I give one more final exam tomorrow, then I post grades, then I'm done.
Well, done, except we're expected to have syllabi for NEXT semester submitted by the 1st or so. Which is slightly ridiculous, as I don't know for sure which section of a class I'm teaching yet. At least I was able to set up my office hours so regardless of which section I teach, I have enough open office hours.
Luckily, I haven't had too many last-minute instances of snowflakery (at least until now). One person threw a fit at me when I refused to accept late work (after I had even e-mailed the entire class REMINDING them and telling them there was no way, no how, I would accept the work late).
I did have one person shake my hand and thank me after the final - and he wasn't even a top student.
I had another one, from my freshman class, come by and thank me and tell me that even though he didn't do that well in my class, it was "eye opening" for him and he now realizes how much you need to study to succeed in college. And he said that he learned a lot and enjoyed the class.
I take it as even more of a win when someone who didn't earn a top grade thanks me; I feel that sometimes when A students thank me it's partly jubilation over having earned a good grade. But when someone who earns a C thanks me, that means something. (It also means that that student has the maturity to recognize that their perhaps-not-stellar performance was not entirely or even largely MY fault, which is what some low performing students seem to assume).
It seems incomprehensible but in five days I head home for Christmas break.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I give one more final exam tomorrow, then I post grades, then I'm done.
Monday, December 09, 2013
I suppose this is part of the lot of being an adult, but I realized it about me the other day and it makes me sad.
I watch a lot of Cartoon Network. (Yes, I know I SAID I was an adult...). They are running ads in heavy rotation for the "Skylanders" video game. One of the ads features video (I THINK it's home video shot and submitted, and not staged - if it's staged, it's done very well, it looks like home video) of kids receiving the game for Christmas or birthdays and going crazy with joy and excitement over it.
What makes me sad is that I can't think of a single gift - at least, not a physical item - that would make me feel that kind of over-the-top joy. I can just remember it from being a kid - the excitement, the this-is-the-best-thing-ever feeling.
I wonder if there's anything like that for an adult. I mean, if someone gave me a nice car, I'd certainly be grateful - but I'd almost be too embarrassed ("I can't believe they spent that much on me!") to be all over-the-top. (And I have a perfectly serviceable car. And I'm not a "car person"). Same with jewelry, and actually, some of the stuff I love most and wear most are some of the simple, less-expensive (like, rose quartz) stuff. The few nice pieces I have I don't wear as much.
The stuff that would make me go crazy with joy is not "stuff" - the one thing I can think of right now that would make me scream with happiness and squeal and jump around the room would be finding out that a friend diagnosed with terminal leukemia DIDN'T have it, after all, and was going to get better, or that she had some kind of miraculous recovery. (That's the one thing, if one of God's angels came to me, and said, "You get one wish, anything, anything you want for Christmas" that I'd say I wanted....).
Is this feeling common to adults - that the stuff that would make you really happy, like, beyond happy - isn't actual STUFF, or maybe even something you know isn't earthly possible? Or are there adults who are still blessed with the ability to go mad with happiness over a ring or a KitchenAid or some new gadget? Am I just jaded? I mean, all those things are nice and I'd be happy to get a KitchenAid or a new computer or something - but not happy like the kids in that ad are happy.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
I generally avoid it. Well, many years I'm traveling home on that day, so I don't have any choice but to avoid it. But it makes me very sad to hear about what people do. One of the men at church today was saying he heard that one woman tasered another woman over a shopping cart at some store. And there's always the person who gets trampled, or pushed, or robbed of what they have bought.
I don't know but I can't imagine Jesus intended for our celebration of His birthday to include things like this.If I had to spend too much time around the craziness I suspect I'd become a no-gifts-for-Christmas advocate as at least one person I know has become. (Still - I like getting gifts and giving gifts. Even if it's something very simple. We did the "simplified Christmas" thing a couple years when I was a teenager, where as a family you set a strict budget for everything (gifts, decorations, the meal) and then donate the difference between your strict budget and what you would ordinarily spend. Oh, my brother and I still each got one "big" gift from our parents, and we didn't feel deprived....it was actually kind of nice. I think each person got one "big" gift and everything else was either small (comic books, for example) or homemade (it helps to be able to sew. And also, I remember one year I was taking woods shop in junior high, and was able to make something for my parents in there)
I also found out that a couple of my more-distant relatives have suggested ending the annual exchange of gifts we used to do. At first I was a little sad about that but then again, I realized - I can take the money I had budgeted for gifts for them and give it to the Salvation Army or somewhere, and I think I am going to do that, rather than spending it on myself or just leaving it in my household budget to get eaten up by incidentals.
I am not big on electronics, and in my family we generally have more modest expectations and budgets for gifts - I will go as high as $50 on a person but that's the most you're "allowed" to spend. And I really prefer mail-ordering stuff, and getting stuff that relates to people's hobbies - my sister in law is getting a "gardener's gift basket" that features some tools and also a bunch of Amish-produced heirloom seeds, and my brother is getting a pizza-maker's kit with a pizza stone and such, because he enjoys cooking and especially making pizza. The bonus is I can mail-order both of these items and I don't have to brave the malls or the big-box stores. I usually "shop" for presents by looking at catalogs as they come in and flagging anything I think might be good for someone I am buying for, and then after a while of looking, deciding, and ordering that thing.
Often, also, I buy stuff from small businesses. It just seems like a nicer place to shop, and I know small businesspeople sometimes have a rough go of it these days, so I figure if they have what I want, I'm going to send my business their way.
I think I've been to the Target (of the big-box stores, the one I am most likely to go to) for the last time until after Christmas. It was a couple weeks ago (not even official shopping season yet) and people were crazy and awful to each other. And I don't need that. As much as I might like some of their house-brand food items, as much as I can get things like paper towels for a better price from them, it's not worth dealing with the bad behavior of my fellow shoppers.
I wonder what would happen if there were a genuine shortage of something needed to live. You hear of people getting shot over televisions, which, while they are a nice luxury to have, are not essential to life. But what if medications became hard to come by, or food? It's scary to contemplate. I want to believe that many people would help those weaker than they are and would try to get enough to share with them - but the way things are now, I don't know.
I enjoy all the trappings of Christmas, I enjoy picking out gifts for the people I love, I enjoy receiving gifts. But it makes me sad that some people can apparently let avarice or selfishness or - I don't know what - override the love they are feeling for that person, and turn into cruelty to other people in the store or working at the store.
Monday, November 25, 2013
And thanks to anyone else who sent up a prayer or a good thought.
It's above freezing right now, it's only supposed to get better as the day wears on, so the trip is back on.
I knew it was going to most likely be okay when the morning radio weather dude said, "Looks like we dodged a bullet."
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
I may not get "home" for Thanksgiving.
Oh, I've got my tickets and all, but there's a "Southern Plains Storm" coming in on Monday - my tickets are for Monday night, and at this point I could not change, only cancel, them.
So if the weather's unsafe to drive to the station (which is some distance away) on Monday, I will be staying here. That makes me a little unhappy. (But not as bad as some years back, when my parents were planning on coming down, and then my father was told not to travel for Medical Reasons (which later turned out to be nothing). I did manage to get last minute tickets then but I think my huge distress over missing Thanksgiving with my family was worry over my dad.)
