Category Archives: Current Events
I’ve now been in Munich for almost two weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past seven days:
Munich, I Think I Like You
I’ve done a lot of sightseeing and meeting people from the University. I’ve visited the Bravarian Alps, including Ludwig II’s Schloss Linderhof and the cute town of Garmisch. I’ve visited the Deutsches Museum (all about German technology — it’s huge!) and spent four hours listening to music in German at Der Lange Nacht Der Musik.
I’ve taken a few classes, including my German class, and I’ve started to get a real feel for the city. Of course, you also can’t get a real feel for a city until a filling falls out of your tooth and you have to venture into the world of foreign dentistry. Note: German dentists are SUPERB. She put a post in my tooth and did a build up without any pain killers in 20 minutes. Fast, efficient, and effective.
Not knowing German is such a bizarre experience. There are times when I’m just totally lost. The grocery store, for instance. Did I just buy laundry detergent? I hope so. But who knows…it could be bleach. Fabric softener. DISHWASHER DETERGENT. It’s hard to tell, there’s only soap bubbles on the bottle. Using the washing machine to do laundry was also an experience. I’ve perfected the “wait and see how someone else does it first” approach to many tasks, including how on earth one opens the washing machine door and figuring out which compartment the detergent goes in. And I hope 30 degrees Celsius is the right temperature for my clothes, because that’s how they’re getting washed!
So you can see how this has become an adventure. Why is my wine 6 euros when the sign says 4? There’s a 2 euro deposit on the glass! Is this conditioner or shampoo? It’s conditioner…for people with blond hair! Why does this mouthwash taste so terrible? Because it just DOES. Why is this train not going where it said it was going?! Oh, because the U-3 mysteriously changes, mid-route, to the U-2 during peak times! You get the idea. It’s all about flexibility and going with the flow. And sometimes changing trains across town and using terrible mouthwash.
Getting Down To Business
So in between all of the general chaos is the work I’m doing while I’m here. I’ve learned more about the program I’m participating in, which is a master’s of psychology in learning sciences cohort. This is a degree 100% in English, made up of students from all over the world. They told me yesterday that they take nine different two-hour classes each semester, or about two classes a day.
However, these classes are quite different from ours in the US. As I mentioned in last week’s post, they do less reading, but more in depth. The students really analyze information presented to them and critique the research. I’ve also observed a lot of time given in class for assignments we typically might do outside of class. One class is given three whole class periods (out of fourteen total!) to work on the final projects: a concept map. The other class was entirely centered on presenting progress on research they are working on with professors. So while they have eighteen hours of class each week instead of nine, they spend far less time outside of class doing assignments.
In fact, grades don’t seem to be a big thing. At all. And guess what? The students still come to class prepared and ready to learn. Definitely something to think about when pondering how I want to structure my future classes.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting these students, and they have be extremely kind and accommodating. When I explained to them why I’m visiting their classes, one girl told me, “We need more people like you. Studying how different countries do things and taking the best of each.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. My excitement is still over being in a foreign country for the summer and being funded to do so. But I do have the very real possibility of impacting positive changes. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in the first few years of my career, even. But eventually. So that feels pretty good, and I’m excited for my next five weeks in Munich (and the following three in Porto!).
What personal experience has greatly influenced your career?
Last weekend, the Durham Public Library held ComicFest 2013. One of my favorite graphic novelist, Raina Telgemeier, just so happened to be one of the main events. So, of course, I dropped all of my studying for the afternoon to watch Raina speak and draw. I also got my copies of Smile and Drama signed.
Raina’s presentation was awesome, and it really shed some light on the process of creating a graphic novel. I was aware that they are far more labor intensive than text novels (something we as librarians struggle with — these books are lost more often, but cost more to buy). She said she spent five years on Smile and two and half years on Drama!
I love Raina’s work. More importantly, my students loved her work. I did not discover her on my own! It was the intense demand for Smile at a 2010 book fair the put her on my radar. I think I had to buy eight copies to meet the demand in my school. There are not many graphic novels geared toward readers of realistic, contemporary fiction.
