Saturday, 30 September 2006

The Journey - Peter Kreeft

The Journey:
A Spiritual Roadmap for Modern Pilgrims
Peter Kreeft
IVP Press
ISBN 0830816828

This is a great little book. It is enjoyable, imaginative and delightful. It is an allegory in the style of Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan or Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis. It follows Peter Kreeft and Socrates on a journey out of the Cave and into conscious decision-making. They are in search of true knowledge and knowledge of truth - if we can know truth. Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College, a popular lecturer and author, and this is one of his best books.

This book is written around 10 dialogues with 12 historical figures: Epicurus, Protagoras, Diogenes, Gorgia, Democritus, Thrasymachus, Xenophanes, Pharmenides, Aristotle, Moses, Joshua and C.S. Lewis. Each of these men represent a school of thought, or a philosophy that has resurfaced again and again throughout history.

Through those 10 dialogues each answer a different question and each question leads to others. They are:

  1. Shall I question? Shall I go on this quest for truth at all?
  2. If I question, is there hope of answers, or should I be a skeptic? Is there objective truth?
  3. If there is any objective truth, is there objective truth about the meaning of life?
  4. If there is an objective truth about the meaning of life, is it that life is meaningless, “vanity of vanities”?
  5. If life has real meaning, is it spiritual and not merely material?
  6. If it is spiritual, is it moral? Is there a real right and wrong?
  7. If there is a real right and wrong, a real moral meaning, is it a religious meaning? Is there God?
  8. If there is a God, is God immanent (pantheism) or transcendent (deism), everywhere or nowhere?
  9. If God is both immanent and transcendent (theism, creationism), are the Jews (who first taught this idea of creation) his prophets, his mouthpiece to the world?
  10. If the Jews are God’s prophets, is Jesus the Messiah?

Each one of these choices is momentous and life changing. They will either lead you into relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or the rejection thereof. This book puts forward all the popular theories for why not to believe at each step along the way.

This is a great little book either to help you know why you believe what you believe or to lead you into a faith based relationship with God.

Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Journey
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell

Articles That Mention Kreeft:
Opus Dei
Opus Dei Part II
Catholic Catechism Dialogue blog
4 Resources

Friday, 29 September 2006

The Unaborted Socrates by: Peter Kreeft

The Unaborted Socrates
A Dramatic Debate on the Issues
Surrounding Abortion
Peter Kreeft
IVP
ISBN 0877848106

This is one of those books that will surprise you in many ways. It was not what I was expecting - of course I did not have the subtitle, only the main title at that time. I was expecting a book on philosophy from Peter Kreeft, a professor of Philosophy. But it was three debates on issues surrounding abortion lead by Socrates.

The format is three discussions led by Socorates with three groups of people. The first is with a Dr. Rex Herrod (King Herrod) held in a hospital in Athens in the present time. The second is again with Dr. Rex but also with his friend, a philosopher, Professor Atilla Tarian (Atilla the Hun) who is an ethicist, and it is held at a Philosophy convention. The final is in a Psychiatric ward with “Pop” Syke, (Pop Psychology) the psychologist.

Each debate is written as a mini morality play, like those of classical Greek plays. Each is written as a dialogue and written somewhat tongue in cheek, filled with puns and word plays.

This book was not an easy read, in that the material it deals with is very difficult and very controversial. It raises many questions that most people on both sides of the abortion debate probably do not think about. It is easy to read in that it was written in an easy style and flows nicely.

The main focus of all three debates is when does life begin, and who will speak for the most helpless, the unborn. This is a tough read but one that will not leave the reader unchanged.

Other Kreeft Reviews:
Socrates Meets Jesus
The Sea Within
Handbook of Christian Apologetics
Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics
The Journey
The Unaborted Socrates
The Best Things In Life
Between Heaven Hell

Articles That Mention Kreeft:
Opus Dei
Opus Dei Part II
Catholic Catechism Dialogue blog
4 Resources

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Megan Shore Profile

A Return to UW
New leadership in an old role at SJU

Dr. Megan Shore began her academic career here at the University of Waterloo, and this year she has returned to St. Jerome’s University (SJU) as staff, with a new leadership role. Dr. Shore is now the director of the St. Jerome’s Centre for Catholic Experience.

The Centre’s first lecture is this Friday, when Dr. William F. Ryan S.J. will be speaking on the topic of Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope at Siegfried Hall 7:30pm. Dr. Shore recently took some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions for Imprint about the SJU Centre, life, the universe and everything.

Megan you began your university career at UW completing your B.A. here before moving on to an M.A. at Dalhousie University and a Ph.D. at the University of Leeds. Is taking the role as Director of the St. Jerome's Centre for Catholic Experience a homecoming of sorts for you?

I guess you could call this a homecoming; however, I never really left St. Jerome’s. Although I have lived in many different places, I have remained connected to members of the St. Jerome’s faculty and staff and community.

What excites you most about this year’s lecture series and your role in bringing it to fruition?

I am excited about our topic “Catholic Social Teachings”. This is a great opportunity to discuss this “Best Kept Secret” and raise awareness of the social justice dimension of the Catholic tradition. Too often Catholicism is equated almost exclusively with sexuality. The reality is that the Catholic tradition has a long history of promoting just labour practices, a fair distribution of wealth, and sustainable development. These are some of the topics we want to highlight this year.

