ice, as are many people’s ice houses. We’ll probably get another snow storm or three. But after so much winter, I can remember spring. And that is the first step.


Word Count
February’s word count comes to 3,286, which is about 13 pages. A low total for the month, but we’re into revision rather than creation now. I deleted about as many pages. A more important measure at this stage is page number: how far have I gotten in the book? The first 20 pages are solid, and the beginning was one of the places that needed work. Twenty pages is about 10% of the novel, I rate, again, that I hope to speed up. Hopefully this month, if I can ever find my way out from under this pile of grading. 100 students is an overwhelming number when you teach writing(or, possibly, ever).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

say SOMETHING

Here is a wonderful link to a poem by Taylor Mali (animated with word art) that I'll be using in my comp. class when I teach about not using vague wording. Sneaking in poetry whenever I can...

blog poetry

One of my students, reporting on poet Frank O'Hara, equated the kind of poems he writes to blogging. His poems tend to be personal, wandering, and not deeply edited. Decide for yourselves. Here's one I love:

HAVING A COKE WITH YOU

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o'clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it's in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven't gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn't pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Here is a clip of Frank O'Hara reading it in 1966, shortly before his accidental death.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympics, real-time

Something fascinating comes from watching Olympic events while at the gym: you're moving, they're moving, and a you get a new perspective on just how much faster they are.

For example, Wednesday night I was about to head home when I saw that the men's 5000m qualifying relay for speed skating was about to come on. I hopped on an open treadmill, plugged in my headphones, and started walking at a pleasant, normal pace. I started maybe 45 seconds before they did and stopped maybe 20 seconds after. In the time that the three-man relay skated 5000m--more than 3 miles--guess how far I went?

One-third of a mile.

True, I wasn't racing. True, they are Olympians. True, they were on a nearly frictionless surface. Apples and oranges, I know. But suddenly I understood physically rather than just mentally what the athletics neatly framed on the gym TV meant in real life.

I am in awe.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympic obsession

The other day my neighbor said, "I heard there was this girl who spent the ENTIRE day at the gym, just watching the Olympics...that wasn't YOU, was it?"

No.

I've only seen about 50 minutes of the Olympics on TV, and I almost fell of the treadmill (walking) every time someone had a jump to land. Hadn't thought about that problem...

The internet coverage, provided you can sign in with your cable provider (tricksey, precious), is fantastic. You try to watch the pairs figure skating short program, say, and you get THREE AND A HALF HOURS of it. I still might only watch a half hour, but I get to choose who I see in that half hour, darn it.

-Did you know that when the skaters come out for warm-up, the speaker introduces them? So-and-so from Germany...when they're not skating, they like to hang out with friends...

I feel like I'm there. Kind of. There is something wonderful about having that shielding blanket of commentary (with commercial breaks) taken away, when you see the athletes waiting at the start because one of the competitors needs to fix his boot; when you see contestant after contestant in rapid fire coming in 14th and 25th, who are so incredibly skilled, having their 43.402 seconds of fame; when you have to figure out what exactly they are being marked for...it reminds me that this is a competition, one of hundreds that each person has taken part in. The highest of stakes, certainly. But seeing it all without the editing make the whole competition that much more impressive to me.

And I can do it from my couch. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

two birds with one stone

I'm really excited about the Olympics. I really want to watch it, but we don't get NBC with our bunny ears. I was determined to get cable for the month, until I learned that it would cost $30 to set up the cable and, I'm guessing, about the same to un-set it when we cancelled service. I don't want to spend that much on TV, but I was really feeling down about missing the Olympics. Apparently, there's supposed to be a lot online?

But, here's the happy news. Matt's been wanting to join the school gym since he started grad school, and this semester he actually has time to do so. I've been wanting to work out without having it be one more thing I discipline myself to do alone (all that energy goes into writing). SO, I happily went and joined the gym as well, yesterday. I walked in, and what did I see?

TVs. Lots of them. If I only go to the gym for the next two weeks and spend the whole time walking on the treadmill, eyes fixed on NBC, it'll be worth it.

