Kindness, Cookies, and Recent Reads

  • This was sent to me today: A heart-warming holiday sort of story out of Eugene, Oregon (famous for Prefontaine, Bowerman and Phil Knight, as well as Animal House and rain—oh, yes, and Ducks): the Random Acts of Kindness Club is booted out of the mall for being, well, kind.
  • My partner made a batch of Sybil Vane’s pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (you can get the recipe here) and they were delicious.  I highly recommend them!
  • Finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker article on teaching and “withitness”–the almost un-teachable quality of a good teacher (and frankly, a good communicator in general): “Most Likely To Succeed”.  Having worked as a mentor with and evaluator of new instructors for the last 15 years, I’ve always struggled to explain this concept to struggling teachers.  “Withitness” is simply the understanding that the students’ learning process is more important than the material itself.  I could live without the football analogy he starts and ends the essay with,  however.  I see this with my students, too: there are certain “triggers”–words or topics–that make some readers shut down before they even get to the meat of an essay (or book).  To me the triggers are sports and obscure political references, clearly because those are weak spots in my knowledge-base, and, as a result of my ignorance,  they simply bore me as topics of interest.  Now, give me a food, popular culture, shopping, literary or sexual allusion and I’m right with you.
  • I also just finished Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves a series of beautifully told, interconnected tales about a community with a painful past.  The link is to Michiko Kakutani’s thoughtful review of the novel.  The effect of reading the novel is incredibly powerful: as I read the novel, the connections between the characters were slowly revealed—and of course those graceful revelations (graceful because I only recognized them in retrospect)  just sucked me in and made for several sleepless nights as I had to keep reading.  This is definitely one of her best works in years.