Wednesday Wrap-Up

This past weekend I was too excited to do a Saturday Morning Coffee. Let’s talk now, instead.

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Things My Students Say: Moon

You never know what they’ll say! Continue reading “Things My Students Say: Moon”

Card-Carrying Doofus

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

– Bill Gates

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Monday Morning Grievance: Pluto v Planet 9

It’s Monday and I haven’t had my coffee.

Continue reading “Monday Morning Grievance: Pluto v Planet 9”

The Quotable Pratchett: The Color of Magic

 No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett and the publication of The Shepherd’s Crown, I embarked on an epic re-reading of all 41 official Discworld novels, with the goal of finishing by 31 December, 2016.

Famous for its wit and wisdom, the series offers countless quotable quotes on a variety of subjects. The quotes I share should not be considered the whole of Sir Terry’s excellent prose; indeed, there are the tasty appetizers to a succulent, nourishing meal.

About The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic Goodreads coverThis is the first published Discworld novel; it is also the first in the Rincewind Cycle – the series of books that follow the misadventures of the “WIZZARD” Rincewind.

In this novel, Pratchett introduces us to the workings of the Disc – its mechanics, metaphysics, morality, etc – through the eyes of the Disc’s first Tourist, Twoflower.

If you’ve seen the film The Color of Magic, this book contains the first half of the film [of course there’s more in the book than in the film; there always is] while The Light Fantastic relates the events from the second-half of the film.

The Goodreads Blurb:

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.

On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

And Now: On to the Quotes!

Discworld Librarian

The Librarian as he appears in The Discworld Companion, illustrated by Paul Kidby

Magic never dies. It merely fades away.

Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.

Being Ymor’s right-hand man was like being gently flogged to death with scented bootlaces.

Promotion in the Assassin’s Guild was by competitive examination, the Practical being the most – indeed, the only – part.

Let’s just say if complete and utter chaos were lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armor and shouting “All gods are bastards.”

Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant “idiot”.

You’re just as dead if you fall from forty feet as you are from four thousand fathoms, that’s what I say.

When one’s foot is stuck in the Grey Miasma of H’Rull it is much easier to step right in and sink rather than prolong the struggle.

Rincewind often suspected that there was something, somewhere, that was better than magic. He was usually disappointed.

Lightning is the spears hurled by the thunder giants when they fight. Established meteorological fact. You can’t harness it . . . and even if you could get a harness on it, how could you get it to pull a cart?

It was all very well going on about pure logic and how the universe was ruled by logic and the harmony of numbers, but the plain fact of the matter was that the disc was manifestly traversing space on the back of a giant turtle and the gods had a habit of going around to atheists’ houses and smashing their windows.

[Octarine] is said to be a sort of fluorescent greenish yellow purple.

A man who owned a needle made of octiron would never lose his way, since it always pointed to the Hub of the Discworld, being acutely sensitive to the Disc’s magical field; it would also miraculously darn his socks.

Everyone has gods. You just don’t think they’re gods.

The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork smiled, but with his mouth only.

I assure you the though never even crossed my mind, Lord.

Indeed? Then if I were you I’d sue my face for slander.

 . . .

Next: The Light Fantastic

The Complete List


An Historical Dilemma

Clio Muse
Sing, O Muse . . .

Every subject has its challenges, but history may be the most challenging of all.

There’s always more history. I can think of no other subject where this is true.

High school math – at least what I’ve seen of it – hasn’t changed much since I learned it 10+ years ago. Maybe the method has changed, but the ideas haven’t.

Science has made breakthroughs, clarifications, and corrections. This means that theories and hypotheses – and therefore formulas – have changed, but science generally doesn’t ask you to learn how things were done “in the old days.” At least, it doesn’t require you to have a practical, working knowledge of the old ways. Which is a shame, because once the technological apocalypse hits there will be no-one with the knowledge to rebuild society as we know it. Who needs time travel? It’s back the the Middle Ages (or Early Renaissance)! But that’s a different topic for a different time.

Melancholia I
And on your right, you’ll see the broken instruments of human knowledge . . . 

Melencolia I (Albrecht Dürer, 1514)

English hasn’t changed much, either. New authors may replace old ones, new words come into the vernacular and others fall out, and the way in which we communicate may vary, but English – as it is taught – remains largely unchanged from year to year.

History is not so – more is added to it every day and it all builds on what has happened before. For example, I cannot expect my students to understand the Arab-Israeli conflict without also understanding the origins of those particular people groups, the establishment of ancient Israel, the formation of Judaism and Islam, the Israeli diaspora under Roman rule, the re-creation of a modern Israeli state in 1948, and the various attempts (and failures) at co-existence since that time. How do you condense and revise to give an accurate overview without becoming swamped? Many teachers I know teach on themes or hit what they call “the highlights”. Some school districts have begun to expand the history requirements for graduation, making history a multi-year class (or multi-semester for those on block schedules). However, that doesn’t really solve that problem that . . .

And here is another point at which I disagree with the way in which you book presents . . .

Stuff You Missed in History Class
An excellent podcast for supplemental material!

Some history is going to be cut. How do we decide what to leave out? What to expand? What to assign for individual research? Granted, this may vary from state to state, from district to district, and from class to class, but Common Core (like it or not) will change that. Who’s to decide what is important and what’s not. Isn’t it all important? Once we’ve decided what to cut and what to leave in we’re left wondering . . .

How do we teach the “truth” of history? Like science, history cannot necessarily deal with “truth” (for a given value of “truth”). We can use primary sources and make assumptions, but even if we were to possess a time machine with which to view history our perceptions would be colored by our cultural prejudices and biases. Textbooks often present information in such a way to make it appear that history had to happen a certain way, that there is a linear cause-and-effect of events, and that there is a clear black and white morality of people and events. Seldom is that the case. Many times I end up providing my students with supplemental materials – primary sources when possible – so they can compare the claims of their book with other viewpoints and learn to base an opinion on logical application of all available facts. At least, that’s my goal. Success depends on the student. As the old saying goes, you only get out of an education what you are willing to put into it.

Revisionist History 1

Don’t get me wrong. I hope you haven’t thought I’ve been complaining all this time. I’m merely pointing out what history teachers go through all the time. We watch the news and read magazines because what happens today can quite literally change what we teach tomorrow. And you know what?


[a special shout-out to Phil, Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge for inspiring this post]

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