It was so nice to meet Raina, and to see the enthusiasm from girls and boys alike in the audience. I was especially impressed by the number of dads and daughters! Of course, I also geeked out about Raina’s other books (the graphic adaptations of The Babysitter’s Club, which were my FAVORITE books as a child) and her love for particular comic strips that I also read as a kid (For Better or For Worse and Calvin and Hobbes). All in all, I’d say it was a good day.
Interested in Raina’s books? You can start with my review of Drama from this past summer. It was the ONLY BOOK on the 2013 ALA youth media award winner list that I had read before the award announcements at ALA midwinter. You should also check out Smile, since Raina’s childhood dental dramas are incredibly relatable.
I’ve read some scholarly stuff on gender in children’s cartoon novels, but nothing on Raina’s graphic novels. Future paper topic?
Have you read any of Telgemeier’s books? Any other favorite graphic novels you want to share?
Title: Contagious: Why Things Catch On
Author: Jonah Berger
Publisher/Year: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 3/1/2013
Length: 200 pages/6 hours and 54 minutes
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Source: Review copy from Simon & Schuster
Contagious is about why things go viral. Jonah Berger divides the book into chapters based on his six elements of why things catch on, devoting each chapter to the explanation and examples of each element. The elements are social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value, and stories, and Berger calls this the STEPPS model. Nothing here is rocket science, but the examples are entertaining and the material thought-provoking.
As a book blogger, I found this book particularly interesting. Not only am I interested in promoting my own work, but I’m also part of a chain of promotion centered around authors, publishers, and books. Berger is very clear in noting that the first element for a contagious idea is that it must be a good idea. With blogging, this is how we have conversations about posts being original (instead of memes) and interesting. With books, we all know how a truly good book almost sells itself! But it’s more than that. I was particularly smitten with Berger’s coverage of word-of-mouth advertising. I never realized just how hard it is to promote such advertising and just how valuable it is. As book bloggers, thats EXACTLY what we do for publishers.
It’s like I knew that, but I didn’t. I didn’t realize how it important it is. How cool it is that I, by reading one little book and spending thirty minutes writing up a review for my thousands of followers, am really doing something. It’s the reason my email inbox is flooded with requests from self-published authors to read and review their books — word of mouth can’t be bought. Even a negative review is valuable. So, Jonah Berger, thank you for making me feel important!
FINAL GRADE: A I give this my top grade for being a pleasant listening experience. Not too dense, not too dry, not too long. It’s a perfect audiobook for the car or for working out. Accessible for the non-business majors among us. And for bloggers — definitely an interesting read! I also wrote a similar review for this book over at Bookkaholic, so hop on over to that if you want to know more.
Required Reading: Required for all my book blogging friends. Especially if you don’t normally like audiobooks, as this is a good gateway audiobook.
Library Recommendation: You could put this in a high school library, but it would probably be unnecessary. It’s perfect for a public library or e-book collection, though.
It’s been a long week.
I’m very tired.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found a few reasons to laugh! My Critical Social Theory and the Media class involves spending a lot of time on YouTube searching for pop culture artifacts to extend our understanding of the assigned readings.
Sometimes I get a little distracted and spend a lot of time watching a lot of junk. Today I found a video called Grad School Rap, and I laughed. A lot. Maybe it’s because I’m running on empty today, but I found this video hilarious:
“I’m a grad student, I make dozens of dollars!”
You know it!
What kinds of ridiculous videos suck you in to YouTube?