This being your freshman year as director is there anything you intend to do differently? Any big changes you see for the future of the series?

I don’t plan on changing things too much because the series is already so successful. Besides, with David Seljak stepping down as director and Michael Higgins moving to St. Thomas University, the public face of SJU is already undergoing a fairly major transformation. Former Director of the Centre, David Seljak, did a remarkable job making the lecture series one of the most respected in the country, so I will primarily be following his lead.

This year’s series seems to have fewer lectures then the past few years. Is there any specific reason for that change?

We usually try to have at least one lecture a month during the academic year. That is how I focused on setting up the program so there was no conscious decision to hold fewer lectures this year. Last year we had a few “extra” lectures, which were actually re-scheduled lectures from the previous years—weather and the health of a speaker or two a few years back meant we had to cancel one or two lectures. The number of lectures fluctuates each year.

All but one of the lectures have some type of corporate sponsorship. Are you actively seeking new partnerships for more lectures, and if so, with whom?

I wouldn’t say they have corporate sponsorship. All of our lectures have been endowed through generous gifts to St. Jerome’s. We have a tradition of highlighting these names in our programs and in the lecture to show our thanks. I’m not actively seeking new partnerships or endowments, but they are always welcome. Our development office, under the direction of Harry Froklage, is usually the point person on this.

Going back o your days as an undergraduate at UW, did you attend any of the lectures? If so did you have a favorite speaker or series?

Yes I attended events when I was a student. It would be hard to pick one favorite, but if I had to, I would say Sr. Helen Prejean in 1998. She is a passionate and engaging speaker. I admire her personal commitment to social justice that stems from her faith.

At many of the lectures in the past, undergraduate participation appears to be minimal - 15 to 25% of attendance. Do you have any plans on how to increase this student participation?

We realize students are busy and they typically see Friday nights as “down time”. Still, a number of lectures do attract the undergrad population. In the past, lectures by Helen Prejean, Joe Clark, and Romeo Dallaire, brought out large numbers of undergrads. This year I think undergrads will find the lectures by James Loney (the Canadian held hostage in Iraq in Nov-Dec 2005) and Adele Reinhartz (on religion and Hollywood…the CBC lecture) particularly exciting.

This year, as well as in past years, the Centre has had some very big names in lectures, such as Jean Vanier, Sr. Helen Prejean, Henri Nouwen, Joe Clark, Romeo Dallaire, Karen Armstrong, John L. Allen Jr. and many, many more. Are you specifically courting any for next year? Will any of these notary speakers be asked to return under your directorship?

We try to get a good blend of speakers who can speak to the political, social, and cultural issues facing Canadians today. Our purpose isn’t to advance just one viewpoint in the series, but to provide as many perspectives as possible. This is why we try to avoid over-exposing speakers.

Dr. Shore, with teaching at King's University College at University of Western Ontario in London this year, do you foresee any difficulties carrying out your duties as director of the program?

I have amazing support at both St. Jerome’s University and King’s University College. Most importantly, I have Carol Persin helping me at St. Jerome’s, so I don’t believe there should be any difficulties carrying out my duties.

From your new seat as director, is there anything you would like to share with the readers of Imprint, either about the Centre or your role there or even about yourself?

I’m honored to be heading up this lecture series. David Seljak and those associated with the lecture series over the years have set a very high standard. For example, our new partnership with CBC reflects the quality of lectures. Because we are now working with the Ideas program on CBC radio, all of Canada will be able to take part in a lecture series that has a tremendous local and regional reputation. Being a part of this kind of forward-looking lecture series is truly exciting.

What would you advise today’s undergraduates based upon your years and experience in academia?

Study what you love. If you have passion for what you are studying, it won’t seem like work!

Dr. Shore has shared with us some of the wisdom she has gleaned over the years. Part of that wisdom came from the lecture series at SJU. Some of us at Imprint look forward to this year’s series and where Dr. Shore will lead us in the future.

(First Published in Imprint as ‘Shore, a fresh return for STJ’ 2006-09-22)

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Weight by: Jeanette Winterson

Weight
Jeanette Winterson

Knopf Canada
October 2005


Now on to much weightier matters. Winterson takes a much different approach than Atwood. She tells this tale as herself telling her tale retelling a tale. Confusing? No not really. She begins with herself, tells the story of Heracles ad Atlas and then returns to her own life and lessons learnt.

Unlike the Penelopiad, this book Weight is very dark and brooding and leaves one with a feeling of unease as if we missed something, or even that in reading this book, like Pandora, we have opened a box and cannot now close it and will be forever different. Though we are not sure how.

How does Winterson accomplish this? In this deep brooding book she touches something primal inside. Much as Heracles is awoken and bothered by the question “Why? Why? Why?” this question arises and will not let him go.

So too, this book will awaken questions in your mind and your spirit, and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky, in this book we will find the questions to lift our weight. If we can learn from it to tell our story we can be freed, and step out from under the burden on our shoulders, as Atlas so desperately desired.

(First published in Imprint 2005-11-05 as ‘Myth Novels’)

Saturday, 16 September 2006

The Penelopiad by: Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad
Margaret Atwood
Knopf Canada
October 2005

I am not normally a fan of Margaret Atwood’s writings. I often find that she is too dark or has too much edge. Not that it is not good writing, and she is probably currently the most famous of the living Canadian authors, she just isn’t usually my thing. I cannot say that for this book.

