I Tried to Write a Poem to Express My Gratitude

I tried to write a poem to express my gratitude
But I got lost in lines and beats and rhymes and a dismal attitude
So I threw it out and started over, plunged headlong into the verses,
And turned my gaze on all the ways my blessings far outweigh my curses

That’s the secret, that’s the mystery, that’s the never-ending story
Not to pretend that in the end we find misfortune less than glory
But to count the good more thoroughly and embrace the coming days
With confidence and a constant sense of thankfulness and praise

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues
(Image: “A thankful heart…,” by BK, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, to one and all.

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Let the Light in You Shine (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Dabo Swinney’s birthday, so I took a look at one of his many inspirational quotes. Coach Swinney is the second-winningest head football coach in Clemson history, trailing only the legendary Frank Howard, but along with success on the field Coach Swinney has emphasized preparing his players for life beyond football.

Today’s video is a little different from others in the Between the Black and the White series, in that I broadcast it live on Facebook in the morning and only later transferred it over to YouTube. As such, it’s a little poorer quality than my previous videos and doesn’t have the title card and credits and whatnot. Anyway, here it is:

Here’s the quote from Coach Swinney, in case you don’t want to watch the video:

Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.

I think that’s good advice, even for the vast majority of us who don’t have many opportunities to stand in the spotlight — actual or metaphorical. I’m sorry to say that when I’ve had such opportunities I haven’t thought too much about the light I could bring with me, the light I could let shine though me (or out from me). I hope to do better at that, this week and into the future.

And I trust that you will let your light shine bright as well! Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
Brave Knights and Heroic Courage
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times

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I’ve Only Been Saying This for a Freaking Quarter CENTURY

What’s this? Labeling certain students as “gifted” might have a downside?

Through personal conversations with her students, [Stanford education professor Jo] Boaler began to see how being labeled “gifted” or “smart” as children stunted even these bright and successful young people….

It’s hard to feel sorry for Stanford students, many of whom have had amazing opportunities not offered to peers precisely because someone recognized them as smart, but their experiences do call into question the practice of labeling in the first place.

Wow, if only someone had pointed out potential problems with sequestering certain students and labeling them as “gifted” — oh, wait, I did that, in the first edition of Quality Education. Granted, I put the topic in an appendix entitled “The Gifted and Talented Myth,” which in retrospect wasn’t the best place to highlight it, but it was there.

In the new edition, the subject of “gifted and talented” programs takes a more prominent position in four short chapters instead of one lengthy appendix.

Gifted and talented education usually is not limited to letting students with special aptitudes learn at a faster rate. These programs often remove some few students from their original classrooms, place them together with other “gifted” students, and focus more attention on their efforts. The students are told explicitly that they are part of the “gifted and talented” program, and become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and other students. But at what level does a student simply have a better grasp of a subject as opposed to being “gifted”? The differentiation is not always clear.

There’s more, of course, but that’s enough to prove today’s point.

I admit, it’s gratifying to find someone agreeing with something I said a quarter century ago. But it’s also incredibly frustrating, and rather makes me feel like:

Picard facepalm

What a way to start the week.

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P.S. If you want a FREE copy of the introduction to Quality Education, you can get one by signing up for my newsletter (you get two other free gifts, too). I’d also be pleased if you would pick up a copy from Amazon.

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Christian Carelessness

That phrase in the title connotes a lot, doesn’t it? “Christian carelessness” — we experience it every day … and some of us, despite our best intentions, practice it every day.

I ran across the phrase in E. Stephen Burnett’s post, “Christians, Please Stop Warning Against Human Popular Culture Until You Know What It’s For”, in which he addresses “the most well-intended Christian carelessness about” popular culture in whatever form it takes. He writes, for instance,

Why not discuss popular culture—human stories and songs—in terms of human creativity being a gift from God? The way some pastors talk, popular culture is some alien (even if “harmless”) thing unrelated to God. But if God gives this gift (of popular culture-creation), then He, not us [sic], defines the terms of how the gift is best used—to glorify Him, to guard against idolatry, and to make sure we get the most joy out of using the gift in the ways He has prescribed.

Why not explore how Jesus has built the work-rest rhythm into the universe, starting right in Genesis 1? Why not consider how stories and songs are part of being human, whether they’re shared around a campfire or enacted on your tablet screen? Why not allow the possibility that Scripture seems to allow—that we will create cultural works in eternity?

I love that, but I keep coming back in my mind to the idea — and the challenge — of “Christian carelessness” in general.

For people who claim to be Christ’s representatives on Earth (“Christian” means “little Christ,” does it not?), we are often quite careless in how we represent our Lord and Savior, in how we interact with each other and the world around us, in how we think and speak and act. And by “we” I primarily mean “I” am often quite careless.


(Image: “A Careless Word, A Needless Loss.” US World War II propaganda poster, on Wikimedia Commons.)

And beyond that, I come back to another way to think of carelessness: specifically, that of caring less than I should. I am guilty, and I daresay most of us are guilty, of caring less when Christ would have us care more. That’s not to say that we have it in ourselves to solve all the problems we face or to correct all the evils we see in the world, but when we turn away from them or pretend that they don’t exist our “Christian carelessness” condemns us.

Lord, help me — help us — to care more, and to be more careful.

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Tech in Schools: Not a Cure-All

This morning the Mind/Shift website said, “It’s Time For A Deeper Conversation About How Schools Use Technology.”

… recent studies about the effect of technology on achievement have shown uninspiring results, reinvigorating the conversation about how technology is used in classrooms. Educators who have been active in this space for many years have long known that technology can be used to connect students to the broader world, give them tools to create new and interesting learning artifacts, and open up a world of digital resources. But, technology can also be used to replicate the activities and tests that have always been used in the classroom. The tension between what technology could do and what it is often used for in classrooms is at the heart of a debate over whether all the money pumped into technology is worth it.

It’s too bad no one has ever urged caution when it comes to the proliferation of technology in schools, and that it might not be as effective as people think. Oh, wait, someone did:

Education should not make the same mistake a number of industries made in the late 1980s: they turned to expensive and complex machinery to save them, only to find that the devices were not the saviors they thought.

Who said that? I did, back in the early 1990s.

Technology versus Humanity
(Image: “Technology versus Humanity,” by Gerd Leonhard, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Technology is useful, and important because it’s so ubiquitous in our modern world, but no matter how fancy it gets it’s still just an expensive tool. And far more important than the technical tools are the people — i.e., the teachers — who use them.

In case anyone is interested, I cover this in a bit more depth — as well as many other topics — in Quality Education.

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Death Will Kill Millions (But You Already Knew That)

A cheery thought for All Hallows Eve, eh?

Actually, the headline was my reaction to seeing the title of this New Scientist article, “Climate change will kill millions but you knew that already”

“This is the major health threat in the 21st century around the world, and there’s an urgent need for us to address it,” says Hugh Montgomery of University College London, co-chair of the consortium that produced the report, called The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.

But if we work harder to switch to clean energy sources, we’ll likely see huge health improvements, the report says.


(Image: “Death,” by Robert, from Flickr on Wikimedia Commons.)

The whole thing sounds like idealistic wishful thinking that imagines the status quo as something that has always been in place and that should continue to operate indefinitely, when the historical truth is that change — beneficial as well as detrimental — is the way of things. The natural systems in which we live are dynamic, not static, and the pressure we apply to keep one part steady is likely to produce other changes we have not anticipated. And Death waits for us all.

So the greater question, it seems to me is: what are we doing with our lives?

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Fayetteville ComicCon Preview

This weekend I’ll be down in Fayetteville at, as noted above, Fayetteville ComicCon.

I will have a table in “Author’s Alley,” where I’ll try to interest folks in anything and everything: Walking on the Sea of Clouds, of course, plus Distorted Vision, Truths and Lies and Make-Believe, and maybe even Quality Education if that’s more their thing. I’ll also be giving out flyers I made up for the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle (which is available through Thursday of this coming week, and if you haven’t checked it out you really should — it’s for a good cause!).

I will also be on two panels:

  • Military in Science Fiction, Saturday at noon
  • Science Fiction vs. Science Fact, Sunday at 11 a.m.

No concerts, no readings, just chatting with folks and trying to interest them in my stories and songs. If you know anyone who’s going, tell them to come find me and say hello!

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Brave Knights and Heroic Courage (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today we look at a quote from C.S. Lewis.

