Monsters of Men preview

Two of the best young adult novels I’ve ever read (and two of my favorites from last year’s reads) are Patrick Ness’ epic dystopian novels The Knife of Never Letting Go and its sequel The Ask and the Answer. These two books are the first two in the Chaos Walking trilogy, and the last book Monsters of Men was released in the UK this week. Mr. Ness posted the trailer for the book on his blog, and it’s really awesome:

The only problem is the book won’t be released in the US until September. I have to wait five more months to get my hands on an authentic US copy. I’m seriously considering eBay–I might be able to order a copy from the UK, for far more money than I would pay if I waited until September. It might be worth it, though…especially since I’ve seen this trailer.

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Newness

An update, of sorts. I realized that I haven’t updated my blog in 16 days. I don’t know that I’ve ever gone that long without blogging since I began a year and a half ago. My apologies.

I’m sitting in Coffee Underground. I never come here, but Laura asked me to join her, so I did. Coincidentally, Michele and Stephen called from Atlanta, asking me if I could potentially meet up with Kevin to give him a ride. He was at Coffee Underground. I have probably now fulfilled by CU quota for a year. Or not.

I’m typing on my new MacBook, and wow, there was no transition to that idea at all. Here’s how that event went down:

All afternoon/evening yesterday, I tried to open MS Word to begin drafting two essays that I will workshop on Thursday in class. Word would open long enough for me to type half of the MLA header before freezing. That’s no way to write an essay, I tell. I tried to repair the installation, and it gave me an error message, telling me I was not authorized to use it with my username. I uninstalled and reinstalled and got the same message. I tried to repair again. Nothing.

I called Dad. I was frustrating. Crying, even. I knew I wouldn’t have decent access to a computer until tonight, when I planned to head to NGU to work from there. Then, Dad says, “Why don’t you just go buy a new computer?” First of all, the fact that I live in a culture where it’s that easy kind of baffles me. Second, I had been considering buying a new computer with my refund anyway.

I went through all the options: I wanted a Mac, but I was hesitate because I know next to nothing about how computers operate. I had done little research, and I actually planned on purchasing one later in the summer. Instead, I grabbed my hoodie and headed out into the rain, frustrated at my ancient HP laptop and wondering if I was crazy for going to look at Macs.

Do you have any idea how popular Macs are? I honestly didn’t realize how extreme the cool factor is. At Best Buy, no one was looking at PCs or netbooks. But people were crowded around the Mac table, testing out the iPhone and iPad and MacBook. And it was obvious that none of them were serious shoppers. They were merely blinded by the glitter and, dare I say it, sexiness of the Mac.

Finally, space cleared, and I stepped up to the MacBook. I clicked around a little bit, but I’ve used Macs enough now that I’m familiar enough not to need the basic tutorial. What I wanted was someone to answer my serious questions: warranty info, compatibility of MS Office, that sort of thing. A Best Buy worker was standing at the end of the table, though, answering inane questions about his iPhone from people who had no intention of purchasing last night.

Then, a guy stepped up and asked, “Anything I can help you with?” And that’s when I met Jake, the super cute and helpful Best Buy salesman. He showed me really awesome features, things I didn’t even know about, and convinced me then and there to buy the new 13.3″ MacBook Pro with iWorks and the Advanced Geek Squad warranty plan.

Sadly, the MacBook Pro just came out with a new model, and though Best Buy had only sold a few of them, there were none left in stock. So I decided on the regular ole white MacBook, which is all I wanted anyway. And I walked out, called my dad, and said, “I now own a Macbook.”

I’m a convert. Of course. I love this machine. And I’m searching for reasons to visit Best Buy now. 🙂

A Signpost

As a teacher, this semester has been rough for me. I’m dealing with heavy absences, students who don’t turn in assignments, students talking or putting their heads on their desks in class, and other generally disrespectful attitudes. I’ve left class frustrated many days, wondering why I bother. It’s way too early in my career for me to already be questioning my choice. However, I guess it’s better that I realize now that just because I’m passionate about English and teaching gives me joy, being a teacher can very often be exhausting and despairing. Like so many other worthy avenues in life, I must take the good with the bad.