The Penelopiad is a hilarious romp through a story that most of us know, but told outside of time. There is an old saying that “dead men don’t tell tales” and that may be true, but in this inventive retelling, a dead woman and her chorus of dead girls do just that.

Atwood has turned this myth on its head and told it from the female perspective. Unfortunately, our heroine is dead and in Hades, retelling her story from across the river Styx. She is telling her whole story but especially the events around Odysseus’ long absence during the war against Troy and that unfortunate event with her cousin Helen.

The story is written in the format of a Greek Tragedy but with the humor and temperament of a comedy. Our chorus is the twelve dead maids, hung strung together on a ship’s rope by Odysseus. They appear from time to time, in song, dance, or mock plays and trials to re-enact events from their lives to punctuate Penelope’s story.

The twists and turns in this story will make you laugh out loud. A friend of mine who read it stated, ‘It begs to be read aloud.’ And I could not agree more. Pick up the book, get some friends together and read it aloud, over an evening or two together. Much fun will be had with the ghosts of our 13 dead ladies.

(First published in Imprint 2005-11-05 as ‘Myth Novels’)

Friday, 15 September 2006

St. Jerome's Centre 2006 Lecture Series

Pssst. Want to know about Social Justice

Every year on campus there is a plethora of activities to partake of, some just for entertainment, some for learning and some for physical activity. This year is no different. Each of the four church colleges has different areas of expertise, both in the classroom and out. This year, The St. Jerome’s Center for Catholic Experience is hosting an exceptional range of speakers on the issues of Social Justice.

Yet that is not the only change taking place this year. The Center also has a new Director. Dr. Megan Shore is leading the charge in tackling these issues. Shore in a recent press release stated: “What is our best kept secret? No, it is not the Da Vinci code. It is our Catholic social teaching!” She cited a history of social justice teachings, going back to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (On the Condition of Labour). The church has a long distinguished history of Catholic Social Teaching or CSTthat address such issues as international development, racism, human rights abuses, sexism, poverty, global ecological issues and weapons of mass destruction.

The ‘Justice’ series this year will look at many of those issues through a contemporary Catholic lens. This series will comprise 8 lectures, and even a book launch. The lectures on CST will be from speakers near and far, from St. Jerome’s own David Seljak, former Director of the Centre, speaking on Ethnic Diversity and Christian Unity to Archbishop Weisgerber of Saskatoon speaking on Bridging the Gap: Reaching Beyond Our Social Difference.

Each of the nine speakers is an expert in their field bring years of experience and practical work to their lecture. These lectures are co-sponsored by many organizations and groups in our community and further abroad. CBC Radio One will be here in January to record Dr. Adele Reinhartz lecture on Jesus of Hollywood to air later as part of the CBC’s Ideas program.

Another sponsored lecture is The John Sweeney Lectures in Current Issues in Healthcare a lecture b Katherine Rouleau, MD speaking on HIV/AIDS from a Canadian Catholic Perspective Rouleau has served as advisor to Malawi and is a staff physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital at the University of Toronto. This lecture is sponsored annually by St. Mary’s General Hospital in Waterloo.

The first lecture is Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope by William F. Ryan S.J., PhD Friday September 22nd at 730pm in Sigfried Hall. Ryan will be speaking on how globalization affects economics, politics, ecology, culture and how CST interacts with this complicated issues especially as we move forward into the 21st century.

On a personal note, having attended many of these lectures over the past few yearsthey are worth the time and effort to attend. They are informative, encouraging and often challenging to one’s world views and preconceived notions about Catholicism.

So come across the creek from main campus and check out a lecture or two. Come and see where Dr. Shore is guiding the SJU Centre this year and into the future. The Complete listing of the lectures is available at www.sju.ca/centre/lectures.html .

(First Published in Imprint 2006-09-15 as ‘New activities to inspire and inform: St. Jerome’s commences lectures on racism, human rights, sexism, poverty, global ecological issues and weaponry.’)

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Out of the Silent Planet by: C.S. Lewis

Out of the Silent Planet
C.S. Lewis
Scribner Paperback
ISBN 0684823802

This is the first book in C.S. Lewis’s amazing Space Trilogy. These books are far less known than Lewis’s Narnia series or even his Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters, yet it is just as good as any of those writings and goes to show the versatility of Lewis as an author.

This first book begins with our hero, Dr. Ransom, out for a walking tour in the countryside, dressed in that shabby way for which professors are renowned. His foes are his former schoolmates Devine and Weston. These men believe they need a human sacrifice, and by capturing Ransom they have their victim, for they have made a spaceship and are taking Ransom to Malacandra the red planet.

Once on Mars, Ransom escapes his captors, meets many species, and finds out that on Mars there has been no ‘Fall’ and Ransom from Earth or the Silent Planet is a bit of an oddity. People from earth are considered to be ‘bent’ in nature, from the original sin of the fall.

Follow Ransom as he treks across a strange world, and must find the courage to risk it all to save not only an alien race, but also, possibly his own soul.

This is a first book in an amazing series. Try it - you won’t be disappointed.

Other Reviews of Lewis's Books.