Sweet!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Experiencing God

In church on Sunday, the pastor mentioned Matthew Fox, a former priest who now runs a seminary in California that focuses on experiencing God over necessarily learning doctrine. It's a point you could argue back and forth for quite a while, but what I found interesting was a list of four ways that most people experience God. I've put his Latin terms in parenthesis, and I've given them my own names, because I can remember them better, all starting with the same letter. These appealed mightily to me as a poet. If nothing else during the day, I always say a prayer before I start writing...

Wonder (Via Positiva)
-and here is a way that poetry can be deeply spiritual. Or, if you're a friend
of mine, watching nature shows, or looking at images of space...anything to
slow us down, fill us with awe, reset perspective.
Wilderness (Via Negativa)
-for some, their most powerful experience of God is during the hardest times.
I think of when I've moved to a new city and been deeply lonely. God has seemed
more present, bigger...I found it easier to be grateful...
Writing/Creative Works (Via Creativa)
-okay, so this "W" reveals personal bias. Any act of creating fits in this
category.
World Transformation (Via Transformativa)
-social justice, environmental restoration, hands-in-the-dirt, feet-on-the-
ground, hopes-held-high world transformation.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We Are Your People

It is such a pleasure when we come across a hymn in church that is beautifully written, that verse by verse nails the idea on the head, and I find myself, as they say, agreeing in spirit. This one, entitled, "We Are Your People" was new to me, and I copied it on the spot. Written by Brian Wren (1973) and John Wilson (1980). I love the way it talks about community. This song says what I'm trying to say (and then some) in my poem "Community," which was posted in December. (Also, the meter is kind of cool, not the 4-line melody you'd expect.)

We are your people, LORD, by your grace.
You dare to make us Christ to our neighbors
of every nation and race.

Called to portray you, help us to live
closer than neighbors, open to strangers
able to clash and forgive.

Glad of tradition, help us to see
in all life's changing where you are leading,
where our best efforts should be.

Joined in community, breaking your bread,
may we discover gifts in each other,
willing to lead and be led.

LORD as we minister in different ways,
may all we're doing show that You're living,
meeting Your love with our praise.

Friday, February 5, 2010

sheep as poetry

Why didn't I think of this??? The border collie we had growing up could have written some terrific poems...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2541761.stm

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

imagine this

If you are ever in Venice, seek out Il Gazzetino. It's a hotel/trattoria on the quiet Sotoporto della Acque, about 3 blocks from the Rialto (east side) and 5 minutes' walk from San Marco. If you don't plan on going, here's an image of the place, to snack on:

We found the restaurant because we were standing in front of it, trying to figure out where our B&B (Ca'delle Acque, also recommended) was. The owner came out, showed us where it was down the street, and when no one answered the door he got out his cell phone and called. And so, an act of random kindness began our stay.

Il Gazzetino seats perhaps 20 people, so it's cozy. The walls are covered with drawings on brown paper and messages in languages from all over the world. As we waited for what was to be the best risotto I have ever tasted, the waitress brought us a little story about how the place was formed and a thick guest book for us to sign. Venice is a place for the meeting of worlds, and again the number of not just places but languages in the book amazed me. The waitress also brought us a dish with a serving of sardines. We didn't order it. They just had some and brought it to us, a little antipasti on the house. Some might say there's no outstanding reason to treat tourists nicely; you'll likely only see them once. But that just seemed to be how they rolled, and on the second night when we returned, the place about 3/4 full with Venetians, I saw them going around giving out a scoop of extra risotto for people to try. Here, on the house, a little serving for the table to share. Everything we ate there was delicious, and at the end, when we said we were done, out came little Venetian "S" shaped cookies and some kind of liquidy lemon sherbet and a shot of what I'm guessing was homemade liquor (it tasted like cognac) with raisins in the bottom. Just because. Talk about hospitality.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Venice pictures