I don't know. I guess I have alternate plans now; I will get a small chicken and cook it and I bought a can of cranberry sauce this morning and I do have sweet potatoes. I suppose someone at church would invite me if they knew I couldn't get home, but you know? I think it would almost make me feel worse to be with someone else's family - where I was the only non-family member - than I would being alone. I'm pretty resourceful alone. I could watch old movies and cook my chicken and I'd be okay. I might be a little teary or overwhelmed in a crowd of people, most of whom I didn't know.
But I hope it doesn't come to that.
If you're the praying type (and you believe in praying for stuff like this), could you send up a little of the good stuff that this storm isn't as bad as they're saying it might be, and by Monday afternoon the roads will be safe enough for me to drive? Or at least that I have the wisdom, if they are really bad, to go "Nope. Not gonna risk it." (My parents already know of the possibility of my not coming, and they understand totally, so there's no problem there)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
A few scenes:
1. Several students coming in asking me "Is there anything I can do to raise my grade at this point?" (alternate question: "Is there anything I can do to pass at this point?") The sad thing about this question, and the thing I hate and have a hard time offering constructive responses to - if the student in question had come in and asked after the first or even the second exam, the answer would have been "Yes, and here's how...." But when anywhere between 2/3 and 7/8 of the points for the semester have already been assigned - it's kind of late for that. And yeah, I've told people that but I don't know if that will change their behavior for next semester. (I even up-front, in one class, posted a short powerpoint about "keys to success" and one of them was COME IN TO SEE ME AS SOON AS YOU REALIZE YOU ARE STRUGGLING. I suppose I need to add the hint that earning a 50% on the first exam counts as "struggling.")
2. Student comes in the day after the drop deadline wanting to drop. I told him the deadline was past. Sad face: "Can you DO anything?"
Um, no. I'm not a Timelord. There was a deadline, you knew about it, it got away from you. This is how you learn.
3. Except, there actually apparently is: Got a call from the advising-help-center place. One of my students "needs" to drop even though it's after the deadline because her parents JUST NOW found out she was failing and want her to drop. (Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh. I posted their grades online all semester; she should have told them how she was doing earlier). Can she come over and have me sign something? Well, seeing as it's within half an hour of my planned going home time, yeah, but she'd better hurry. (I didn't say, "I'm going home in 30 minutes," I said, "I have to leave campus in 30 minutes" which is less open to manipulation). Suddenly the guy calling realized he could just call the registrar and have them take care of it. (Seriously? I can get to Next Biggest City in just about 30 minutes. The office the student would half to walk from is less than a half-mile from me. And the student in question is perfectly able-bodied. She cannot get to my office in half an hour, that's an unreasonable burden?)
4. Student e-mails me a paper late. Except, it's not the assignment I assigned, it's something totally different that might JUST be something written for a previous semester and recycled. (I still haven't found how to look up when a document was created and such in the new version of Word, which annoys me. That used to be useful for catching "recycled" papers). So I sent an e-mail explaining I could not grade the item because it was (a) late and (b) not the assignment I assigned. I'm waiting to hear back. Because I know I will hear back.
5. Just the endless parade of "I made bad life choices and I expect you to either fix it or to put yourself out in some way to mitigate it, even though it was my life choice and not yours" problems.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Oh, I admit it. One of the things I am not good at exercising control over is my book-buying habit.
(Yes, my town has a library, but it's small, and it often doesn't have a book I hear about and want to read).
And I don't care for reading off electronic devices, all of my Luddite concerns about some wireless hacker going into them and changing or deleting "my" books aside, I want my books to be ink on paper.
This is also my favorite time of the year for reading. The nights get cold, it gets dark early, I can pile up quilts on my bed and crawl in with whatever I'm reading at the moment. There's something very private about a book. It's just you and the page.
Right now, I'm reading Antonia Fraser's history of The Gunpowder Plot, and I have another book on the topic by a different author (I forget which one) for a later time. (I realize that some history carries the biases or opinions or the hypotheses its author supports most ardently, so it works best for me to read a couple different authors on topics like this).
I have a huge stack of books by my bed - The Manga Guide to Calculus, so I can reteach myself the one math topic I admit I never fully understood (but I think I need to review some algebra first; that may be where I went wrong in calculus - didn't have a good grounding in algebra). I have something called Operation Mincemeat, which is about WWII in Britain (a favorite topic of mine). I have "Quiet" - that book about introverts which I keep planning to read and then other things jump in front of it in the queue. I have a couple books on Shakespeare (I've been trying to read a Shakespeare play a year, to make up for not having read many in high school, and not really having much literature coursework in college). I have Simon Winchester's "Atlantic" (I love those huge, sweeping histories that incorporate lots of different narrative threads). I have "Shop Class as Soulcraft," another one of those books like "Quiet" that I say I "should" read and somehow don't quite get to. (I've read part of it before). I have "The Monks of New Skete and the Art of Happiness."
And on, and on. And I bought a bunch more this weekend when I was at the bookstore - Thomas Cahill's newest (I have all his other books and have read most of them, so I want to read this too). Another book on Shakespeare, this one called Shakespeare's Restless World. And the newest one from the person who wrote "How the Scots Invented the Modern World." (another one of those huge, sweeping history books - this new one promises to go from Aristotle to the Internet, or somesuch).
Most of these are in hardback. I know, more expensive and take up more space, but you know? I love hardbacks. I love their heft, I love their permanent feel.
I just have to find somewhere to store them. Or perhaps weed my collection pretty ruthlessly and donate to the university library....they have taken donations of scholarly books from me before and incorporated some of them into their collections. (I figure, if I'm unlikely to want to read it again, might as well give it, and make the room for something else. And then maybe someone else can benefit from the information).
I admit, I love buying books almost as much as I love reading them. My town doesn't have a proper bookstore but Next Biggest City does, and of course there's Powell's and Amazon and Bas Bleu and all of the little independent sellers who sell online or by catalog...
Monday, November 11, 2013
Just, thank you. You did what I could not do.
I am safe and I am free because men were willing to go into other parts of the world - some of them hellholes - and do things probably most of them would rather not have to do, in order to defend our freedom and our way of life.
I am very humbled by that. That I go to bed every night not worrying about my safety, that I travel about my town without fear, that I go to church freely and openly, in part, because of those men's efforts.
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I've seen a number of things (not just nationally, but locally) lately that makes me think that people either aren't trying to do a good job, or don't care who gets screwed over by missed deadlines, bad product, etc., as long as they get their paycheck.
And I find that deeply frustrating. I was raised to do the best possible job all the time - I have a really hard time doing anything in a half-assed way, even if I know I don't have time to do it right and that my "half-assed" is most likely someone else's "good enough."
It's been brought home to me, lately, though: Why do I even try? Why do I keep putting in long days and forgoing doing "fun" stuff? Why do I stress myself out over "Is the exam I wrote good enough? Does it test over the concepts the students need to know, is it too simple, is it too hard?" Because it feels more and more like no one else gives a crap how good the product they are putting out is, and if something really fails, they just shrug their shoulders and find someone else to blame.
And what this does, at least in my mind, is it continues to beat down the responsible people, the ones who care. Really: Why should I spend multiple hours doing something and making sure it's "right" when someone somewhere else just slaps something together, says, "good enough" and then goes off to watch a basketball game or something?
And yet, I can't just shrug off my duties and do a crap job at stuff because everyone else is. It kills me to do stuff half-assed, as I said earlier. What I want to see is greater accountability for the people who are doing crap jobs....to see some people genuinely get reprimanded and lose their jobs and have to make what's wrong right for no additional pay....and to stop harassing the people WHO are doing a good job and who do care.
