Thursday, July 26, 2012

Job Skills and the New Millennium

While you thought getting a job was hard, keeping a job is just as hard, especially in the new millennium.

Most employers think recent graduates were born with all the computer skills they need from tweeting and designing websites to email and Facebook. But what do you do when your boss asks you to create a portal on Google docs for clients to give performance feedback. Huh?

With unemployment hovering around 8 percent, many employers find it unnecessary to supply in-house employee training. They figure if you want to keep your job, you'll figure it out on your own. But taking another class costs time and money.

So what is a new hire to do get up to office speed? Take a FREE online course.

ALISON—an Irish company with an uncatchy longer moniker: Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online—provides free online courses in job-friendly skills. Some are basic but essential—Fundamentals of Google Docs or Touch Type Training. Others are more specialized (Programming in Adobe Flash) and many could be useful for anybody, job seeking or not (Protect Yourself From Identity Theft), says Open Culture.
ALISON focuses on the practical, culling free courses from a range of publishers that will upgrade anyone’s employment skills. The site has a million registered users across the globe and is adding 50,000 learners every month. Un- or under-employed people can get help planning their career path with a course that takes from 1-2 hours. The course includes an assessment and a discussion forum.

While many sites offer academic instruction, relatively few offer free workplace skill instruction and ALISON selects courses for their quality and interactivity. The site is so robust and straight-forward that government workplace centers in 18 states use it as a tool to help clients beef up their resume skills.
Course categories include business and enterprise, IT training, financial and economic, health and safety, health literacy, personal development, and languages.

So the next time your boss asks you to create a spread sheet for your sales figures, ALISON can teach you Excel. Even better when your professor starts talking physics, you can brush up with a course on motion, speed, and time.

What skills do you need to help you keep your first job? What practical skills do you need to stay on top in the workplace?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Great Gatsby Graphic

Did you read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in high school or college? Did you have a hard time keeping track of who is who? created a slick art deco Gatsby Character Map to help you keep track.

But SomethingSoSam didn't stop there, there are also some graphics of memorable Gatsby quotes, like this one:

To finish off this trilogy of visual fun, here is a video with a little bit more about the Gatsby characters . . .

A Look Into the Characters of The Great Gatsby from SomethingSoSam on Vimeo.

It's obvious this graphic artist is passionate about The Great Gatsby. Warner Brothers would be well served to hire SomethingSoSam to create the posters for their movie slated for release December 2012. It is billed as an "American 3D romantic drama film", and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson.

Do you have a graphic art penchant? How can you use that skill when thinking about your major and future career?

What books or comics are you passionate about? What other texts could use a graphic character map like this one? What books would you like to see made into movies?

Friday, July 20, 2012

It's all Text Messaging's Fault

Two apostrophes in one title? Not possible?

Well, it's obviously possible, but text messaging may mean the death of my belov'd apostrophe. That's the claim in the article Dear Apostrophe: C Ya over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. The author, Rob Jenkins, believes that
as someone who teaches college writing to the text-messaging generation, I have observed that not only apostrophes but also capital letters have become, if not extinct, then at least increasingly conspicuous by their absence–sort of like some of my students when their essays are due.
Yikes! Not only does he dis students for bad grammar, but he also doubts their veracity when it comes to absences and due dates (c'mon you know you are at least a little guilty).

I love apostrophe's. In fact I love them so much that I use way too many of them. While Jenkins worries about capital letters and apostrophes because of text messaging, I worry about too many spaces in my writing. I find that whenever you use any piece of punctuation in a text it automatically capitalizes the next letter whether you like it or not! So I'm always adding spaces.

There are two basic rules for apostrophes. Apostrophes show possession (something one owns): The dog's tail is wagging. Apostrophes are also used in contractions (contracting two words into one): it is = it's.

What do you think? Does text messaging make you a poor writer? Has your texting habits earned you a poor score? What text messaging habits bleed over into your academic writing?

P.S. Did you spot the extra apostrophe?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Comics Journalism and Education Reform

A comics journalist and an assistant professor walk into a bar.

