Gross. Peak Learning

In this post on Personal Learning I said some reasonably positive things about this book.

Now that we have finished the book I want to take most of it back.

As I said, if you want to look at it get it from a library. It is about 80% fluff/extraneous babbling. Of the 20% left which is of value some is so far out of date as to be of no real use. The entire chapter, “Peak learning in cyberspace,” is so out of date that maybe 5% is of use and you, dear Reader, already know those bits and so much more.

We did finish it but we really had to skim much of the last half of the book to sort the wheat from the chaff.

As for the exercises, some were of value and some were so poorly designed towards what was being aimed for that they were useless. Others were so poorly explained that while they were somewhat valuable only after we sussed out for ourselves what would work in helping elucidate the point, we shouldn’t have had to do that work; nor should the author’s explanation of the exercise confused us so badly.

Anyway, my final verdict is that while there is some value in this book it probably is not worth your time and effort to try and drag it out of it.

Armstrong. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

This is an important book. But it is a book which cannot simply be read to do any good. Caveat: I simply read it.

Before I go on, let me recommend that you get the book from a library and read it. If you decide that you want to actually work at being more compassionate, if you want to work at the twelve steps in your own life, then go ahead and purchase yourself a copy. When Sara gets around to reading it we will probably purchase a copy.

The book itself is a quick read; but it is meant to be read slowly. Each chapter (step) is supposed to be mastered before moving on to the next. That is kind of difficult when you have a copy from the library for four weeks, like I did.

As Armstrong writes in the conclusion (“A Last Word”):

“It is rather a reminder that the attempt to become a compassionate human being is a lifelong project. It is not achieved in an hour or a day—or even in twelve steps. It is a struggle that will last until our dying hour. … You will have to work at all twelve steps continuously for the rest of your life—learning more about compassion, surveying your world anew, struggling with self-hatred and discouragement. Never mind loving your enemies—sometimes loving your nearest and dearest selflessly and patiently will be a struggle!” (191-2)

The author makes a good case for why we need more compassion in the world today, even though that claim should be self-evident.  This project arose from the TED Prize that the author won in 2008. Besides the cash prize, recipients get a wish. Hers was for a Charter for Compassion, “written by leading thinkers from a variety of major faiths [which] would restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life” (6).

The six major faith traditions of Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are used throughout the book to show how we may become more compassionate.

Armstrong shows how each of these major faiths were founded on compassion, how they each, among others, have all formulated some version of the Golden Rule. But the beauty of the book is in how religion does not matter. What matters are the ideas which underlie these faiths. This book is written and intended for the non-believer just as much as for the believer of any specific doctrine, whether of these six faith communities or any other.

As an agnostic (epistemically) and an atheist (commitment-wise), I quite enjoyed this book and Armstrong’s approach. In fact, ancient Greek mythos and culture is used as much as any of the main faiths are. Shakespeare, Joseph Campbell, assorted 20th century philosophers, and others are also made good use of.

This book would make a great selection for a committed book club, as it would for a campus reads program, or a first-year experience. In fact, a lengthy (one- or, preferably, two-semester, or a year or two for a book club), committed engagement with this book and the texts and doctrines and world views which surround it would be ideal. Many different approaches can and should be taken with the ideas presented.

One of her suggestions is to form a book group to go through the twelve steps with, and suggestions are made throughout of possible issues for discussion and further reading in such a group.

In the end, it is up to ourselves as individuals to become more compassionate. But if Armstrong, and all of the major faiths and ethical systems are correct, by treating others with compassion we will change them too.

As Armstrong writes at the end of the preface (“Wish for a Better World”):

“I am in agreement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama that “whether a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.” At their best, all religious, philosophical, and ethical traditions are based on the principle of compassion” (23-4).


  • Preface: Wish for a Better World
  • The First Step: Learn About Compassion
  • The Second Step: Look at your Own World
  • The Third Step: Compassion for Yourself
  • The Fourth Step: Empathy
  • The Fifth Step: Mindfulness
  • The Sixth Step: Action
  • The Seventh Step: How Little We Know
  • The Eighth Step: How Should We Speak to One Another?
  • The Ninth Step: Concern for Everybody
  • The Tenth Step: Knowledge
  • The Eleventh Step: Recognition
  • The Twelfth Step: Love Your Enemies
  • A Last Word

As a good companion book to this Armstrong book I would recommend Paul Woodruff’s Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue

I read Woodruff’s book in January 2009 and my, sadly, short comments can be seen in item #10 at my Books Read in 2009 post.

[This post was written for my dear friend, Jen!! I was thinking that I wasn’t going to say much about this book as I read it but I knew she was looking forward to my review. After discussing the issue of how it might work as a campus reads or first-year experience book with my lovely wife I realized that I might as well write those things down, too.]

Nardi and O’Day. Information Ecologies

This book should be required reading for all librarians and for anyone using technology. Oh, yeah, everyone.

I read this immediately after Brown and Duguid which was about “information” and thus IT, and which sought a middle ground. This is about seeking a middle ground for “technology.” They are more or less contemporaneous with this being 1-2 years older.


  • Preface
  • 1 Rotwang the Inventor
  • 2 Framing Conversations about Technology
  • 3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology
  • 4 Information Ecologies
  • 5 Values and Technology
  • 6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies
  • 7 Librarians: A Keystone Species
  • 8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World
  • 9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise
  • 10 Digital Photography at Lincoln High School
  • 11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital
  • 12 Diversity on the Internet
  • 13 Conclusion


“A key to thoughtful action is to ask more “know-why” questions the new typically do. Being efficient, productive, proactive people, we often jump to the “know-how” questions, which are considerably easier to answer. In this book we talk about practical ways to have more “know-why” conversations, to dig deeper, and reflect more about the effects of the ways we use technology” (x).

The book uses the movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang as an insight into technology with the first chapter providing a synopsis of the movie.

“We believe that we can and should argue about how technology is created and used. Lang suggested in Metropolis that technical sweetness is not enough. Technology development and use must be mediated by the human heart” (x).

Part I Information Ecologies: Concepts and Reflections

1 Rotwang the Inventor

A synopsis of Metropolis.

2 Framing Conversations about Technology

Nardi was trained as an anthropologist and O’Day in computer science. They have worked in industrial research labs at HP, Apple, and Xerox. (14)

“This book is addressed to people who work with and around technology. This includes schoolteachers and school administrators, engineers, salespeople, professors, secretaries,journalists and others in publishing, medical professionals, librarians, people who work in finance and banking, and many more. [Everybody!] We believe that our colleagues in technology design will also find this book useful.
For all of our readers, what we hope to accomplish is a shift in perception” (15).

“We have noticed two blind spots people seem to have in considering  work settings: informal practices that support work activities and unobtrusive work styles that hide valuable, skilled contributions” (16).

The rest of this chapter consists of three sections: The Rhetoric of Inevitability, Conversational Extremes: Technophilia and Dystopia, and A Different Approach. They discuss the unfortunate trend for technology development to be frequently characterized as inevitable; the two extreme views this inevitably drives discourse to, “the ends of a continuum [that] leave us with poor choices for action” (20); and call for a third way.

“Technological tools and other artifacts carry social meaning. Social understanding, values, and practices become *integral aspects* of the tool itself” (21).

“The issue is not whether we will use technologies, but which we will choose and whether we will use them well” (22).

3 A Matter of Metaphor: Technology as Tool, Text, System, Ecology

This chapter discusses the metaphors of technology as tool, text, system and ecology to reveal certain facets of technology because metaphors “both illuminate and obscure the relationships between people and technology” (25).

§ Technology as Tool

Discusses “affordances” (J.J. Gibson): “those properties of an object that neatly support the actions people intend to take with the object” (28).

“The tool metaphor is useful for questions and discussions about utility, usability, skill, and learning” (30).

“People who see technology as a tool see themselves as controlling it” (27).

§ Technology as Text

” … as a form of communication, a carrier of meaning that may be reinterpreted as the technology passes through different social situations” (31).

§ Technology as System

“[P]rovides the richest, most troubling and most mind-altering perspectives” and breadth of vision (33).

Jacques Ellul and Langdon Winner are the theorists mentioned here. I have read a fair bit of Ellul, and taken a few seminars which focused on much of his work, although I have only read a small bit of Winner. I admire and agree with much of Ellul’s take on technology as a system but, as the authors state, these views leave us little room to act. They are totalizing. “This view does not address with enough force the possibility of local and particular change” (43).

The themes in the section on the Neutrality of Technology include how technology conditions our choices, “reverse adaptation”: the adjustment of human ends to match the character of the available means, and the pervasive adaptation of standards.

