Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sign on door of store downtown: “Saturday: noon to close.” Seems a bit abstract...
I had high hopes for Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson. I’ve enjoyed her previous work, she writes well, and she has a great topic. And parts of it were quite good. (Her observation that students write better on their blogs than in their academic papers struck a chord; when I used to tutor in a writing center, I noticed that students who could write perfectly lucid notes or letters couldn’t write lucid papers. In both cases, the issue is less “writing ability” per se than fluency in an unfamiliar genre.)
Oddly enough for a book about “attention blindness,” though, Davidson doesn’t seem aware of the level of “look at me!” in her own writing. She positions the book as a counterweight to claims of cultural decline, which is fine and good, but the anecdotes she strings together are all variations on “I met someone wonderful in a wonderful location, and heard something great, and then I went somewhere else and did the same thing! Isn’t that great?” By the time she devoted part of a chapter to her ex-husband’s Mom, it became a real struggle to keep reading. I’m not sure what the writerly equivalent of “mugging for the camera” is, but that’s how it reads.
Frustratingly, the Peripatetic Pollyanna stuff gets in the way of a nifty argument. Davidson notes that we tend to see what we look for, and thereby to miss some promising possibilities. Worse, we get so worked up with unnecessary anxieties about change that we fail to nurture new developments when they most need it. Her history of cultural anxieties about “multitasking” is on-point, revealing, and witty; apparently, the hand-wringing over putting radios in cars in the early twentieth century rivaled the recent worries about cyber-distractions. (The best moments in the book echo Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You, which goes uncited.) When she gets out of her own way, Davidson can be engaging and incisive. Inside this often-annoying book is a brilliant kindle single screaming to get out. I just wish she could have seen it.
The big news out of CES this year was “ultrabooks.” Aside from the cheesy name, these strike me as wildly wonderful if they cost about half of what they cost. For what they cost, not so much.
Okay, this probably says more about me, but what SHOULD have been the big news out of CES was an actual replicator. Yes, it’s version 1.0, but damn. Give it a couple of iterations, and it could be a monster. Draw a design, pour in the plastic, and presto, you have a prototype! Add voice activation and a teakettle and I can do the full Picard. (“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”)
That last one may have been a bit of oversharing.
I heard a rumor this week that Congress is considering making students who arrive at community college under the “ability to benefit” rules ineligible for financial aid. (“Ability to benefit” allows students who don’t have a high school diploma or a GED a chance to test in.) My first thought was that we can finally stop coddling all those independently wealthy high school dropouts. Upon reflection, I guess the counterargument would be that they should get their GED’s first. If Congress is willing and able to fund a robust GED preparation system -- adult basic education for all who need it -- then I withdraw my objection. If not, I’m appalled.
Poetry, by The Girl:
We sit on benches
we sometimes use wrenches
from our gear boxes
‘cause we’re hard-workin’ foxes!
She was completing a workbook assignment that asked her to use plurals that end in “-es.” I’d give full credit for that...
Kudos to your girl. By the time she's a teenager, you are really going to have a firecracker on your hands. (and she'll be driving)
Semi related funny family story: 15 year old wants to take his GED to get the heck done with high school. It's not legal, but there's a clause where a judge can give an exemption, so he goes before the judge.
The judge: "well, young man, I generally don't make exceptions unless someone needs to make a living. Like if he has gotten a girl pregnant, for example."
15 year old guy: "Well, your honor, I hadn't planned on it, but if that's what I have to do..."
Judge let him take the GED.
As for the Tea, Earl Grey, Hot? I can sympathize, although I actually prefer English Breakfast or Orange Pekoe. If only Picard had been of the same mind!
Many people take the ATB because they can afford it.
When I first started my job in testing, I didn't understand the option. The VP explained to me that it is about increasing access- each students has different strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, etc. The ATB measures them in a unique way providing them with a chance. I will be discouraged if they take away this opportunity.
Of course, in today's America, the real answer is, "Because they're Americans, and that's what we do."