What'll ya have? asks the barkeep.

"Pictures of Reformtinis," says the journalist.

"A panel of Education Fizzes" responds the professor.

The barkeep frowns, "Okay, but you'll end up in the gutter."
I know the punchline could be better . . .

Education reform is no joke so Adam Bessie, assistant professor at Diablo Valley College, and Dan Archer, comics journalist, took on the education reform movement in their interactive comic featured at The first episode, The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform and second episode, Murky Waters: The Education Debate in New Orleans take on the system while trying to make sense of how we teach our students.

But before you click on the links -- it gets even better.

Bessie and Archer designed their visual essay as a fully functional interactive comic with built in links to all their sources. Take a minute to check it out, it's really very informative and comic geek chic.

Are you an education major? What do you know about education reform? Did high school serve you well? How would you improve the K-12 experience for both students and teachers?

What do you think of comics journalism? Do you like its interactivity? Does it encourage you to read?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Getaway? Don't Forget a Beach Book

21 Classics That Make for Great Beach Reads includes some new classics and perennial favorites. So before you take your summer trip, pack your towel, slap on some sunscreen, and grab a book.

Some favorites:

1. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
hits most of the usual beats of a contemporary beach read — love, danger, tragedy, and finding personal strength in rough times — but stands apart for its historical significance and hauntingly gorgeous prose. Written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, for modern readers the story of Janie Crawford’s eventful, not always satisfying life offers up some excellent lessons in America’s racial and gender history.

If you didn't read this in high school you should have. A real page turner.

2. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Beachy bibliophiles who want a little splash of sci-fi with their sun might want to give this classic thriller about a mysterious Connecticut suburb where all the wives lose their ambition entirely and transmogrify into creatures of pure servility. The Stepford Wives is a real page-turner for lazy days by the ocean or pool — even if you already knows the famous ending before cracking open the covers.

I wouldn't have thought of picking this one, but I like it!

4.The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Based partly on the gonzo journalist’s real experiences working in Puerto Rico, Hunter S. Thompson’s only published novel overflows with sordid stories of sex and scandal in a tropical setting — perfect beach reading, in other words. Mainly it revolves around the author’s fear of moving forward, both chronologically and professionally, as he launches into a new career in a new country with new people.

Read any Hunter S. Thompson--they are quite a trip on any vacation.

13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A much, much newer classic already showered with accolades and a few awards is one that science fiction fans might want to tote to the beach despite its heft simply because it’s just that delightful. Maneuver through nostalgic pop culture references as hero Wade Owen Watts launches his legendary quest to retrieve an Easter egg. The digital kind of Easter egg, of course.

Another great piece of science fiction ala Blade Runner meets Back to the Future.

15.Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Readers with an adoration of the adventure genre already have a perfect read for their sunny, sandy literary pleasure, one packed with pirates, booty, and exotic locales. Don’t be surprised if fantasies about uncovering rare gems and coins start seeping into a beach vacation, however!

Pirates of the Caribbean - meet the original. Oh, and this one you should have read long before high school.

Did you read any of these classics this summer?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Afghanistan: The Way It Was

I remember my mother wearing clothes like this when she went to the record store looking for 45s of her favorite songs. There were little booths where she would listen to records before buying them to play on our high fidelity record player at home. But this isn't a record store in downtown San Francisco, this is a record store in downtown Kabul in the 1960s.

CSUEB's former president Mohammad Qayoumi had this to say about the Kabul of his childhood
‘Given the images people see on TV, many conclude Afghanistan never made it out of the Middle Ages. But that is not the Afghanistan I remember. I grew up in Kabul in the 1950s and ’60s. Stirred by the fact that news portrayals of the country’s history didn’t mesh with my own memories, I wanted to discover the truth.

‘Remembering Afghanistan’s hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic. But it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable. I want to show Afghanistan’s youth of today how their parents and grandparents really lived.’
Here are a few more pictures of "old" Afghanistan.

Biology class at Kabul University.

Kabul University students changing classes. Enrollment doubled in four years.

