Monday, November 13, 2017

Tourists through Time

Have you ever thought about where the ancients went on vacation? Jude Knight over at English Historical Fiction has and its surprising where the first tourists with the time and money went for fun and adventure.

People began touring as soon as there was some place to go. From Egypt to Mesopotamia people began to travel just to see new things like the latest pyramid or temple.

Romans set up beach resorts, the rich headed up to the cooler northern climes to escape the summer heat and everyone traveled to the big city to see the sights.

In Medieval Europe, pilgrimages became all the rage and these took on a religious fervor and devotion. Everyone wanted to see the holy land - and these trips could last for months, if not years. Accommodations could be found at local inns or abbeys and, rumor has it, that the Knights Templar acted as a security force for devout travellers.

Once in Jerusalem you could purchase a holy relic or even something more permanent, like a tattoo. Rozzouk Tattoo has been servicing Christian pilgrims since 1300 in the old city.

Beginning in the Renaissance, people of wealth and privilege have been making the grand tour. This was usually conducted by young men after they had completed their schooling and, again, these tours could last for months. Young women, on the other hand, might find themselves in Paris or London under chaperone for a shorter period of time.

After the Napoleonic Wars tourism took off. "The English flooded out across Europe, in a tourist boom that gathered pace and continued until the First World War. From England alone, the volume of travel grew from 10,000 in 1814 to 250,000 in 1860, to one million in 1911."

Today, we travel everywhere. No longer bound by cart, ship or foot, we can hop into the nearest plane (after a long line in your local airport) and go anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. Where would you like to go in the future? What kind of adventures are in store for you?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Google's Free Photo Editing Software is Really Free

Google's photo editing software 'Nik' is now free to download. "Previously priced at $149, the now-free software gives users access to 'seven desktop plug-ins that provide a powerful range of photo editing capabilities -- from filter applications that improve color correction, to retouching and creative effects,'" says Open Culture.

I'm sure you're wondering what photo editing has to do with this blog, well, maybe not, because you should know how much I like visuals, and since we often write about visuals I wanted to offer you the Nik program if/when you need to do a comparative analysis.

When looking at these two separate photos, what are the subjects of these iconic scenes? Sex, adventure, science fiction, body image?

If you had to choose a second photo in order to do a comparison, what subject would you choose?

Who or what would you compare with Marilyn Monroe?

What kind of a photo would you look for to compare with ET against a blue moon?

The subjects in both photos are pop culture icons? What other photo documentary subjects would you like to study? War? News? Societal issues?

Think about any two photos on the same subject or the same event, what would you look for? This may be the basis for your next essay.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What do you know about your school?

What happens to students at Diablo Valley College?

First, let's look at some statistics from 2013:

DVC has a total enrollment of 20,286 students - 52 percent were women, 48 percent were men.

DVC is pretty ethnically diverse. While 44 percent of students were white, 22% of students were Latino, 15 percent Asian, and six percent were African American. Minority enrollment is 64 percent of the total student body.

Most students at DVC (64 percent) are between the ages of 18-24, while 32 percent were between the ages of 25 to 64.

Scholarships or grant awards are received by one-third of students totaling about $2,477.

DVC costs $1,288 for in-state residents, while out-of-state students pay $7,925 - that's a 515% increase (2015/2016) - that's a topic for another post.

"The total tuition and living expense budget for in-state California residents to go to DVC is $19,750 for the 2015/2016 academic year. Out-of-state students who don't have California residence can expect a one year cost of $26,386. Students residing at home with parents providing food and housing should budget a total cost of $7,386."

DVC offers over 40 areas of study . . .

So where will you end up?

The latest statistics on this are from 2009/2010. The most popular destination was California State University, East Bay with 287 transfers. Berkeley was next with 240 transfers. San Francisco State University accepted 198 DVC transfers, while the University of California, Davis was the destination for 172. Many others went to other CSUs or UCs.

So once you get accepted to that school of your dreams what exactly do you want to do? Before you answer that question, go the The Bureau of Labor Statistics and look up the wage data for that occupation.

So where do you want to complete your studies and what is your major? Do you feel that the costs you will have to pay to get to your occupation are worth it? Is there a cheaper way to accomplish your career goals?

Farewell Cassini

One of Saturn's moons above its rings against star-lit space.
If you like science and dream of exploring the stars or going into space one day, then you are probably aware of the Cassini mission. The probe recently took its last photo just as it entered the Venus atmosphere, but before the camera faded to black it took many beautiful photos.

If you are not science buff, "Cassini-Huygens is one of the most ambitious missions NASA ever launched into space. Loaded with an array of powerful instruments and cameras, the spacecraft is capable of taking accurate measurements and detailed images in a variety of atmospheric conditions and light spectra."