And another thing is, sometimes there feels like a double standard. Let a high muckety-muck screw something up, even in a way that looks as if it might be intentional, and people look the other way. Let someone like me make a genuine mistake because we're ill-informed or because we honestly forget Thing 3564 of the 3565 things we're supposed to do, and OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING! And YOU ARE A HORRIBLE PERSON! And OMG HOW ***COULD*** YOU NOT DO THAT ONE THING?!?!?!
I don't know. I just get very discouraged by the way some parts of our society act these days.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
So I heard this stuff about Russell Brand in the news. About how he hates profit and hates capitalism and is a dangerous man.
And I admit, I've never particularly liked his comedy. I liked Despicable Me, which he did a voice in, but that's about the only thing he's been involved with I cared much for.
So I thought I'd rant about "these celebrity bastids who go around telling the rest of us how it's just dandy for the state to redistribute our money, because they figure that they will be exempt, being CELEBRITIES!!! and also right-thinkers and all."
But, in the interest of knowing what I was going to be talking about, I went over to the New Statesman and tried to read the article he wrote, so I could see what he was really saying.
Emphasis on TRIED.
It's a big mess, guys. It jumps around a lot. In it, Brand confesses he's never voted (which immediately makes me give a bit of the stink-eye to anyone fomenting big political change. Okay, okay, that's probably a bit harsh. I admit there have been times I've threatened not to vote in state or federal elections because the choices I had were just so damn bad. And most of my adult life now, sadly, I've voted for the "lesser of two evils" than "a candidate I can really support").
I will say Brand really needs an editor. Or perhaps ADHD medication. I found his arguments really hard to follow. And I admit my comments in the next paragraphs jump around a bit, but it's because there's so much in the article and it's so mixed up that it's hard to organize my thoughts. (I also feel like I may have lost a few IQ points upon reading the article; I don't know)
That said, I think he's more a bit of a pillock (to use UK terminology) than really dangerous; I get the sense he's saying stuff he knows will sound extreme and transgressive and will get a lot of attention. I get the feeling he's upset but doesn't have a good thought of how to do concrete things to help others, other than talking about how bad banks and some corporations are. Somewhere in the mess he elucidates that noooo, he doesn't hate PROFIT (which, I suppose, is good, because one of my questions to him would be, "Well, then, if you hate people making money, have you sold all you own and given the money to the poor?"). But he hates big banks. And ummmm....some corporations. But Apple is pretty cool, except when they are like abusing their factory workers and stuff....
He speaks approvingly of winding up in the center of a "riot." I don't know. Based on the riots I've seen on the news, I'd be terrified for my life to wind up in the middle of one. He speaks of revolution and as I said before, I fear any big revolution (at least in the US and probably also in the UK - heck, perhaps MORESO in the UK) would be more like 1950s China than 1776 America. And, as someone who'd be tarred and feathered as an "intellectual," I have no desire for a Great Leap Forward or a Cultural Revolution.
A lot of people who talk about taking "corporations" down don't really think it through, I think. Do you enjoy growing most of your own food? Dealing with shortages? Having limited choices as to clothing and such? Going back to the kind of third-world, subsistence existence that he saw on his African trip?
Yes, some of the labor practices used by many corporations are awful. Yes, we probably should try to (a) change things and (b) buy from companies that treat their workers better. But most problems like this require solutions implemented over time, not a "BANG SMASH DESTROY" mentality. And not a sitting around and wringing one's hands and going "My fellow man is so blind and so selfish, and I am the only enlightened one"
I will also say the level of crudeness and rude-words that Brand inserts in his diatribe don't really make me any more inclined to listen to what he's saying. Yes, I'm a square and unhip, but you know, there are a lot of us out there who are put off by the use of a slang term for ejaculate in a situation where any other word....or no word at all....would have worked as well.
Brand describes a trip to Africa where he sees the poorest of the poor. Apparently this was not a mission trip or anything with an aid agency, it was tourism. He returned disgusted at his "santized" life....yet the thing is, I see no mention of concrete attempts to help, other than saying "All you lot here should feel very guilty that you sleep in a safe warm house and in a bed."
I may not be able to do much to change policy in my nation. But I can donate money to groups that help with, for example, education of children in some of the poorer nations of the world. Or to groups trying to give help after natural disasters. Or groups helping to improve agricultural practices for subsistence farmers. I realize in the grand scheme of things it may not be much....but no single person can do "much." We can do what we can. I think of the old story about the kid walking down the beach after a storm, throwing starfish back in the ocean, and the man who confronts him: "Stupid kid! You aren't big enough to save all the starfish. You can't possibly make a difference" and the kid throws another starfish back, and says, "I made a difference to that one."
I also think there is a certain sense of individual responsibility. Some of the things Brand is saying give me the sense that he thinks money should be taken from banks and corporations and just given to people, with no expectation that they use that money responsibly or go to work in the future. To quote a late countrywoman of Mr. Brand's: "The problem with socialism is eventually you run out of other people's money"
I would much rather choose to give a portion of my paycheck (and I do) to various groups doing work I can support, and whose work I can check up on and withdraw my support from, if, for example, I find there seems to be corruption or abnormally high salaries among those at the top. I cannot do the same with my tax dollars. I am sure some of those are used wisely, but I also am quite sure some of them are going to groups or individuals of questionable desert.
I have no idea if Mr. Brand gives money to charities trying to help with the issues he is concerned about. I hope he does. But it frustrates me to see someone who earns more than I do apparently trying to tell me what I should do with my money, and also implying things should change so there is more governmental control of people's lives.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
How does Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (the Ancient Aliens guy) feel about the fact that he's an internet meme?
I can see three possibilities:
1. Ticked off and insulted. Aliens are serious business! People are not believing his research!
2. Laughing all the way to the bank....maybe more people watch the show now because of the meme, and it doesn't matter whether or not he believes the alien stuff
3. Really laughing at his epic trolling of people, because the whole Alien thing is a giant joke he's been playing for publicity
I suppose there's a fourth one, "Meh, it happens when you're famous," I don't know.
I don't watch the show so I don't know how earnestly he seems to believe that every breakthrough technology in the ancient world is the result of alien intervention.
Personally, I'd hate to become an Internet meme/joke, but I may have an overblown sense of dignity or something.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
A "Samuel L. Jackson-izer" microphone.
For those times when you need to say something a certain way.
I gave an exam in one class today. As another class uses that room the next hour, and as we have been informed that under some subsection of the new ADA laws we are not permitted to give any extra time on exams unless the student specifically has an accommodation (I suspect that's an over interpretation on the part of the lawyers, but whatever), I had to turf the last few students.
So first, I was polite: "Please finish your exams and hand them in in the next three minutes."
Then, I was less polite: "I need the exams done now. Please hand them in."
Finally, I went and stood near the two people not done and waited. Finally they finished.
But if I had the Samuel L. Jackson-izer microphone, I could SAY into it, "You need to finish your exams now" and the microphone would convert it to "HEY! Finish yo' asses UP and hand in the MFing exam, sumbitches!"
of course, I'd only get to use it once before losing my job....
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I've heard a bit about the Redskins controversy. I don't know. I get that some Native people are offended by it. I get that a lot of others aren't. Some people are offended by suggestions the name be changed* This is one of the problems about living in the world today - whom do you offend, who is the least horrible person to offend? (Because apparently, there's always going to be someone offended)
(Best joke I heard on this? "Washington Redskins is a name that contains a word that makes a lot of people upset. So they're changing the name to Eastern Virginia Redskins." Heh.)
