December 29, 2004

With books: Lovely Bones

A little girl is raped and cut apart by her neighbor, then thrown into a sinkhole right outside of town. End of story, right? No. The story is told from her point of view in heaven, and that is just when the story begins.

To begin my book fest over break, I picked up the turquoise book that I have looked at longingly for the past few months, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It was promptly joined by a stack I now have waiting on my nightstand.

I was not disappointed in the least. Despite the many references to her death throughout the novel, which did get tiresome, I kept reading without care at the clock. The happenings of the murdered girl's family keep you reading, and it is not all sadness, but rather a depiction of the progression of mourning and the tale of their return to normalcy.

I don't really know how to categorize this novel. It is an odd assortment of fantasy and horror. I DO NOT read horror, and I could take this, probably because the assertion that she is in heaven kept me from falling into despair, and that the family kept seeing her.

The story could have ended several times (reminding me of LOTR: Return of the King), but all the ends that needed tying up were in due time.

Recommendations all around.

*****

And thus begins my season of reading and the illusive relaxation, tainted by school loans and overdue eye doctor appointments.

It's wonderful how friends you haven't seen since the (warm blessed) days of summer start leaving messages on the machine, and you actually have time to answer them, and even meet with them.

This year, though, I am learning that you really can't make promises to call or to dedicate a day a week to that friend because your life will go directly back to the way it was, the way you chose it to be, and they theirs. So, to cap off that depressing realization, I make an Epicurean note to enjoy my time with them to the fullest.

And also, not to let my mind fall into the decay of gluttonous rest. :-) My friends would tell me that this is probably the best thing for me, and I, even in my goal-setting, am starting to agree with them.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:59 PM | Comments (4)

December 22, 2004

From a culinary artiste

I made cream puffs today with my grandma. Don't know what a cream puff is? They are little globs of dough with empty centers that you fill with pudding, ice cream, dog food, whatever. I filled mine with cook and serve chocolate pudding, not the instant stuff (we made it in the microwave, though).

I splattered batter all over the walls with the mixer. With every egg I added, a little more decorated the walls, but not to the point of insta-lick wallpaper, thank God.

Cooking and baking is a patience-building activity. Wait for the little buggers to cool. Wait for the timer to go off. Wait. Wait. Wait. But it wasn't time wasted--we watched Bridget Jones' Diary. I laughed inwardly every time my grandma blushed at the f-word. It's a charming story, and the inclusion of the f-word is just a comedic addition; I hope she understands that... She said she liked it.

After finishing the cooking and baking part (THEY ACTUALLY DID WHAT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO DO! Rise, that is), I sifted confectioner's sugar onto the little masses of dough, but not really feeling very confectioner-like. It went everywhere, and besides, don't you have to have a degree of some sort to be a confectioner?

In many ways, I think I am reaching new heights of domesticity. But it is nice to have someone proud of me in that department. When a lady from my church called my grandma, one of the first things my grandma mentioned was that I came to make something with the oven involved. If I can't solve world hunger, why not start with pastries...

Sure I can write. I can do the whole school thing, but it is stepping out of that comfort zone of books and computers that is pushing me, as odd as that sounds. New goals, I'm finding, do not exclusively lie in the confines of my academic life, but "out there" giving my time and effort to the happiness of others.

Oh my, have I discovered the Christmas spirit? Perhaps, I have. Heartwarming, isn't it? :-D


Posted by Amanda Cochran at 5:14 PM | Comments (3)

December 18, 2004

Shopping is fun again!

With an echo up the stairs of "Anyone home?" I gave the affirmative.

"Do you want to go shopping?" my mom yelled up the stairs.

"Okay, anything to get out of this house." I said.

After just one day of my planner freedom, filled with cleaning and other constructive tasks (I can't seem to just rest anywhere), it was time to get out.

With that, we were off in my car to Gabes. While I do think that I gave her some mild heart attack when I merged into traffic, we made it to the store in record time. hehe

Now to get down to business...

I have compiled a Christmas list, which I hate to do. I look like an ungrateful wench succumbing to the commercialization of the holiday season, but I have to get some things like pencils and binders, and maybe a new hat-- The shopping scene is inevitable, well unless you are Amish, which doesn't really sound bad. I like gifts that are made especially for you, anyway.

We shop a little differently than most families, or at least I think so. A few Christmases ago, we learned that each person in the family, to really have a merry Christmas, should pick out their gifts on their own. This realization occurred with a pack of playing cards being a major gift. Kudos to the Dollar Store for their playing card prowess, but this just didn't work for me.

The gift faux pas has turned into the running joke at my house. My mom just didn't know what to get me... But now we have incentive into the Christmas spirit and shop, shop, shop. Beware the jumbo pack of playing cards!!

So, now in an effort to get the good gifts of Christmas that we will all enjoy, we shop on our own, and the real giving is in wrapping the gifts. Our one rule is that no one can wrap their own gifts.

The best part of Christmas now is wondering what gift is encased in what wrapping. Like, "Can my dad fit a pea coat into a shoe box?" Or, "How how many layers of tissue do we have to go to get to that ring?" Unwrapping is the best. This year we will be unwrapping Christmas Eve because my mom has to work Christmas morning.

Christmas Eve is the biggest night though. We do everything fun then, anyway. I am making dinner this year....um yeah. Anyone know any good spices I could include for my speghetti and meatballs? Or should I try alfredo? Hmm. Or should I get really festive and try a turkey? GRANDMA HELP!

Anyway, back to Mom and me on a Friday night. After Gabes we headed to the mall. Unfortunately she had some cappuchino, and her shopping frenzy was heightened by caffeine. Her eyes kept darting from store to store, item to item. I've seen the same look on a deer I almost hit. Fear of not fulfilling destiny: crossing the road, making everyone's Christmas dreams come true.

I give her credit, though. Christmas is wonderful at our house. After the hectic months preceeding Christmas, all I really want is some hot cocoa, mountains of marshmellows, some Burl Ives records, and my family reading the manger scene from the Bible. I have not been let down yet.

Togetherness is rather illusive with my family. With four cars constantly on the road, eating at different times, and coming in at all hours of the night, our home is hotel-like, complete with a peppermint patty on your pillow. No, just in the candy jar in the kitchen. ;-) This is the time for us to come back together for real, and we do. Though we do have name brand products decorating the dinner table, that is about as far as commercialization goes that night. We also watch The Grinch and Charlie Brown when we can. Oh, yeah, and laugh at Alfie in A Christmas Story.

Last night, walking with my mom into the mall, while I did feel a pang of envy at the couples, I realized that there is a time for everything, and this night was for my mom and I to spread a little Christmas cheer, albeit a little frenzied.

But it was worth it. After a lengthy conversation about the girth of women's calves, she bought a pair of black boots. While I am a firm believer in not making large purchases with someone along, we did the little gifts this trip.

Next week we tackle the big stuff...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:41 AM | Comments (9)

December 16, 2004

It's official. It's final. I am done.

It's official. I just finished my last final. And it really hasn't hit me that everyone is headed to their little casas, and I my own in a couple of hours.

Sheesh. This hasn't happened in a long time. I have NOTHING in my black planner-o-death for tomorrow. I may need to lie down.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 4:23 PM | Comments (4)

December 13, 2004

Done

I am tired. Here it is.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:26 AM | Comments (8)

December 4, 2004

Blogs: the superior online teaching tool

Writing for the Internet. What fun. The class I have been mentoring throughout the fall semester is about to end, and my job as mentor also. I will abstain from tears--my keyboard is cheap. :-)

But how do I end this semester in Writing for the Internet? Not with the fun website that I can put in my blog links (by the way, that site is more popular on Google than the original "real" library site woo hoo!)...no, but rather a research paper. Yes, another one.

However, this one might be published--somewhere. I am doing something that may have never been seen before: a hypertext research document.

If you are interested in my toils, please continue.


The idea is that I will put together my paper in paper format and then post it online with links throughout. I am doing my paper--as of now--on the development of the SHU blogosphere in relationship to forums and chatrooms, and I will be linking to the exact blog that I cite in my paper document.

I plan on constructing my research document online in chunks. While I will write the research paper first, I will construct the online document from that research, but with an entirely different format.

After discussing Leslie's research directory page on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I decided I would take a few tips for my own project. Each new page, for example, will have a different purpose: the thesis/introductory page, supporting point pages, and conclusion/more information page.

The point I want to make is how we are, in the blogging community, using a superior form of online communication. While this may seem indisputable, I have found some silly people who think otherwise. Woo hoo for opposing opinions.