Cassini reached Saturn in July 2004 and has been dubbed one of the most successful of NASA's many missions. It's "scripted death dive" occurred on September 15, 2017.

What are some of the missions biggest discoveries?

One of its moons, Enceladus, shows evidence of water-based ice and a subsurface ocean leading to speculation about the presence of life.

Another moon, Titan, has earth-like rain, rivers, lakes and seas - although it is liquid methane, not water. I wonder what kind of being would live on a methane planet?

The rings are a laboratory for how planets are formed, colliding and separating. Scientists even think they witnessed the birth of a new moon.

But it's the pictures - those close up and personal pictures of a planet in our solar system that attract a lot of attention. They are just beautiful.

Do you want to visit another planet someday? Have you visited the planetarium on campus? Do you think people will be living on other planets in your lifetime?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Writing a Rhetorical Critique

The first time you write a rhetorical analysis, it may seem almost impossible, but there are some basic steps to help make it a bit easier.

Take a moment and watch the video. It has lots of good tips and strategies for writing a rhetorical analysis.

When you start your essay, you need to introduce the writer, subject, audience purpose, and occasion just like you would any time you introduce one person to another.

For example, if you were at a BBQ you might say something like, "This is Professor David Whalen, Provost of Hillsdale College, a Liberal Arts school, and we were just talking about an online essay he wrote in response to G.W. Thielman. Thielman published an article stating that colleges and universities should favor STEM education over the Liberal Arts. If you are someone who believes in the Liberal Arts, or in STEM, or anyone who ever has an argument, you would probably be interested in what he has to say." That statement introduces the writer, subject, audience, purpose and occasion.

For the subject, you would then move on to a summary of the article.

Then you move into the meat of your paper - the analysis.

Here's a short example from Whalen's article:
"The economic, political and social consequences of this or that kind of education, the cost of investment in disciplines given to self-indulgent theorizing, the needs impressed upon us by technological developments, military conditions and social necessities--all these matters matter, and all their arguments count."
When looking at this paragraph, we can see ethos, pathos, and logos at work.

Ethos - credibility. How is the author exhibiting his credibility? We know he is not just a professor, but the provost of a Liberal Arts college, so he knows what he's talking about like a doctor or a judge. He also acknowledges one of the flaws with the current liberal arts, when he refers to them as "self-indulgent theorizing"--an ethical arguer fairly presents the limitations of his claim. He shows some expertise in his use of the English language through alliteration "matters matter" to add emphasis to the idea that all arguments count.

Logos - logic. This one is pretty simple. He begins by saying all types of education are valid including STEM and the Liberal Arts because all their consequences are important ("all theses matters matter") and everyone needs to be able to form proper arguments ("all arguments count"). First you need to be educated in argument, then you can engage in a proper line of reasoning to come to a valid conclusion.

Pathos - emotion. Lots to work with here. Let's examine some vocabulary: "consequences," "cost of investment," "needs," "technological developments," "military conditions," "impressed upon us," all strike a chord of fear or imminent disaster. We have to deal with this problem right now or we may have bigger problems. On the other hand, you have "this or that kind of education," and "self-indulgent theorizing" which are both flippant. We can have either kind of education - implying that they are equal - one is not better than the other. He also says the Liberal Arts has degraded to a bit of "self-indulgence," but it still serves a purpose.

Look carefully at these three paragraphs. There is a description of what the quote says followed by analysis of what the quote does through ethos, pathos, and logos. You must do this in your own analysis. First you tell your reader what the author is saying and then you tell your reader what the author has done with ethos, pathos, or logos.

Do you think you will pay more attention to how someone is saying or writing something after writing this paper? Do you think you will be better able to form your own arguments after doing a rhetorical analysis? Why or why not?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Roman Roads Visualized on Subway Grid

I love maps. Ever since I was a kid, I would stare at them and think about what places like Copperopolis, Toad Suck, and Santa Claus look like. I mean does Santa live in Santa Claus, Indiana? I think not, but he probably doesn't live in Chicken, Alaska either....and somehow that brings me to Roman roads visualized as a subway map.

Here's the great thing about this project it was done by a college student just like you. Well, not exactly like you, but Sasha Trubetskoy is an undergrad at U. Chicago, and he created a "subway-style diagram of the major Roman roads, based on the Empire of ca. 125 AD."

Open Culture has provided a few links to larger maps for your viewing pleasure.

Trubetskov says "no sane Roman would use only roads where sea travel is available. Sailing was much cheaper and faster – a combination of horse and sailboat would get you from Rome to Byzantium in about 25 days, Rome to Carthage in 4-5 days." He also notes that money and time of year were big factors in scheduling a Roman road trip.