I don't know. I'm not a football fan, I don't have any Native heritage, so I can't work up an opinion on this. Change the name, don't change the name, I don't care.
Because at this point, stuff like this being news feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There's a decent chance we will default on the 17th, and even if we don't, we're facing huge financial problems in the future, largely from a system that is growing increasingly unsustainable (more people receiving benefits, fewer people who are paying in).
I don't know what real effect a default would have. I've heard everything from "practically none" to "that's the end, better make sure you've pulled out of the stock market, because they're gonna crater and inflation is gonna spike."
I love this country but I really hate what many of the politicians are doing to it. We are a country full of decent, honest, hardworking people. How did we manage to send so many who were not to Washington?
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Because I work fairly long hours (my hours are flexible but some weeks they are long when I'm trying to accomplish lots of things), I often use early Saturdays to run errands - gas up the car, buy groceries, do other stuff. This has upsides and downsides.
The upside is places tend to be less busy, and the really annoying people (the people who feel entitled to do stuff like open a bag of grapes, eat a bunch, and then decide they don't want them, and leave them somewhere in the cereal aisle) are generally not out and about. I can get what I need and scram, which is a good day of grocery shopping for me.
(I don't like shopping in general. I like shopping in bookstores and craft-supply stores and antique stores and SOMETIMES shopping for clothes if I'm not rushed and desperate and looking for that one thing I need that will turn out to be on offer nowhere....But usually, I don't like shopping, and I especially don't like grocery shopping)
Anyway. So I ran out first to get gas in the car. I couldn't hold off any longer in hopes that the prices would drop below $3 (apparently some places in the US they have. We're close, but not there yet).
I got cat-called by some guy at the gas station.
Now, this rarely happens to me, as I am of an age, body type, and general standard of modesty that most of the guys who would cat-call don't notice me. But for some reason today this guy did.
Getting cat-called is not fun. I won't say it was scary, though I could see how being cat-called if you were walking alone down a dark street and for some reason didn't have your piece on you for protection could be. This was more creepy and icky and "really, dude?"
Here's a hint to the gents: Very few women, and very few of the kind who make good long-term partners, will respond favorably to a cat-call. (Though then again, maybe the cat-callers are looking for short-term fun, rather than long-term partners, and that's why they do it)
Then at the Wal-Mart, I learned that the surly cashiers work the early shift. I suppose I'd be surly, too, if I were at my low-paying job at 7 am on a Saturday morning and was expected to go to happy-clappy "teamwork" meetings (one was just starting in the Hardware section - they call them for different locataions - as I was heading out of there).
I've also found that the local wal-mart has gotten a lot worse about restocking. Of late, I've not been shopping there as often because I discovered a new grocery store in Next Town Over, and it's really nice, so I've been trying to take the time to get down there as often as I can. But it's an hour's round trip, and I didn't have that kind of time or energy today. So I went to wal-mart. Got the last two cartons of the kind of skim milk I use - usually they had multiples, and actually, the last time I was there, they were out, so I had to get 1% instead. And it's the same on most of the shelves. And I notice their "great value" store brand is replacing more and more of the national brands. This displeases me because I've found the quality of "great value" to be incredibly variable - some of the stuff is okay, some of the stuff is most definitely NOT, and I'm unwilling to experiment and hope that the new stuff replacing, I don't know, Ronzoni or whatever, is.
Also, the yogurt I normally buy? All the cartons on the shelf had already expired. I was going to tell someone but all the workers other than a few checkers were at the "mandatory meeting" and I forgot about it by the time I got to the checker.
It just feels very....I don't know, I don't like the word "ghetto" but it just feels like the wal-mart here in town has stopped trying because they know people mostly have to shop there and don't really have a choice, so meh, whatever, why should we restock the plain yogurt? People can eat the expired kind or go with something else.
I guess it's time to start keeping a better "nonperishable" list and make sure I've checked everything off it when I go to the grocery in Next Biggest Town. Or to use Amazon for ordering some of my groceries.
We really need another large grocery in this town. I doubt we'll ever get it, unless the town swells another 10,000 people or so, but we really need something that's the same size as the wal-mart but that seems more committed to customer service and actually keeping stuff on the shelves. I'd shop there in a heartbeat even if it meant paying more. As much as I can, I shop at the small family-run place here in town, but they're small and don't stock some of the things I need and use on a regular basis....
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Flipping around last night, I hit on "Extreme RVs," which is one of those Travel Channel programs. Normally, I'm not a big watcher of that sort of thing, but one of the models they were talking about caught my attention.
It's called the Pangaea. It's an offroading RV. Built kind of like a military vehicle - very sturdy, on a high-clearance truck chassis. But what grabbed me was what the spokesperson from the company was talking about - how they designed it for people going "out" for long stretches of time. There's a lot of pantry storage, and lots of storage space for clothing. And a very large water tank; they said on a fill you could get 2-3 weeks worth of time (I have no idea if that included washing, or if things like the greywater was filtered and reused as greywater, or if the toilet were composting/incinerating).
They also didn't talk about how you got electricity out in the boonies. (They did observe it was all-electric, no need for propane). One of the fans of the model noted that "You can just drive until you're ready to pull off, and then you're good." So I'm assuming there's some kind of onboard generator. (I can't imagine a solar panel would generate adequate power via a battery system to do more than run a few lamps - and there's a full kitchen with an induction cooktop and everything).
But I have to admit, that thing taps into one of my big wants - to have the equivalent of a house, a REAL house, with a proper bathroom and kitchen and a place to sleep comfortably and a way to really be out of the weather (unlike in a tent) that I can just drive away to where ever. The idea that I could just pick up and LEAVE, go to the boonies or the deep woods or somewhere when life got to be too much, or when the zombie apocalypse started or when I really didn't want people to find me for a while, is a pretty attractive one for me.
And this thing, it's not just minimal "bathroom, kitchen, place to sleep" - it's pretty luxurious-looking. (And the storage....lots of storage everywhere, because, as the spokesperson said, a lot of their customers want to just go off and not be bothered with going into "town" for a while.
It won't ever be more than a fantasy, though, for me - the thing is multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars (!) I guess that kind of thing doesn't come cheap. But oh, how nice to just be able to go somewhere, anywhere, and have all the comforts of home with me, not have to worry about hotels or finding a place to rent or whatever. (And don't speak to me of "roughing it" camping. That is something I do not do. Pit toilets and gang showers in a wash house are not for me.)
Monday, October 07, 2013
I guess I do have a "misery magnet." I try to be nice but keep people at arm's length a bit, because frankly, I don't NEED to know everyone's full life story.
But I get some people who just buttonhole me. I've learned that lots of people, especially young women, seem to want to share the details of their mental-health treatment with me. Now, I know next to nothing about the state of the art of "brain drugs," I have never studied anything in that field (there's a reason I became an ecologist and not a medical doctor). And I don't want to know the details as they're often sadmaking and uncomfortably personal.
I know why some people do this: the more people who know about mental health treatment going on, they figure, the less stigma. Yes, I suppose that's true. In a lot of cases mental health issues are biochemical in nature, kind of like type II diabetes has a biochemical component, and there is not much stigma tied to that. (Still, there is some: I have had students claim "If you're fat, you're going to get diabetes, and it's your own fault." Not true- there's a large genetic component, and some have even proposed that in some cases, a virus may be partly to blame)
Other people, I suppose, it's an attention thing. That always makes me uncomfortable, when it is. For two reasons: first, I don't like sharing lots of details of my own personal life with comparative strangers (she says as she writes on the blog...) but also because there have been a lot of times in my life when I might have liked a little attention, to be listened to a little, and there was NO ONE THERE. And it frustrates me to play the role of "comforter" to another when I feel like I may be using up all my emotional reserves and not have any left for myself when I need it.