Venice is a beautiful city, and I look forward to incorporating my notes into draft two. Here below are my pictures put together into a two-minute video using Photostory 3. It's a great new program, very useable, that I recently was introduced to, and you can get it through a free download from Microsoft. While the video does include some pictures of the famous Piazza San Marco, which is indeed beautiful, most of these pictures focus in on neat little details (windows with Byzantine influence, narrow passageways that lead off into new streets, the pink glass of the street lamps, the beautiful colors, etc.) that make this place so very beautiful. You can just imagine it 300 years ago...Enjoy

video

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

book review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has, quite simply, made me rethink the way I do food. Well written with a sense of down-to-earth good humor, the book describes her family's decision to live for one year eating as locally and sustainably as possible; what they couldn't grow themselves, they tried to buy from people they knew (through farmers' markets), preferably eating things grown within a 100-mile radius of their Virginian farm. Honey took the place of sugar. Exceptions were made for free-trade coffee, olive oil, and spices--I would add chocolate to that list--but for the most part it is a book about abundance rather than "what we gave up." Kingsolver writes lovingly and persuasively about eating in season, and she kindly explains what comes into season when, for those of us who didn't grow up near a farm and are still working that out. Fruits and vegetables that spend a week or more in transport from California and South America (cost of transportation paid for out of tax dollars) have less taste and fewer nutrients than the same items eaten shortly after they were picked--and that alone is worth the wait and work in-season to do a lot of canning and freezing. That, plus the fact that eating locally and organically is better for the long-term life of earth (in both sense of the word). And, buying local stimulates the economy of the area in which you live--less money to the middleman, more to the farmer.

But she says it a lot better than I do, and it doesn't sound so preachy.

It's January in Wisconsin, and we just finished my last jar of homemade tomato sauce, so there isn't that much I can do until things start growing again around here. But it does make me think about where things are from. I live in DairyLand, in the western part of the state. Why on earth should I buy milk from Illinois (one of two options in the grocery store)? Why would I buy Vermont cheese, much as I love it, or eggs from another state? I'm starting to pay attention to this stuff, item by item, thinking about the trip my food took to get to me.

At the winter farmers' market, once a month hosted by local churches, I'm getting to know some of the people who sell there, including one family who specializes in organic heirloom vegetables. (Heirlooms are different strains of the same plant, often that have been developed naturally over time to do well in various areas. Did you know that 4000 kinds of potatoes used to grow in Peru? Did you know there are more than 3 kinds of potato? I didn't.) I bought 5 different kinds of potatoes, including red ones and blue fingerlings, yummy carrots, dried tomatoes, local ground lamb...it's been fun to taste test, fun to explore...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Venice!

Academia tends to be either full-on or mostly off, and it was nice to be varying degrees of "off" for the last month. I've read three books and several short stories in the past week for my new lit class, but I got to do it at home on the couch, so it felt more like fun that work. I'm about to head out of town, so I'll combine two posts into one:

Writing
I totalled under 1000 words in December, which is how much I try to do in a single sitting, and I haven't worked on my novel in January yet, though I did polish up a short story I want to send out. (Any recommendations for where to send literary fiction with a contemporary teen narrator?) There were finals and course planning, blah blah, but actually I'm happy to have a bit of a break so I can approach draft two with new eyes. And I'll definitely have new eyes when I return to it in Feb because I'M GOING TO VENICE!! I returned to campus to find I'd received the professional development grant I'd applied for, and I'M GOING TO VENICE on Tuesday to research my book. I can't wait to see how contemporary Venice matches up with the 1700s Venice of my researched imagination, but I'll write about that next week when I get back. I'm going with my Mom, which is a complete thrill. I can't wait to travel with her. I'll still spend half my time jotting notes, but it will be wonderful to have another person to compare impressions with, not to mention someone to share dinner and hotels with. It's supposed to be 40s and rainy this weekend, which will feel warm compared to Wisconsin January.

Teaching: digital stories
I had the immense pleasure of team-teaching a one-week, six-hour-a-day course on digital storytelling. It's the first time one of my main jobs as a teacher has been trying to convince my students to take a break--the work is that engrossing. Everyone worked hard and learned a lot, to great results. If you'd like to see what digital stories look like, check out the StoryCenter.

Coming soon: review of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle