High Trust Coffee

The university coffee shop sells beans, bagged snacks, and cups as well as the usual high-test brews and baked goods. When the shop closes, the displays of nibbles and cups stays out. No one messes with it, no one fingers the goods, unless it is to read the back of the bean-bag for description and then put it back. Because that’s just how it is. The student union is a high-trust environment. And no one wants to mess that up, so the students police themselves. Yes, there are cameras, and security on occasion, and it’s never smart to leave something valuable laying out to tempt the weak (or the gods of spilled liquids), but while I was there all day, no one bothered things that didn’t belong to them. Continue reading

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The Sins (?) of Our Fathers

“Mark Twain was racist!”

“Robert Heinlein was sexist!”

“Jane Austin supported the patriarchy!”

“Dickens was a … he’s just boring.”

If all you read of Dickens is Bleak House or Ye Old Curiosity Shop then I’ll grant the last one. But otherwise, demands that people not read certain books because they do not meet the standards of the last five minutes serves as an example of the painful presentism of the modern censors and regulators of moral purity. Continue reading

Thoughts Upon Sitting Still

Very few people can do it successfully. Or even harder, to stand still. Not stand in place but wiggle, fidget, look up at the birdies, and so on, but stand or sit without moving in a noticeable fashion.

The military teaches people how to do it. OK, “teaches” might be a little too kind of a description. Things like choir are supposed to encourage you to learn how to stay relatively motionless without passing out. But dang, I watch people on live TV, such as in the background of a speaker (POTUS*, preacher, choir during a concert) and the wiggling!

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Animals and Environments 2: The Land and the Bison

Another rerun in the series from 2014. I’m chaperoning again.

Imagine standing on a broad tableland, knee-high grass extending as far as you can see in all directions. The sun has just risen, well on its way north with the shift from spring into summer, and already the southwest wind ruffles the grass and hisses its hot way past. The day will be a warm one. You begin walking north. As you do, you start to see variations in the billiard table surface. Rainwater lakes, the famous playas, form broad, shallow depressions surrounded by taller grasses. Some of the largest playas have sedges, amaranth, arrow leaf, and western wheat grass in their shallows and on the shores. And you discover a faint blue line in the distance, almost like hills, or very, very far away mountains. Continue reading

Brain-Tired Writer is Brain Tired

Sorry, folks. I used my day off this week to do class prep, and I’m covering for another teacher who is out sick, plus handling my own classes.

Please tell me its Sunday. Please…

Pretty much, but government, not parasitology. Oh, wait…

Content resumes tomorrow.

Overheard in the Halls: Part Fifteen

Me: Nice copier, good copier. [strokes top of copier]

Thpth, thpth, thpth. Beep beep.

I collected my pages and eased out of the workroom and down the hall. Fr. Pax marches in behind me with an arm-full of documents.

I pause to glance into the study-hall to see if anyone is, indeed, studying. From behind me I hear—

Beep BEEP BEEP! [sound of crinkling paper]

Fr. Pax: Irritans damnosum!*

I walked briskly to my classroom.

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Self Censorship and E-mobs

By now the story of Amelie Zhou and the YA Twitter storm are fairly well known. Other commentators have posted their thoughts on the matter, some safe for work, others rather blunter. Zhou has asked her publisher to pull the book, and as of Sunday evening, it is no longer available at Amazon, B&N, or Powells. The author has confessed to her ‘crimes,” which seem to be daring to write about slavery that does not take place in North America. There have been two accusations of plagiarism, both referring to scenes and tropes that are found in lots and lots of other books, going back to Tolkien and before.

Guess what? There were a whole lot of places that practiced—and still practice—slavery, sometimes in ways that resemble North America, other times rather differently. The practice was supported by law in some cases, custom in others, but pretty much every culture has had some sort of slavery-like system of unfree labor at some point in its history. However, that’s not my point. My point is the power of the e-mob, especially in the Young Adult category. Continue reading