And frankly, sometimes I'm busy, and getting buttonholed in the hall without any gracious way to say "I really need to scram now" isn't good.
I don't know if this is a small-town thing, or a Southern thing, or what, but I don't remember other places - like when I lived in Michigan - lots of people wanting to share the very personal details of their life with me, and I confess, knowing some of that stuff, hearing some of that stuff, makes me uncomfortable.
I don't know. I want to be compassionate to people, I want to help people. I just wish I had less of a misery magnet. Or a crazy magnet. Or whatever.
Wednesday, October 02, 2013
Based on some of the online commentary wankage I've read, I'm expecting to see a D vs. R civil war break out soon.
I'm well stocked with food and books and other necessities, so I can hide out in my house for a good while and probably avoid the carnage, but....there was discussion earlier this summer about "some percentage of the populace is agitating for an armed rebellion" and my reaction was, "In this day and age, the outcome is more likely to be like China in 1950 rather than the 13 colonies in 1776."
Yes, I'm that pessimistic. And yes, I'm considering ALL the outcomes of the Chinese revolution there, up to and including purges/forced labor of the educated classes.
I realize that's a pretty pessimistic and far-fetched concern, but....it's gonna get uglier before it gets better, I think.
Monday, September 30, 2013
Right now, the CNN online page has THE COMING DARKNESS as their lead headline for the stories about the possible government shutdown.
Please, CNN. Yes, I won't be able to go to a national park for the nonce, if I applied for a new gun permit or passport I'd have to wait. Some folks aren't getting paid who probably should be.
But really? You make it sound and look as if electricity is going to go off, dark clouds are going to gather, and we're all doomed.
Uh. I think the government shut down before? In fact, I'm quite sure it did at least several times during my lifetime.
Stop making me laugh and shake my head in disgust, CNN.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Another entry in the "Why are people so effing self-centered?" book.
Yesterday afternoon, after class, I stayed over at school because I had a lot of grading. (I am done at noon on Fridays and could leave then). As I was leaving, the school buses were making their rounds. No biggie, I know the law, you stop when the bus stops and wait so the kids can get out and across the street safely.
But then, as the bus moved and I started back up, someone pulled out of an apartment complex drive and wound up in the same lane as I was. I mean, they were coming TOWARDS me and were in the wrong lane.
I did what I always do - laid on the horn and swerved. As the car veered past me, missing me by about 6", I noticed the driver was juggling her smartphone. Yeah. Apparently she was texting as she pulled out of the drive. No, apparently the text could not wait a bit longer until she got to the stop street a block up. And apparently she could not wait the extra 30 seconds in the drive to send her text.
I'm not a fan of increasingly intrusive laws like seat-belt laws and no-cell-phone laws, but, SERIOUSLY people, you have to use a little freaking common sense. Almost NO ONE can text and drive safely. So just don't do it. Just because the government isn't telling you explicitly "You will be fined for doing this" doesn't mean it's ok. They also don't have laws against sticking beans up your nose, are you going to do that next?
(And yeah, I get that some places already have no-texting-while-driving laws. We don't, or at least outside of school zones we don't. As I said, I'm not a fan of increasingly restrictive laws and would prefer people to use their God-given brains to go, "Oh. Maybe it's not smart for me to do that" but also, I'd like to see some statute where if someone causes an accident that can be linked to them texting or being on the phone, that they get double the penalty AND lose cell-phone privileges FOREVER. Kind of like multiple-times DUIs with their driver's licenses. I've had two near-miss accidents with idiots texting who swerved over into my lane and nearly hit me head on)
Monday, September 23, 2013
We had a big cold front come through a couple days ago. It has changed everything. The sticky, nasty, smelly weather (yes, my town gets SMELLY when there's been high pressure for too long - outside my house I can smell what everyone is cooking, even down to the Dairy Queen a couple blocks away). The light is taking on that more muted quality that fall light has, and the sky is no longer that hard metallic whitish-blue it is in the summer.
(I don't like summer. I especially don't like it here because it gets into a rut where it's hot, humid-but-no-rain, high-pressure, and dusty for WEEKS on end).
I cleaned house yesterday afternoon; I have to get the piano tuner in and I don't like having people come into my house when it's a mess. (I admit it: I worry a bit every time it gets bad and I'm too busy to clean it - "What if I fall and break my leg and friends have to come and save me? What if I get really sick and my colleagues have to bring me food?")
I also gathered up the old boxes I had been saving up. We don't do much recycling here, but cardboard recycling is a thing. The bad news is if it's not 7:30 am to 4 pm M through Th, you have to take the stuff way out to the edge of town to leave it at the center. I thought about just leaving it in my car until later today when I might have time, but, meh - I had to get a can of pineapple anyway for something I was cooking, so I had to go out.
I drove out to the south of town. The recycling center is in kind of an industrial area and on a Sunday afternoon it's deserted. You get the "last person in the world" feeling going out there. It's not an unpleasant feeling to me, especially when I really know I'm not the "last person in the world." These days I don't just go out and drive much - I know a lot of people who do, some of my students talk about how the big thing on Saturdays after you got your license and access to a car was just to drive around and see what there was to see. I'm too busy for that, a lot, and I'm also too cheap. (I look at the price of gas.)
But it was nice to get out, in the lengthening light of an early-fall afternoon, and just drive a little. And clear all those boxes out of my house. (I could just put them in the trash, but my rollcart is smallish, and you can get fined if it's overfilled).
I feel a lot better feeling like fall is coming. Intellectually I know summer cannot last forever, but emotionally it feels that way to me sometime - that it will never cool down, that the weather will never change.
Friday, September 20, 2013
I learned something yesterday, while in discussion with a fellow-faculty in another department.
We have a lot of International students. In the past, I had some really great students from other countries, but of late, I've had some who really struggled.
Well, I found out why. My campus either no longer or never required the TOEFL (Test of English for Foreign Language Speakers) for International Students. So if you meet the other criteria, whether or not you speak English well enough to cope, you're in.
I find this disturbing. I have a couple of students this semester who apparently have either French or a tribal language as their primary language and who do not speak English well. They have misunderstood directions on the homeworks, and I'm dreading grading the first test. (Couple this with the fact that they are frequently absent because of work pressures, and you've got a problem).
The thing is, I feel like we're committing malpractice against these students - admitting them, therefore tacitly saying, "You have a chance at success" when that chance is actually lower than it could be, if they added that extra hurdle of the TOEFL. We've also been told that under ADA, we cannot allow students who are non-English speakers to use dictionaries in class unless we allow ALL students to use a dictionary in class.
The thing is, dealing with this is above my pay grade, so to speak. I can't refuse to teach students with a poor grasp of English - not only would some interpret that as me being a xenophobe, I'm sure it runs afoul of some ruling somewhere. But I hate seeing students who are clearly smart earn poor grades because they do not understand.
I suppose this is a personal-responsibility thing, that people need to figure out, "Wow, I am really in over my head" and do something - but I suspect dropping out is not a possibility, they'd lose their visas. We don't have any kind of support group for English learners (the larger campuses I have been on did). (I'd consider trying to start one, but I have so much on my plate right now I know I couldn't do it).
