Sunday, April 29, 2007

Working description for ENGL 200

I'm slated to teach English 200: Reading Literature next year, in the fall. The course is a kind of overgrown "literature appreciation" class -- not even a survey course, per se. So, I have to figure out something fun to do, that hits a bunch of different things, and that focuses on reading for pleasure and for knowledge about the world. Or some such.

Here's my working course:

English 200: Literatures of the Fantastic

Ursula K. Leguin asks in a now famous speech and essay, “Why are Americans afraid of dragons?” Central to her question and her argument about the reading, enjoyment, understanding, and analysis of literature, particularly fantasy and science fiction, is an engagement with the imagination, with other worlds, with our own world, with recovering the value of these things, and with growing up but not outgrowing our desire for the fantastic. She says, “For fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life they have let themselves be forced into living. They are afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom.” This class will take up Leguin’s fascinating and provocative question and explore a long yet often dismissed or narrowly defined tradition of “fantastic” literature (and other media) including in whole or in excerpt Homer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, Allen Ginsberg, Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Nisi Shawl, and J.K. Rowling.

Required Texts:
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
English 200 Course Packet.

Saturday, April 21, 2007



US military unveils heat-ray gun

The gun uses a large dish mounted on a Humvee vehicle The US military has given the first public display of what it says is a revolutionary heat-ray weapon to repel enemies or disperse hostile crowds.
Called the Active Denial System, it projects an invisible high energy beam that produces a sudden burning feeling.
Military officials, who say the gun is harmless, believe it could be used as a non-lethal way of making enemies surrender their weapons.
Officials said there was wide-ranging military interest in the technology.

How the heat-ray gun works
"This is a breakthrough technology that's going to give our forces a capability they don't now have," defence official Theodore Barna told Reuters news agency.
"We expect the services to add it to their tool kit. And that could happen as early as 2010."
'Blast from an oven'
The prototype weapon was demonstrated at the Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
A beam was fired from a large rectangular dish mounted on a Humvee vehicle.
The beam has a reach of up to 500m (550 yds), much further than existing non-lethal weapons like rubber bullets.
It can penetrate clothes, suddenly heating up the skin of anyone in its path to 50C.
But it penetrates the skin only to a tiny depth - enough to cause discomfort but no lasting harm, according to the military.
A Reuters journalist who volunteered to be shot with the beam described the sensation as similar to a blast from a very hot oven - too painful to bear without diving for cover.
Crowd control
Military officials said the weapon was one of the key technologies of the future.
"Non-lethal weapons are important for the escalation of force, especially in the environments our forces are operating in," said Marine Col Kirk Hymes, director of the development programme.
The weapon could potentially be used for dispersing hostile crowds in conflict zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
It would mean that troops could take effective steps to move people along without resorting to measures such as rubber bullets - bridging the gap between "shouting and shooting", Col Hymes said.
A similar "non-lethal" weapon, Silent Guardian, is being developed by US company Raytheon.


1 360-degree operation for maximum effect
Antenna, linked to transmitter unit, can be mounted on vehicle
Automatic target tracking
2 Antenna sealed against dust and can withstand bullet fire3 Invisible beam of millimetre-wave energy can travel over 500m4 Heat energy up to 54C (130F) penetrates less than 0.5mm of skin
Manufacturers say this avoids injury, although long-term effects are not known

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sharks with Lasers?


Navy shows off anti-terror dolphins

SAN DIEGO -- In a world of high-tech sensors and underwater robotics, Koa the bottlenose dolphin and others like her may still be the Navy's best line of defense against terrorists in scuba gear.
"They are better than anything we have ever made," said Mike Rothe, head of science for the Navy's marine mammal program, which trains dolphins and sea lions to guard military installations.
About 75 dolphins and 25 sea lions are housed at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego Harbor as part of a Navy program to teach them to detect terrorists and mines underwater.
The base briefly opened its doors to the media Thursday for the first time since the start of the war in Iraq. The display came a few weeks after the Navy announced plans to send up to 30 dolphins and sea lions to patrol the waters of Washington state's Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, which is home to nuclear submarines, ships and laboratories.
Both species can find mines and spot swimmers in murky waters. Working in unison, the dolphins can drop a flashing light near a mine or a swimmer. The sea lions carry in their mouths a cable and a handcuff-like device that clamps onto a terrorist's leg. Sailors can then use the cable to reel in the terrorist.
The Navy's sea mammal program started in the late 1950s and grew to comprise 140 animals during the Cold War.
Dolphins helped protect a pier in the Vietnam War. The last time the marine mammals were deployed overseas was in 2003 in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr, where they located underwater mines and cleared a path for Marines to land, officials say.
They also were used in San Diego in 1996, when they patrolled the bay during the Republican National Convention.
Swimmers planting bombs pose a real threat, said Cmdr. Jon Wood, who went to Iraq with the mammals. He said there were several cases of guerrillas laying charges on floating objects in Vietnam.
By the late 1990s, Navy officials began phasing out the program, expecting technology to take over. But that still has not happened, and dolphins and sea lions will be used until at least 2012.
Animal rights activists worry that the dolphins and sea lions sent to Washington state could be harmed by the cold water, and worry that the animals might transmit diseases to the area's killer whales.
Dr. Stephanie Wong, a military veterinarian, said the dolphins are closely monitored for any signs of disease.
On the Net:
Navy Marine Mammal Program: