Books you missed while I was busy – Fiction on paper

Even though I stopped my regular blogging in mid-October, I didn’t stop reading.  I certainly don’t have time to go back and write reviews of all the stuff I read, but I do like to keep track and I know you need to know what I’ve been reading.  So here are the books I read since mid October when I stopped blogging.

Carnacki, The Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson – Enjoyable classic supernatural sleuth stories.  Some end up being Scooby Doo reveals, but not all of them.  It’s pretty good.

Handling the Undead
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist – a good literary zombie tale.  The recently-dead in Stockholm come back to life and wander around.  They feed on our emotions, so when we’re terrified and angry, they get that way too.
Zone One
Zone One by Colson Whitehead – A literary zombie tale of repatriating New York.  The style is capital L literature and the zombies are pretty low-key.  The book really reflects the modern malaise of the middle-class adequate achiever.  Decent, but slow and not very zombie-filled.
Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries
Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe Mysteries by Robert Goldsborough – Goldsborough does a fantastic job channeling the witty and snappily-dressed Archie Goodwin as he becomes the sidekick of Nero Wolfe through a couple keen cases involving kidnapping, ransom, and gunplay.  A solid story, definitely worth reading for Nero Wolfe fans.
Hogfather (Discworld, #20)
Hogfather (Discworld, #20) by Terry Pratchett – A nice Christmas tale about Death taking over Santa’s sleigh on Discworld where, of course, Santa is a pig-man.  I couldn’t help but spend the whole book thinking of Jim Woodring’s Manhog from Frank.
Return to the Same City: A Hector Belascoaran Shayne Detective Novel
Return to the Same City: A Hector Belascoaran Shayne Detective Novel by Paco Ignacio Taibo
A lyrical detective novel written in the Magical Realism style common to Mexican writers. Shayne has a nihilistic approach to his detective work, trailing his target lackadaisically and getting caught up in the strange twists and turns of life. Reminded me a bit of City of Glass, but I didn’t like this novel the way I liked that one.


Highlights from the first day of class

Robin on a branch
Sure Sign of Spring by blmiers2

The first day of Spring semester went well.  I think I managed to bring the right level of enthusiasm and interest to the class while simultaneously doing enough intellectual work on the first day to develop an idea for the students of what we’ll do in the course.   A few words about my teaching persona:

  • I tell students that I see the first day of a course as a kind of audition–I’m auditioning to be their instructor.  This helps remind them of the essential ownership they must have of their education.  It’s not a given that they will take my class, even at this late date.  They must decide to take it, to engage with the work I’m giving them to do.
  • I use meta-teaching language a lot.  I don’t just tell them what we’re doing, I tell them why we’re doing it.  For instance, we play a silly get-to-know-you game in each of my classes, and I explain to them exactly why we play it — the idea is to start developing community so that later, when I’m asking them to read and comment on one-anothers’ writing, they know and feel comfortable with one another.
  • I also have every class I teach do a ten minute focused free write on some topic.  Often this provides the starting point from which we launch our first discussion, but it also gives me a chance to spend ten minutes learning their names.  While they write, I go round and round the room, pointing at people and saying their names in my head.  I use mnemonics when necessary, but usually I just try to focus on their faces and associate them with the names.

I start each semester worried that perhaps I’ve lost it, that I’m too old now and what was hip before has become pathetic reaching for a cheap laugh.  This hasn’t come to be true yet, but could any year.  Fortunately, I’ve managed to fool them one more time.  Mwa ha ha.

Oh, I suppose you’d like to know: this semester I’m teaching “Writing for New Media” and “Honors Writing and Rhetoric 2.”

New Semester, Another attempt to restart the blog; Grandville – Bete Noir

So j-term is over and the new semester begins.  It seems like a good time to restart the blog.  I doubt I’ll return to the level of logorrhea that I used to muster, but I will try to post at least a couple times a week.  If nothing else, to keep track of what I’ve read and seen.

Grandville: Bete Noir
Grandville: Bete Noir

One of my Christmas gifts this year was Bryan Talbot’s Grandville: Bete Noir.  It’s an amusing steampunk James Bond with a badger as the hero and a Wodehousian sidekick.  This is volume three, in which Toad from Toad Hall tries to take over the French empire with automatons, dreadnoughts, and sneering villainy.  A couple quick thoughts:

  • The art is clean and lovely — Talbot’s usual style.  He’s particularly good at drawing expressive reaction shots.
  • I love the notion of the doughfaces–people–protesting against their poor treatment at the hands of talking animals.
  • Talbot works in some real history of art that I had never heard before, namely that the CIA bankrolled abstract art and artists because they felt that it was an ineffective political medium — nonrepresentative art can’t stir up the masses.  Fascinating!

Worth reading and enjoyable.  I think I will go back and check out the other installments.

ISI Officials Credential – Stroke and Turn Judge

Got this email on Christmas Eve:

Brendan Riley (TOPS) –

Congratulations!  Your training evaluation sheets have been received and you successfully passed the stroke and turn certification test.  As a result, your stroke and turn credentials have been changed from trainee to certified.

You should receive an updated credentials card from the webmaster at USA-Swimming via email, if not, please go to the USA-Swimming website to the ‘My Certification Card’.  Please print this card and bring it with you to swim meets.

Having been trained you know the importance of training.  You will be eligible to train others as a Stroke and Turn Judge one year from now.

Thank you for your past and continued support of our athletes and Illinois Swimming!

Rome Yount
Illinois Swimming Officials Committee – Officials Certification

Whoo hoo!