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Friday, November 29, 2013

F3 Surrendering Memories

            I didn't know what happened with the first two nightmares, but I knew on the third morning I woke up. The shadowy thing still stood over me, its finger-like tendril still embedded in my face as its head, which barely had a shape, sported what could only be called an evil smile in its open maw. On that morning, I realized it had stolen some of my memories.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Break Time

            The Thanksgiving Holiday marks the last break I will get this semester. It’s been rough, and I desperately need the time to recoup. I’ve been saying it all semester, and it’s still true. The semesters are getting tougher on me.
            Despite technological advancements, grading still takes too long. Students don’t understand, or worse, dismiss the instruction I give them, never bothering to read the feedback I give.
            Every teacher I see responds with the same weary sigh when asked “How’s it going?”
            Those sighs keep getting longer.
            So I will take this break as an opportunity to recharge sorely worn-out batteries, and to give thanks for the students who care.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Major Grading: Done!

            The final project has been graded. All that remains are a few short assignments and to give the students the opportunity to rewrite. It’s the last hurrah. I’m on the home stretch. I can use the Thanksgiving Break to really take a break.

Friday, November 22, 2013

F3 Rina's Rose

            Rina and I had shared blankets for a week, much to the relief of everyone else. Windy ended my lessons a little early each night, allowing more time for me and Rina. Markun gave us his blessing, though regretted he had no beer to make it official. Alistair smiled and made sure Rina and I spent the night's watch together, where we could talk and share before heading off to our blankets.
            I had never been happier in my life.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dante's Gate

            “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” is one of the famous translations of the gate into Dante’s Hell. And I can’t help but think of teaching when it comes to this line. I see new teachers on the campus, I hear about people wanting to get a degree so they can teach, and I want to warn them away. I want them to know what I struggle with and see that the system as a whole is not improving. I want to tell them of my doubts about continuing on, about the types of students they will encounter, about an ever-shrinking job market with fewer and fewer opportunities to advance.
            I feel like a doomsayer and even a traitor. Teachers are supposed to always laud their profession. They are to throw themselves tirelessly, even thanklessly, into the profession because it is noble and for the benefit of society as whole, and it is worth any cost so long as we reach just one student.
            But there are practical considerations such as when teachers live below the poverty line, or when they put in their required hours but must also spend two to three times that—unpaid—in grading student work.

            Am I wrong to want to give warnings about the realities besetting this profession?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Attitude Towards Learning

            I don’t understand not wanting to learn. I just don’t. It baffles me. I can understand not having time to learn. I can’t understand choosing what to learn and when, but I can’t understand not wanting to learn at all. I don’t consider myself a super genius, but I like to think I’m a smart guy, and I have yet to truly shy away from any subject.
            On my own I have learned computer hardware, computer software, and a smattering of programming. I have learned how to repair cars, diagnose mechanical problems, and become proficient with common tools and disciplines to repair things around the house.
            I have learned chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geology, fascinated with the wonders that make up the universe.
            All of these are outside of my main interests of history and literature, but still I learn them because it’s interesting.
            My best friends are scientists and lawyers, and I pick their brains every chance I get. I don’t’ always understand the jargon, but the concepts are fascinating all the same. To think that the specific geometry of DNA has significance is awesome. To understand how an entire body of laws can hinge on one key phrase amazes. To see the complexities of what we take for granted every day on the news unfold in front of my eyes makes me smile.
            I love to learn.
            So I don’t understand students who don’t care about subjects. I don’t understand those who think that anything that they are not specifically interested in does not matter.
            What am I missing?

Friday, November 15, 2013

F3 Fire, Rain, Love

            The fire in the pit barely made a glow on the horizon. We had all taken turns to dig it down to prevent anyone from seeing, then we laid Faenoth's remains and belongings on the fire before setting it all ablaze. We couldn't trust that Lord Strahd's servants would leave Faenoth's body in peace, so we were forced to burn our comrade down to the very dust and scatter the ashes to the winds.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back from Boston

            I thoroughly enjoy traveling, and especially going to writing conferences. There is always some difficulty in making the adjustment back to teaching after writing. Writers have a love and appreciation of words, of putting them together just so. A precise turn of phrase is a wonderful thing, and not just how it turns out in fiction. Properly constructed non-fiction stories and essays are just as beautiful.
            So when I come back and I see so many students who see language and writing as something to be avoided, something to be feared, my heart sinks. It’s heart to watch people trample on what you love.

            My only solace is that perhaps, just maybe, I can instill the love of writing and language in one student. It’s very rare that I get more than one, which is another sadness altogether.

Monday, November 11, 2013


            The poppy is not just a drug or a nod towards The Wizard of Oz--Poppies, poppies, poppies. The red poppy of Europe, in particular, holds special significance. Flanders Field was decimated by the war effort of World War I, but a year after the war ended, the poppies had returned, covering the damage done by what was then the greatest war the world had ever seen.
            It’s for that reason that the poppy has become a symbol of remembrance for the War. Both the American Legion and the British Royal Legion sell and distribute poppies to remember soldiers who have fallen in conflict.
            While the U.S. usually does such remembrance on Memorial Day in May, Europe celebrates Armistice Day, November 11th, and I think it’s appropriate that people do more than vaguely celebrate the return of solderis from the front lines, but remember, specifically, the conflict from which they returned.
            American history courses and textbooks frequently overlook the importance of World War I in favor of World War II and Vietnam. But I think that World War I deserves more remembrance. It was one of the most savage conflicts that ever existed as technology had outpaced strategy. No longer were formations of soldiers effective as machine guns could mow them down. Cavalry gave way to armored tanks. And we saw the debut of chemical warfare, submarines, and landmines. Trenches spread across Europe separated by tracts of land filled with the dead and strings of barbed wire to make sure they never escaped.
            This was a war where progress was measured in yards of ground captured when it wasn’t in feet.
            I urge everyone not to forget, and perhaps to wear a poppy, and tell the story of what happened nearly a century ago.

Friday, November 8, 2013

F3 The Last Song

            The mists gathered all around, damping the sound, but Markun, Alistair, Rina, Faenoth, Windaralin, and Virgil stood ready. Faenoth raised his staff, casting off light for us to see by, but it didn't have much effect on the mists.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Baked, not Broiled

            I’m off to Boston for my second Crimebake! Time to reunite with author friends, hobnob with agents, and enjoy the culture of writers. I absolutely loved the first Crimebake I attended, and I expect to do the same with this one.

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNo No More?

            I’m on the fence about NaNoWriMo this year. My writing has been very sporadic as I’ve been working on other projects, so it’s just hard to get back into the swing of things, especially when it comes to writing 1667 words a day. What with a writing conference and the semester’s final projects coming due in just two weeks, I feel like I’m simply stretching myself too thin.
            At the same time, I need to write.
            So I’ve signed up for NaNo, but I’m not sure if I’m actually going to finish.

            Then again, I’m not sure I can let myself not at least try to finish.

Friday, November 1, 2013

F3 Feel the Mark

            The coin tumbled slowly across the backs of my knuckles before falling off my hand altogether.
            Rina shook her head. "No, you're just going through the motions, thinking mechanically. You need to feel it. It's an art, not a bunch of steps to go through."
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