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This January, assuming enough students sign up for it, I will start teaching a 15 week course through GHF Online (Gifted Homeschoolers Forum). (See link at bottom.)
Powers Beyond the Ordinary: ‘Super’ Women and Men in Science Fiction and Fantasy
In addition to the titles/topics listed, I am interested in your thoughts on what would be good works to include - books, movies, plays, etc. I know I won't even remotely have time to even check out all of them between now and then, but I know I will look at many of them and make note of the others - including them in a broader list for students who want to go further in the topic. (Students should be 12 years old and up for this course.)

A few of the items on my list beyond those mentioned in the course outline: )
There is no way that I will even thoroughly cover the topics I already have - but I imagine I will be teaching this again!

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Course description as well as outline are at the link.

Click here for the course description and outline.
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Unlike the NYC Public Librarians, I have decided to go year by year with my top choice.

(To be continued)

1913 - Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter (runner up - Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys' games and books. by H.G. Wells.)

Ultimately, the next 100 years will be behind the cut. There are fewer than that now. This cut goes to 1914. )This cut goes to 1924. )This cut goes to 1944. )This cut goes to 1964. )This cut goes to 1984. )
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I was prompted recently to find and share a group of free audio links for science fiction and fantasy. While reviewing the links I shared, I tripped across an unfamiliar title and author:
Tourmalin's Time Cheques (1891) by Thomas Anstey Guthrie.

Simply put, our protagonist, Peter Tourmalin, is bored aboard a sailing vessel returning him to England from Australia and is given the chance to bank some of his spare time for later usage through 'time cheques.' Upon presenting a time cheque to any clock, he is taken back to some of the spare time he has stored.

I enjoyed the story quite a bit, with its twists and turns. One of the readers was far inferior to the others, but only reads for a short while - it was a bit jarring to have her voice, but survivable.

Should one not wish to listen to it, it is also available as a google book.

(If you look at this when the tinyurl has expired,just do a search for the title at and it will turn up.)

I was less than thrilled with the ending, but enjoyed the story overall quite a bit.
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I was re-watching National Treasure 2, and noticed, in the credits that it was written by "The Wibberleys."

I know of an author whose last name was Wibberley, though I'd been pretty sure he had died more than a decade before this movie was made. Still, I went alooking.

Leon (Leonard) Wibberly was the author of one of my all time favorite books, The Mouse that Roared - also a wonderful movie.

Cormac Wibberly (the husband half of the team of screenplay writers) is his son, and did the two National Treasure movies along with several other works.

Color me amused.
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When I am reading a book by respected historians, even if their essays are in the less well respected realm of "counter-factual history," I expect the facts that are not relevant to the changes in the story line to remain the same, or to be explained so we know where the chance came from.

I was reading What ifs? of American History, and finished an essay that explained why Senator Joe McCarthy did what he did, but with a twist. So it was that apparently McCarthy ended up costing Eisenhower his re-election bid, leading to an Adlai Stevenson presidency. And I would have believed it was plausible and well thought out until I got to the actual electoral college vote: 530 for Stevenson, 312 for Eisenhower.

Sorry, folks! There were 531 electoral votes up for grabs - no Alaska, no Hawaii, and no D.C. But under no stretch of the imagination were there 842 of them.
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Books that stayed with you after you read them...

This is from a FaceBook 'meme' I did, but a) I cheated on the 15, and b) I included some commentary to make the list more meaningful to me.

1. Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
We can shape the worlds around us, to an extent, but it can be tricky.
2. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins - Dr. Seuss
There are arcane forces out there that will mess with our lives, and the powers that be may not believe we really have no control over what's going on.
3. Gremlins - Roald Dahl
Odd things happen. Sometimes they mess things up. Sometimes they make things better. Sometimes they just make things more interesting. But odd things happen, and we have less control over them than we like to think.
4. Andy Buckram's Tin Men - Carol Ryrie Brink
Goodness matters. Kindness matters. Helping matters. But sometimes, things don't work out the way we want them to.
5. The Gilead Bomb - David Sinclair
There are bad things out there. The adults don't always have the answers. And help comes from some surprising places,sometimes.
6. The Ghost of Dibble Hollow - May Nickerson Wallace
Conflicts can come from misunderstanding, and lead to long, bitter division - unnecessarily long, unnecessarily bitter.
7. The Forgotten Door - Alexander Key
Being different is hard. It's lonely. There are people who will hurt you for being different, but there are good people out there, too, who will love and care about you even if you are different - and about whom you can care to. But be aware - they, too, can be targets for caring for and about you.

Really importantly - that the feelings I had inside were not unique to me, even if I had a hard time verbalizing them.
8. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (series) - L. Frank Baum
Too many lessons to name. Friends are important.
9. Patty Fairfield (series) - Carolyn Wells
Normal daily life does not have to be boring. Girls can be cool.
10. The City and the Stars - Arthur Clarke
Idealism upsets the status quo, but it is still worth pursuing, even when it upsets others.
11. Starman Jones - Robert Heinlein
11a. Tunnel in the Sky, Orphans in the Sky, and many others of Heinlein's juveniles
Where to start? You can get ahead even if you don't follow the rules - and some of the rules make getting things done that are important harder, not easier. There are many different ways to view the world - and no one of them is proof that the others are wrong.
12. To Sir With Love - E. R. Braithwaite
Troubled students =/= bad people. Nobody should be given up on. Teachers are important - or can be. Love and respect are more important than academics.
13. Goodbye Mr. Chips - James Hilton
Teachers' impacts go beyond their time with students. Teach and live your values and your values will be taught.
14a. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
The universe is a strange place. Stand up to evil. Being smart =/= being wise. Understanding self is important, but damned hard.
14b. The Arm of the Starfish - Madeleine L'Engle
Science is not inherently good. People wear masks to influence people - and not even remotely always in good ways. Naive =/= inherently bad. Sexual attraction (whatever that is) can prompt poor decision-making.
15a. Telepathist (The Whole Man in its U.S. release) - John Brunner
Things that happen to us have long term impact - emotional/mental, not just physical. Letting others in to help us is as important as helping them is - even if/though it is hard. Just because we cannot express an idea, art, music, does not mean it is any less artistic or musical - merely more frustrating for all that.
15b. The Long Result - John Brunner
Breaking past low expectations - our own or others' - is hard, but often worth it. Unfortunately, the results are not always what those who are urging us on expect them to be - and big growth/change in ourselves can result in loss of what had been important relationships. That doesn't make it a bad thing, but it doesn't make it easy, either.

Our actions have way bigger potential ripples than we ourselves can see at any given moment.
15c. Shockwave Rider - John Brunner
Brilliance and adaptability and independence have their limits. There are other people in the world, still and again.


May. 3rd, 2009 01:12 pm
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That was a really great book - a must read.

At least, if you're a Tammy fan. More later!
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I just finished reading Thirteen Orphans: Breaking the Wall, which is the first book in a new series by Jane Lindskold (oddly enough).

It is about as different from her Wolf books as those are from either Changer or Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls (which is on my list of top books (not just fantasy) ever).

It's set in modern America, with a mixed heritage heroine - Chinese-American. The essence of the conflict within is based upon Chinese mythology and the Immortals as depicted in the Chinese zodiac.

I enjoyed both story and characters - and will wait, quite eagerly if impatiently, for the next installment.
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I was at Tatnuck's, in Westboro, MA, and they had a medium sized collection of books for a buck, some of which seemed potentially interesting, so I grabbed them!

But... I was wondering what feedback or recommendations I might get from the assembled multitudes!

Crystal Doors, by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson (2006)
Mistress of Mistresses, by E.R. Eddison (1935)
A Traveler from Altruri, William Dean Howells (1892-93)
Who Would Have Thought It?, by Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton (1872)

I know Anderson (though not Moesta) from any number of SF pieces. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros is a familiar piece, as well.

