Summer Intentions

I’m participating in the Big Time Literacy blogging challenge and doing some of the posts here and others at my professional blog, In Another Place. The intention board seemed more personal so I’ve shared it here. It was a perfect assignment for yesterday as I’ve had these intentions in my head but had yet to execute, especially the yoga and bike ride. But, by the time I sat down to make the board, I had done both yesterday!

I LOVE my new bike with its basket and bell. And riding a bike gives me a different view of the neighborhood. I stopped to say hello to a gardener about his lovely vegetable patch and waved to a man waiting for a ride. I haven’t been out today: we are in the midst of the first major heat wave so today’s exercise was a long dog walk. Maybe I’ll get on the bike later this evening.

I parked my bike by the garden down front and took a few pictures. My gardens are a labor of love and have taken five years to get where they are. There is always work to be done but for now, the beautiful blossoms cover up the weeds.

And part of the intention is to eat better: we have squash and cucumbers flowing from the garden right now and I should be able to get fresh tomatoes and corn at Saturday’s market.

intention_posterI added the superhero avatar today after spending last night and this morning reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stephenson. I made a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative but I want to do more. It may be letter writing or online advocacy, but I also have a sense that I can do more hands on kinds of work with local kids in areas of coding and robotics. Focus on ways to have a positive future.

Finally, I am just excited about the blogging I’ve done in the past few days!

 

Summer Reading 2016

Cross posted from In One Place at Ivy Run

I really did not plan to blog every day in July, but I got a good start and then discovered the Big Time Blogging Challenge 2016 at the Big Time Literacy blog written by literacy coach Michelle Brezek. I may not always follow her theme for the day but since I just wrote up my reading list, I can follow right along today!

My list is varied: fiction, non-fiction and professional:

I’ll start with what I’ve already read since the beginning of July: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. A classic adventure story with a conflict between good and evil at the heart of the story. The heroine is a 12-year-old girl who discovers her own magic and, with the support of friends and family, saves the day.

I’m a LibraryThing member and am doing a couple challenges. John Steinbeck is the focus of the American Author challenge for July, and I’ll be reading East of Eden and Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, a series of short daily letters the Steinbeck wrote to his editor each day as he wrote the novel. Current events are the focus of the July non-fiction challenge, and I’m doing two books that are part of the One Richmond, One Book initiative at the University of Richmond where I serve as an adjunct professor. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stephenson was last year’s book. This year, it’s Evicted:   Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.

As I prepare for a keynote and workshop about blended learning in early August, I’ll be finishing Go Blended!: A Handbook for Blended Technology in School by Liz Arney and Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools by Michael Horn. The school district I’m working with loaned me a few books they’ve read in past years including The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar.

I’ve been moving VERY slowly through a biography of Marjorie Harris Carr, wife of Archie Carr, the man who started the sea turtle conservation program. Marjorie was an environmentalist in her own right but struggled with the bias against women in science.

Also on the list:

And, I have two boxes of books coming to me that I shipped home from Denver. I can’t list all those titles but I suspect I’ll work a few in.

And…I forgot…I did a digital checkout of The Cracked Spine: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery that is waiting on my Kindle.

Book Spine Poetry

It’s National Poetry Month and I’ve been wandering around my house, stacking books, creating book spine poetry. Maria Popova at Brainpickings has been posting her own poems and credits Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project as her inspiration.

I have several piles but am happy enough with two of them to share them. In each case, the first book is the title.

The first, a story of learning to love:

Untitled

The Awakening

Behind a mask
Love without wings
Onward
Crossing to Safety
Only the River Runs Free

The Books:

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Love Without Wings by Louis Auchincloss
Onward by Howard Schultz
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Only the River Runs Free by Bodie and Brock Thoene

And then a more magical piece:

The Dream Merchants

The Dream Merchants

Winter Street
World’s end
Where wizards stay up late
Drawing down the moon
The Dragons of Eden

The Books:

The Dream Merchants by Harold Robbins
World’s End by Neil Gaiman 
Winter Street by Erin Hildebrand
Where Wizards Stay Up Late by Katie Hafner & Matthew Lyon
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan

Book Bingo Update Plus Some Bookstore Tourism

I wrote about Book Bingo over at In Another Place related to gamifying reading.

I filled out my card and have been using it to drive my reading. It’s fun to explore different genres including fantasy (The Graveyard Book), science fiction (Ender’s Game) and alternative history (The Man in the High Castle). I took advantage of the analog AND digital library to find a couple books (The Graveyard Book and The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian) and retired one that’s been around for awhile (Spartina).

I did take time off the bingo card to read The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry, my first Overdrive checkout. The app connects to my Amazon account to get to my Kindle and lets me choose the length of the check out time. It’s interesting that not all of the books in the Cotton Malone series are available electronically. But the next one is already on the shelf at my local branch so I’ll head down there this week.