4 Information Ecologies

Definition: “a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment.” The spotlight is “on human activities that are served by technology”; not the technology itself. (49)

The concept of information ecologies is introduced “in order to focus attention on relationships involving tools and people and their practices” (50).

§ Characterizing Information Ecologies

  • System
  • Diversity
  • Coevolution
  • Keystone Species
  • Locality

metaphorical – ” to foster thought and discussion, to stimulate conversations for action” (50).

§§ System

“Like a biological ecology, an information ecology is marked by strong interrelationships and dependencies among its different parts.” Change is systemic. (51)

§§ Diversity

Different kinds of people, tools, roles, ideas, resources (51-2)

§§ Coevolution

“Information ecologies evolve as new ideas, tools, activities, and forms of expertise arise in them” (52).

“The social and technical aspects of an environment *coevolve*” (53).

§§ Keystone Species

“An ecology is marked by the presence of certain keystone species whose presence is crucial to the survival of the ecology itself” (53).

“Mediators—people who build bridges across institutional boundaries and translate across disciplines—are a keystone species in information ecologies. Ironically, their contributions are often unofficial, unrecognized, and seemingly peripheral to the most obvious productive functions of the workplace” (54).

§§ Locality

With references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Faust we get that “[t]he name of a technology identifies what it means to the people who use it” and that “it positions the technology more directly under the control of its users” (54).

“The habitation of a technology is its location within a network of relations;” “its set of family ties in the local information ecology” (55).

There is an opportunity but also a responsibility for “the participants of an information ecology [to] establish the identity and place of the technologies that are found there” (55).

§§ Why Ecologies?

“We are suggesting that people act locally in a committed, reflective way that acknowledges technique as Ellul documents it, but having recognized it, chooses to respond with initiative that is grounded in local understanding and values” (56).

6 How to Evolve Information Ecologies

Summarized as:

  • work from core values
  • pay attention
  • ask strategic, open-ended questions about use (65)

Part II Case Studies

7 Librarians: A Keystone Species

Based on studies at Hewlett-Packard Library and Apple Research Library (82)

§§ Information Therapy (reference interview) (85-92)

8 Wolf, Batgirl and Starlight: Finding a Real Community in a Virtual World

A text-based virtual world centered on Longview Elementary School in Phoenix, AZ, with Phoenix College, Xerox PARC and some senior citizens

9 Cultivating Gardeners: The Importance of Homegrown Expertise

“Gardeners” (140-1)

  • tinker with computers
  • learn software a little better
  • often good at configuring hardware
  • troubleshoot/solve problems when others are stumped
  • likes to help others with tech tasks
  • learn about computational things on their own
  • translate concepts and mechanism back and forth between domain of work and the technology
  • occupy a special niche = bridge

11 A Dysfunctional Ecology: Privacy issues at a Teaching Hospital

“Information was taken out of its original context and presented in a new context, without the buy-in of the people who generated the information.
Information changes shape and function dramatically when its broadcast boundaries are altered” (182)

Exactly! Begins to explain some of the issues in our networked, “broadcast” world as I see them; thinking primarily of the Internet and re-sharing/purposing of information and how it changes context. Multiple ecologies must be added in/considered.

12 Diversity on the Internet

“We view the internet as a set of environmental conditions that provide a substrate for the growth of ecologies that span traditional geographic and social boundaries. The Internet can serve as connective tissue between and within information ecologies” (185).

13 Conclusion

“We want to avoid being taken in by the rhetoric of inevitability. This rhetoric is powerful in part because it takes two seemingly opposite forms: the despair of dystopia and the don’t-worry-be-happy optimism of technophilia. A key impediment to creating and nurturing robust information ecologies is believing (optimistically or pessimistically) that technical “progress” is ungovernable and inevitable. The most extreme but not uncommon manifestation of the rhetoric of inevitability is believing that any kind of technology is desirable as long as it can be reasonably engineered and manufactured.
We have adopted an ecology metaphor because it matches the dynamics we observed in the settings we studied” (211).

This is an important and still timely book which pairs quite well with Brown and Duguid’s The Social Life of Information.

Maines. The Technology of Orgasm

I really wanted to title this “universal orgasmic mutuality” [see below] but I figure this post is already going to draw too much of the wrong traffic to my blog. ::sigh::

This book was far more interesting than I ever imagined. It was quite the page turner. It describes the 2000-year plus history of the medicalization of normal female sexuality, the androcentric model of sex that supports this, the highly lucrative medical service of manual massage for “hysteric” female patients, the drive for efficiency in this procedure that led to the invention of the vibrator and related technologies, and how all this ties together in where we are today.

