A Rumination Prompted by Today’s Observance

It seems a lot of holiday posts have fallen on Mondays this year. Some, of course, will do so as a matter of course, being fixed by law where I write as on that weekday; Memorial Day and Labor Day come to mind as examples. Others, such as today’s Halloween, will do so periodically as the calendar demands. And there are many for whom the association of a “horror”-themed holiday and a Monday makes sense, as if there were some greater intent at work.

Tamer than many…
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

There is not, of course; it is a coincidence that occurs at intervals, as noted. The idea of coincidence, though, is one that frightens many. That things happen together, results of the vagaries of human-made patterns, strikes some as impossible; for them, everything must be the deliberate action of some outside force, some sinister cabal that manages to conceal itself except to a select few who find themselves disregarded by the populace at large–unless that populace is, itself, somehow part of the cabal.

I have never understood the leaps of faith and hackneyed reasoning, the willingness to spin spurious structures from thin air to explain things. Perhaps it is only self-pity by others transmuted through some strange alchemy, brought about by bitter brews and dire distillations, that helps people not to feel so poorly about the state of the world in which they live, that things are as they are because they are made to be so by unseen powers whose shapes they glimpse in the shadows, and not because many, including them, are complacent about how matters unfold around them.

If someone else did it, it isn’t your fault, and if it isn’t your fault, you aren’t the one to fix it, right?

Except that it is not that way.

It is the case that the structures in which we exist predate us, shaping us as we begin to exist and in ways not necessarily evident to us at any time. And it is the case that there are those privileged by those structures in ways others are not, some of them consciously and abusively so. But I feel…compelled to try to make things better, however small my efforts may be. On a small scale, I usually do so. Not always, certainly, but more often than not? Maybe.

I hope so, anyway.

And I try.

Like the writing that I do? Get in touch; I can do some for you!

Or maybe you could send a treat my way?

Still Another Assessment Practice

In the past couple of weeks, I have provided examples (here and here) of the work I have done to draft assessment materials, pulling from what I produced to help a private client learn how to navigate the standardized tests that have marked so much schooling over the past decades. (Yes, decades. I’ve lived them.) I know there’s still a lot of call for this kind of thing, so I offer yet another example below.

The example below comes out to 91 words at a ninth-grade reading level. The usual adaptations to suit the medium apply.

Read the following passage and use the information in it to identify the most accurate answer to each of the questions below.

1Peppermint has a eupeptic effect. 2As such, it helps with upset stomachs and poor digestion. 3Also, peppermint has an analgesic effect. 4This is shown by its ability to ease headaches and reduce pain from various abdominal issues. 5Additionally, peppermint has an expectorant effect, meaning that it aids in loosening phlegm and mucus (stuff in congested lungs and stuffy noses) so that they can be gotten out of the body. 6And peppermint has antibacterial and antiviral qualities, as well. 7All of these are in addition to the flavor, which many people enjoy.

In sentence 1, “eupeptic” is which part of speech?
A. Adjective.
B. Adverb.
C. Noun.
D. Verb.

In sentence 1, “eupeptic” means
A. Fancy-teasing.
B. Palate-pleasing.
C. Stomach-easing.
D. None of the above.

What kind of context clue does sentence 2 provide for the meaning of “eupeptic?”
A. Antonym.
B. Example.
C. Synonym.
D. None of the above.

In sentence 5, “expectorant” is what part of speech?
A. Adjective.
B. Adverb.
C. Noun.
D. Verb.

In sentence 5, “expectorant” means
A. Hitting.
B. Quitting.
C. Spitting.
D. None of the above.

What kind of context clue does sentence 5 provide for the meaning of “expectorant?”
A. Antonym.
B. Example.
C. Synonym.
D. None of the above.

An inference to be taken from the paragraph is that
A. All of these are in addition to the flavor, which many people enjoy.
B. Peppermint has a eupeptic effect.
C. Peppermint has a negative effect.
D. Peppermint has a number of uses.

Answers: 1, A; 2, C; 3, B; 4, A; 5, C; 6, C; 7, D.

As previously, I am happy to draft more of these to suit people’s needs. If you have such a need–or if you need something else written to order–let me know below, and we’ll talk about how I can meet it for you!