Author: Gregg Olsen
Publisher/Year: Splinter, 2012
Length: 288 pages
Series?: Empty Coffin #2
Genre: YA crime novel/paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher
Based on the real-life Amanda Knox case, Betrayal is the story of the murder of British exchange student Olivia Grant. Olivia was found wrapped in a bloody sheet on the floor during a Halloween party, and the rich, snobby Brianna Conners (and her boyfriend Drew) are persons of interest in the case. Between doing yoga at the police station between interviews and buying lingerie while making out with Drew less than twenty four hours after the death of her BFF, Brianna becomes the focal point of the media frenzy. Twins Hayley and Taylor find themselves experiencing supernatural messages and visions connected with the murder. However, they are also caught in their own drama — the continuing web of secrets that might unlock keys to the past.
Let’s start with what’s good about this book. First, the crime element was well-written and appropriately creepy. Olsen does a good job with taking a familiar, real-life crime and hooking us on the story. However, the story always goes its own direction and the ending isn’t predictable. Second, the overall arc of the series is quite intriguing. Hayley and Taylor have these strange powers and many strange incidents in their pasts. There is something quite sinister at work in their lives, and only small bits are released at a time. I really want to know exactly what happened that day their school bus plunged into the water..and why. That’s what will keep me reading these books.
Unfortunately, there were a few things I didn’t like. If you read the reviews of the book on Goodreads, I’m not alone in this complaint: there are too many pop culture references and the book sounds like it’s trying a little to hard to be “hip” for teens. It’s okay in books like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, because those books are like the candy of the book world. Light, airy, superficial cotton candy that can get all caught up in muffin tops and Victoria’s Secret thongs. However, I think that type of writing is missing the mark with the target demographic for this series. I really think Olsen could be writing for people who like a good crime story and awesome plot twists without having to resort to references that will just be dated in a few years.
FINAL GRADE: B With this book, I just have to see the forest through the trees. I’m a sucker for a mystery and a sucker for a crime novel, what can I say? Gregg Olsen has a knack for storytelling and tossing in enough twists/tension to keep me turning pages.
Required Reading: Required for anyone who read Envy and enjoyed it. Required for fans of crime novels, mysteries, and paranormal novels.
Library Recommendation: Put it in your middle or high school library, the kids will definitely read it.
I’d like rant a little bit today about something that has been happening in my fair state. North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has recently spoken out about his plans for our university system. In particular, he spoke about funding to this system. It is no secret that our system features incredibly affordable public universities, heavily subsidized by the state government. Apparently, Governor McCrory is not a fan of our system because he feels our graduates fail to get jobs. Instead of giving money to universities based on the number of students enrolled, he proposed giving money based on the number of students who get jobs.
McCrory argued, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” and proceeded to cite gender studies and philosophy degrees specifically as producers of unemployable graduates. (BTW, Governor, if the educational elite shouldn’t be running education — their area of expertise — then who should be? Isn’t that the job they were trained to do? I’m confused.)
This has become, essentially, a battle between vocation and liberal arts education. It’s a very common educational debate: are we preparing student for jobs or are we preparing them to think critically with a broad base of learning experiences? I’ll say up front that I am firmly in the liberal arts camp. I went to college to get a liberal arts education, not to get a job. And this model has been highly successful at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. It enrages me to see what politicians want to do in the name of “job creation” or “the economy.” The last thing we need is thousands of engineering students (who would rather have been philosophers) flooding the job market and making things worse.
There are many more good points stated in various articles and blog posts that I have seen posted around Facebook: businesses are actually looking for skills taught in liberal arts degrees, that Governor McCrory himself has a liberal arts degree (and a job…), that Republicans are anti-intellectual, that Republicans would have benefited from some gender studies knowledge during the 2012 elections, that the job market is too unpredictable to determine with majors will lead to jobs, etc. It just really makes me sad to see what the leader of my state values. Am I particularly surprised? No. But that does not make the verbal blow hurt any less.
If you want to know more about this issue in depth, you can read this article from The Charlotte Observer.
Or check out this blog post from Religion News Services that examines the politics of this debate.
What do you think is the value of a liberal arts education? Do you stand on the vocational side or the liberal arts side of this debate?
