Bic Pens

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I love pens. This affair began when I was a child; my dad worked in the post office and brought home many promotional pens from the local businesses. Many were generic cheap pens but some companies distributed better pens like those made by Schaeffer.

However, the Bic pen is the one pen that has stayed with me from my school days to my work days. The classic Bic Crystal was a staple of every student. The Bic Stic is very popular both in offices and as a promotional pen. I love them.

Through the years, I have flirted with Parker pens, Cross pens, Esterbrook, PaperMate, fountain pens, and so on. However, there is something special about the Bic, whether it be the traditional Bic Stic or it’s many brother and sister pens. They are inexpensive but write well.

For other Bic aficionados, Bic has a Facebook page, a family-oriented, educational website, and Wikipedia has an interesting article about the Bic Crystal pen that was ubiquitous throughout my childhood.

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An Unexpected Visitor

Enjoy a short children’s story I write a few years ago. I’m working on a sequel for the holidays. Click here to read.

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Online Reading

I’m reading an 800+ page book on my Sony eReader. The experience is enjoyable. The text on the Amazon Kindle appears to be clearer (as I glance at those reading the Kindle on the subway.) I’ve also been reading a lot online. I find the eReader (whether it be a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) to be more enjoyable. Not being connected to the Internet removes distractions and there are no annoying hyperlinks. When I am reading a book or long article, I just want to flip to the next page. That is why I hate reading newspapers online. PDF versions of newspapers are more preferable or set up the online paper so the complete story can be read before flipping to the next one. I also feel comfortable with black and white eBooks. Then again, I prefer black and white photography over color.

One exception to my preferences is the Flipboard app for the iPad. It presents your Facebook friends’ links and your Twitter subscriptions in magazine format. It is a great way to read this content. With Flipboard, I actually read all the tweets that I subscribe to.

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Typeface Soundtracks

Soundtracks add suspense to movies. The low trembling strings of the double basses and cellos tell the audience that trouble looms ahead. The romantic, swirling strings enhances a love story. And what would Casablanca be like without As Time Goes By. Music and sound effects are another form of dialog that helps tell the story.

How does an author or a publisher create an emotional soundtrack? The author has the endless variety of language. The publisher? Typefaces. There are many typefaces that can change or enhance the tone of a story. There is more to typefaces than the ubiquitous Arial and New Times Roman that we see in Word documents.

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Every typeface has it’s own personality. Imagine reading Dracula that uses a Blackface typeface.

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A story that is told from the perspective of an adult and a child could use a standard typeface for the adult perspective for example, Georgia.

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The child’s perspective could be told using a typeface such as Treehouse.

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eBook apps such as the Kobo and Nook allow you to change both the typeface and its size. Both offer a limited selection based upon readability. This is understandable. The Kobo iPad app offers Georgia, Baskerville, Trebuchet and Verdana. The Nook offers a slightly larger selection: Georgia, Joanna, Times New Roman, Ascenders Sans, Gil Sans, and Trebuchet MS. Click here to see samples of these typefaces. However, since the reader has the ability to select his or her preferred typeface, it would be nice to have a more varied selection.

Handwriting, hand print, and calligraphy can also act as a soundtrack to a story. The LiveScribe pen captures handwriting, print, sketches, whatever pen marks are placed on paper. One could also scan handwritten documents. While my handwriting is atrocious, many people have beautiful handwriting or calligraphic skills. Would people read a handwritten PDF? Comic boos, Manga, and graphic novels use this technique.

Obviously, the key is legibility. There are many ways to express a story. Technology offers many choices. Let’s explore all of them.

All images in this post are from Wikipedia.

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Social Reading

I’ve been playing with the Kobo ebook app for the iPad. I also have the Nook app, the Kindle app, and Apple’s iBook app. How are they the same? How are they different? Are the reading experiences the same? I’m exploring these questions. This post talks about social reading and the Kobo.

I downloaded the Kobo app after reading an article about it’s social reading capabilities – sharing what you read with others, Facebooking and tweeting your thoughts about a page of a book or a chapter, and so on. Initially, I thought this might be another use of updating your status with info that is important to you but that most people really don’t care about. Then, I thought that this might be the Internet version of a global book club.

The Kobo app came with a free version of Dracula and a few other books. It’s a good story, I like the diary format, and it is a popular enough book that I thought even the casual reader would find interest in my updates.

My first post resulted from the Places functionality. Simply, when the story talks about a country, city, or other place, you can use the Places functionality to post that you just visited Transylvania reading Dracula on the Kobo. The feature that I enjoy most is the ability to select a section of text and tweet it. It can be an interesting description, a funny passage, etc.

Are people responding to my posts? Yes and no. Nobody has commented about my posts but new people are following me on Twitter.

What is the value of social reading? There are educational values. Students can share comments about a book. More importantly, with planning, two classes, maybe one in England and one in Boston can read the same book. Sharing comments from two different cultures can bring valuable perspectives about a book and it’s contents. Different cultural perspectives about a historical book, a book about a current event, a philosophical book, religious book, etc. can become an exciting learning experience.

eBooks and social networking open many possibilities. It is just a matter of how you use them.

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Writing and Music

Lately, I’ve been think a lot about music. I’ve also been thinking a lot about writing; I’m teaching students the writing section of the TOEFL exam. Music can be a useful teaching tool for writing. For example, sometimes students have to write a compare and contrast essay, for example, compare and contrast the food in your country with the food in the United States. There are many ways to teach how to write a compare and contrast essay. One way to illustrate compare and contrast is to play two versions of the same song. For example, play a symphonic arrangement of Hey Jude with the original or a jazz version.

Essays have a structure. The standard TOEFL essay is a 5-paragraph essay. The first paragraph states your opinion and introduces three reasons that you will use to prove your point of view. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs develop each of the three supporting reasons. The fifth paragraph provides a conclusion. This structure may relate to musical composition. The first paragraph is analogous to the initial melody. The following three paragraphs are analogous to the development and variations of the melody. The key and harmony may change or other embellishments may be added. The final paragraph is analogous to a replaying of the original melody with a bit of the previous variations.

Essays have rhythm. Each sentence has it’s own tempo. Word choice develops the rhythm. The author’s voice sets the timbre.

There are many other relationships between writing and music. This is of interest to me. Please share your thoughts and comments with me.

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I’m Having Soup For Breakfast

Teaching ESL teaches me many different things. You quickly learn that the world you see and know is colored by your culture’s norms. Food is a perfect example. What people eat and when they eat it varies from culture to culture.

“What do you eat for breakfast?” is a common question I ask my students. I receive a variety of answers. For example, my Korean and Japanese students have rice and soup for breakfast. Soup! To my European students and to myself, soup seems like an odd choice for a breakfast food. But why not? People can eat just about any food at any time. Our bodies don’t know the difference. However, our perceptions and taught attitudes do.

Personally, a bowl of tomato soup or miso soup seems more appareling than a donut. I might try having soup for breakfast. I won’t give up my morning coffee. However, eating different foods and eating them at different times might just lead me to a healthier diet.

Anyone for some breakfast soup?

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