Or you could simply send some money my way…

One Day

I will have time to read again
Turning pages at my pleasure and for it instead of
Racing through reams to write tests I know
Strip the joy from where I have found it
For others
For me

Not that I’d wear shorts, mind…
Photo by Vlad Cheu021ban on Pexels.com

I will have time to write again
Pick up a pen and fill out pages
Such as I used to do
And not only short bursts of verse or reading reviews
But things I ought to have been writing long since
That others might want someday to read
Or crapped-out copy for a few coins
(Though I appreciate the pay)

I will be able to be a part of things
As I have not before been
Except on occasion
And those the better days of my life
Now past
But perhaps to be reclaimed again
Or claimed since
They have so seldom been

Like the writing that I do? Reach out and see what I can do for you!

Or simply send your support along!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 335: Dragon Haven, Chapter 3

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

After another component of an exchange among bird-keepers, “First Kill” turns to the occurrence of an earthquake on the Rain Wild River as the dragons, their keepers, and the Tarman proceed upstream. Thymara considers the experience, and she notes changes among the dragons as they continue in the wake of the event, their order of travel described.

Matters are uneasy in the evening, Greft lashing out after his earlier embarrassment and Jerd joining him shortly after he stalks off into the night. Thymara funds herself musing on possibilities and the development of customs and social mores. Potentials captivate her, and she resolves not to act upon them without deliberation.

The next morning, Thymara wakes and considers her situation and that of her colleagues. Tending to her morning ablutions, she confers with Sintara and reflects upon what she has seen and understood. As she seeks food, Alise comes upon her, and the two confer, Alise admitting to doubts and asking Thymara to teach her rudimentary woodcraft. She also notes having stumbled upon Greft and Jerd’s intimacy, and abruptly shifts the topic back to fishing. Alise tries her hand at the task successfully, and the two talk of the dragons as they continue to fish.

Alise stumbles onto larger prey and subdues it while Thymara and others struggle to make the kill. Thymara is struck by Sintara’s wing and knocked into the river, from which Mercor retrieves her. She is tended, and she realizes Sintara’s total disdain for her, excusing herself quietly from the gathered dragons and keepers. Alise tracks her departure with sadness, and she listens as Mercor discusses the fish that she and Thymara secured.

After, Leftrin and Alise confer, the captain comforting the passenger. He also ensures that she has what she needs to sluice the acidic river water from herself. Sintara, for her part, stalks away and muses on human foolishness and whether or not she ought to make Thymara into an Elderling. The mental communion between the two irritates Sintara, and neither finds the other in high regard.

I appreciate that the present chapter does more to lay out the relationship between dragons and their keepers–nascent Elderlings. The contrasts among dragons’ attitudes are also worth attention, Mercor’s treatment of the keepers standing in sharp relief to Sintara’s frankly adolescent conduct. And Thymara’s rumination on the basis of social mores seems to be of a piece with the democratizing impulses at work in the later portions of the Liveship Traders novels (here and elsewhere). I note, though, that the Traders’ renegotiation of their position with respect to Jamaillia seems more an attempt by the privileged to retain their privilege than the dragon keepers’ contemplations of establishing their own heritage after having been outcasts from their own families. Power dynamics are decidedly different, and I’m sure there’s some historical parallel that escapes me as I write this. (That it does is my problem and not that of the parallel that I cannot bring to mind at the moment; that I am not informed about a thing does not mean that said thing in unworthy, despite the protestations of too many to that idea.)

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

Another from the Archives: More Assessment Practice

Last week, I noted having done some assessment-practice work with a (fortunate) client who had lived outside the testing culture prevalent in the United States and was in need of adaptation to it. (See here for details.) The example I gave then isn’t the only one I have handy, fortunately, and since it seemed to go over relatively well, I figured I’d give another.

Accordingly, below, I give another of the exercises I put to that most fortunate client. The passage runs approximately 190 words and tests out at a ninth-grade reading level. As before, it is adapted only lightly to suit the medium. The original was printed on letter-sized paper in grayscale, and working with a physical sheet is quite a bit different than working online, as all too many Texan students are finding out…

Read the passage below. For each of the questions that follow, select the correct or most accurate answer.

