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Archive for July, 2009

Let’s Try To Talk To Bob!

I just sent the following email to “bob@aol.com,” a complete stranger who I can only assume exists.  I remember in college in the mid to late 90’s, there were plenty of people who figured that all email addresses were “@aol.com,” so it makes sense that some awesome individual snatched up “bob” in fairly short order.

Hello, “Bob,” you don’t know me; I’m just a random blogger who wondered how awesome someone would have to be, and just what a plugged in, far-seeing, cutting edge type they would have to be, in order to have an email address as basic as “bob@aol.com.”  That one must have gone pretty quickly!  I figure you must have registered this address no later than 1995. 

Would you be willing to answer a few quick questions for me and my readers?  I can only imagine that you must be a fascinating person, and I’d like to know some more about you.  Certainly, no personal information is needed.  Thank you in advance for your time and any help you can give.

1.  When did you register this address?

2.  Has anyone ever tried to get you to give it away, or buy it from you? 

3.  Do you get a lot of emails like this one, or spam, or email meant for someone else?

4.  What other interesting experiences have you had as “bob@aol.com?”
5.  Anything else you’d care to share with us?

Thanks again for satisfying our curiosity! 

I’ll let you know what response I get.

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Picture a kid wearing earphones all the time, wrapped up in his private musical world.  At school, he keeps the wires hidden under his shirt or jacket, and he might share one of the earphones with a friend.  At home, he likely spends a lot of his free time getting seriously engrossed in the latest video games.  He knows all about the game technology and platforms, and is looking forward to the next wave of products, which he already knows everything about.

If the kid you’re picturing is in school today, then he’s just another average kid, exactly the same as most of his peers. 

But if this kid was in school twenty years ago–listening to a Walkman instead of an iPod, playing the original 8-bit Nintendo instead of an Xbox–he was a nerd.  Those music and game addicts of two decades in the past were a fringe subculture, and just about at the bottom of the social ladder.  Anyone wearing earphones or getting enthusiastic about video games twenty years ago might as well have been wearing a pocket protector.  They were social pariahs the likes of which today’s kids just couldn’t understand.

So what happened in the intervening years to bring their cherished oddities into the mainstream?  An evolution of interest in math and the arts?  A burst of genius for Generation Y?  Not likely.  If that were the case, then where are the all of the after school clubs for writing new program algorithms, and where are all of the kids using their powerful music tools to sample more music than any other group has ever heard (versus overdosing on the same few clusters of popular music from within their own lifetime)? 

No, this would seem to be just another victory for the merchandising media.  The things that may have attracted those nerds of the 80’s and early 90’s are still underground themselves, but the passive elements of dazzling entertainment–that’s what drove the spread of electronic entertainment beyond the bounds of the AV Club geeks and into the pockets and bedrooms of every normal kid in America.  Our kids are no smarter than the non-technologically obsessed kids of twenty years ago…just better entertained.

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I just made this sticker.  If only bicycles had bumpers…

sticker

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Moses 8:13-15 reads: “And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.  And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.  And the Lord said  unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves…”

This could have been written today.  The daughters of the sons of God were fair?  No kidding.  Everywhere I’ve seen, the local LDS young women tend to be among the most beautiful, the most talented, and the most wonderful girls there.  The sons of men wanted them?  Of course they did.  And still do.  Who wouldn’t?  Any guy in his right mind would want to be married to a Mormon girl.  And those fair daughters sold themselves into marriage with the sons of men?  I see it all the time.

I don’t know why so many Mormon girls marry non-Mormons, but I do know one thing: those guys may be perfectly fine, might even be really great guys, but when these poor girls become mothers and older women and see the priesthood and temple blessings they and their family are missing out on, and see the lack of unity their relationship has to deal with, it hurts them.  I’ve never known an LDS woman who married outside the church and never regretted it. 

So here’s what I wish to tell the young women of the church: don’t sell yourself short.  Don’t settle for anything less than a temple marriage.  And don’t be tempted by anyone outside of that goal who might want you for himself.  There absolutely will be many, many boys and young men who will want to be with you, and many of them will be good guys.  But they won’t be the right guys.  Your eternal happiness is worth holding out for the very best man.  It was true in Noah’s time, and it’s still true today.

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Here’s an arbitrary milestone that captures the essence of what I hope to create here: as of today, this blog now employs over a thousand individual subject tags.  Some day, I’d like to have ten thousand.  And then, the world is mine!  Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

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I’ve seen this clip in two other places in the last 24 hours: at Jr. Ganymede, and at First Things (from whence I stole the title of this post–it’s too perfect to ever be improved upon).  In three minutes, Craig Ferguson brilliantly elucidates a thesis that Diana West devoted 300 pages to in her book, The Death of the Grown-Up.  This will be required viewing in Mr. Huston’s class next year:

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[Previous installments here, here, and here]

Quick, who can spot the pattern in these two verses?

“Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begat Enos, and prophesied in all his days, and taught his son Enos in the ways of God, wherefore Enos prophesied also.”  Moses 6:13

“And Jared lived one hundred and sixty two years , and begat Enoch; and Jared lived, after he begat Enoch, eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.  And Jared taught Enoch in all the ways of God.”  Moses 6:21

This formula is certainly used or suggested elsewhere in scripture: in the Book of Mormon, for example, Nephi starts off by telling us that he had been “taught somewhat in all the learning of my father,” (1 Nephi 1:1), just as Enos begins his story by declaring that he, “knowing my father was a just man–for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…” (Enos 1:1), and King Benjamin had three sons whom he also “caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers…” (Mosiah 1:2)

(Maybe this post should have been called, “Fathers must teach their sons the gospel…and, apparently, literacy skills.”)

The relative silence in the scriptures about the training that comes from mothers, or towards daughters, shouldn’t be construed to mean that no such teaching takes place, nor should this emphasis on father-to-son teaching be taken to mean that no other teaching is important in the family.  After all, the Book of Moses reminds us that as Adam and Eve started having children, “Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.”  (Moses 5:12)  Adam may have had some personal priesthood interviews with Cain, Abel, Seth, and his other sons, but certainly the first family also had plenty of family home evenings where the teaching was more generally dispersed. 

(more…)

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An article in last Friday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal was called, “School district fails to meet ‘No Child’ goal.”  Apparently, the culprit behind our city’s epidemic academic failures is obvious to the media: blame the teachers!

Gee, why didn’t they call it “Local students fail to meet ‘No Child’ goal,” since they’re the ones who actually failed the tests?  Or how about, “Local parents fail to meet ‘No Child’ goal,” since they’re the ones who have failed to raise more studious children? 

Where are the headlines that say, “Doctors fail to meet heart disease goal” or “Clergy fails to meet Sabbath keeping goal?”  Aren’t those professions also responsible for the private choices of their constituencies, or is it only teachers who magically control what other people do with the tools and information they offer?

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I just got an email informing me of the passing of longtime UNLV professor Dr. J. Michael Stitt.  Though I’d seen Mike at several department meetings at the beginning of semesters, my main memories of him will be from the class I had him for as an undergrad.  Here’s the comment I left in this guest book:

Dr. Stitt was an inspiration to me as a student and as a teacher: his lectures flowed from his vast love and knowledge of his subject. I only had him for one class–Mythology–but his skill at telling stories sucked me in. I’ll always remember his summary of the evolution of mythology: the further north you go, the more violent the mythology gets. Thus my interest in Norse mythology, courtesy of good Dr. Stitt. And when I teach now, I try to tell stories the same way he did. Thank you, sir.

My condolences go out to his family.  He was a great guy and a great teacher; we lost him too soon. 

Consider honoring him by reading some stories from Norse and Celtic mythology.

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Basketball Trivia

Pop quiz time, folks.  There are only four teams in the NBA whose names do not end in “s:” the Utah Jazz, the Orlando Magic, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and _________.  The first person to comment with the right answer (without looking it up, please!) may email me their physical address and get their choice of a banana peel, a dead spider, or some pocket lint.

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I taught this great play last week for a few reasons: students tend to be exposed to Shakespeare’s tragedies to the exclusion of the comedies, it’s short and accessible, and it’s timely (check the title against the calendar).  It was a big hit, but I noticed that kids got a little lost with the names and plot pretty quickly, so we worked out the following charts for each act.  The charts show who loves whom.  Looking at them now, I think these might make good advertisements for the play–doesn’t looking at these make you want read the actual story in the play (or re-read it)?  Actually, looking at these reminds me of Melrose Place.

amndact1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

amndact2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

amndact3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

amndact4

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“How intense can be the longing to escape from the emptiness and dullness of human verbosity, to take refuge in nature, apparently so inarticulate, or in the wordlessness of long, grinding labour, of sound sleep, of true music, or of a human understanding rendered speechless by emotion!”

–Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

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First of all, I like summer school. Its compacted time frame forces it to be rigorous, disciplined, and serious. Tardies and absences get hammered pretty quickly, daily quizzes and grade updates keep the kids on top of their game, and the fact that they (or their parents) had to pay for it creates an immediate investment that improves their own efforts. These kids may have messed up, but their desperation now brings out the best in them.

 

However, this summer I’ve noticed that too many kids come into summer school in an entirely wrong state of mind.

 

And I don’t just mean the stoner who asked to go to the bathroom about an hour and a half into the first day of school, and who never came back.

 

One boy just this morning looked at his failing grades in my class and rattled off his list of excuses, clearly a well prepared and rehearsed litany that he’s used comfortably for years. I can only surmise that he started this class, as he may start all of his classes, intending to “see what happens,” and fall back on his excuses if and when he fails. I just can’t get people like this to be more proactive, to overcome the fatalism that got deeply instilled in them somewhere along the line.

 

In June, a girl with special ed problems gave me two papers that had been due the week before, both very poorly done, and without any discussion with me about it first. (more…)

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I just found a Web site called Quizlet that offers wiki-fied flashcards on a huge array of topics.  You can look up other people’s cards, or submit your own.  I’m really digging this one, one of many, many Chinese sets.  A lot of the Chinese flash cards don’t include the tones, so they’re not very useful, but this one is worthwhile.

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Is it just me, or does the second movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 23 sound similar to The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?”  Here they are; compare them and let me know what you think.  Am I nuts here?  Especially listen to the third and fourth minutes of the Beethoven piece and the third minute of The Righteous Brothers. 

Beethoven:

The Righteous Brothers:

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