As for the development of this research paper, I have been traveling a rocky road. I started out with ideas about how I could address weblogs in general. BIG mistake. It is getting harder and harder to define what a weblog is, as much as we try to.

Thesis:
In comparison to chatrooms, forums, groups, and other forms of interaction presently offered online, the weblog is the best learning online environment for students. The discussion format, flexibility of content, and networking possible in a blogosphere, provides students with an environment that offers extensive interaction between peers, professors, and the "outside" world, which is "essential aspect of any educational experience" (Maor 128). Seton Hill University's blogosphere, specifically, is the exemplification of this learning atmosphere, nuturing both the academic and real world experience.
Supporting Points
Discussion format: Weblog-comments window, whereas in a forums do not, permitting everyone to see the interaction whether or not they want to.

In relationship to forums: "Most of these discourses involve using the web as an information resource and a platform to exchange information between the members of the community, rather than promoting reflective and more complex thinking" (Maor 128).

However, as the Seton Hill blogosphere demonstrates, academic discussions can occur; we are not just information exchange.

As an example of a forum's nature, in the APA Education Forum, the forum's description first indicates that the purpose is to "come together at a national forum to share information" and then

Flexibility of Content:

While students can blog in a personal fashion or in a purely academic manner, blogs offer a flexibility in content that forums or chatrooms cannot offer the student, because many are, in a classroom setting, only between teachers and students (Wallace 241).

In Tiffany Brattina's blog on The Death of a Salesman, for instance, a mix of her experiences with her father, in addition to a reflection on the academic work.

Networking:

Seton Hill has a great network of blogs, but I may be biased. I want to show in this point how different bloggers cite from other bloggers and make in-depth conversations about what they have said.

Lambe, in her research is noting computer conferencing which offers a group atmosphere that one can comment on at any time. However, blogging, I will note, offers individuals that option of when and how often they will post. Forums, also offer one line of communication down a page; on a blog, though, the discussions can branch out into other blogs.

Some useful quotes I have not placed yet:

"Text-based communications can promote 'thoughtful and reflective commentary...because the act of writing demands greater reflection than speaking" (Schrum quoted in Lambe 353).

"Technological tools for learning are becoming increasingly interactive...these new technologies provide a challenge to make learning an interactive and collaborative experience that is guided by a social constructivist approach to teaching and learning" (Maor 128).

"The role of the teacher in the online environment becomes a significant element in creating quality learning; a task that has required a change in pedagogies for the higher education lecturer" (Maor 128).

Conclusion:
Restatement of thesis and thoughtful conclusion (which never works out for me :-()

I am getting things together. WORK IN PROGRESS.

I am kind of miffed because electricity at SHU went out when I did this the first time through. Oh well, I have them highlighted for when I post my paper online, which will, I hope be soon.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 1:52 PM | Comments (6)

New writer

This blog is in appreciation to Evan Reynolds, the newest contributor to the Setonian.

When I didn't have an article for the online site, he volunteered to help me on Thursday. Evan said he hadn't written a news article before, but he was willing to learn. He thought that a student couldn't be part of The Setonian and Eye Contact, the literary magazine, at the same time. After having a small giggle at this and setting him straight that a student could, and should do both, I started to give him a fifteen-minute crash course in journalism. He listened beautifully.

Check out his work. I have never seen such a great first try, with minimal editing.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 11:12 AM | Comments (10)

December 2, 2004

Try these Christmas specials:

Via Whatever:

Ayn Rand's A Selfish Christmas (1951)

In this hour-long radio drama, Santa struggles with the increasing demands of providing gifts for millions of spoiled, ungrateful brats across the world, until a single elf, in the engineering department of his workshop, convinces Santa to go on strike. The special ends with the entropic collapse of the civilization of takers and the spectacle of children trudging across the bitterly cold, dark tundra to offer Santa cash for his services, acknowledging at last that his genius makes the gifts -- and therefore Christmas -- possible. Prior to broadcast, Mutual Broadcast System executives raised objections to the radio play, noting that 56 minutes of the hour-long broadcast went to a philosophical manifesto by the elf and of the four remaining minutes, three went to a love scene between Santa and the cold, practical Mrs. Claus that was rendered into radio through the use of grunts and the shattering of several dozen whiskey tumblers. In later letters, Rand sneeringly described these executives as "anti-life."

Oh my. I had issues reading Rand. She looks pretty sad.

For more funnies.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 4:51 PM | Comments (3)