He did take some "liberties" with his maps leaving out some cities and minor roads.

Do you like maps? Do you want to travel back in time over some of the world's oldest roads? Can you see how this occupation (cartography) combines science and art? STEAM vs STEM?  How can you combine your hobby or something you do without anyone asking and a career? Is this wise or do you think it might lead to burn out?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cleaning up ocean trash

Everyday we read and see how the oceans are being overrun by trash and plastics. Animals are dying, people are surfing through garbage, and our coastlines are becoming waste dumps. Everybody gripes about plastics in the ocean, but does anybody do anything?

If Boyan Slat, a 22-year old college drop out, gets his way we will soon see a fleet of floating ocean trash collectors. "'We let the plastic come to us,' he says. The group hopes to eventually finance the operation by recycling the plastic and selling it as a branded product or raw material." Once the plastic arrives at the drifting garbage tank, it is funneled towards a central tank and then picked up monthly by ships.

But his critics believe that it is a waste of effort and too much money for something that in "10 to 20 years" will disappear.
They also list "technical limitations and concerns such as harm to marine life. 'It’s not the best solution,' says Marcus Eriksen of the ocean nonprofit The 5 Gyres Institute, based in Los Angeles, California. 'In fact, it’s a distraction from the work going on upstream.' Most environmental groups working on ocean pollution focus on reducing the amount of plastic that enters the ocean, and, ultimately, what Eriksen calls 'the heavy lift of ending the one-time, throwaway culture.'
But what about all that plastic floating around out there? I mean there's supposed to be a continent of plastic out there somewhere. It seems like a long shot to think that we are just going to stop using plastics, considering they are in everything we use. How do we reduce the plastic going into the ocean when the world seems like it can't agree on anything. Can't we collect and dispose of the trash at the same time that we look at reducing our use of plastic? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Criticizing with kindness

Can you be kind to your critics? You betcha...and it is especially important if you want them to listen to you, and if you want your readers to take you seriously.

If  you write counterarguments that are weak or insubstantial, all the better to dismiss them and lose ethos to boot. This is especially true if your readers are passionate about your subject.

Somewhere along the way you have to take on, and tackle, the strongest counterargument you can think of - and that can be difficult.

Daniel Dennett, one of today's best modern philosophers, asks "Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”

Here's his answer, word-for-word:
"How to compose a successful critical commentary: 
"1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, 'Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.' 
"2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement). 
"3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target. 
"4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism."
This strategy builds ethos, pathos, and logos when formulating counterarguments. Ethos by being able to re-express your opponents position plainly (you are fair). In addition, when you can show that there are points of agreement you are building ethos (again, you are fair), but this also expresses pathos since we all want to get along somehow.

You can accomplish logos by expressing the logical outcome you gained from your opponent's position (what you learned). That sometimes seems to be the sticking point for new college writer's, how can I validate the claim I am supposed to be arguing against? You don't have to validate all of it, just some of it. At times, you may not be able to validate any of it, but if you look like you can reach some kind of common ground that makes you look reasonable (again, more ethos).

So thinking of your own counterargument, how can you adopt this formula?

Didn't the ancients have any feelings?

If you've ever read Roman, Old English, Medieval, or Renaissance lit, you may have noticed how devoid of feeling it is? Many of the ancient sagas from Homer to Iceland are filled with action, especially violent war-type action. But didn't any of these societies have any feelings? Of course, they must've by why don't they ever write about it? Is it because we expect everyone to reveal their every feeling on the page? Is this desire something that makes us modern?

I mean pick up a novel, open it to any page and read. Feelings are spread before us in almost every paragraph with gallons of ink. There are so many feelings that it sometimes takes the characters forever to DO anything.
"Literature certainly reflects the preoccupations of its time, but there is evidence that it may also reshape the minds of readers in unexpected ways. Stories that vault readers outside of their own lives and into characters’ inner experiences may sharpen readers’ general abilities to imagine the minds of others. If that’s the case, the historical shift in literature from just-the-facts narration to the tracing of mental peregrinations may have had an unintended side effect: helping to train precisely the skills that people needed to function in societies that were becoming more socially complex and ambiguous."
At least that is what one researcher thinks. Our tendency to reflect, read, and write about feelings helps us to navigate society today. We evolved those skills over time, and, if you think about it, in a relatively short period of time...5,000 years or so.

Not to say that there wasn't emotions in early texts, but it was more "hand wringing and tearing of hair," and relatively little of the more subtle emotional cues we read in our novels today.

When did this change? Between 1500 and 1700 and who was writing about emotions then? You guessed it, Shakespeare. Specifically "when it became common for characters to pause in the middle of the action, launching into monologues as they struggled with conflicting desires, contemplated the motives of others, or lost themselves in fantasy—as is familiar to anyone who’s studied the psychologically rich soliloquies of Shakespeare’s plays."

