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Inner Monologue, Third Person Omniscient

All these memories of children's books have reminded me of how ingrained narrative was in my consciousness when I was a child. Present in my mind at all times was a narrator, observing me and telling my story at the exact same time I was acting it out, viz: I'd be walking around in the woods, stopping periodically to inspect various plants. As I did so, I'd be thinking: "She walked through the forest, stopping here and there to kneel down and contemplate plants. She saw a mayapple and wondered if fairies used them as umbrellas. She picked wildflowers and plucked the petals, saying, 'He loves me. He loves me not.' She saw a strange plant with purple leaves and suspected it must be an ingredient in a magic potion." On and on and on. Back then, I used to think I was the only one who thought in this manner. Now I wouldn't be surprised if other bibliophiles thought in that same constant narrative, maybe Krista, Cristina, Amanda, or The Little Professor. Anyone else?

Unconnected thoughts and gestures outward

I'm trying to get back into the flow of work and shake this out-of-sorts feeling I'm experiencing. Last night I got back from a far-too-short trip, a place and a person it always twists and bends my heart to leave. My prospectus defense is Wednesday afternoon, 1:00-3:00, and I'm anxious about that. I have writing deadlines looming and grading to do this weekend.

But enough about all that. The most important thing in this post is this link to a recent presentation by Samantha Blackmon, David Blakesley, and Charlie Lowe titled "Teaching Writing, Collaboration, and Engagement in Global Contexts: The Drupal Alternative to Proprietary Courseware." You should all read their slides immediately; they've really done a great roundup of problems with hegemonic course management software like WebCT and Blackboard, and they've done an even better job spelling out most of Drupal's features. When I try to talk to people about Drupal, I find myself not even knowing where to start. I guess what I need to do is rank my two or three favorite things about it, or, rather, two or three salient differences between Drupal and the major course management applications.

I got a brief mention in my college's newsletter (I'm under "People.").

Are Sam and I the only ones who will be knitting at CCCC? It makes no difference to me whether those in attendance knit or not; I just want to have a lively group there. Email Sam or me if you'd like to find out the time and place.

Speaking of knitting, you can get in touch with Betty Burian Kirk if you'd like to have a knitted item made of your dog's fur. (Via Marginal Revolution.)

I hate it when people confuse the words "reign" and "rein." I wish Brendan would devote one of his Writing Pedantry posts to this problem.

Things that fill me with melancholia

Dippin' Dots has been "the ice cream of the future" for at least sixteen years now. When I see those sad little Dippin' Dots kiosks at malls, I think back to the salad days of Dippin' Dots, the first time I tried them: It was in Nashville, at Opryland*, and I was in eighth grade. They were promoting Chaos, the new indoor roller coaster, and I ate my Dippin' Dots while standing in line waiting to ride it. The Opryland Hotel is still around, but Opryland the amusement park closed down years ago. It is Clancy I mourn for, I guess.

It upsets me when people write first-person statements on behalf of creatures who lack the power to signify. Like when you see a sign on an animal's cage that says, "I am an Asian elephant. Please don't feed me."

Sigh. Now I'm depressed. :-(

* Edited to add that I looked at the history of Dippin' Dots, and under the timeline, it says: "1989: Opryland U.S.A. in Nashville, Tenn., is the company’s first amusement park account."

Last Night's Dream

Inspired by recent dream posts, I bring you the dream I just woke up from:

I wake up at 5:00 a.m., stressed out in anticipation of all the work I have to do that day. In a daze, I wander around the apartment, walk out the door but don't close it behind me, and cross the hall into an unlocked, furnished vacant apartment. I leave that door open too. A documentary about Motley Crue is on TV, so I sit down in a ratty chair and get comfortable, but then I'm jolted out of my dazed state when I hear Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime," the "This is not my beautiful house!" part. I get up to go back into my apartment, but a few people who are leaving for work have gathered around my door on their way out of the building. They're sticking their heads into my apartment and are ridiculing it: "You mean a grown woman actually lives here?!" Ashamed, I hide in the vacant apartment and wait for them to go away. On the floor of the vacant apartment is a big pile of my clothes, not the clothes I wear now, but clothes I had my first couple of years of college. I start gathering them in my arms.

Standard Algorithm v. Austrian Subtraction

If you have to do the following math problem:

 1811
-  969

assuming (just play along!) you can't do it in your head and don't have a calculator with you, how would you do it? Would you use the standard American algorithm, or "borrowing" as they explained it to us in school? Would you do it using Austrian subtraction? Steve Wilson, the math professor whose material on alternative subtraction algorithms I'm linking to, writes that the standard American algorithm is "pretty messy with all of the cross outs and rewrites. Even if you do all the cross outs and rewrites in your head so that your paper doesn't get messed up, its a lot to keep in your head."

Yes, yes, yes! When I was in elementary school, I found the mess generated by the "borrowing" method terribly difficult to handle, and I literally experienced anxiety attacks trying to deal with it. When I learned Austrian subtraction in sixth grade, it was an enormous relief, and it made so much more sense to me -- something about my cognitive style, I reckon -- and I've used it ever since. I don't know why I've been thinking about this; maybe it was spurred by a conversation I had with Jonathan last night about intelligence testing (and childhood experience with). At any rate, I'm curious to find out if any of you are Austrian subtraction advocates.*

* UPDATE: I forgot to point out that I'm really talking to readers in the U.S. here. In his description of Austrian subtraction, Wilson claims that it's the preferred and most-often-taught method in European schools (is he right?). Of course, any thoughts on either method of subtraction, or additional ones, are welcome.

New Year's Resolutions

A little late, but here they are. I wanted to make this year's easily attainable:

* Stop using deprecated HTML tags

* Start using one of those mesh laundry bags when washing delicate clothing

* Start using Post-Its for my reading notes. I've usually written in the margin and on a separate sheet of paper, but I've been wanting to try using Post-Its as that's the way smart people read.

Clara Louise "Moma-Lou" Sealy Jones

Since my mom showed me this auto-obituary (username culturecatATgmailDOTcom, password flawrinse if it prompts you) when I was home, it has lingered in my mind:

Being plain-spoken was part of me, and I didn't really know how this felt for others. Scott thought this was a good quality, and he treated me as part of a "co-pastor" team. I loved him for his trust in me to be a leader with him; I did the best I could, using the help of so many of you.

I filled my life with teaching children, loving music, singing and playing the piano, reading, being in the church, cooking, baking, planting and caring for gardens and canning vegetables, soups and fruits and being a wife and mother.

Scotty loved my carmel cakes; Martha loved my fried okra; and Scott loved my homemade rolls and fried pies. I loved all of this wonderful living.

Scott and I had so many challenges and opportunities with our ministry; church picnics, covered-dish suppers, camps, vacation Bible schools, Christmas plays and cantatas, communion services, home visitations, homecomings, singings, revivals, prayer meetings, committee meetings, weddings, baptisms, funerals, sermons, worship services, beginning new churches and Sunday schools and traveling in the snow. I am so thankful I could be part of it all!

I want all of you to know that through it all, you helped make my life meaningful, and for this I am forever and ever grateful to you.

She died at age 93, and I don't know how old she was when she wrote this. I'm fascinated with this woman -- her happiness, grace, and gratitude, and her desire to communicate it to the whole town by what strikes me as a pretty radical disruption of the obituary genre. Rest in peace, Mrs. Jones.

Various Images

A sign from my nursery that still hangs in my bedroom at my parents' house (click for larger image, and feel free to make fun of the glorious 1970s wallpaper if you like):

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