A Grief Observed
The Four Loves
Out of the Silent Planet
Perelandra
That Hideous Strength
The Dark Tower and Other Stories

Monday, 11 September 2006

Perelandra by: C.S. Lewis

Perelandra
C.S. Lewis
Scribner Paperback
ISBN 0684823829

This is the second book in C.S. Lewis’s amazing Space Trilogy. This book was written as a sequel to the immensely popular Out of the Silent Planet but Lewis also wrote it so that the story can stand on its own. So if you haven’t read the first you can start here.

This book takes place some time after the first, but we are not sure how long. Ransom has received a summons to Venus, a planet that is just beginning its inhabited life. This planet’s ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ are on the planet and they must choose to obey God or to reject his law and face a ‘fall’ as has happened on earth.

Ransom must face his old foe Weston, and try to save a planet from great evil. Can he navigate this watery planet; can he negotiate the intricacies of human weakness, temptation and corruption? Can he conquer himself and help others to learn obedience?

This is a great creation story. Try it - you won’t be disappointed.

Other Reviews of Lewis's Books.

A Grief Observed
The Four Loves
Out of the Silent Planet
Perelandra
That Hideous Strength
The Dark Tower and Other Stories

Sunday, 10 September 2006

That Hideous Strength by: C.S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength
C.S. Lewis
Scribner Paperback
ISBN 0684823853

This is the third and final book in C.S. Lewis’s amazing Space Trilogy. This book was written as a sequel to the immensely popular Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra but Lewis also wrote it so that the story can stand on its own. So if you haven’t read the first, you can start here.

That Hideous Strength, unlike the first 2 books in this series, where Ransom leaves earth and fights evil in space and on other planets, the battle in this book takes place on earth.

Ransom must lead a group of faithful believers against National Institute for Coordinated Experiments or N.I.C.E., an organization that believes that Science can solve all of humanity’s problems. He must battle the people in this organization, super aliens trying to invade and control earth and use its population against other planets and against God.

On top of all of that, Merlin has arisen from his long sleep and has arisen in England’s time of greatest need. But the question is, who will find him first - N.I.C.E. or Ransom and his team? The fate of the world, and possibly the universe, rests on this question.

Lewis called this story an adult’s fairy-tale. It is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, and a book that will keep your attention as you raptly turn the pages to find out where Lewis will lead you.

Other Reviews of Lewis's Books.

A Grief Observed
The Four Loves
Out of the Silent Planet
Perelandra
That Hideous Strength
The Dark Tower and Other Stories

Saturday, 9 September 2006

Rosary Books

Reflections on the Mysteries of the Rosary
Mark G. Boyer
Liturgical Press
ISBN 0814630154

This is a great little book about the Rosary, and how to pray it. Having just been recently published, it provides some fresh insight and new Meditations for each of the twenty mysteries. This little book will be a valued addition to your collection of prayer books and books used for meditation.

Holy Rosary
St. Josemaria Escriva
Scepter
ISBN 1889334928

Though there are many editions of St. Josemaria Escriva’s meditations to accompany the rosary prayers, this edition is updated and has meditations for all 20 mysteries - the mysteries of light drawn from the saint’s writings on the passages. It also has beautiful woodcuts of each station that can be used for visual focus while meditation upon these scenes from the bible.

Mysteries of Light:
Meditations of the Mysteries of the Rosary
Pope John Paul II
Pauline Press
ISBN: 0953854043

This is a great little tool to help you pray and meditate upon the rosary. With Classic art prints from Helen Protopapadakis – Papaconstantinou. This book, from a man who was deeply devoted to Mary, and to the power of praying the rosary, wrote these heartfelt meditations that will help draw you closer to Jesus through reflection upon these biblical passages.

The Rosary
Liz Kelly
Loyola Press
ISBN 082942024X

This is a book I have loaned to a number of non-catholic friends to help them understand the Rosary and how it is used to deepen your faith. Everyone I have lent it to has come away with fresh insight and clearer vision. Kelly does an excellent job of showing the history of the rosary, and its purpose in our lives. Her chapters are:

  1. What is the Rosary
  2. The Rosary Then and Now
  3. Mary in Our Lives
  4. A Part into Prayer
  5. The Rosary as Meditation
  6. We Joyfully Adore: The Joyful Mysteries
  7. Hold the Lamp: The Luminous Mysteries
  8. Sorrow in the Mix: The Sorrowful Mysteries
  9. The Promise of Glory: The Glorious Mysteries
  10. A Place to Grow: Variations on the Rosary
This book is a great tool in your spiritual toolbox.

The Rosary
Gary Wills
Viking Press
ISBN 0670034495

Wills writes a great book that is good for both Catholics and non-Catholics. He writes in an enjoyable and engaging style and has a nice chapter going into depth on each of the 20 mysteries. I have loaned it to a few close friends, one from an Anglican Background and one Mennonite. Both enjoyed the book and found it very useful. A book cannot not receive more praise than that.

Pray The Rosary
Books 1-9
Martha Ortega
Word-Rosary Intercessors, Inc.

This is a great little series of booklets that I have been using for years. This collection is a series of scriptural rosarys’ with readings for each mystery and a verse between each 2 Hail Mary’s to Meditate upon. The books in the series are:
  1. Taste and see how good the Lord is.
  2. Worship the Lord.
  3. I will lay my burdens down.
  4. Be made whole.
  5. Seek His kingdom.
  6. There is Freedom.
  7. In His Presence.
  8. The Blessings will come.
  9. The luminous mysteries.
They are each $1.75 USD and can only be ordered by calling or a form in the back of them. The contact information is:
Word-Rosary Intercessors, Inc.
1330 Helmen Drive
South Bend, IN 46615
574-234-2028
They are more than worth the money you will pay for them.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Finding Balance in School and Life

Finding Balance
How to succeed at school and life.

