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Eloquent Roundup, Week 2

Books I'm currently reading:

  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • Armageddon by Leon Uris

Books recently added to my reading list:

  • Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology by Michelle D. Miller

Articles and Commentary

This week, I read a chapter from my wife's linguistics textbook. I visited a galaxy far, far away with Vanity Fair. I visited a (former) planet within our galaxy that is making a comeback. I found yet another practice that put the US in line with other underdeveloped countries around the world. And the state of Wisconsin has decided that poor people should eat better. I read a lot of other things I decided not to link to this time around.1

In the attempt to assist my wife with her linguistics homework, I helped her read through a particularly challenging chapter of Essential Linguistics, Second Edition: What Teachers Need to Know to Teach ESL, Reading, Spelling, and Grammar, entitled "English Syntax". A lot of the concepts were conceptualized using the notion of Hybrid Trees. The most interesting message in this chapter, however, is the sentiment that teaching grammar does not in fact assist in teaching speech and writing, something that should be known, but is obviously disregarded when discussing the pedagogy of the language arts classroom; for reference, the book states that such pedagogies have been in use for centuries and are often followed blindly because they are established and relatively simple to teach in concept. I have to say the chapter was a fascinating exploration of sentence structures in the English language from the perspective of linguists, as much as such a subject can be riveting to somone who is not being forced to read it for coursework.

I originally read the Vanity Fair article, An Empire Reboots, in print. Because it is such a new article, I can only link to the photos from the article, as an online copy is not yet available. However, I will say that I am more excited about the movie having read this exposé. Brucer Handy quoting director J.J. Abrams in the article:

"I know that there are many people who love and in some cases even prefer the prequels, and I know why they were necessary for George. But there was a feeling I had not had since the original trilogy that was so familiar to me and still very possible to tap into—the sense of being transported to some other place where anything was possible but that was specific to Star Wars in aesthetic, in history, in design, sound design, music."

I really hope the feeling I had not had was a subconcious nod by the director to the feeling Darth Vader had at the presence of Obi Wan on the death star.

UPDATE: Full text link --> The Daring Genesis of J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We are visiting Pluto because the mission was launched prior to Pluto's demotion from planet status; still, some of the things we will learn from the Pluto flyby are still astoundingly relevant even though it has otherwise been dropped from the public consciousness. From Washington University in St. Louis:

The last such “first encounter” with a planet was in 1989, when Voyager 2 took a look at Neptune on its way out of the solar system. Half the people in the United States are too young to remember that flyby.

-Diana Lutz, "Coming soon: First encounter with a new class of worlds​", Washington University in St. Louis

The verdict delivered in Boston last Friday sent me down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia entries regarding (don't-call-it-an-execution) capital punishment. I have listed the links and have summed up a few observations below.

Wikipedia is not always where I get my information of this magnitude, but it was the easiest route to research such touchy subjects. Key takeaways are listed below:

  • The United States is among only eighteen percent of countries in the world that have not moved to abolished the death penalty in some way.
    • We are on a short list that includes many countries that we vehemently stand against on most other subjects.
  • The UN has been lobbying for a moratorium on capitial punishment since 2007.
  • There are a growing number of state legislatures that have abolished the use of the death penalty; Wisconsin (since 1853), Illinois (since 2011), and Massachusetts (since 1984) are on that list.
    • There is an irony that the federal government's death sentencing was delivered in Massachusetts, a state that abolished the death penalty in 1984 by court ruling.

The Washington Post had an article that made the rounds this week that directly pertains to the state in which I live, "Wisconsin wants to discourage the poor from spending food stamps on junk food". Unfortunately, the proposal from Republican lawmakers is a little misguided, as it calls for a broad category of "junk foods" to be banned, while including grocery items they believe are not an effective use of the federal food stamp program, such as different types of shellfish. Given that I am a pescatarian, the proposal's statement that people "would have to spend two-thirds of their benefits on produce, beef, pork, poultry, potatoes, dairy products or food available under the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program" is rather ridiculous. Here is the saddest part of the entire article:

Wisconsin is just one of several states attempting to crack down on the use of government benefits for activities and purchases that are deemed “luxuries” or wasteful.

My initial reaction, in a word: disgraceful.

All in all, this week was a collection of fascinating, challenging, and infuriating reads that I am glad I am able to share out with the community.

  1. The articles in question were all in print and it was hard to find the time to capture my thoughts during the reading process and then translate them to a digital form after finding their digital counterparts. Expect these few missing entries to appear next week because they were really amazing articles!