So that leads this researcher to ask:
"If mentalizing skills can be burnished by language that draws attention to mental states, has literature’s increasing use of such language improved readers’ social intelligence over the centuries?"
What do you think? Are we socially more intelligent than our ancestors?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

17 Majors Where you Might Not Find a Job

Forbes just released a list of  "17 college majors that report higher unemployment." This report completed by PayScale, polled 962,956 workers between March 2014 and March 2016. What they found may or may not be surprising depending on your major, but it correlates with the idea that popular majors may not be the best choice when it comes to finding a job.

So let's take a look.

No. 1 - Physical Education Teaching. 56.4% underemployment.

No. 2. - Human Services. 55.6% underemployment.

No. 3 - Illustration. 54.7% underemployment.

No. 4 - Criminal Justice. 53% underemployment.

No. 5 - Project Management. 52.8% underemployment.

No. 6 - Radio/Television and Film Production. 52.6% underemployment.

No. 7 - Studio Art. 52.0% underemployment.

No. 8 - Health Care Administration. 51.8 % underemployment.

No. 9 - Education. 51.8% underemployment.

No. 10 - Human Development and Family Studies. 51.5% underemployment.

No. 11 - Creative Writing. 51.1% underemployment.

No. 12 - Animal Science. 51.1% underemployment.

No. 13 - Exercise Science. 51% underemployment.

No. 14 - Health Sciences. 50.9% underemployment.

No. 15 - Paralegal Studies. 50.9% underemployment.

No. 16 - Theatre. 50.8% underemployment.

No. 17 - Art History. 50.7% underemployment.

What's surprising about this list is that underemployed majors are not just in the arts and humanities. Specifically, health sciences is on this list and that includes nurses.

How worried are you about getting a job in your major once you graduate?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Your tax dollars at work - Thanks NASA!

NASA is a great program that produces technical wonders including freeze dried food (yuck) and cameras (YAY - including the one in your phone.

In the past few years we've been receiving photos from various space projects and some of them are just so stunning they look fake. But these are fake news photos! This picture of the moon in front of the sun was taken from NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite that sits a million miles away from Earth.

"In 2015, it looked back at its home planet and captured a series of images showing what rock band Pink Floyd refers to as the 'dark side' of the moon (more aptly known as the 'far side' of the moon) as it passed between the camera and Earth. It's an almost startling perspective from a satellite that has a primary mission of monitoring solar winds."

Here's one reminiscent of All Hallows Eve- the sun looks like an evil Jack-O-Lantern. This picture was taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, which imaged the sun in early October 2014.


"Auroras are a fascinating phenomenon involving swirling lights. When viewed from Earth, they light up the night sky and might make you think magical fairies really exist. This image from the crew of Expedition 32 on board the International Space Station in 2012 looks like the product of an artist's imagination, but it's real."

These are just some of the pictures sent back to earth by the many vehicles roaming our galaxy and they are beautiful (even in a horrible sort of way) and remind us that the universe is a really large and unexplored place.

Do you think that NASA is a good use of taxpayer dollars? What kinds of things would you like to see NASA do or discover in the future? Do you want to be an astronaut? Do you want to go to Mars and be a part of a colony? What kind of discoveries do you think will be made in your lifetime.

April's Fool

Did you ever wonder how April Fools Day came about? Did you think it was some Hallmark holiday, except they forgot to make the cards (April Fools). In reality, it is a very ancient tradition which even the Romans celebrated and they borrowed it from the Greeks.

Here's one of the accepted reasons for April Fools in the western world. The move from the Julian to the Georgian calendar - the what to the what you ask? We don't have enough space to devote to the change in calendars, but suffice to say that New Year's used to be celebrated in March and when we switched to the Georgian calendar it was moved to January 1. But there were the detractors who refused to celebrate New Year's in January. These people were made fun of as Fools, thus the spring day was created just for them.

Well, that's just one theory.

April Fools Day can be seen as a traditional spring festival celebrated in many cultures and taking many different forms, from our April Fools Day to the Hindu "Holi" festival. It seems to be a holiday about fun and frivolity.

The English especially love this day and in 1698 took the hoax to a new level with tickets to the "Washing of the Lions" at the Tower (now that's a job you could die for). This tradition continued on well into the 19th century (the above ticket is for April 1st, 1857), and we continue celebrating pranks and hoaxes today.

Maybe people just go a bit crazy when Spring has sprung. Why do you think we celebrate April Fools Day? Do you think we are just sick of winter and need to cut loose a little bit? What kind of pranks have you pulled on someone or has someone done to you?