1The tabletop role-playing game can be defined as extemporaneous, collaborative, rules-assisted storytelling. 2What this means, in essence, is that a group of people get together to tell a story using a set of rules, making up what happens on the spot from the germ of a prepared idea that one of the people brings to the gathering. 3This is different from the online role-playing experience, in which players are confronted with computer-generated enemies to fight and puzzles to solve. 4Online role-playing games focus on combat, and because of the necessary limits of programming language and the finite capacity of computers, there is not much flexibility in the nature of the story. 5Certainly, players can choose different paths for their characters, but those choices are as narrowly defined as menus at fast-food restaurants. 6Tabletop role-playing games, however, are as flexible as the minds of the players, and can respond to more stimuli in more ways. 7Tabletop gamers can think of options that no others in the group would have considered, thereby taking the story in new directions. 8This has the effect of making tabletop gaming a richer, more immersive play experience.

In sentence 1, “extemporaneous” is which part of speech?
A. Adjective
B. Adverb
C. Noun
D. Verb

In sentence 1, “extemporaneous” means
A. Made in the moment
B. Made in the night
C. Made of former spouses
D. Made of holes

In sentence 3, “This” refers to
A. A group of people
B. Online gaming
C. A set of rules
D. Tabletop gaming

In sentence 4, “finite” means
A. With a beginning
B. With an end
C. Both A and B
D. None of the above

Sentence 5 offers an example of
A. Analogy
B. Conceit
C. Metaphor
D. Simile

In sentence 6, “however” serves to mark
A. Addition
B. Causation
C. Deviation
D. Negation

One inference that can be taken from the paragraph is that
A. Nobody should play games
B. Online games are better than tabletop games
C. Tabletop games are better than online games
D. None of the above

(Answers: 1, A; 2, A; 3, D; 4, C; 5, D; 6, C; 7, C.)

If you or someone you know might benefit from some additional practice with this kind of thing, or you’re in an instructional position and would like to outsource some assignment development, I’m happy to help. Just fill out the contact form below, and we can get started!

Or if you just want to send some support my way, that’ll be good, too!

Well, Well, Well

The bucket is falling again
Thin rope snapping as it speeds through hands that
Will not grasp it soon, fearing burns
The skin having been torn away before and
The flesh left raw and stinging because
Things must still be done even when
What should be protected is bared to the world

Things are looking up…
Photo by Filipe Delgado on Pexels.com

The peril lies in letting too much rope play out
The line following too closely and quickly
And passing swiftly thus past where it can be held
Falling into the water instead of helping to
Bring it back up and
Letting people drink

If you like the work I do, message me; I can do some for you!

Or you could always send some support so an artist doesn’t starve…

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 335: Dragon Haven, Chapter 2

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

Following another exchange between bird-keepers (and one of a gossipy sort), the second chapter, “Tricky Currents,” begins with Hest regarding Sedric harshly, berating him for his timidity and turning to another lover. It is a dream, however, and Sedric startles awake, considering his situation and the likelihood that what he has dreamt will come to pass.

Soon after, Alise calls on him, finding him still abed. She expresses concern about his continued convalescence, and he attempts to deflect her conversation. Alise offers to take him back downriver, which offer he refuses, citing concerns about incoming seasonal changes. Sedric notes the changes to Alise’s appearance occasioned by their upriver trip and considers that Hest may not take her back, and Alise leaves him to rest and recover. After, Sedric mulls over their situation further, rehearsing the political and economic entanglements that ensnare him and turning aside from them mentally to confer with the copper dragon, Relpda, whose blood he has tasted. The implications of his ability to do so are not lost upon him.

After leaving Sedric’s bedside, Alise repairs to the galley aboard the Tarman, considering the workings of the liveship around her and musing on her distaste for the hunter, Jess. She reports Sedric’s condition to Leftrin, and their conversation turns to the local geography. Challenges posed by what is known of the geography are discussed, and Jess interrupts with complaints about pay. Leftrin is provoked, and Jess makes an exit, leaving Alise confused.

Leftrin considers the implications of the outburst and his eagerness to retain Alise’s regard. He embraces Alise before being able to stop himself, though she seems eager for it, and he forces himself to separate from her. Taking his leave of her, he strides out on deck and confers with his ship before lapsing into thought and ruminating on his entanglements with Chalced, realizing that Jess is a Chalcedean agent. His manipulation of Greft receives attention, as do its implications. So do the implications of Leftrin’s choices regarding the Tarman and the liveship’s crew, and he confers with Swarge briefly among considerations of the same before turning to thoughts of murdering Jess.

The Tarman alerts Leftrin to an incoming earthquake, and Leftrin calls out orders to secure the craft against it. Alise, joining him, asks after the event, and Leftrin lays out likely effects with which they will have to contend, as well as how to address them. Their talk turns to the possibilities of their mission’s failure and Leftrin’s motives for taking it on. And Leftrin finds himself again considering life with Alise.