KramerbooksA conference in Washington, DC, got me to a new bookstore. Kramerbooks is in Dupont Circle and packs a lot of books in two pretty small rooms. Walk through the store to a bar and a lovely cafe. I might be willing to move to the city if I could live around the corner from a spot like this. I came away with a nice pile of interesting reads including Education: A Very Short Introduction by Gary Thomas, part of Oxford’s series of short introductions to lots of topics. I’m proud of myself that I only walked away with one. I’ve mostly stopped by fiction in analog since I read them so quickly. Instead, I added a few others to the library including A History of the World in Twelve Maps and On Dupont Circle, which tells the story of the Roosevelts and their progressive friends who shaped the beginning of the 20th century.

It’s harder to find time to read this time of year: the garden is calling. There’s weeding and culling and moving and mulching, and I like to do a couple hours a day, in smaller chunks of 45 minutes or so. After five years of working on these garden beds, adding perennials and shaping edges, they are coming together nicely, and I’m looking forward to seeing them move through the seasons. The biggest challenge now is dealing with some of the large chunks of daylilies and irises we have in various places. I have spots for them but the digging and hauling have deterred me so far.

 

When You Want the Book

Sometimes you just want the “real” book and this is one of those times. Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk is a children’s book that explores the large number of phrases and expressions we inherited from the Bard. Writer Jane Sutcliffe explains the phrases while illustrator John Shelley creates wonderfully detailed visions of London in the 16th century. I could buy the Kindle version and have it right now, but there’s something about this book that makes me want the book itself to hold and explore.

But, then it occurs to me that the Kindle version would allow me to better explore as I can expand the illustrations and move around them. I’ve been reading the Lumberjanes comic books using the Kindle app and it’s fun to be able to dive into the illustrations.

So…maybe I’ll just buy both!

 

The Importance of Keeping Good Records

NB: This post originally appeared on my professional blog, In Another Place. 

I just finished David McCullough’s story of the Wright Brothers and their contributions to the history of flight. It is a biography of sorts, telling the story of the family but focusing on the years when the brothers were developing and demonstrating the plane. Maybe that is less by design and more because by 1910, McCullough notes that they had really “accomplished all they had set out to do.” (p. 253). Wilbur Wright died young, just a few years after the momentous events of the early 1900s. Orville outlived the rest of the family but spent much of his time in bitter disputes over patents and legacy and had a falling out with his sister who had done so much to support the brothers. A sad ending, really.

The legacy seems to be the most important part and continues to be controversial as there is another claimant to the “first to fly” mantle: Gustave Whitehead. His claim had been largely debunked throughout history–McCullough dismisses it in a few sentences–until Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft published an editorial claiming photographic evidence.  I was not prepared for what I found doing some quick Google searches. This is a big fight amongst the aviation community and several states. Gustave has his own website and prominent supporters.

Meanwhile, aviation historian Carroll F. Gray tends to the anti-Whitehead website devoted to questioning all things Whitehead. In a lesson for all inventors, keeping good records is essential. Gray argues that a major reason to support the Wrights’ claim over Whitehead is that there is just more documentation:

Lost in much of the discussion and debate over who was first to fly is the simple fact that the evidence for Gustave Whitehead is extremely thin to non-existent, while the work of the Wrights is evidenced by volumes of notebooks, numerous diaries, piles of photographs and reams of letters. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to say that those who believe that Whitehead actually flew sustain themselves on “a hope and a prayer” — faith in that supposed fact — because the absolute proof of that claim is nowhere to be found.

Finally, there’s a humorous political aspect to all this. Based on that one editorial in the aviation magazine, Connecticut legislators decided to declare Connecticut the birth place of aviation and put all their support behind Whitehead. North Carolina and Ohio, states that have often fought over the brothers, now joined forces with both states passing their own resolutions against Connecticut’s claim.

I think this might make an interesting conversation in a history class or makerspace about keeping historical records and how innovation happens. No one can seem to determine if the brothers knew about Whitehead who, even if he didn’t fly, did some inventing and tinkering around planes and the idea of a flying car.

 

Tinkering and Making With the Wright Brothers

NB: This review was originally posted at my professional blog, In Another Place.

Historian David McCullough has discovered the “secret sauce” of writing history for non-historians. He presents history first and foremost as a story of people, often ordinary, who go on to do extraordinary things or live through extraordinary events.

The Wright Brothers is no exception: we learn a bit their childhoods, just enough to let us understand their close knit family and community in Dayton, Ohio. But pretty quickly we are in the workshop and on the beach watching as they create their flying machine.