Want to avoid the frosh 15, that legendary habit that first year students have of loosing 15% on their average and gaining 15lbs of weight? By learning how to be more balanced and deliberate in how you live, you might be able to avoid that curse of the 15.

Find your balance, between body, mind and spirit. University can be the time to learn how to do that. Don’t just spend all your time with your books. Learn to have a life, learn to live well. University should teach you how to be, and how to become good at being.

I once heard a talk where they said life was like a three-legged stool. A three-legged stool is actually the most stable of seating. In life the three legs are mind, body and spirit.

If you are on uneven ground, or rough terrain then this chair will hold you steady. A four-legged chair will often wobble on an uneven floor, yet this will provide stability. So as such you need to work to develop balance in the three realms of your life, the physical, spiritual and intellectual. For if one of these is suffering that leg is too sort or too long and topples the chair.

There are many ways to develop each are of your life while at UW. There are clubs galore that offer everything from the Aboriginal Students Association to the Waterloo Wargaming Society, and everything in between. http://www.feds.uwaterloo.ca/clubs/fullclubslisting.html Has nearly 120 clubs at UW listed. Clubs that will challenge you in any of the three area’s of your life. Also Campus recreation has a large group of associated clubs. http://www.athletics.uwaterloo.ca/CampusRec/Clubs/ClubsHome.aspx

Pick up a sport that you have always been interested in and give it a try fencing, curling or karate are but a few of the options offered there. Most of the campus rec. clubs have an additional cost, but usually much less than if you were to take up the same activity at a non-UW venue. Check out the events of clubs that are of a different religious or spiritual tradition the Jewish Students' Association, Hindu Students Association or Muslim Students' Association or one of the many different Christian clubs. Each of these clubs usually have events open to the public and people that want to understand their neighbor better.

Plan you week with breaks from the school for physical or spiritual or non-academic mental activity. The fencing club has classes for beginners Monday and Thursdays for 730pm-9pm. Most clubs have set times that they meet and options for beginners or someone just looking to check it out.

Take these years here at UW and expand your horizons. Learn a new skill or craft, archery or what ever piques your interest. Make the most of the opportunities presented to you at a much reduced or no cost to try something you might end up picking up for life. Or continue a tradition if you were euchre king or queen in high-school. Join the club and put your reign to the test.

By exploring the options and developing different area’s of your life, you will grow as a person and the effort will be worth it. Try it you may like it. As you experience new things and develop new habits you will help yourself to become a more balanced person.

A wise man once quipped “The one thing you can be absolutely sure of in your life is change. It's the only thing that never changes. The law of nature is that you either grow or you die; there's no in-between. So, what have you chosen so far? Are you growing in every area of your life? Hey, it’s not enough to be growing and looking great just because you work out. That’s only a small part of your life. What about your emotions, spiritual life, family, friends, career, hobbies? Are they growing as your body does? Become a complete person and not an in-shape and great-looking version of an incomplete person. There’s way more to life than just working out. Go with the flow and embrace changes in all areas of your life. The change will do you good.” When Robert Wolff wrote those words he was speaking of bodybuilding, yet here we can speak them of school and your academics. Make the most of your time at UW learn to grow in all area’s of your life.

There fore try something new, check out a club or too or a group at the recreation complex. Use them as tools to try and you stave off that notorious frosh-15 work on developing your whole person. And learn how to balance the tripod of your life.

(First Published in Imprint as ‘The three legs of the tripod’ 2006-09-01.)

Monday, 4 September 2006

The Undergrads: Who Are You?

Who are you? Who, who, who, who?
Who’s that person sitting beside you?

If you’re a frosh, or even if you have been here for a few years, it is difficult, sometimes, to tell whom that is beside you in class. In reality there are four types of undergraduate students here at the University of Waterloo. Recently I was asked in class, more than once, if I was a teaching assistant. Flattering as that is, in reality I am just a slightly older undergraduate.

That got me to thinking about the chorus of a well-known song: “Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”

In homage to The Who and their song, “Who Are You?”, made famous again by being the theme song to CSI, I must acknowledge that it is the catalyst that made me think about who that is sitting next to you in your class. In truth, the four types of undergraduates are first, the traditional undergraduate who went to university right from high school or maybe after a year’s travel; second is the part-time student who works and goes to school, or for some other reason cannot do school full-time; third is the mature student, a person who has returned to school after a time away either working, or whose schooling was interrupted for some other reason. And finally, there is the senior student. Like many other institutions of higher education, the UW offers the following: “Effective May 1, 1989, all students 65 years and over who register for degree credit courses receive a bursary equivalent to the cost of tuition.” They can also audit courses for free. Now sometimes these categories can overlap, such as a part-time mature student, or a full-time senior student.

