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Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford Deutsch: Die zwanzigjährige Virginia Woolf, fotografiert von George Charles Beresford (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently had a discussion about this book with some friends and coworkers who were reading this book for a book club. I was somewhat shocked to realize they hated the book and thought there was too much talking going on, which is all the reasons why I love To the Lighthouse.

My previous encounter with Virginia Woolf, let me raising my hand and running away scared when someone would ask the question Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I am, or was. She isn’t exactly the easiest writer to wade through. But I am glad I got assigned this book for a class because I picked it up for a class on Modernism, something I would never read on my own, and I ended up truly enjoying this book and Woolf!

To the Lighthouse is mostly about the Ramsay family. The first part of the book follows one day and has almost no dialogue or periods and lots of introspection. The book really has the family and their guests, they love to entertain, questioning every comment and every thought. They don’t act without deep introspection and questioning of motives and feelings. The same holds true after they say or do anything.

Mrs. Ramsay questions whether she loves her husband and why she thinks she might not love her husband. Does she think she is better than him? Does the fact that he understands her and her motives make her good wife? Does everyone have roles? What makes a good mother?

The second part, probably the most bizarre and abstract shows us that Mrs. Ramsay died as did two of her children. The third part has the remaining family and even some of the guests back at the summer house ten years later with little seeming to have changed.

Mr. Ramsay is still a grumpy old man trying to recapture something of his previous life. He forces his two children Cam and James to take a trip with him to the lighthouse. Only Cam and James are locked into internal debates of staying true to an unspoken bond against their father, their desire to be independent, and wanting to earn their father’s live. Each moment brings a different thought and each person seems to lack consistency and constantly change their thoughts and opinions. Each moment is an epiphany and a new battle. It almost is exhausting.

Except, I don’t think it is exhausting because I think Woolf’s novel might seem annoying; however, I think it is more a reflection of real life. We are constantly changing. We are always thinking and analyzing, whether we are aware of it or not, our brain is always working through issues. I think as humans we are pretty inconsistent people, making Woolf’s introspections kind of accurate. Maybe we are quick to think the novella annoying because it is highly accurate? Of course, the Ramsay’s are exaggerated, but they are still us at their core and I think that is what make this such a great book.


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Cover of "Thirteen Reasons Why"

Cover of Thirteen Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why I hated 13 Reasons Why

I hate trashing books. I honestly do. I have to on this one because it made me so angry. Not uncomfortable good literature angry, but what is this book teaching kids angry. When did I become that person who cares what happens to the youth of America? I am not sure the answer to that question but I am thinking that this book made me that person.

This review is admittedly more of an open letter to Hannah Baker about this book and why her actions are wrong. Sadly, I can see some teenagers already considering suicide seeing this as a romantic way to avenge themselves. Only, it is not so much vengeance as bullying. Bullying is never fair but it is much worse when it is from beyond the grave. You, Hannah Baker, are a coward and do not deserve to be immortalized in words let alone a movie.

Gripe 1) Can we discuss that the main character commits suicide and the school makes no big deal about it. There aren’t like psychologists on staff helping them through this. In this age, schools are so completely safety and emotionally conscious of their students.

Gripe 2) If you want to kill yourself. Fine. I think it is selfish, but that is your prerogative. What is not ok, is to blame every single person around you, including someone you admit did NOTHING. I am looking you at Hannah Baker.

Gripe 3) So not only have you killed yourself and forced the individuals you blame for this to listen to your tapes about why they are to blame, but you never give a tape to the individual who did the worse thing in the ENTIRE BOOK.

Gripe 4) It’s ok for you to blame a girl for thinking she stole your boyfriend, but that same girl gets raped and you let it happen and YOU STILL PUT IT ON THE TAPES and still send her those tapes? Oh and she didn’t know she was raped so you broke that to from the grave on a cassette tape. Now not only did she find out she was raped from a dead chick, but also now everyone else knows she got raped and you ask that they don’t tell the cops?!? Who are you to say that? (Gripe 5).

Gripe 6) Clay Jensen did nothing to you. NOTHING. Is it ok to have him vomiting from emotion and forever be scarred by your voice from the grave.