For schools diving into makerspaces, the story of the Wright brothers is an important one: In a time of amazing innovation, “aerial navigation” was the last untapped frontier with many people, both laymen and leaders, simply believing that man was not meant to fly. Yet, two bicycle makers from Ohio had a vision that played out into a lifelong passion. They understood that there would be failure so did not let it deter them but moved ahead step by step. I like to imagine them wandering the shore line of the Outer Banks where I have spent many summers watching the gulls and gannets but not, as I might, just to admire them, but to consider what lessons they could learn from the birds.

There is a clear lesson for all of us who wish to encourage the habits of thought that lead to the kind of creative and critical thinking exhibited by the Wright Brothers. McCullough writes:

Years later, a friend told Orville that he and his brother would always stand as an example of how far Americans with no special advantages could advance in the world. “But it isn’t true,” Orville responded emphatically, “to say we had no special advantages…the greatest thing in our favor was growing up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity” (p. 18).

This grainy video of the record setting flight in 1909 is available from the National Archives and is in the public domain. The plane itself is on display at the National Air and Space Museum and you can learn more about the early flights at their website.

Friday Finds on Saturday

I am working on a keynote for a group of librarians. The theme of the conference is “Librarians on the Edge” and the focus is how librarians are shaping the future.

I’ve been really enjoying BiblioTECH by John Palfrey. The book is a manifesto for libraries with a multitude of examples of innovative online and face to face libraries. Palfrey has also recommended a variety of books and I am trying to check them out of the library. I put a hold on Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles and got the message this morning that it was in.

I spent some time browsing the shelves as well and came away with some gems:

Sense and Sensiblity, Joanna Trollope’s contribution to The Austen Project

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

The Sandman Overture Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

I’m not sure I’ll have time to read them all in the next two weeks but I can always renew them.

 

Leaderships Lesson from Rebel Yell

NB: Cross posted from In Another Place, my professional blog

I have been fascinated with the Civil War since first seeing Ken Burns’ epic documentary. Moving to Virginia fueled that fascination, and I have visited many of the battlefields.

One of the most intriguing characters that came out of a war full of intriguing characters was Stonewall Jackson, an odd stiff man who seemed to only come into his own when in the midst of the war. Beyond the battlefield, he was  unsuccessful in many ways. He often let his strong ethics get in the way of his relationships. His tenure in both the military and VMI was fraught with somewhat silly arguments with others. It was only when he found his place in the war that he began to shine as a strategist, warrior and, ultimately, a leader. After his death, even those in the north admired him for his tenacity and religious fervor. Abraham Lincoln, on reading a northern editorial about Jackson, wrote, “I sought my state-room, to weep there. Is it wrong, is it treason, to mourn for a good and great, though clearly mistaken man?” (p. 558).  And, Henry Ward Beecher, ardent abolitionist and editor of The Independent, called Jackson, “Quiet, modest, brave, noble, honorable, and pure. He fought neither for reputation now, not for future personal advancement.” (p. 559).

S.C. Gwynne‘s recent biography of Jackson, Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson, dissects the man, getting beyond the legend to reveal a loving husband and father and a loyal friend to those who get past the prickly exterior.

But Gwynne also highlights some essential leadership lessons that can be taken from Jackson’s life. One of those is the power of belief to drive men to do more or less than they might otherwise do. He speculates on why groups of soldiers might advance or retreat, writing:

Belief counted for a lot–in one’s general, in the caption in front of you brandishing his gleaming sword, in the bravery of one’s fellow soldiers, in the idea of winning itself…Though it is impossible to measure the effect of Jackson’s growing reputation as a winner on his men, it was undoubtedly strong (p. 321).

Often being a leader means having to influence people to do things they wouldn’t do naturally. When visiting the now peaceful battlefields, I find it unfathomable that soldiers on both sides, having witnessed the carnage of previous fights, were willing to continue to march into these battles. Yet, several times in Rebel Yell, Gwynne comments that the men of the Stonewall Brigade seemed, despite the deprivations and horror, happy as they followed the man who made them victorious against all odds. There is a lesson here for all of us who lead: build confidence by creating opportunities for success.

Friday Finds At A Favorite Bookstore

I had to make a trip to Richmond today so I made sure I arrived early enough to visit one of my favorite Indie bookstores: Fountain Bookstore. It’s small and cozy with an interesting selection of books and other booky merchandise. I never leave without something in my hands and today, despite my resolutions, was no exception.

Having just finished Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson (I’ll blog about that book later), I’m in a Civil War mode so was excited to pick up Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and Ari Kelman.

I’m reading Armada and decided it was time to finally read Ender’s Game. She had a paperback copy.

And two books about our criminal justice system: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stephenson and Writing Our Way Out: Memoirs From Jail, which features writing by prison inmates collected by their writing teacher David Coogan.

Looking forward to reading all of them!