The present chapter is another expository one, spending a large portion of its pages rehearsing events from the previous novel in the series and laying out context of the milieu in which it takes place. So much is to the good, of course; one of the challenges faced by readers of novels in series is coming into the series after its beginning, and getting caught up takes some doing. (As someone who has gotten to read a lot of novels other than the first in a series, I understand this concern well.) A good recap is therefore quite desirable, and it’s good to have seen one in the present novel.

The present chapter also lays out more major conflicts to come. It has been a while since I read the present novel, I admit, so my memory of events within the pages is faded, but it seems to me Jess is not well placed to make it into the next novel, while Alise, Sedric, and Leftrin are. Whether or not I am remembering well or guessing correctly, though, will be seen as the rereading progresses.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

From the Archives: Assessment Practice

This webspace got its start in large part as a place to host instructional and other materials–a sort of online portfolio, really, as well as a resource for the various kinds work that I was doing at the time. I don’t do quite the same variety of tasks anymore that I did then, clearly, but I do still keep a hand in on a fair number of things. I still put out some literary and similar research from time to time, in addition to maintaining one or two longer-term projects. And I do still work in instructional capacities, whether as a tutor or as a writer of instructional materials.

Yep, this is what I’m talking about.
Photo by Andy Barbour on Pexels.com

The thing is, a lot of the instructional materials I’ve written have been contract work, sold to others and therefore not really something I can post as evidence or examples of my work. Fortunately, I do have some tutoring materials I developed for a client a few years back who was working to adapt to testing culture after having lived outside it. (I envy the client that.) As with previous posts of this sort (such as this, this, and this), there is some light adaptation to the present medium from previous incarnations.

For each of the questions below, select the best or most accurate answer from among those provided.

For questions 1 through 8, read the following passage:

1A good academic office has to do a number of things to qualify as “good.”  2The most important of them is to facilitate the work an academic must do. 3People who teach at colleges and universities are expected to design assignments and to assess them. 4Doing both requires space and access to resources; an office that provides such begins to mark itself off as a good one. 5Additionally, designing and assessing assignments requires privacy, the former because of information security, the latter because of legal obligations; good academic offices tend to be held by individuals, so they are able to offer solitude. 6The work of an academic does not inhere in making and marking assignments alone, however; professors must do more to generate new knowledge than to disseminate it. 7Through its many features, a good office will conduce to that end, making it easier for academics to conduct research and to get it ready to share with the world, in the classroom and elsewhere.

In sentence 1, “academic” is which part of speech?
A. Adjective
B. Adverb
C. Noun
D. Verb

In sentence 2, “to facilitate” means
A. To make easy
B. To make hard
C. To make silly
D. To make up

In sentence 5, “solitude” means
A. Being alone
B. Being at work
C. Being awake
D. Being with people

In sentence 6, “an academic” is
A. A business owner
B. A college professor
C. A high school student
D. A stadium janitor

In sentence 7, the word “conduce” means
A. Follow after
B. Lead up
C. Pitch in
D. Strike out

The sentence that expresses the main idea of the paragraph is sentence
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4

A sentence beginning with an overt transitional device is
A. 2
B. 3
C. 4
D. 5

In sentence 6, “however” serves to mark
A. Addition
B. Causation
C. Deviation
D. Negation

(Answers: 1, A; 2, A; 3, A; 4, B; 5, B; 6, A; 7, D; 8, C.)

I know that a lot of people are concerned about navigating the kind of high-stakes testing that has become all too commonplace. I’m happy to draft practice materials and to work with people to learn how to address them well. If you’d like to avail yourself of such services, reach out via the contact form below!

If you’d simply like to send some support, that’d be appreciated, too!

Gotta Keep Going…

I have been having trouble writing for a while, now. I’ve been writing, of course, as the continued posts in this webspace attest, and as the writing I’ve done elsewhere also reports. After all, the forum-based RPGs in which I engage rely almost exclusively on writing, and I’ve been at work producing copy and drafting lesson plans to accompany popular books. Too, I’ve kept up tutoring, working with clients to refine their writing, and that has meant I’ve been writing to them and with them about that work. A lot of my day, each day, is spent in front of a computer, typing away, and I’m largely pleased by it.