Gripe 7) Mr. Porter truly seemed to want to help you and you did not give him an opportunity. He didn’t run after you, but maybe he was calling for help or your parents. Remember, he wasn’t the real guidance counselor but the english teacher. You already made up your mind, Hannah Baker.

Gripe 8) You put Justin on the list twice, once because he exaggerated a romantic encounter with you but a second time because he let Jessica get raped. You were in the closet and let it happen, how you do you blame him for what you did too!

Gripe 9) You blame Courtney twice as well. The first time because she wanted to use you to get to a party, this does not necessitate ruining someone’s life. It truly doesn’t. The second because she got out of the hot tub, which was something you were not smart enough to do and YOU KNEW what was going to happen (Gripe 10).

Gripe 11) The random kid who you gave the tapes too, why involve him? He did nothing wrong, same with your parents (Gripe 12).

Gripe 13) Alex said you had a nice ass but what did he really do to hurt you. Yes, it caused some things but everything ANYONE does causes a reaction. That is life. Yes life is hard but that doesn’t mean we can all just give up for no reason. Did you ever think your actions are bullying and that they may cause some of the people on the tapes to kill themselves? That you ruined lives? That’s bullying only no one can stand up to you.

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Good Ole’ Abe

Team of Rivals. Awesome.

I always had a prejudice about our 16th president dating back to my sophomore year of high school when I learned he didn’t really free the slaves, he only freed the the slaves in the Confederacy and had done nothing about those in the Union. Flash forward 10 years later when I pick up Team of Rivals.

I admit I owe Honest Abe an apology. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book is not for the faint of heart. It is a long and detailed examination of President Lincoln’s rise to the presidency and how he kept the Union intact, despite the fact it should have been an easy win for the Confederates. After reading Goodwin’s book I realize that he was in fact a political genius. He did the impossible over and over again. While he did not free the slaves on paper, he used political mastery to make it an inevitable option, which I think is even better.

When we think of President Lincoln, we think of the Civil War and Fords Theatre. I don’t think any of us stop and think about that he should have never even become President. He lacked the same education as his rivals, and future Cabinet members. Those same more educated rivals, Chase, Seward, and Bates, had more diplomatic and political experience. They were more popular… and yet, Abraham Lincoln was the one who won the nomination and then had the skill to win the presidency, and the foresight and intellect to stock his Cabinet with those same more experienced men who ran against him!

Think about that. The same people who want to see you loose become your most trusted allies. It created an incredible cohesion at a time when the country was falling apart. Can you see any current politician stocking his Cabinet, and the important positions, with enemies and partisans from the other side of the aisle? It shows what a one-of-a-kind man Lincoln was. In an era where our economy and environments might be on the brink of collapse, unemployment, genocides abroad, we need someone who can see past party lines and keeping things kosher and who instead can really make some waves.

If you want to look at it in a different light. We all remember Abe Lincoln. He sits on a chair tall and might overlooking our nation’s capitol as a warm memory of justice and equality. Polls show he is still the most beloved president of all times. He just had an Oscar winning performer, Daniel Day Lewis, play him in a biopic based on this book. Does anyone remember Bates and Chase? When I think of the name Seward I only think of Seward’s Folly (the purchase of Alaska) and not about all the great things he did under Lincoln. Maybe that suggests the way to get remembered is to shake things up the way Lincoln did and be ready to cause some change.

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While reading this article from Inside Higher Ed I thought about my experience as a student of traditional classrooms and digital classrooms, someone who works closely with educational technology, and someone as a teacher.  I took all of those experiences and thought about what I truly think about digital education.  What follows is sure to be a convoluted and complicated answer only slightly less complicated than this the issue itself.


First and foremost, despite loving Coursera and excited to be a student again, my heart still misses sitting inside a seminar reading debating with my fellow nerds about books and theories and art.  I enjoy Coursera and I actually have terribly missed homework but I LOVE traditional classrooms.  I miss having a direct contact with students and a professor.  I genuinely contemplated Steve’s article from Inside Higher Ed and I agree that videos help in creating a more human element but I still miss the human contact.  I miss the debates that happened before and after class as you got to know your classmates and who they are as people and continue the conversation after class into bars.  I miss seeing the passion.