I like getting the international students because many of them have good work ethics and want to do good over in their own countries, but when someone really can't understand English....it's frustrating.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Another mass shooting, another dozen or so people who will never be coming home again, a dozen or so families left to ask why and feel they never got an adequate chance to say goodbye.
The horrible things people can do (whatever their motivation) always boggle my mind.
And the level of speculation that was flying around yesterday was mind boggling. And the fact that apparently the issue is already becoming politicized, even before all the bodies of the dead have been carried out of the building, disgusts me.
I guess I see these things not so much as a "gun" issue or a "workplace" issue or whatever, but as an "evil" issue. That people are capable of stunning evil and violence, and that some decide to go and do that for whatever reason.
It just makes me frustrated. And again, I think: it's a good thing I'm not God; I'd probably have wiped out the human race a long time ago and started over with making the kangaroos or something my "chosen" species instead.
I try to do what is right, I try to be kind, I try to help people. But some days it feels like spitting into a windstorm.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I can still go to the grocery store without fear of being bombed. I am not required to dress to a standard of "modesty" greater than my own. Nor am I required to rely upon a father, brother, or other male relative for "chaperoning" to "protect" me when I venture from the house.
Yes, there are things that have changed - I remain unconvinced that the TSA is better protection from a would-be attacker than a bunch of alert passengers with a "Hell, no, that's not gonna happen again, not if I have anything to do about it" attitude. I'm really, really not crazy about the idea that information about what phone numbers I dial and when, and also very likely what sites I visit on the Internet is being collected and stored somewhere.
But we're fundamentally okay. The world didn't become the hellhole (or, well, the vastly bigger hellhole than parts of it already were) after September 11.
Yes, thousands - THOUSANDS, and the number still boggles my mind - of innocent people lost their lives. Moms and dads and brothers and sons and daughters and sisters and friends and grandparents and firefighters and cops and emergency technicians and soldiers and.....just people. An entire cross-section of America. And I am still mad and sad about that. And even a year ago, four people lost their lives in a mob that was apparently determined to celebrate the anniversary of what they saw as our downfall.
And yeah, I'm not happy with a lot of what our leaders are doing now. A lot of it seems like kabuki theater as played by a seventh-grade class where all the cliques are in a snit with each other. But the average American person - the people I work with and go to church with and know well enough to say "hi" to at the grocery store - they're still keepin' on keepin' on. Most of them, at least most of the people I associate with, are working for a living, paying their taxes, obeying the law, loving their family, and going about their day to day life. Most of the people I know seem to have it together better than a lot of world leaders. So I still have hope.
But I also have hope that nothing on this scale ever happens again.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Does this whole "international solution" thing with Russia mean that World War III is unlikely to start this year?
I mean, I know they say that even a blind pig finds an acorn occasionally, and it seems like that's what John Kerry has been of late.....
I mean, still, in the longer term we're still probably screwed given the rise of the facist strain in Islam, but maybe I should go back on my diet since I'm unlikely to be blasted to smithereens in the next few weeks?
Friday, September 06, 2013
First exam time.
Two scenes from an exam:
1. Student asks me, "Do you want me to be more specific on this question?" I had written "State an example of an acid." S/he had written, "Acid." Um, yeah. I would like you to be more specific.
2. Student hands in test and s/he says to me, "You didn't say THIS TOPIC would be on the exam" pointing to one of the questions. I said that yes, in fact, I had noted that it would be, right at the start of class the previous day. (I REMEMBER THAT). Student huffs and grumps his/her way out of the room. Really? This kind of grade grubbing is starting this early? And anyway, when did it happen that I have to explicitly list everything that's going to be on the exam? Back in my day, if it happened in class, it could show up in the exam. (Sort of a reverse "What happens in Vegas...")
It's too damn early in the semester for me to be this fatigued.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
This is one of the things that makes me craziest.
In my town, a guy (I'm not gonna call him a "man") was arrested for allegedly molesting one of his girlfriend's kids. The police have put out a request that anyone else who might have had "contact" with him to come forward (allegedly, there are up to 7 kids he's abused).
There's a lot of culpability to go around. The child-molestor, of course, is the primary guilty party. (I wonder: are there people out there who have desires they know are wrong, they know they should not act upon, who DON'T act upon them? And what do they do? Avoid being around kids? Get treatment? But surely there are people with self control....I know there have been men I have been attracted to, where as soon as I found out they were married, I was like, "Okay, that's a big No-Fly Zone right there" and I took steps never to be alone with him, to only socialize with him when his wife was also present.)
Anyway. The primary blame falls on the molestor, but what about the mom? This is something I don't get. When you're a parent, isn't the safety of your kids supposed to be paramount? Aren't they your first priority?
There have been so many cases here of "mom's boyfriend" abusing (physically, emotionally, or sexually) her kids....in a few cases a kid even died. I wonder - are there women who are so desperate to have a man around that they will be willing to put their kids in harm's way just for a bit of fun? I've read about how hard it is for a woman to leave an abusive relationship, but is it also that hard to avoid getting into one in the first place?
Is it really that necessary to have a man in your lie that you're willing to let some guy into your home that you know so little about, that you're not 100% sure he's safe with your kids before you let him share your bed?
I mean - I won't go out on a second date with a guy if he's rude to the waitress and drives like he has a chip on his shoulder. I just don't want to deal with it - being alone, as much as society tells you you're a loser for that, is better than being with a guy with an anger problem or who could get abusive.
It just makes me so sad. It's such a waste. Probably the molestor will go to prison, he might meet the fate that I hear child molestors tend to meet there, but that makes no difference, really - he already stole something from those kids that can never be put back, he damaged them in a way that's very hard to overcome even with good counseling and lots of hard work.
I'm generally not an enormous fan of the death penalty, for both practical and philosophical reasons, but if we're gonna have a death penalty, I wouldn't have too much trouble including "serial child molestor" within those who are eligible for it.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
I have no idea if this is an actual growing tragedy*, or whether it's something ginned up by the news media right now.
There's a new form of Ecstasy out there, they are allegedly calling it "Molly." There have apparently been a couple overdoses, and at least one death, among teens in the area where I live. There have been a few violent acts committed, beatings and stuff, and it's alleged the perpetrators were high on the stuff at the time. (Though I thought Ecstasy didn't generally make people violent....)
And you know? While I feel for the parents who are grieving their child, my overwhelming feeling is this: If you take illicit drugs, ESPECIALLY drugs cooked up in God-knows-what back room, you're an idiot. You're playing Russian Roulette with your life.
For one thing: I have seen how our Chemistry and Biology majors make solutions or compounds in class. Now, these are smart kids. They have experience in a chem lab. And still, sometimes they screw it up. What about the person who might have no chemistry background (Breaking Bad notwithstanding) cooking up drugs in a hotel room, or in the back of a car, or who knows where? Someone who might themselves be high or be coming off a high?
And that's even assuming the manufacturer or the seller is ethical and isn't intentionally putting other stuff in the drug, or cutting it with things that might be toxic. (I have a relative who is a forensic chemist. She's told me horror stories of people being taken into morgues with the needle still in their arm from bad heroin - that's how fast it kills. And she's told me horror stories of the stuff that coke is "cut" with)
I'm not going to get into the "legalize it and regulate it" argument. I know the reasons given for that and some of those are good reasons. However, I also suspect that legalizing drugs would (a) not affect the black market in them greatly and (b) it might lead to certain idiots getting addicted, because "If the government allows it, it must be okay" and then (c) those addicts demanding SSI disability or whatever, because addicts can't hold down a good job. (I have seen statistics predicting either no change, or a rise in the number of addicts under a legalization scenario. I don't know which one's correct but I'm not sure I'm wanting to gamble on it)
But as I said: if you're buying mystery chemicals off of some guy at a party, with the intention of getting high, you're an idiot. There's a good chance you will die, either right away because of an OD or poisoning, or later, because of chronic problems brought on by screwing with your body's chemistry in unpredictable ways. I realize I was in some ways an unusually mature teenager but I knew that fact when I was like, 12. And as a result, I avoided situations where drugs were being used, just because I didn't want to be around that junk.