I personally know two examples of this fourth category, both of whom take courses for different reasons. First is Lucien Guillaume who is 76 and takes at least one course a year, working in between his travels around the globe. He has taken nineteen courses since the fall of 1998, four for credit and fifteen as audit. Retired from Air Canada, Lucien takes courses for interest, for personal enjoyment and for personal enrichment. Lucien takes courses as a post-graduate and post-degree student because of his BA and MA from Concordia University in Sociology and Educational Technology respectively. The second is Dick Degraaf, in his early-60’s, a local counselor who enrolls in courses for professional development or for enjoyment. Dick takes courses when something specific piques his interest. Both of these men do this to continue their journey of lifelong learning.

As such, learning can be a lifelong adventure. It may be only just beginning for you now as an undergraduate. In this frosh issue of Imprint, I would challenge you not to judge others you see on campus. We all come from different places, different races and traditions, yet we are all part of One Waterloo. http://diversity.uwaterloo.ca/ is the website for the Diversity Campaign at UW. Its goals are stated here: “ONE WATERLOO is the ongoing University of Waterloo diversity awareness campaign, which puts emphasis on promoting awareness, acceptance and understanding of the various identifiable groups in the university as well as the uniqueness of each individual at Waterloo.” Last year they had posters around campus that stated:

“20,047 undergraduates
2,194 part-time
2,187 grad students
479 part-time graduates
818 faculty
2,008 staff

27,733 people
one waterloo”

Now back to the person who asked if I was a teaching assistant in class. The student asked me this, because whenever Peter Frick asked a question in class, if no one raised their hand he would turn to me and ask “Steven?” and I would give the answer. Dr. Frick did this because I had already taken four courses with him and he knew I would have done the readings. As a part-time student I do not always have the luxury of taking courses in specific order; my second term here I did a second and third year course, and this year I did two first year courses because they were what was offered when I could take a class.

Even though I have been in university since 1988 I have no desire to finish anytime soon.

So when you meet someone in class, or the Student Life Center, strike up a conversation. You never know whom you will meet and how that conversation might develop into a key networking contact, or just allow you to meet an interesting person, or someone who might become a great friend.

(First Published in Imprint as ‘The Undergrads: Your fellow classmates will come in all ages and levels of experience’ 2006-09-01.)

Sunday, 3 September 2006

Possibly the oldest active student at UW - Lucien Guillaume

An Atypical Student
Possibly the oldest active student at UW

Lucien Guillaume is atypical in many ways. At 76, he still takes courses every year, some for credit and some for fun. Lucien can be an example to us all of the goals of developing ourselves. He aspires to be learning and growing continuously. That is a role model for anyone.

Mr. Guillaume is no stranger to his 15 minutes of fame. This past spring, he was profiled on the cover of The Record April 29th, 2006, as ‘The Walker’. At that point, in 2 decades, he had walked 76,000 kilometers in 35 pairs of shoes. Mr. Guillaume likes to be organized and has a spreadsheet tracking his walks and the usage he receives from each pair of shoes.

That discipline and focus is also seen in his pursuit of academics. With two degrees from Concordia University, a BA in Sociology and an MA in Educational Technology, he has endeavored to continue his learning throughout his life. He has a long, illustrious career with Air Canada.

After retiring, Lucien and his wife Mary settled in Waterloo region. Mary is a local artist with the Color Wheel, a local group of artists. Mary’s artwork can be seen at: http://www.artofmarygee.com/. Then Lucien returned to school. Imprint caught up with Mr. Guillaume recently and here is what he had to say.

Lucien, what compels you to continue taking courses here at the University of Waterloo?
In a nutshell: “Inertia”, in line with Newton's First Law of Motion (Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight ahead, except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by external forces). It may be that I abhor a vacuum! When I was working for Air Canada I got used to a lot of traveling. And now, if I do not travel for some time, I feel I am missing something, although I must say that air travel is no longer the pleasant and exciting experience it used to be. Similarly with walking; after participating in numerous Audax walks during the last 20 years, I feel the need to keep on walking, even if I have to do it by myself and do not receive official tokens of recognition. I suppose it is the same with studying - no reason to stop doing it, especially when it gets easier all the time with features such as on-line registration, on-line payments, the Quest and Angel systems, and so on. But, to answer your question, I have to go back to 1998 when we moved to this region and I first registered with UW. The first reason is the acquisition of knowledge and of different points of view. The second is that it constitutes a challenge and provides a discipline. The third is that it happens in a most congenial environment giving the opportunity to interface with a multiplicity of interesting people - students, faculty and staff. And it opens the way to peripheral activities such as those provided by the Clubs. Since I do not study towards a degree, there is no point of closure and the studying becomes a permanent element incorporated into my way of life, together with physical, mental and spiritual activity.

What areas of interest have you studied at UW?
Besides Astronomy, which was a real eye-opener, I have tended to focus on Classical and Religious Studies, Greek and Roman history and societies I found particularly interesting. With the passage of time, these periods are described with a greater consensus and objectivity; their study allows some extrapolation to modern times providing a wider overview, correcting some of the biases which are incorporated in the teaching of modern national history or the reporting of the contemporary media.
If a subject I am interested in is not available at the University, I will look for it somewhere else. Thus, since there is no longer a course in Modern Standard Arabic, I have traveled to Arabic-speaking countries to study there. However, I found out that an intensive course cuts down on my “sociological studies” when I sip mint tea or coffee at cafĂ© terraces while observing the milieu, so I switched to a less formal approach.