That I’ve been doing the work, though, doesn’t mean it’s been easy to do the work. Millennial though I am, I am aware that work is not always going to be easy; I am aware that it should not always be easy. If it were, it’d be done by more people, and I’d lose what ability I have to make a living from it. (It’s not as much as might be thought; your help with that would be welcome!) Further, I am aware that a Millennial complaining about work being difficult is something of a cliché, both in itself and as a target for ridicule. (I would point out, however, as I have before, that we do not gainsay the laborer for complaints of sore muscles at the end of the day. Try to do what I do and see if you are not fatigued at the end of it.)

Drained as I might feel myself to be–and I do–I am working. I have to work. Bills need paying. Savings need laying-in, both for myself and for my daughter. And, at least as far as the reading and writing work goes, I continue to find it…amenable. I do get to use the skills I developed as an academic and across more than a decade now more than a decade gone, which is nice, and I do get to expand my own reading beyond what I would normally take in, which is also to my benefit. Too, there is clear appreciation for the work I do, not all of which comes in terms of payment even if a fair bit of it does. Were matters other than they are, I would do only this work. They are not, so I do other work, as well, but I have to keep going here.

I want to keep going here.

Maybe you can help me with that?

Maybe you have some writing you need reviewed or some copy you need crafted? Maybe you’ve got some questions about things, and I might well have the answer. Fill out the form below, and I’ll be happy to see what I can do to help you!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 334: Dragon Haven, Chapter 1

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

After more of the ongoing exchange among the bird-keepers of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds, the first chapter of Dragon Haven, “Poisoned,” begins with Alise watching Leftrin and conferring mentally with Sintara. Alise asks after the copper dragon, Relpda, and is informed by Mercor that she is beset by parasites and suffering; he maintains watch to ensure the integrity of dragons’ dealings. Alise allows herself to be led aside by Leftrin, considering her husband as she does, and the two confer briefly about their situation.

It’s an obvious connection…
Penny-Dragon’s Maulkin and Mercor on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Sedric considers his own situation as he confers with Carson, the latter commenting on the former’s seeming illness and moving to offer some aid. Sedric suffers aftereffects of having drunk dragon blood, and Carson quietly broaches the topic of same-sex liaisons with him, and Sedric finds himself unsettled and anxious about the hunter.

Thymara and Sylvie confer about their situation, Sylvie remarking on Greft’s willingness to set aside a number of the conventions under which the Rain Wilders had lived. Thymara finds herself considering the dragons, and Sintara approaches her with demands for care and attention. Thymara addresses the atrophy of her wings, provoking annoyance, and a parasite is discovered on the dragon. The discovery prompts examination of the other dragons, and more such parasites are found–and the wound inflicted on Relpda is also laid bare, along with several of the parasites. Efforts to purge Relpda of the beasts begin in earnest.

Thymara finds her regard for Alise shifting amid the work they do together, and she recalls her own work to rid Sintara of parasites. Sintara sends her after Greft and Jerd. As Thymara works to obey her dragon, she considers the compulsion to do so that has been laid upon her. She becomes aware of another presence in her mind and persuades it to leave her, after which she comes upon Greft and Jerd amid an assignation and a conversation about selling off parts of Relpda’s carcass to fund the foundation of their own society. Thymara considers the implications of what she sees and hears, and she flees when she is seen by the rutting pair.

Aboard the Tarman, Sedric continues to suffer from having tasted dragon blood.

Something comes to mind as I reread the chapter for this write-up: Dungeons & Dragons. That the primary example of RPGs would come up isn’t a surprise, especially given some of my recent posts (here and here), but what brings Dungeons & Dragons to mind, specifically, is the association of specific dragons’ behaviors to their phenotype. The gold dragon, Mercor, is presented as particularly wise and unusually considerate of humans, for example, while the sapphire Sintara is dismissive. Such depictions seem to line up with information about dragons presented in core rulebooks of various editions of Dungeons & Dragons. (That contemporaneous to the novel’s presumed composition would be either 3.5 or 4.)

The extent to which Hobb is or was familiar with Dungeons & Dragons is not known to me as of this writing; I’ve not done the work to look into it as yet, and it’s not certain I ever will. It may be that she was heavily involved in the game at various times; so much would account for the parallels. But even if she was not, given the amount of overlap between fantasy readership and the Dungeons & Dragons playerbase, the parallels suggest that the game has informed popular understandings. And that might well inform an interesting project to pursue.

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!