November 19th, 2002

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Things that Fall

My wife awoke early this morning and went outside to hunt for Leonid meteorites. She didn't see any. When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I spent a fair bit of one holiday season driving between San Diego and inland Los Angeles. If I chanced to pass Disneyland at night, I often saw the plumes and bursts of fireworks exploding. I love that shower of incandescence. At Southern Arkansas University, the physics department had a planetarium made of paper milk cartons. The stars projected on that home-made screen seemed just as real as the ones in large planetarium with elaborate Geiss projectors from Germany. I love to see the stars move and evolve across the field of the sky, and to see the planets stand out for me, as if they were particularly special people. I sometimes take binoculars and scan the sky--here a star cluster, there the nebular M42, and there are 3 moons of Jupiter.

When I read my friends' list, I feel as thought I am watching a sky show. I see journals twinkle nobly. I see
the dense nebulae, which I can barely see, much less understand. I see some planets very close up, as if they were planted in my particular solar system, as if they were kindred to me. Other journals are charming distant galaxies. Once in a while, someone strikes me as a red dwarf. Another person might seem like a twin star, and the journal seems to change as the stars change position.

Sometimes a journal will go super-nova, and blaze incredible colors, which I can detect with my feeble sensors across the universe. A few journals pulse like pulsars. Many journals just stand there shining in mid-air, a source of constant interest. Once in a while, a journal will just wink out, and the friends' list name will have that curious line through it. Now and again, a star will disappear from view, but will still be placed in its firmament in the universe; I just lose the ability to see it.

I did not see any leonids last night. But I see meteors everyday. I see the dust and the bursts of light. My binoculars are low-powered French things I got on ebay.
But it sure is fun to use them to see the sky.
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one paragraph credo, pasted out of context

My theory is simple–we never learn the answers. The way out of the woods is literally by naming the trees. We will never learn who we are. We will never learn how things work.
To be more precise, no matter how much we learn, this will not solve our despair.
The only balm for our despair is the telling of it.
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Learning to Want to Read

My theory is that during childhood, we have two crucial sets of books in our lives. The first set is the set to which we are exposed when we are small--in my life that would be the Seuss books, and in particular Green Eggs and Ham. These books are entertainments, rather than true incitements to literacy.

But it's the second set of books about which I frame this post. My notion is that when one is just pre-literate, then one is exposed to a book or books that make one want to learn to read. In particular, one wants to learn to read so that one can read the books in question, rather than being merely a passive listener.

In my life, those books are the Hardy Boys mysteries. My mother used to read them to my brother and I when we were in the 5 to 6 year old age bracket. We could hardly wait to learn to read so that we could read them for ourselves. In fact, we did just that--learn to read and then began knocking off Hardy Boys (as well as Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, and, in my case, slightly later, even the old Frank Merriweather series).

I'm curious, though, what was the "second set" of books in each of your lives? What books made you want to learn to read? What books made you begin to think of books as less an entertainment to be read to you by an adult, than as a reason to learn to read in your own right?
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