Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Ready to Teach Science Writing Again

Just a year ago, I posted here about my new online class in Science Writing. Actually it went fairly well, I taught it on campus this fall, and am now updating everything for winter. That made me think of book reviewing, a new assignment that went well and which I will continue. And that started me looking for resources, which somehow sent me to Blogger, which I discovered is now owned by Google -- and the access to which I had lost when my old computer died. Luckily I remembered which email I had used with it, so I was able to get in again. Science in action!

I was telling my students about the bald eagles I see in the mornings, perched in the high bare branches of a locust tree (this is Linn, County, Oregon). Actually not that rare here. They eat lambs. After a long dry spell (which meant that our area was socked in under heavy fog), we are back to a more typical Oregon rain.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food and Art and maybe Science too

Thanks to my brother, the Smithsonian Magazine brings a fascinating variety of articles every month -- science, history, art, travel. Here's an article about the Renaissance artist Arcimboldo, a wonderful combination of Food and Art and one could say Science as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Science Writing - Communicating Science to the Public

Since I last posted, I have been inventing new courses to teach at Oregon State. This fall, I piloted Science Writing -- communicating science to the general public -- and am putting it online through E-Campus distance learning for winter. See the cool image by artist Santiago Uceda from Terra.

Why is Science Writing so important? Well, for me it's fascinating to learn more. Consider Robin Wall Kimmerer's Gathering Moss from our own OSU Press - It's an amazing group of essays that teach a great deal about the mostly overlooked mosses.

For scientists, learning how to explain what they know and do is crucial -- they need to learn to speak clearly. Consider Dean's Am I Making Myself Clear: A Scientist's Guide to Talking to the Public, Or Schulz's Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker and Scientist.

So scientists need to learn to communicate - as Randy Olson says Don't be Such a Scientist, learn how to communicate, not just to share cool ideas, but to help the world.

See Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. Then think of the climate change debate or the evolution debate.

So, part of my class is teaching science students to understand journalism and the rhetoric of the general public. The rest of the class is helping writing minors learn enough science to write an accurate and engaging article.

Stay posted!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rainy Sunday Looking at Paintings by Winston Churchill

My brother was talking about Winston Churchill's painting, so I did a quick search and was delighted to learn more. Apparently Churchill's paintings are not much sold outside Britain, which might explain why fewer people are aware of his strong talent. See article. Isn't this a great photo of him painting. When I retire - which of course will never actually happen, a writer always writes (not that you could tell that from the scarcity of posts here in the past year) - I shall paint more. Lovely boats. (photo by Bettman/Corbin)


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Polysyndeton and Parataxis

In a brief search to see if I could find a copy of Joan Didion's "Goodbye to all that" online (I didn't, at least not yet), Google offered me a reference to an article about Didion's essay: "Place and Polysyndeton in Didion's "Goodbye to All That"By ,which of course piqued my interest and which turns out not to be an article as far as I can tell so much as just an excerpt (but with links to other excerpts and the tantalizing topic of "participial phrases in Momaday" , and so I looked up polysyndeton itself and found not only a definition but more interestingly, some examples from Hemingway and others, and which, in the way that grammar and sentences have of going on and on, led to parataxis and some examples of parataxis in Steinbeck's piece on the American Dream (which I could use for WR 222 Argumentation and WR 323 Writing with Style), and interestingly, it would seem that both styles were popular in the 1930's to 1950's especially, and would be a natural for me, fond as I am of more. However, Noah Lukeman's book A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation seems not to mention either as far as I can tell and without an index - imagine, no index. So, anyone teaching WR 330 Grammar could have lots of fun with this. What got me to thinking of Didion was reading Zinsser's On Writing Well, in which he calls Richard Burton's sentence about rugby the longest he (Zinsser) had read, at 183 words, but that's nothing compared to the famous "when" sentence in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" at 302 words, built in a series of when clauses, or hypotaxis. Well, it's fun, isn't it.
Didion photo from http://grammar.about.com/od/shortpassagesforanalysis/a/Didiongoodbye.htm

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After months of neglect - a post on the death of Toulmin

It's just plain been too hectic to think long enough to put something worth reading up here - and thank goodness for Facebook - but today, with grades finished and the break ahead (not exactly a vacation, but working at home) I want to note the passing of British philosopher Stephen Toulmin, whose rhetorical schema I first learned about when I started teaching comp at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass. His claim-support-warrant structure has been widely accepted as a useful lens for understanding arguments in the public realm, though not without some controversy. Pairing his schema with stasis theory helps students think more critically. Prodding them to try to articulate the warrants and assumptions they make about their audiences is challenging. Thanks, Toulmin.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Maps as tools for thinking

In searching for something else, I found this interesting piece by Atlantic Monthly author James Fallows on maps (which I love - is there such a thing as a cartophile? the little red line under a misspelled word seems to say no) as information and design Fallows is looking at maps and map software tools for thinking. And while at first I was disappointed that the maps he was using were "just" maps of cognition - such as maps of debates and of arguments, to show the lines of thinking - quite fascinating, Fallows ended up with a city map of London which is partly meant to show that a map is easier to follow than written directions -- and yet, there is a skill and an art and a talent in reading cartography, which may be why Google is creating street scenes to supplement their maps.