Of the 19 courses you have taken what is your favorite and why?
I would give top rating to SCI238 Introductory Astronomy, taught in
Spring 2000, by Dr Charles Curry. First, it literally expanded my view of the universe from a quasi-static entity to a fascinating process of continual evolution. One of the consequences is that I currently follow closely the lectures given by the Perimeter Institute. Second, the instructor kept our interest with the current developments in our local sky to the extent that I keep on observing what is going on, including the passage of artificial satellites and Iridium flares. I studied hard on that course, especially when I found out that I had to familiarize myself with logarithms, which, for some reason, had never figured in my previous studies and consequently represented a sort of a “black hole” in my knowledge (It has now been promoted to “gray area”). However, since this was the only course I was taking during that term, I had plenty of time to devote to it. I enjoyed that course so much that I decided to take the same one again, this spring, six years later.

What is your least favorite and why?
Under that heading, I would place PSYCH212 Educational Psychology. I had selected that course because, having graduated in Educational Technology, I was interested by the contents. However I soon found out that the course was dealt with at too basic a level for me, which shows that I had made a poor choice! However, even there, I found that I benefited from the experience and gained something from the material presented.

How do you pick your courses?
I look forward, with anticipation, to the publication of the schedule of classes to work on my selection as early as possible. Considering that I might be traveling during the term, I eliminate those courses where a possible absence of a couple of weeks would break the required continuity and have a disastrous effect on my grasping of the subject, e.g. Science or Modern languages. So, (1) I focus more on Arts courses such as Classical Studies, Religious Studies, or Philosophy (limiting myself there to the practical aspects such as Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving, far away from areas such as metaphysics and epistemology). (2) Then comes the phase of personal choice, short- listing courses which appeal to me either because the subject is familiar or because it will bring me a breadth of new perspectives. In some cases I have taken the same course a second time in order to widen my scope of research and find additional depth and breadth. I feel privileged to be able to select courses without being constrained by specific requisites to comply with a degree program. (3) I then look at practical details: (3.1) classes not too early in the morning and preferably not more than twice a week (considering the time required for walking between the University and St Jacobs), (3.2) a class size about 40 to 50 students, since 200 is too big in a large amphitheatre, and 15 is too small a group where I would feel too conspicuous and prominent, representing about 7% of the class.

Imprint has been told that you travel often. What are some of the countries you have visited since being here at UW?
Well, for one thing, I find it convenient to spend some time in Morocco around February each year to get away from the winter snows, which clutter the sidewalks. I have also returned to places such as Turkey, Greece (Crete), Spain (Andalucia), Barbados and the Seychelles. I find it comfortable to return to places I have already visited because they are familiar and I meet again with some friends and acquaintances, and this provides me with a base from which I can expand a bit further each time. I also had the opportunity to spend, for the very first time, a few weeks in the Yemen (Sana’a), which I found culturally fascinating.

What is your favorite place to visit?
While I certainly enjoy the pleasant relaxing atmosphere of a Caribbean holiday, my preference for a longer stay centers on places like Turkey, Yemen and Morocco, because they provide cultural opportunities and the possibility to get acquainted and enter discussions with the local people. It gets me out of the groove and leads me to better understand their viewpoints. It gives me the feeling that I am achieving something concrete within a pleasant atmosphere. But, going further back, I would like to return to Singapore and Indonesia, of which I have fond memories from having spent some time there, working as a consultant. Now, that is exotic! I have met pleasant and hospitable people everywhere I traveled, but I think that the latter were beyond my wildest expectations.

Living in St. Jacobs, you often walk to and from Campus. How far a distance is that and how long does it take you?
I always walk to University and back. Occasions when I have benefited from a ride in either direction have been very few over the past eight years. I must say that there have been a few occasions when I have missed a session because of extremely bad weather. The shortest distance is about 8 kilometres, but I usually take a longer way, like 10 km, to change a boring routine and take a less traveled road. That gives me a return distance of 18 km, equivalent to 3 hours of walking at the speed of 6 kph, which is the standard speed for walks of between 25 and 150 kms, recognized by the International Audax organization in various European countries (and in Montreal) and in which I have participated.

If you could dispense any wisdom to your fellow students gleaned from your years of experience, what would it be?
I believe that we have to remain open to various points of view, take our information from a number of divergent sources, question their possible motivations and agenda, do our own analysis and develop our own opinion instead of accepting what may be the prevailing view at the time.

The search for knowledge, and its distribution, should be internalized as a permanent way of life. Not only is it useful, but also it provides personal satisfactions.

It is important to be proactive and grab opportunities and challenges which provide an opportunity to showcase our capabilities, instead of waiting to be recognized for our intrinsic value, since, unfortunately, most people are not sharp enough to recognize it.

It is important also to have confidence in our own abilities. I remember having been given the opportunity of a promotion, from the field of training where I was professionally competent and highly comfortable, to an entirely different field, not because I had special qualifications for it, but because of my particular approach to work. I only hesitated a short while before accepting, then analyzed what I needed to know and worked on it. I never regretted that decision.

Do you have anything else you would like to share with us?
I believe another version of the world is possible, with Truth and Justice, more equality, free access to education, no restriction on information and communication, and no censorship.