Lewis is well-known as the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — published on this date in 1950, from what I understand — but this quote comes from his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”…

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

I think that holds true when writing for anyone, not just writing for children. I much prefer stories with characters who face up to difficulties and do what’s necessary to work through them, even if they might not be “heroic” in the truest sense. And, especially for those of us who don’t have to practice it day by day, stories can remind us that we ourselves are capable of courage, and perhaps instill in us the bravery we need to face our challenges, if not actual enemies.

Have a great week!

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(Possibly) Related Videos:
We Are All Leaders
Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Every Student A Scholar?
The Musashi-Heinlein School

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Monday Quote: Stand Tall In Troubled Times (New Video)

(Another in the series of quotes to start the week.)

Today is Leif Erikson Day, so today’s quote is attributed to him.

Erikson — literally the son of Erik the Red — is credited with being the first European to land on the North American continent beyond Greenland. He’s also credited with saying,

We are all leaders, whether we want to be or not. There is always someone we are influencing, either leading them to good, or away from good.

Who are you leading? And are you leading them to good? I hope so, and I wish you success this week as always!

___
(Possibly) Related Videos:
Monday Quote: Stand Tall in Troubled Times
Just Doing Our Best
We Are All Unfinished Products

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Introducing the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle!

Want a bunch of books for a little money, and the chance to support a worthy charity? Then read on …

NYT-Bestselling author — and my publisher — Kevin J. Anderson has curated the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle, a collection of novels and short stories that not only promise hours of out-of-this-world entertainment but also provide a means to support the Challenger (as in Space Shuttle Challenger) Learning Centers.

Kevin says,

We’re Full of Stars!

Strap into your cockpit, fire up the faster-than-light engines, and set course for the nearest star. I’ve got a grab bag of 13 excellent science fiction books all in one new Adventure SF StoryBundle. Get them all for as little as $15, and help out a great charity, too!

I put in a brand new action-packed story, The Blood Prize, featuring the popular character Colt the Outlander from Heavy Metal magazines, with all new art by the Aradio Brothers. Robert J. Sawyer offers his classic novel Far Seer (a planet of intelligent dinosaurs!). Raymond Bolton’s Awakening shows a fantasy civilization on the cusp of the industrial revolution faced with an alien invasion. You’ll read different adventures on very different lunar colonies in Gray Rinehart’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, Lou Agresta’s Club Anyone, and T. Allen Diaz’s Lunatic City, as well as Louis Antonelli’s alternate space race in Dragon-Award nominee Another Girl, Another Planet. Jody Lynn Nye’s Taylor’s Ark follows the adventures of a veterinarian to the stars, and Brenda Cooper’s Endeavor-Award winning The Silver Ship and the Sea is a gripping story of prisoners of war abandoned on a rugged colony planet. Acclaimed, award-winning author Paul di Filippo gives a collection of his best stories in Lost Among the Stars.

And for thrilling military SF, the bundle also has Honor and Fidelity by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Recruit by Jonathan P. Brazee, and the hilarious adventures of Phule’s Company in Robert Lynn Asprin’s Phule’s Paradise.

Take Note: This Adventure SF StoryBundle runs for only three weeks. You can pay the minimum price to get the books, or you can pay more and designate a portion to support the Challenger Learning Centers for Space Science Education.

More details …

The StoryBundle has two purchase levels. The initial titles, available as a minimum $5 purchase, are:

  • Lunatic City by T. Allen Diaz
  • Phule’s Paradise by Robert Asprin
  • Awakening by Raymond Bolton
  • Taylor’s Ark by Jody Lynn Nye
  • Honor and Fidelity by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith, Jr.

The bonus level, available for $15, adds the following eight titles:

  • Lost Among the Stars by Paul Di Filippo
  • Another Girl, Another Planet by Louis Antonelli
  • Club Anyone by Lou Agresta
  • The Blood Prize by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Walking on the Sea of Clouds by Gray Rinehart
  • The Silver Ship and the Sea by Brenda Cooper
  • Far-Seer by Robert J. Sawyer
  • The United Federation Marine Corps Book 1: Recruit by Jonathan P. Brazee

What a bargain! Check out the the Adventure Sci-Fi 2017 Bundle today!

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P.S. What is the StoryBundle program, and why should you care? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides:

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free (i.e., Digital Rights Management-free) books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want — restriction free — will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Challenger Learning Centers for Space Science Education!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

Every bundle allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards — which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle — and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

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