I do know that there are Google hangouts, online forums, and skype chats with other students and teachers.  There even is the benefit of spending time with a heterogeneous group from all over the world instead of a group of students who are all the same.   Plus, you get so many more opinions and diversity.  Though I can see it and grasp the benefits intellectually, I have trouble buying into it. Oftentimes I find myself overwhelmed with how many ideas float around.  There are so many people that I never feel I find a “friend” or someone whose ideas I can track from beginning to the end.  While seeing a professor is great on videos, it still lacks the interactive component.  And despite the chats and tweeting capabilities, it lacks something human for me.  I don’t always feel connected to what is going on.

Even after all that is said, I still love technology and am an advocate.  For the disenfranchised it offers a chance of beginning to close the gap in education; it levels the playing field.  It can provide education quick, cheap, and personalized all while giving individuals valuable real world skills in the use of technology.  Also, studies are starting to show how exceptional it can be for gifted students and those with various autism spectrum disorders.  Knowing all that how could I not love it.  But it is like everything, it needs to be moderated.  At the end of the day I still love traditional educational settings with a live teacher and students but I think technology can successfully be used to enhance traditional education and for those who have little or no access to education it can mean a world of distance.  I just think there should still be a truly human component.

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The future of the world is often thought of as both dystopic and utopic. Technology can be amazing in its scope.  It could revolutionize education and create a global playing field where we are all forced to compete on merits rather than national nepotism.  It could also be terrifying in its scope.  We could awake in a Matrix-like world where all privacy and life are wiped away.

The great thing about both videos I linked too is that they are both possible. We have a choice of whether we pick the red pill or the blue pill.  Technology does not dictate our future we dictate our future.  So here are some the questions, some difficult, that we have to asking. What will the government’s role be in technology and what. if any, constraints will be placed on the governmental usage of it.  Think about this question.  Let’s say we do have the ability to link our brains up to a network, should the government have access to our everyday thoughts? If they do, crime rate will go down but will we be asking Big Brother into our lives? Could that information be sold to third party vendors to create the ultimate customizable ads? If we realize the desire for power is too tempting as humans does this mean we give up the benefits the technology brings? There are so many thoughts.

What if technology can open up education to every single person in the world and offer the same quality of education to every single person? The benefits would be incredible if every individual could receive the same education; however, at what level then do we compete? Not everyone can be doctor’s and astronauts.  Will anyone want to be our department store clerks, or secretaries, or garbage collectors, or fast-food cooks? If no one wants those jobs how do we fill these positions? If millions of people find an increase in the quality of their lifestyles, will millions find a decrease in quality and there become more candidates for the same job and they struggle to find more elaborate ways to compete and land jobs? They are interesting thoughts.

Again, the best part of the future is that it isn’t decided.  It is up to us to write it and we have the ability to make the decisions and that also means we have great responsibility.  The future is truly ours to make and technology is complicated and that is ok.  We just have to be aware of our decisions and the implications.  Any amazing future wins will be our wins and any future catastrophes will fall on our shoulders.  No one else is responsible so let’s take this as a moment to educate ourselves.  What technology is new, how can it be used, what other illicit or uncomfortable implications could it have, what are the benefits, do the benefits outweigh the consequences; who is monitoring the usage of the technology; what sort of oversight exists, and the lessons go on and on.

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nook’ed (Photo credit: Cem K. (iyiinsan))


Watching Bendito Machine III I found it a perfect representation of all my hopes and anxieties surrounding technology.  I always look admiringly at the Ipad as I read the Walter Iasscson biography. Yet, something causes me fear.  I refuse to give in and sign up for a Twitter account, I use a Nook not an ipad, and my cell phone is anything but smart.  Still like the worshippers in Bendito Machine III I find myself allured and drawn to something. I signed up for a class completely designed around the digital culture I refuse to give fully into.  Maybe it is because I enjoy having some privacy, an area of my life that is not public to anyone with a bizarre interest in the mundane aspects in my life or someone with a malicious desire to ruin my life with bad photos tweeted out to anyone who has ever met me.