I personally appreciate the freedom to move around as I see fit at any moment and I have a tendency to resent constraints in any form, such as censorship or restriction to the free flow of information or people across artificial borders. I see the need for expanded education so that people can reach their own conclusions on a rational basis and resolve potential conflicts through discussions and without violence. It is important to break out from our local shell and to get acquainted with the happenings in other areas of the world so that we can empathize with people everywhere, not when a particular event is suddenly brought to our attention, but on a continuing basis. This, in turn, should lead to the improved version of our world based on Fairness for all, Truth and Justice, that we can visualize. I believe that my attendance at the University of Waterloo contributes in some measure to the realization of my objectives in that direction.

(This final picture is a painting of one of the many pairs of shoes Lucien’s Wife Mary has painted, called “Honourable Retirement”.)

(First Published in Imprint as ‘Possibly the oldest active student at UW’ 2006-09-01.)

Saturday, 2 September 2006

How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun by: Al Janssen and Steve Douglass

How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun
Steve Douglass and Al Janssen
Success Factors Publications
ISBN 579020003

Do you want to keep your grades up or even improve them? Do you want more time for friends and fun? Then this book is a must read for you this school year. It guarantees a grade point increase or your money back.

By simply reading a chapter a week, at most 12 pages, you will learn tricks and techniques to help you learn how to do school better. This book takes the 80/20 principle and applies it to academics. The authors of this book so believe in it, it has a written guarantee that if you apply it, your average will go up 1 grade point or your money back. The best thing is, not only does it work, it also is easy to apply. The 12 chapters were written to be read during the 12 weeks of a term so that you peek for exams. The techniques are designed to be useful for science or arts students.

Are you wondering ‘What is the 80/20 principle?’ It was a business term developed by Richard Koch and it seems to be pretty consistent - one of those great patterns in the chaos often observed in this universe. Take McDonalds as an example: 80% of McDonald’s profit comes from fries and drinks, the other 20% of their profit comes from everything else on the menu. Or take real estate: a friend’s father owns a real estate office. 80% of the sales consistently come from 20% of the realtors, the other 20% of sales comes from the rest.

Wondering what all of this has to do with school? Simply a lot! This book will teach you how to do school better, and I can personally vouch for it. My first time in University at Queen’s University I had a 58 average. I have read this book a few times since being here at The University of Waterloo and I have an over 80 cumulative average. I try to pick it up every 2 or 3 terms to reread as a refresher. I have given away over a dozen copies of this book and every person who has read it has thanked me for the book and the help it has been.

Here’s a personal example: a few years back, I took the ‘Introduction to Church History’ course RS 230 (Religious Studies) with Arnold Snyder. The first week of the class I asked him his objective for the course. He told us this will be your final exam question, “You’re sitting at your Christmas dinner and your uncle Buck says: ‘So I hear you took the history of Christianity course; tell me the story in your own words’.” So instead of doing my usual and making tons of charts of names, dates, place and theories, I focused on the story - being able to tell the history clearly, concisely, and simply in my own words. I saved hours and hours of work and time spent memorizing just because I knew the objective for the course.

The book will benefit you, and your academic career. It is well worth picking up. This book is definitely a great value at $15 to get it. You can order it from http://bit.ly/BetterGrades2 for $8.49 USD. Also available on Kindle now.  Check it out - it’s guaranteed! You will not be sorry.

(First Published in Imprint Frosh Edition 2006/2007 as ‘Learn how to do school better.’ 2006-09-01”)

Friday, 1 September 2006

The Forever War by: Joe Haldeman

The Forever War
Joe Haldeman
Avon EOS Science Fiction
ISBN 0380708213

This book arrived in my hands with much advance praise and high recommendations. It did not live up to its press. Joe Haldeman, who wished to become a power in the genre of Science-Fiction, wanted to write a book in the style of, and after that famous worthy Robert A. Heinlien. Unfortunately Haldeman had neither the skill nor the gifts that Heinlien did.

This book, The Forever War, like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or Orphanage by Robert Buettner, is set in a fictional future when earth is at war with an unknown alien species. It deals with issues such as conscription, political unrest, and a human race devastated by the effects of an interplanetary war.

In this book soldiers are all conscripted from the intelligentsia, to lead mankind in space war against unknown forces. Our Hero, if we can call him a hero, is Private William Mandella. But in the future, soldiers are psychologically conditioned to kill in a frenzy, and to be dependent upon drugs. Unlike both Buettner’s and Heinlien’s books that have drugs as a detriment to military life, Haldeman uses drugs for everything from recreation to encouraged addictions.

This book, though the winner of many awards including the Nebula and Hugo, is not worth your time and effort. One of the possible reasons for this is that the book has gone through four different major revisions. It was rejected by eighteen publishers before finally being published in 1974 with some major editing. It was not believed that as a book about the ‘Vietnam War’, the forever war would have a large market. But a publisher took a chance and published it. Then The Forever War went on and won a few awards.
Since then, the author has revised it through two major revisions. The first put a section back in that messed up the timeline of the story, and the second returned it to the original unedited version, known as the definitive edition of the book. It is the only version currently in print.

The writing is poor, and this unedited – so-called restored version of the book - is lackluster at best and downright boring! The story drags at many points and, at other times, so little story is given that it seems to jump from scene to scene without filling you in on how our characters got where they are.

This book in some version may have won the top two science fiction novel of the year awards, but it is really not worth the effort. Read either Heinlien’s or Buettner’s version of the story. Both are much more satisfying and enjoyable.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-09-01 as ‘Hate It’ part of the ‘Love It/Hate It’ book review column.)