I suppose if you don't have much of a life, and much promise ahead of you, you maybe don't care whether you live or die, and that's part of the problem. I don't know what to do in the cases of kids who are just stuck in bad situations and don't see any way out other than becoming the drug dealer or meth cook or something. I don't know how we can reduce demand for drugs, which is what I think it would take to cut into the problems with gangs and meth labs and everything else. I mean, short of mandatory death sentences for dealers and cooks and importers and stuff, which I'm not sure would do anything more than raise the stakes and make the drug violence worse.
It's a problem I don't see a way out of, unfortunately. It's a problem we've had for a long time....apparently enough people find reality sufficiently distasteful that they're willing to risk their health to escape it via chemical means. And the cost is, in some ways, paid by those of us who have no desire to use that chemical means....the violence, the degradation of public areas (there is one park in my town that is unusable, because of the syringes that are found there), the folks who wind up in the ER because of an overdose or bad drugs or whatever and can't pay their own way, the houses that blow up because of inexperienced meth cooks.....
(*Yes, of course, if your kid dies of it, it's a tragedy for that family. However, I think a fault in our news media currently is to take individual stories and milk them for all they're worth - on the one hand, manipulating the emotions of the viewers, generating outrage when none might be really necessary, and also, stripping the grieving family of a certain amount of privacy and dignity)
Friday, August 30, 2013
I'm glad it's not my job to decide what to do about Syria.
On one hand, I find it sickening and repulsive to hear news stories, like the one this morning, that stated a napalm attack had been leveled on a school. I hate the thought of poison gas - stuff that is forbidden under pretty much all the UN conventions that civilized world leaders follow - has been used against innocent citizens.
On the other hand - I'm not convinced that taking out Assad is going to do anything but lead to his being replaced by someone even worse. It seems like a lot of the Middle Eastern countries are on the brink of something really bad, and I don't see a good way (either diplomatic or military) of preventing that.
I also heard that Israelis are being told to keep their gas masks handy. I mean, I know they do a lot of the time, but still, that's chilling to think about. It takes a level of guts that most Americans can't imagine to be able to go about your daily life with the knowledge that you might be bombed or might be gassed in the back of your head.
The world's a very screwed up place. I'm not sure if it's any more screwed up than it used to be or if we're just hearing about it more.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Please, please, RTDD. (read the damn directions). They are not that unclear.
If I give an instruction and the entire class cannot follow it, or more than half the class cannot, I probably donked up and didn't give good instructions.
But when 90% of the class manages without any further explanation from me, and one person can't follow the directions correctly - I probably DIDN'T donk up, it's probably you.
Monday, August 26, 2013
So, I am needing to teach one of my classes this fall as a "hybrid" (it's a long story, but blame the idiots who can't pull their own weight for making stuff harder for the rest of us. And this may be the last time I do an 'arranged' class).
Anyway, "hybrid," for those outside the seething pits of academe, means part of the time the class meets online (as a series of discussions on a moderated board - and whoopee, guess who gets to moderate! This girl!) and part of the time, we meet in person. (I'm really hoping everyone has the same hour out of the week free, so I don't have to carve out three or more separate meeting times when we need to meet).
Anyway, as I had never made discussion boards in BlackBoard before, I wanted to go and learn rather than blundering around myself and maybe breaking it. So I made an appointment with the person in charge of all this stuff.
I arrived a little early. She motioned me into the classroom area (she was in her office, which has windows out into the classroom). She was on the phone with someone. Guiding them through something. Apparently it was something difficult, the woman kept trying to tell the person what to click on and apparently was being told, "No, that page isn't there!". Finally, she said, "Oh. Well. If you changed your name you need to log in under that name." And then, "No. We don't keep separate accounts for you under both your names. No, I'm sorry, we can't do that. Just log in under the official name you go by now. Does that work? Okay. You're welcome."
(it wound up in her being a few minutes late for our meeting, but no big deal - that was the last thing I needed to do today).
She shook her head as she was coming out. "This person couldn't log in because her name changed and she thought she could log in under her old name."
I looked at her, baffled: "But don't you specifically have to request if you want your name officially changed? Didn't she know her name was changed?"
"Oh, yes, and she did request it. But she thought we'd keep separate accounts for her under both names so she could log in with whichever one she felt like using."
Wait, what? First you send in a form to change your name, and then you get all upset when your old name is no longer accessible? Because, I don't know, we have enough storage space and worker-bees to keep track of everyone having multiple accounts? And okay, I get that maybe some marriages don't work out and you want to get rid of the guy's name as fast as you can.....but wouldn't you realize you had to file another change form, if that were the case?
I'd hate being a computer help-desk person; I'd probably blow up at someone on the first day and lose my job. I feel for them, the crazy stuff they have to deal with.
(Also, IF I ever were to marry? I might change my name "socially" but I think I'd keep my maiden name on campus; it seems like an effort to go around to all the offices and change stuff. And then I'd have to remember to log in under my new name, which might be HARD, har de har har)
That said? The stuff I had to learn was surprisingly quick and easy and I probably could have figured it out on my own but maybe I learned more quickly with an expert to help me.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
First week of the semester is in the can (as movie lingo goes). Mostly good, it seems a critical mass of my incoming freshmen this fall had The Fear Of God put in them somewhere along the line, so they have been polite. (As in: during a slack time in lab, a young woman puts up her hand. I go over to see what's up and she whispers, "Is it okay if I leave to use the restroom?" Yes, it is, of course.) I had a young man ask me, "Are we going to need the textbook every day?" And I chuckled and said no, I'd give page numbers for stuff they needed to refer to, because the textbooks are awfully heavy (seriously, they must be 10 pounds) and I'd rather they not have to carry them around with them.
I actually would rather answer the respectful-scared questions in a reassuring way (I am always reassuring to scared freshpeople) than have people assume stuff...I once had a student walk into my class AS I WAS GOING OVER THE SYLLABUS ON THE FIRST DAY, stop me cold, and demand to know where a certain room was. Okay, number one: you don't just waltz into a class and stop the prof. Number two, you don't interrupt. (And I will observe: on some campuses, walking in to a classroom uninvited when you are clearly not part of the class may well get you tackled, pinned down, and searched for weapons, these days)
Once they left, I looked out at the class and they all had "What the Hell just happened" expressions, too.
But this semester's crop, I'm hopeful about. (I'm always hopeful). I also have a mostly-three-day-a-week schedule. (Three days of lecture plus lab, and Thursday I just have one lab, Tuesday I don't have any classes, which gives me a good break to work on longer-term stuff like research or revamping class material).
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Christians (and other "minority religionists" who were mostly minding their own business) in Egypt. I was busy over the weekend and yesterday and hadn't kept up with the news, but wow, it looks ugly,ugly, ugly for Christians and other "minority" religions right now. I don't know what we can do about it. My first, knee jerk thought: send a bunch of planes over there, tell all the adherents of "minority religions" that if they are willing to sign a document denouncing violent acts, they will be granted asylum here. But I also realize that wouldn't work.