The Howell piece includes a lengthy examination of it, as it is viewed apparently as a famous historical document, though a fictionalized exploration of our (the U.S.) society/culture of the time. I suspect it will make an interesting companion to Viscount Bryce's American Commonwealth (non-fiction), from roughly the same era.

In many ways, Ruiz de Burton's is the most fascinating of these books. a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on national history and identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society's opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.

As in her first novel, The Squatter and the Don (1885), Ruiz de Burton reserves critical barbs for corruption in government and United States expansionism under the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. However, t is in the recasting of the conventional novel of domesticity that Who Would Have Thought It? also addresses the disenfranchisement of women. Ruiz de Burton's deft character portrayal and satirical style make for a highly readable and enjoyable novel.
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I'm reading and, mostly, enjoying the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, as I noted on Sheroes.

But... niggling details that would be easy enough to have right are not right, even for a book set in the early 19th century.

Our heroes, in the first book, are at Gibraltar and discussing a trip to England and "it's more than 2000 miles." Except, it isn't. It's about 1100 to London, not 2000. Even Aberdeen is under 1500!

In the next book, we are in another location in which we receive information more swiftly than our hero thinks we should, because it is more than 2000 miles away! But... it's 1235 miles away, as the Dragon flies.
In my last book before this series, Mammoth by John Varley, somebody remarks to our hero that he's very smart - after all, he was being considered for a Nobel Prize.

I would have been more convinced of everybody's intelligence, but for the fact that our hero is a mathematician - and there is no Nobel Prize in Mathematics!


What niggling details have annoyed you in otherwise good writing?
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Today was the release party for Sarah Beth Durst's sequel to Into the Wild, about Rapunzel's daughter and the land of fairy tales!

I drove down to Worcester, where she gave a brief presentation and a short reading from the new book (with a really scary ending point!). I got to meet her spouse and really really cute daughter (going on 3), as well as her dad, because this is the area she's from (and around which the books are centered).

And... I got to buy a copy of Out of the Wild.

It was, as expected, wonderful. I highly recommend it! (So do Tammy and Bruce Coville and many other people more famous than I.)

If you haven't read Into the Wild, you can read the first chapter. If you have, then chapter one of Out of the Wild is available - but it has at least one spoiler for the first book in it, so hold off if you haven't read ITTW, first!
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Preparedness in Heaven, God decides to prepare for a war against Satan.

GABRIEL: I am afraid Heaven won't stand for that. Jesus has preached peace too long.

GOD: ...We must first frighten them, fill them with fear, then with hate. For example, headlines in the Heavenly Herald: "Horrible Atrocities of Satan," "Make the Cosmos Safe for Jesus," "Satan Threatens Your Halos," "Satan Disembowels a Cherub," "Satan Rapes the Ten Foolish Virgins," and so on...

GABRIEL: But none of this will be true.

GOD: True? Of course, it won't. Don't be a fool, Gabriel. You can't work up a war—preparedness, I mean—on the truth. This is war—I mean preparedness—and we simply must lie—the more horrible the lies the better.

From the book Heavenly Discourse, published in 1927
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by CES Wood

"The last end of the state is not to dominate men nor to restrain them by force and fear; rather it is to free men from fear that they may live and act freely with full security and without injury to themselves or their neighbors. The end of the State, I repeat, is not to make rational beings into brute beasts and machines. It is to enable their free bodies and their free minds to function safely. It is to lead men to live by and to exercise a free reason, that they may not waste their strength in hatred, anger and guile nor act unfairly toward one another. Thus the end of the State is real liberty." Spinoza

Compare these words of a great philosopher with the monster "State: we live under today. A state which gives us wars and prohibition and forbids any discussion of any better ‘state.’ There is no freedom in anything. What we delude ourselves with as ‘freedom’ is merely the permission of the state to do what it allows, which is no freedom. Let us not be misled by seeming exceptions. The Spanish Inquisition was an effort to control by force religious opinion and to compel ‘heretics’ to the will of the rulers. But the church and the state that did this were one and the same. Both rested on property in the hands of a privileged class. Heresy was a crime against the church and state, punishable as a dangerous rebellion against church and state. Witches were criminals by the law of God and Man - as interpreted by man."

printed in 1931
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I am reading The Line Between, a collection of short stories by the aforementioned Peter Beagle. I am an unabashed fan and have been since reading The Last Unicorn some 30+ years ago. He has written some things that I merely like, but, overwhelmingly, Beagle is a treat to be anticipated, to be savored, and to reflect on.

I happily read his introductions to collections. He talks of an unpublished mainstream novel from his youth, and I am sure I would cherish the time waiting for it, reading it, and reviewing it in my mind afterwards. (Unfortunately, I am sure he intends for it to never see the light of day.)

So, it was with great joy that I discovered this newish collection of short stories. I did not bother looking carefully at it at the time, merely snapped it up. And then left it on hold. For my Parody and Satire class, I read Nuklear Age by Brian Clevinger - worth reading, if not worth buying for more than $30. It was borrowed and needs to be returned.

Then I read Invasive Procedures, an ARC of the forthcoming Orson Scott Card/Aaron Johnston science fiction thriller based on Card's 30+ year old short story, Malpractice. It was borrowed and needs to be returned. It is solid; I am glad I read it. It is not brilliant. (4 stars, not 5)

I read Harry Potter and the Last Book Except for the One That Comes After Which Shall Not Be Named, as much to avoid spoilers and to allow folks to discuss it freely with me. And I put off the Beagle a little longer.

No more.

Today, I started it. I am now 20 pages into the 35 page second story of the collection - Two Hearts.

It is a sequel to The Last Unicorn. And Beagle, in the introduction to the story, says he has a novel to write, a full sequel. Beagle, who for years swore that there could be no sequel, would be no sequel, should be no sequel... Beagle is writing a sequel.

Had I only heard the news, I should have greeted it with great trepidation as well as enormous curiosity and excitement.

Now, part way through Two Hearts, the trepidation is gone.
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Everybody is caught up in the upcoming release of the new HP book. And I will confess that I am looking forward to it. But I am not sure how soon I will be getting to it.

Yes, there are several work-related books that I ordered and which have recently come in, and they are on my list. In particular, Csikszentmihalyi's Talented Teens and Kerr's Counseling the Gifted and Talented are high on my list. And I have new parody/satire reading to do to catch up on things.

But I have a couple of borrowed books I need to work my way through and one new purchase. The first is relevant to the Parody element, in addition to its being borrowed: Nuclear Age, by Brian Clevenger. Chapter Issue 2 is entitled "So many new characters!" Issue 25's "Teaching Assisstants of DOOM," and Issue 31 is "The Terrible Secret of Rachel." How far wrong can I go?

More recently borrowed is Invasive Practices by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. It is an extension/expansion of an old (30 years ago) short story Card wrote called "Malpractice."

And yet, it is not any of these that has me eagerly awaiting the turning of pages. It is not J. K. Rowling's mind I anticipate savoring. It is the new collection of short stories by

Peter S. Beagle.

The Line Between first came out in 2006. Only one of the stories in it is less recent than 2004. *drool*

I think, in good conscience, the borrowed items should come first.

"Bother," said Pooh.
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It came out yesterday. I've been waiting for it since February, when I got to hear the author read some at the Boskone science fiction convention. Both Bruce Coville and Tammy had spoken highly of her writing (and Bruce and Tim were in the audience for the reading, too), so I figured it was worth at least a listen.

I loved it. Our main character is Rapunzel's daughter, who, along with her mother, is in modern day America - Northboro, Massachusetts, as it happens. Why they are there and what happens is, of course, the bulk of the story.

After reading this, I will probably never view fairy tales the same way again! I recommend it a lot.
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While it makes me feel a little bit guilty for my lack of productivity on either the Teddy Bear Forest©, I am nonetheless pleased by the publication of books by two folks I know personally.