We all love technology but it becomes disposable in moments.  As the generation first exposed to video games and the new systems that came out every proceeding year, it gets difficult to keep.  You constantly put the money out to learn the latest device.  Then you have to take the time to learn how to use it and utilize it effectively.  It becomes an obsessive fad. iPads, iPhones, mp3s, Angry Birds, Moocs, etc.  I believe technology can change the world but as Jobs-like worshippers experienced in the video as soon as they found a new idol of technology it was already past its prime.  These technologies receive no time to be fully experienced or explored.  Instead they are dumped on us, as literally depicted in the video or how the television idol could not sit still for more than a moment.  It quickly switched from useless topics of selling cars to beauty pageants to commercials to children with guns to war imagery.  You cannot pin down something moving that fast. Instead we will always be playing catch up with the technology.


Again, this does not mean that technology is just that it has to be explored.  Someone needs to be brave enough to take a step back and examine the situation.  At the end of the video after the Internet collapsed and crushed its users you notice one sole survivor escaping the turmoil to move away.  Instead of thinking he is running away I like to think that he just needed space and was not giving up on it altogether.  Only with room to breathe can we look at it objectively and determine its worth.


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English: Courtyard of the Museum of Louvre, an...

Image via Wikipedia

So, I read this book, The Happiness Project, and I thought, ok maybe this is something I can adopt.  Maybe I can take on happiness.  Who couldn’t use more happiness in their life? I’m prone to bouts of moodiness and passive-aggressiveness; this something I need.  Soooo, I went to The Happiness Project’s website and I started my project.  Then came New Years and all of its resolutions and newness and it seemed like a good time to start.  So I made some goals for each month, picked a start date and here I am.

Where does Happiness start? Well for me, I thought I’d tackle energy/health; this served a few purposes.  First, seriously who could not benefit from more energy? If I am going to tackle a year of happiness, I need to have the energy to accomplish.  Since they’re correlated, more energy means more health.  Let’s also be real, I’m overweight and don’t feel good about myself so the idea of losing weight was also at the start of this topic.

My goals for January are to go vegetarian, visit the gym four times a week, drink only water, only snacking on weekends, and keeping the house clean.  We all know what happens to good intentions.  I woke up New Years Day, the first day of my big change, to being sick.  I continued laying in bed seriously sick until Saturday, when I developed a cold, which I’m still rocking.  So, some of my happiness ideas went out the window.  I couldn’t go to my car without wanting to vomit or actually doing so, this made the gym impossible and cleaning my house, though I’ve started to fix this in an attempt to sanitize my home to stave off sickness.  Due to frequent nauseousness, I  did break my water only fix for some ginger ale.

So, my first week did not go so great, but I did try to work on happiness even when sick. I tried to smile and laugh and make fun of being sick and think about how great it was I got to lay in bed and watch so much tv. This did not always work but I tried and sometimes it made feeling yucky ok.  I also realized something.  I’m currently unemployed and have been since August.  Whether it’s psychologically sound or not, I’m finally admitting that working is key to my happiness.  I am not good at staying home everyday; I thrive in an environment where I interact with people and contribute something to society and where I make money and I have financial security.  I need a job; it is essential to my happiness.  While contemplating this project I thought I would find a way to be happy without working, but I’m just accepting the fact that I do need one to be happy and that’s ok.  It just means I have to make finding a job even more important than it already is.  I’ll put even more of myself into finding a job that will be something I can cherish and contribute to.  So I need the energy from getting healthy to go find a job that will support me and more importantly allow me to to contribute to the world and feel intellectually stimulated.

So that’s week 1 of my happiness project.  Hopefully week 2 finds me healthier :-0


p.s.  The random picture of the louvre is an ode to things that make me happy.  I’ve never been but it’s a dream of mine to go and I do get a certain amount of happiness out of thinking about going one day and seeing with my own beautiful eyes.

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