Student nurses at Maternity Hospital, Kabul

This is the way Afghanistan was. Kabul University thrived, women attended school, and popular culture was not punishable by death. If you'd like to see more pictures of old Afghanistan check out Retronaut.

Do these pictures give you hope for the future of the middle east? Do you think people like President Qayoumi will see old Afghanistan again?

Friday, July 13, 2012

What Makes a Book a Classic?

Mark Twain once said, "A classic is a book which people praise and don't read." On the other hand Italo Calvino, a Nobel Prize nominated writer and journalist believes “'Your' classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it." In other words, it cancels out Twain's definition because a classic can't be "your" book if you don't read it.

Brain Pickings provides Calvino's 14 Definitions of What Makes a Classic:
1. The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: 'I'm rereading…', never 'I'm reading….'

2. The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

3. The classics are books which exercise a particular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual's or the collective unconscious.

4. A classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading.

5. A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.

6. A classic is a book which has never exhausted all it has to say to its readers.

7. The classics are those books which come to us bearing the aura of previous interpretations, and trailing behind them the traces they have left in the culture or cultures (or just in the languages and customs) through which they have passed.

8. A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular [think pulverize] cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off.

9. Classics are books which, the more we think we know them through hearsay, the more original, unexpected, and innovative we find them when we actually read them.

10. A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.

11.'Your' classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.

12. A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognize its place in the genealogy of classic works.

13. A classic is a work which relegates the noise of the present to a background hum, which at the same time the classics cannot exist without.

14. A classic is a work which persists as a background noise even when a present that is totally incompatible with it holds sway.
According to Calvino's rules, what are your classic texts? How did they move you? How does your classic text define you?

Monday, July 9, 2012

10 Best Viral Visual College Jokes

Sometimes school just has to make you laugh!

You know those pictures on the web, at places like, that have the Success Kid photo with a caption that says something like, "Day off in the middle of the week. TWO FRIDAYS!" Bachelors Degree Online collected The 10 Best Colleges Memes from this School Year and some of them are really funny.

Here's a couple of my favorites:

Lazy College Senior

I'm not sure I would just say this about seniors. C'mon it's funny! Considered the antithesis of College Freshman, Lazy College Senior drinks beer and deals with senioritis. Originally created in November 2011, this meme really took off with nearly 10,000 up votes prior to being archived. 10,000 votes! His parents must be so proud.

Having been a returning college student this one made me giggle:

Senior College Student

I have also seen this one as "Corrects History Professor. Remembers Being There." This meme features Nola Ochs, a Guinness World Record holder as the world's oldest graduate. Younger colleagues would do well to emulate Ochs' resoluteness as a Senior College Student. Remember, if college gets put aside for a semester or two, it's never too late to go back to school. I took one class a semester for an unmentionable amount of years, but I finally finished college. Don't get discouraged.

Do you like art? Do you like writing? Do you like working with computers? Somebody gets paid to do this. I'm not sure what major would qualify, perhaps multimedia or graphic arts.

These memes are yet another example of visual texts. It's summer. Take time to laugh--then get back to work.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beautiful Pictures of Unusual Words

Project Twins, a graphic design studio, created a visual study of obscure and endangered words. They use bold graphics and visual wit to interpret and represent a collection of strange, unusual and lost words. These are just a few examples, click on the link to see more.

After opening the Project Twins site I was instantly struck with tarantism as I viewed graphic words with a feeling of xenization making me scripturient, thus this blog post.

What do you think? Can you think of unusual words that could be instantly defined with pictures? Do graphics help you when defining a word?
A person whose hair has never been cut.

The practice of destroying, often ceremoniously, books or other written material and media.

Swaggering; empty boasting; blustering manner or behavior; ostentatious display.

A knockout punch, either verbal or physical.

Possessing a violent desire to write.

A disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to dance.

The act of traveling as a stranger.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Elmore Leonards' Rules for Writing

Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and the small screen's Justified, offers some advice to would-be writers and even though his advice is for budding novelists, a great writer is just a great writer. Take Elmore Leonard's advice when writing your college essays.