Some days, however, I get the validation I need to keep going…to keep grading poorly written papers, to keep lecturing even when no one seems to be paying attention, to keep pursuing the education I need to teach more classes.

Dr. Sepko had asked me at the beginning of the week to substitute for her advanced grammar class. After the first class yesterday morning was over, I was gathering my papers to head to the next grammar class. One of my students from last semester walked into the classroom; his next class was in the same room I had just finished teaching in. I greeted him and then walked out the door to the next classroom, and a few minutes later, I saw my former student standing at the door. I went out to talk to him, and the conversation went something like this:

Student: “So how many classes do you teach?”

Me: “Just the one–your class–1300.”

S: (crestfallen look) “Oh. That’s all?”

Me: “Yeah. I’m just substituting for advanced grammar today. But I only teaching the Fundamentals of Writing class.”

S: “Oh.” (walking away)

Me: “When I finish my Master’s, I’ll be able to teach more.”

S: “When will that be?”

Me: “Two more years.”

S: “Oh.” (walking away, disappointed)

Okay, so maybe you picked up on it, maybe you didn’t. He wanted to take more of my classes! He enjoyed my class and learned a lot! He misses my instruction! (I’m sure it’s all of that.) It definitely brightened my day. While most of my students this semester might not appreciate me at all, I’ve already influenced some students (for the better, it seems).

And another signpost: I substituted for 2 advanced grammar classes yesterday (which I’ve already mentioned). This entailed me passing out study guides and answering a lot of questions from students who are wading through an analysis of phrases and clauses. From all my years of tutoring for this class, I know that this section is the hardest for most students. Students who found nouns and adjectives to be difficult find dependent clauses and relative pronouns to be the stuff of nightmares. But when students call me over to their desks to check the work that they’re doing, and when they get excited that they found the relative clause and figured out that the clause is functioning as an adjective, it makes me excited to see that they’re learning. I’m delighted when they ask about my schedule in the writing center so they can come for more tutoring.

I want to keep doing this. I want to be wrapped in the world of academia forever. I want to analyze sentence structure and talk about symbolism in works of literature and figure out why writers use certain narrative structures. I love English. And I thank God for the days when He shows me that my passion and talents are intertwined, and He reveals to me that I’m on the right path.

Stuff Christians Like

Two weeks ago, the Stuff Christians Like book was released, and I tracked down a copy at Barnes & Noble. (They had to get it from the storeroom because they hadn’t even put it out on the shelf yet. I speculate that the reason for this is that the book wasn’t supposed to come out until later this month, but the online retailers decided to release it early.)

Anyway, I just finished the book, and it’s everything I hoped it would be. I’ve been following Jon Acuff’s blog for months now, and I love how he can take some tiny aspect of our Christian culture, mock it, and then bring God’s truth to the forefront (or sometimes just make fun of it because he can).

He breaks the entries up into topics: “My Bad,” during which he discusses the things Christians love to hate; “Prayer”; “Love On,” during which he discusses aspects of dating and marriages, for the most part; “Church”; “God”; “Witnessing”; “The Bible”; “Parents”; “Missional Postmodern Relevance,” which is hilarious in its commentary on all the cool stuff we Christians do; and “Saturday Night Cryfast,” full of serious, thought-provoking posts that were incredibly encouraging and wonderful.

Acuff is gently and lovingly sarcastic, which seems rather paradoxical, but his sarcasm is always amusing and intended to point out the fallacy of how ridiculous we act. As a Christian, I can appreciate the truth of his observations; we love our metrosexual worship leaders; we make casseroles for every disaster known to man; we give side hugs to everyone.

I also think that if I were not a Christian, I could read this book, see all the things that I hated Christianity for, and perhaps realize that if Christians can realize how ridiculous they are, maybe some of them aren’t so bad.

You should buy the book. Or read the blog. Or, during the month of April, download the free e-book. I’m listening to it now, and it’s even more delightful to listen to Acuff talk than it is to read his words.