While many who know me might expect these to be science fiction or perhaps fantasy tales - or maybe books on gifted education, neither of them falls into either category.

Accountability Frankenstein examines the monster that accountability has become. Sherman Dorn has done a superb job examining this difficult issue with clarity. From the site:

To understand the current moment in school accountability, one must understand the larger contradictions in education politics. Accountability Frankenstein provides a broader perspective on the school accountability debate by exploring the contradictions inherent in high-stakes testing. Accountability Frankenstein explains the historical and social origins of test-based accountability: the political roots of accountability, why we trust test scores while we distrust teachers, the assumptions behind formulaic accountability systems, and the weaknesses with the current carrot-and-stick approach to motivating teachers.

Accountability Frankenstein answers the questions of educators and parents who want to understand the origins of accountability. This book challenges the beliefs of fierce advocates and opponents of highstakes testing. It provides a rescue plan for accountability after the failures of high-stakes testing, a plan to make accountability smart, democratic, and real.

Follow the link, above, for more info or to listen to a podcast of the introduction.

The other book showed up unexpectedly in a UPS delivery. Lessons in Play is about combinatorics in game theory. I know, I know, "just what I was looking for..." Well, from a skim, I would say if you weren't, you perhaps should have been. David Wolfe and his co-authors seem to have turned out a wonderful text! From the blurb:

As a perfect complement to Winning Ways, this is a formal, yet playful, introduction to the subject and covers all the core concepts needed to understand and play combinatorial games. Topics covered include symmetry, strategy stealing, the algebra of games, impartial, hot, and all-small games, and the partial order of games.

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Most of us have had one at one point or another. Schools given them out for the summer or for particular courses. Every nationally known educator or psychologist is likely to have one. Amazon has allowed each user to create her or his own.

But, courtesy of "Altercation" off the MSNBC website, I have just found this:


“The Professional Reading List is a way for leaders at all levels to increase their understanding of our Army’s history, the global strategic context, and the enduring lessons of war. The topics and time periods included in the books on this list are expansive and are intended to broaden each leader’s knowledge and confidence. I challenge all leaders to make a focused, personal commitment to read, reflect, and learn about our profession and our world. Through the exercise of our minds, our Army will grow stronger.”

—Peter J. Schoomaker, Chief of Staff, Army

The posting of the link to it was prompted by the observation that most Americans know little or nothing about war beyond ill-informed opinions. Ltc. Bateman, who penned today's column, included a few other links on the topic:

Marine Commandant's Reading List (Partial)

Preliminary Reading List in Military History

The article itself can be found at:

What do you think of these? And do you have favorite reading lists, too?
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Yesterday, I finished a new paperback by Sharon Shinn, of whom I have written before. She is the author of Archangel among other books. Mystic and Rider is a more common tale than her Archangel tales. A band of folks, with some magic users and some fighters, are off on a mission for the king and deal with assorted obstacles including themselves on the mission.

Sounds pretty boring when put like that.

It was not. Interesting treatments and reactions, relationships, etc. I won't claim it is brilliant or unique. But I did find it was a good read.
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I have yet another word book that arrived from Dev. She sent me a New Words Dictionary. I, of course, went through it looking for both the familiar and the unfamiliar. I found 'connection machine' which is a computer with massive parallel processing capability.

I looked up and said "they don't cite the original Connection Machine!"
Frank McCourt (not the newish owner of the Dodgers (aka Red Sox west) - the author of Angela' Ashes) wrote a paean to teaching called 'Teacher Man.' I have not started it yet, but am looking forward to it.

And a good friend, Apa, wrote DSM IV, TR. This is a reworking of a classic tale of instability and the need to obsessively categorize it. In many ways, it is autobiographical, though Apa denies it vociferously. There is already a line to borrow it when I am done with it. I hear a sequel is due out soonish but that rights to the original as a movie have not been sold.


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