The story it tells, and the facts it is based on, are illuminating, intriguing, sometimes titillating, and frequently sad and maddening.

Let me record up front that the author does not lay this state of affairs entirely at the feet of men. In the last chapter she writes:

“The penetration myth is not a conspiracy perpetuated by men; women want to believe in the ideal of universal orgasmic mutuality in coitus” (115).

I am not so sure that men or, more specifically, the male medical establishment, ought be let off so easy, though.

Bottom line: I found this book fascinating and highly recommend it to pretty much anyone. OK, anyone past the age of puberty and with a modicum of maturity.

My one complaint is that it would have been nice to know where the images were when several pages away. That is, in addition to image number provide the page number as the images were never on the pages they were mentioned on and, frequently, were several or more pages away.

The rest will pretty much be some quotes to whet your appetite. I have also included all of the section headings so you can get a better feel for the content.


  • Preface
  • 1 The Job Nobody Wanted
  • 2 Female Sexuality as Hysterical Pathology
  • 3 “My God, What Does She Want?”
  • 4 “Inviting the Juices Downward”
  • 5 Revising the Androcentric Model

1 The Job Nobody Wanted

“Descriptions of this treatment [manual stimulation] appear in the Hippocratic corpus, the works of Celsus in the first century A.D., those of Aretaeus, Soranus, and Galen in the second century, …. Given the ubiquity of these descriptions in the medical literature, it is surprising that the character and purpose of these treatments for hysteria and related disorders have received little attention from historians” (1-2)

While “hysteria” is no longer defined as a disease, it was “from at least the fourth century B.C. until American Psychiatric Association dropped the term in 1952, …. This purported disease and its sister ailments displayed a symptomatology consistent with the normal functioning of female sexuality, for which relief, not surprisingly, was obtained through orgasm, either through intercourse in the marriage bed or by means of massage on the physician’s table” (2).

The author uses the vibrator and its predecessors to examine three themes:

  • androcentric definitions of sexuality and the construction of ideal female sexuality to fit them
  • reduction of female sexual behavior outside the androcentric standard to disease paradigms requiring treatment
  • means by which physicians legitimated and justified the clinical production of orgasm in women as treatment for these disorders (2)

“Massage to orgasm of female patients was a staple of medical practice among some (but certainly not all) Western physicians from the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, and mechanizing this task significantly increased the number of patients a doctor could treat in a working day” (3).

“The demand for treatment had two sources: the proscription on female masturbation as unchaste and possibly unhealthful, and the failure of androcentrically defined sexuality to produce orgasm regularly in women” (3).

“There is no evidence that male physicians enjoyed providing pelvic massage treatments. On the contrary, this male elite sought every opportunity to substitute other devices for their fingers, such as the attentions of a husband, the hands of a midwife, or the business end of some tireless and impersonal mechanism. This last, the capital-labor substitution option, reduced the time it took physicians to produce results from up to an hour to about ten minutes” (4).

“Hysterical women represented a large and lucrative market for physicians. These patients neither recovered nor died of their condition but continued to require regular treatment” (4). [See below for economic impact of women’s health in 1870s.]

§ The Androcentric Model of Sexuality

“The androcentric definition of sex as an activity recognizes three essential steps: preparation for penetration (“foreplay”), penetration, and male orgasm. Sexual activity that does not involve at least the last two has not been popularly or medically (and for that matter legally) regarded as “the real thing”” (5).

>50% (perhaps >70%) of women do not reach orgasm via penetration alone. “This majority of women have traditionally been defined as abnormal or “frigid,” somehow derelict in their duty to reinforce the androcentric model of satisfactory sex” (5).

“In the development of Western medical thought been thought on the subject of sexuality, it has been thought both reasonable and necessary to the social support of the male ego either that female orgasm be treated as a by-product of male orgasm, or that its existence or significance be denied entirely” (6).