Some of Leonard’s suggestions appeared in a 2001 New York Times article that became the basis of his 2007 book, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. Here are the basics:

1. Never open a book with the weather. If you open an essay with the weather, it better be a paper for a meteorology class. In other words, don't begin with a "It was a dark and stormy night."

2. Avoid prologues. Hmmm, prologues are a wind up to the action. Think of a prologue as your introduction. While an introduction is important you don't want to give too much away (or bore your readers with information that is common knowledge). Tell you reader what your paper is about and then get to it.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue--if you use dialogue. On the other hand letting signal phrases do the work for you when quoting a text is a good idea because they can convey so much information. For example, disagrees and condemns are stronger than said, but when you are writing a dialogue you want the dialogue to convey disagreement or condemnation and "said" doesn't get in the way.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.” In other words, when you interview someone in a paper, don't use "angrily said"--convey anger with the dialogue.

5. Keep your exclamation points under control! PAHlease!!!!! If it's important an exclamation point doesn't convince anyone, your argument does.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.” Why and how did something happen? Show your readers, let them feel it.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. It slows down your reader and gets annoying quick. That's why you need to write with standard English. If your professor is trying to wade through your "pop" dialect--well, don't expect an A.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. If you are interviewing someone, or using personal experience--get on with it.

9. Same for places and things. If you are writing a travelogue that's one thing. If you are writing about a treasured object than you will be writing an extended description. If you are writing an argument essay about litter, keep your descriptions succinct to keep your reader moving along and engaged.

10. Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.
Think about what you skip as a reader and then avoid writing those parts.

Good writing is just good writing wherever it is found, from a novel to a memo or an email, respect your audience (and yourself) by making all your writing count. Can you think of other techniques that novelists use that you could adopt and adapt in your academic writing?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Income-Based Student Loan Repayment Plan

Many college graduates face crushing student loan debt and discover, after they have landed their first out-of-college job, that starting wages don't begin to cover all of their expenses. American students owe over $1 trillion (yes, that's with a T) in student loans.

According to the New York Times:
For all [student] borrowers, the average debt in 2011 was $23,300, with 10 percent owing more than $54,000 and 3 percent more than $100,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports. Average debt for bachelor degree graduates who took out loans ranges from under $10,000 at elite schools like Princeton and Williams College, which have plenty of wealthy students and enormous endowments, to nearly $50,000 at some private colleges with less affluent students and less financial aid.
Some parents who co-signed student loans, many now totaling over $100,000, have started taking out life insurance policies on their new graduates.

But if you took out federal student loans, there may be some relief.

The Federal Government has a plan that allows college graduates to repay their FEDERAL student loans based on income.

Here's how to qualify for Income Based Repayment (IBR):

ELIGIBLE LOANS - PLUS and Consolidation loans, made under either the Direct Loan or FFEL Program are some of the eligible loans that quality for IBR.

INCOME QUALIFICATION - You may enter IBR if your federal student loan debt is high relative to your income and family size.

There are some huge benefits to the IBR plan:

PAY AS YOU EARN — Under IBR, your monthly payment amount will be less than the amount you would be required to pay under a 10-year standard repayment plan, and may be less than under other repayment plans.

INTEREST PAYMENT BENEFIT — If your monthly IBR payment amount does not cover the interest that accrues on your loans each month, the government will pay your unpaid accrued interest on your Subsidized Stafford Loans (either Direct Loan or FFEL) for up to three consecutive years from the date you began repaying your loans under IBR.

25-YEAR CANCELLATION — If you repay under the IBR plan for 25 years and meet certain other requirements, any remaining balance will be canceled.

10-YEAR PUBLIC SERVICE LOAN FORGIVENESS — If you work in public service, on-time, full monthly payments you make under IBR (or certain other repayment plans) while employed full-time in a public service job will count toward the 120 monthly payments that are required to receive loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Click here to learn more about the Federal IBR Plan.

Have you taken out student loans? If so, do you have a plan to pay them back?