I was so excited to see the ALA Youth Media Awards trending on Twitter this morning! I wasn’t surprised, though, because my Twitter Feed BLEW UP with all the folks at ALA Midwinter tweeting about the results.
Thanks goodness for those folks! I was tutoring all morning, so I couldn’t even watch the results online. I did, however, call some attention to myself as I gasped at the various results on my phone. If you want to check out the full results for all the award (there are a lot), you can see them over at ALA. Here are the final results for the two awards I’ve been watching the closest, the Printz and Newbery, as well as the awards given to some of my favorite books of the year. Links have been added to all books I’ve read and reviewed.
The Michael L. Printz Award
(for excellence in literature for young adults)
In Darkness by Nick Lake
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna
John Newbery Medal
(for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature)
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
While I offer the greatest of congratulations to the winners of these awards, I was sad about the absence of some of my favorites on the list. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall during the committee meetings to see exactly how those discussions go down. It must be a fascinating process! There were a lot of surprises this year, so these are now new books to explore.
Here are the others that featured favorite books of mine or categories that I pay special attention to (like the Stonewall Award). What did you think of the awards? Joys? Surprises? Disappointments?
William C. Morris Award
(for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens)
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
After the Snow by SD Crockett
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Stonewall Book Award -Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award
(children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
(the ONLY book of all of these that I’ve actually read!)
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shephard by Leslea Newman
Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by SJ Adams
A new semester has begun! Like, today. As you read this, I’m sitting in my very first class. I’m probably looking at a syllabus and feeling very overwhelmed. Somehow a new syllabus always makes me feel like I have to do ALL THE THINGS right away. Note to self: you have seventeen weeks. Chill out, dude.
But it wouldn’t be a new semester without some freshly sharpened pencils and freshly sharpened attitudes. After a break that involved mucho sleeping in, reading novels, napping during reality television, visits with friends, and harassing my cats, I’m ready to jump back in with a vengeance. I always have bright-eyed ideas like “I WILL READ EVERYTHING ASSIGNED…TWICE! WHILE TAKING NOTES!” and “I WILL WRITE ALL OF MY PAPERS EARLY AND HAVE TWELVE PEER EDITORS AND THEY WILL BE PERFECT!”
And none of that crap ever happens. Let’s face it — the goals we set on day one fly out the window by week three. You just can’t do everything. In fact, it’s not even smart to do everything. I’m certainly a fan of the whole “work smarter, not harder” mentality. Skimming, procrastinating, and half-assing are sometimes part of the game. I didn’t get where I am without knowing what deserves my attention and what I can let slide.
That being said, there are a few things I’d like to work on. We’ll call them baby steps toward better habits (/breaking some of my worst habits). I’m trying to keep this list realistic, simple, and manageable. Here are my goals for spring 2013:
1. Work out every day. All the sitting and studying has really gotten to me. Plus I’ll be sharper mentally.
2. Sit in a desk chair while working. Fluffy chairs and beds are not conducive to productivity.
3. Work from 6-9pm Sunday-Thursday. Start building this habit. If my work is done, I’ll start on the next thing.
4. Go to the library on two different Saturdays before Spring Break to start research for final papers.
5. Finish final papers/projects 1 week before the deadline. This way I have more time for peer editing.
That’s it. Five goals that I think are totally do-able. They aren’t hard rules — for example, I may not work out every day, but I want to strive to work out 5-6 days out of the week. Same with the 6-9pm study time. The goal with that is to clearly define time for studying versus not studying so I can relieve some of my grad school guilt. The set study time will be a difficult habit to build, so I might have to start my bribing myself to do it. Otherwise, I’m hoping other goals (reading more carefully, writing on a schedule, etc) will fall into place under a rigid time block for studying.
I’m excited about the new semester and the cool classes I’m taking (Research Methods, Literacy Research, and Critical Theory & Media). I hope to have lots of cool ideas and thoughts to share as I go. To those of you also starting a new semester, I wish you good luck! Cheers!
What are your studying and/or work goals for a more productive 2013?