§ Hysteria as a Disease Paradigm

§ The Evolution of the Technology

“In 1869 and 1872 an American physician, George Taylor, patented steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus” (14)

The first electromechanical vibrator internationally marketed, a British model by Weiss, was designed by physician Joseph Mortimer Granville. Battery powered, it was patented in the early 1880s. (15)

“By 1900 a wide-range of vibratory apparatus available to physicians,” (15) and “Mary L.H. Arnold Snow, writing for a readership of physicians in 1904, discusses in some detail” about twenty-four different vibrators, “including musical vibro-massage, counterweighted types, tissue oscillators, vibratory forks, hand- or foot-powered massage devices, simple concussors and muscle beaters, vibrates (vibrating wire apparatus), combination cautery and pneumatic equipment with vibratory massage attachments, and vibrators powered by air pressure, water turbines, gas engines, batteries and street current through lamp-socket plugs” (16-17).

“In the first two decades of this century [20th], the vibrator began to be marketed as a home appliance through advertising in such periodicals as Needlecraft, Home Needlework Journal, Modern Women, Hearst’s, McClure’s, Woman’s Home Companion, and Modern Priscilla. The device was marketed mainly to women as a health and relaxation aid, in ambiguous phrases such as “all the pleasures of youth .. will throb within you”” (19).

In the late 1920s vibrators “disappeared both from doctor’s offices and from the respectable household press.” Was this due to “greater understanding of women’s sexuality by physicians” or the appearance of vibrators in erotic films? They reemerged in the 60s as an “openly marketed” sex aid. “Its efficiency in producing orgasm in women became an explicit selling point in the consumer market” (20).

2 Female Sexuality as Hysterical Pathology

§ Hysteria in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

“Hysteria was a set of symptoms that varied greatly between individuals (and their physicians), including but not limited to fainting (syncope), edema or hyperemia (congestion caused by fluid retention, either localized or general), nervousness, insomnia, sensations of heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, loss of appetite for food or for sex with the approved male partner, and sometimes a tendency to cause trouble for others, particularly members of the patient’s immediate family. The disorder was thought to be lack of sufficient sexual intercourse, deficiency of sexual gratification, or both (23).

“Hysteria appears in the medical corpus as early as 2000 B.C. in Egypt, but it was not until the time of Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C. that the Western clinical definition of the disorder began to take shape” (23).

§ Hysteria in Renaissance Medicine

§ The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

“Russell Thacher Trall, …, who was associated mainly with the hydropathic school, wrote in 1873 that women, including but not of course limited to hysterics, were an economic godsend to the profession of medicine, claiming that “more than three fourths of all the practice of the profession are devoted to the treatment of diseases peculiar to women” and that of the annual estimated aggregate income of United States physicians of more than $200 million, “three-fourths of this sum—one hundred and fifty millions—our physicians must thank frail woman for.” This amount “equaled just under half of the entire federal budget” (38).

§ The Freudian Revolution and Its Aftermath

3 “My God, What Does She Want?”

§ Physicians and the Female Orgasm

§ Masturbation

§ “Frigidity” and Anorgasmia

§ Female Orgasm in the Post-Freudian World

§ What Ought to Be, and What We’d Like to Be

4 “Inviting the Juices Downward”

§ Consumer Purchase of Vibrators After 1900

§ Hydropathy and Hydrotherapy

§ Electrotherapeutics

§ Mechanical Massagers and Vibrators

§ Instrumental Prestige in the Vibratory Operating Room

§ Consumer Purchase of Vibrators After 1900

5 Revising the Androcentric Model

§ Orgasmic Treatment in the Practice of Western Medicine

“The history of physical therapies for hysteroneurasthenic disorders … tell us several things about Western physicians.”:

  • normal conditions can be medicalized, especially in women
  • doctors both create and become invested in dominant social and medical paradigms
  • disease paradigms go in and out of fashion (111)

In Western medical practice, “[t]here is a systematic effort to subsume the knowledge that the clitoris, not the vagina, is the seat of greatest sexual feeling in most women into the androcentric model and to avoid one-to-one heterosexual confrontation over orgasmic mutuality by shifting the dispute onto medical ground” (112).

§ The Androcentric Model in Heterosexual Relationships

“Many questions can and should be raised about the persistence of Western belief that women ought to reach orgasm during heterosexual coitus” (115).

“The penetration myth is not a conspiracy perpetuated by men; women want to believe in the ideal of universal orgasmic mutuality in coitus” (115).

“In our own culture there have been, and remain, powerful means of negatively reinforcing women’s demand for orgasmic mutuality” (117). [See also the rest of the paragraph!]

“Despite the systematic perpetuation of ignorance and misunderstanding—by women as well as men—most heterosexual men have looked to the female orgasm to reinforce their self-respect as sexual beings” (118).

§ The Vibrator as Technology and Totem

My conclusion:

Bottom line, this is an excellent book. It does a first-rate job detailing a bizarre, multi-millenial history of the medicalization of the normal functioning of women’s sexuality. Sadly, we have not really left it behind despite physicians no longer manually massaging women to orgasm, while denying that was what it was, and despite the APA dropping “hysteria” as a psychiatric condition.

There still exists far too much ignorance and misunderstanding about normal sexual functioning and far too many men measure their sexual (and general) self-worth on bringing their partner to orgasm via the androcentric model.

Read this book. It will give you a lot to think about.

My Spring and Summer 2011 Classes

After consultation with the professors and a few others (primarily the wife), I have decided which classes I will be taking or sitting in on at Briar Cliff this coming Spring and Summer terms.


Spring Term (March 5 – May 17) I will be taking one course for a grade, Victorian Lit, and sitting in on one for the fun of it, Modern Poetry. Both will be with Prof. Jeanne Emmons, who I previously took Madwomen Poets with last Fall.

ENGL 365 Victorian Literature 3 sem. hrs.
Prose, fiction and poetry including Charles Dickens, Alfred Tennyson, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Gerard Manley Hopkins and others. Works are examined both as literature and as expressions of the intellectual and social concerns of the nineteenth century in England.

The novels we will be reading are:

Thanks to Kirsten I was able to pick them all up for barely over $26 in an 4-for-3 sale. The prof uses Oxford World Classics paperbacks, although she said I was free to use whichever editions I liked. But as I greatly dislike issues with struggling to find a passage even when using the same edition as others, and I only owned The Mill on the Floss (2 diff. editions), I decided to pick up new copies of the Oxford’s in the 4-for-3 sale.

We will also be reading poetry, short fiction, and some nonfiction prose. There will be reading quizzes, a midterm and a final, and a research paper.

This class will be a lot of work but I am really looking forward to it. I have read some Dickens but not Hard Times and I adore Eliot. In fact, The Mill on the Floss is one my 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge that I am currently participating in.

I am also looking forward to sitting in on Modern Poetry with Jeanne. There’s no way I would, at this point in my life, try to take two classes for credit from Dr. Emmons at the same time. I have the utmost respect for her as a professor and part of that is due to the workload not being a cake walk by any means. Also, this course is restricted to Honors students and English majors so sitting in also precludes hurdle jumping to get an override or any potential heartache at being denied the override.

ENGL 211 Modern Poetry 3 sem. hrs.
Major poets and poems of the high modernist era through the twentieth century are examined to gain appreciation of their formal and thematic concerns. Poets include Frost, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Langston Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop,  Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others.

I will get to read the poems and discuss them in class with no worries about keeping up with the workload.


I have been looking for a good way to be “forced” into a structured program of learning for my Nikon DX40 camera. There are certainly tons of free ways to do so but I also know me and that I generally don’t work well on my own with such things.

Western Iowa Technical Community College has a course but it seemed far too basic. I already know, or once did anyway, a fair bit about photographic concepts from my years of shooting 35mm film on my Canon AE-1. But while many of these concepts directly translate into the world of digital photography, some of them experience some shift.

The course I am taking this summer at BCU uses Nikon DX70s but the professor said I was welcome to use my DX40 and that many of the controls will be the same. Thus, neither he nor I will be forced to do a lot of translating of how to do something on my model versus the ones the other students will be using.

I am really looking forward to this course, also.

May 31 – July 1

MCOM 216 Basic Photography – Digital 3 sem. hrs.
Introduction to digital photography. Material covered includes operation of 35mm professional digital camera including aperture, shutter and depth of field in manual control. Camera handling and care, lighting, composition, visual communication and photographic history. Extensive digital darkroom (IMC) work using Photoshop software application is required.

So, I am really excited for the coming terms. Sara had been planning on getting free ebook versions of the Victorian novels to read along with me because we love discussing the books we read with each other. Then someone else went and reminded her that these would all be pretty bleak, full of desperate people and times, and she changed her mind.

Two 3-hour courses in Spring means I will be spending a lot of time on campus. At least it will be easy to get my full 5 hours of contract cataloging work in. And, I’ll get to eat lunch with my sweetie 3 days a week. I am just hoping that I can find some place that I can acclimate to enough to do some of my coursework while there.