I really hate the strain in Islam that says "convert or die." I'm perfectly okay with the varieties of Islam that say "I'm going to live my own life according to my conscience BUT AT THE SAME TIME follow the laws of my country" (because some of the strict interpretations in the Islamist group run counter to some of our freedoms, and I so do not want to see the freedoms of the US compromised in the name of multiculturalism) but I'm not okay with the branch that advocates things like honor-killings and repression of women and other groups and who want to make the whole world Islamic.
I know, I know: Christianity went through something like this a bit more than a thousand years ago and we mostly got it out of our systems and I admit on good days I hold out hope that a more moderate and sane belief system will displace the violence-advocating one in Islam.
But right now it's really ugly and the worst sides of humanity seem to be showing.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Saturday, August 17, 2013
The previous policy in re: disability accommodations on my campus was this:
The office of disability concerns sends a letter out to the instructor, usually a few days before classes start, informing him or her of the accommodations a student is entitled to.
It worked pretty well. By getting it a few days in advance we knew what to prepare for: for example, a couple semesters I had students who had had back surgery or who had been in car accidents and for whom it was difficult and uncomfortable to use the standard classroom chairs, so we could arrange for an alternate chair. (Disability Concerns would bring them over and then pick them up at the end of the semester). Also, we were mentally prepared: is there going to be someone requiring a note-taker? Is there someone with low vision, for whom you might have to change how you teach?
The new model, to reflect that Disability Concerns has been downsized*, is that the STUDENT gets the letter and then brings it to us the first day of class, and then we get to make arrangements. Yay. (What about faculty like me - or faculty who might actually be on the Autism spectrum (it's possible) who have big problems with stuff bring sprung on them? I mean, I'm not in any way autistic but I LOATHE being told "you need to make this change" at the last minute and it really throws me off my game. So much better to know and be able to take care of things a couple days in advance).
But I have a bigger issue about laying the onus on the student to bring the letter in. First of all: do they get one letter only, so I have to look at it, remember what I need to do, and then hand the letter back? So now in addition to remembering to send an exam needing more time over 48 hours in advance (it used to be 24), now I have to be sure to remember who I have to do that for?
But the bigger issue is this: it's totally on them to show us the letter. If they don't show us the letter, we don't know we have to accommodate them. And that can, I suspect, lead to all kinds of bad things. I realize I'm paranoid here, but I was burned one semester by a student. I don't know if he was really less with-it than I thought (for example: he missed lab one day and came and demanded a make-up lab. When I told him I couldn't do a make-up lab, he remarked, "I have a very bad sense of time. I forgot to set the alarm on my phone so nothing reminded me it was time to go to lab." Um, that's not my fault? But I went through the rigamarole of allowing him to make up the lab (thank God it was one he could do on his own time) because I didn't want to run afoul of Disability Concerns). Or maybe he was gaslighting me - on several occasions he claimed I was not present for appointments he had made to see me. And the time he quoted for the appointment was a time I was actually in class and NOT THE TIME I MADE THE APPOINTMENT FOR. And he went to one of the administrators with that story and I had to try to explain myself.
So I'm paranoid: what if someone either forgets to bring in the letter and then gets embarrassed that they did, and figures it's better to throw the instructor under the bus than to fess up to their mistake, or what if they out-and-out decide NOT to bring the letter in so they can cry foul and get all kinds of sympathy? I could see someone going at the end of the semester, "My professor never made my required accommodations!" and the professor going "But I didn't know you deserved them!" and it's all he-said, she-said, because there's no clear evidence of a letter being shown to the prof. (Yes. I asked several of TPTB if there was going to be a receipt we signed to verify that we had seen the accommodation letter. Apparently not. I hope that changes JOLLY fast.). I'm wondering if we'll see instructors or adjuncts let go - or perhaps the few untenured tenure-track people we still have having their tenure and promotions requests affected - because a student didn't bring in their letter and then cried "Foul!"
Yes, I know that's paranoid. But when you're getting calls from a Dean saying, "I hear you weren't in your office when Student X had an appointment with you, and he's not very happy about that," and you WERE in your office, and Student X just never showed.....well, it's easy to BECOME paranoid.
(I will also note: if the person in question really had as bad time-management skills as he claimed: as in, if no one told him "you have to be in place X now" he wouldn't know he had to.....well, he shouldn't be in college. He just shouldn't. I'm sorry. I know that makes me a hater but there's a point where you just have to say "Enough.")
(*As I have said to multiple colleagues: "The ONE bureaucracy on campus that ACTUALLY DOES A GOOD JOB and they cut its budget and take it down to one employee. Smaaaaaart.")
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Coming back here after a lunch at home, I managed to slam my (heavy, wood) front door on the tip of my left ring finger.
Here is an exact transcript of what I said:
"Golly day! Ow! Man-oh-man, that HURTS!"
I guess all my years of being a Youth Group leader have trained me well. (No one else was around, FWIW, so I could have cursed like a sailor if I had wanted).
I did go back in the house and run cold water over it to try to make it stop hurting. I don't think I actually injured it, other than maybe a bruise, but wow, that is one of those things that hurts far, far more than it seems like it should.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
But probably true.
Comment made during a discussion in faculty meetings yesterday: "Because we get so many underprepared students, we have to be even better as professors."
This raises all kinds of issues with rigor vs. retention. Right now, "retention" is a big buzzword on campus and it makes me twitch because frankly, there are some students who just should not be retained in certain programs....if you can't pass basic intro bio after three tries, I think your dream of becoming a neuroscientist probably needs some rethinking.
And: I'll be damned if I make my classes easier just to "retain" someone who might either be lazy and not doing the work, or who genuinely lacks the chops to pass.
Also: is a discussion on academic freedom in the classroom really going to be an open discussion if you have several administrators, including the ones that might be directly involved in disciplining people who step out of line, in the room?
Sunday, August 11, 2013
This is something I contemplate on a regular basis - perhaps along with a lot of other people whose parents raised them to say "please" and "thank you" and not to talk loudly in a public setting and not to push to the front of a line.
Dave raised this issue in his recent post. The precipitating factor: a story about a person who proposed separate movie theaters for people who wish to text, talk on their cell phones, etc. - so the people who do not wish to do that, and who do not like being disturbed, can have their movie experience the way God (or at least Louis B. Mayer) intended.
And people went nuts about that. As I said in a comment over there, people often get tunnel vision about stuff (I admit, at times I am guilty of it) and they see what they want to see and get OUTRAGED! and it all led up to lots of breath being wasted. Some people thought it was a call for ALL theaters to allow, willy-nilly, every behavior (cats and dogs dancing together! or something like that). Others, including Anil Dash, thought it was jerkish for people to expect that the movie they paid $10 or more to see shouldn't be interrupted by someone telling their boyfriend when to pick them up....
Okay, here's my two cents: If you go out in public and act like being in public is no different from being at home on your sofa, you're a jerk. If you don't consider that there are other people around you who might not appreciate your noise, either your parents did a poor job raising you or you're a jerk.
And if you're in some kind of position of authority - an usher (do theaters even still have ushers?) a store manager, a restaurant manager, and you see someone ruining everyone else's experience, and you do NOTHING, you are spineless. (And yes, I get it: some people are violent jerks. But most jerks aren't, and threatening to throw them out might just shut them up). And if you are spineless, then you deserve for the decent people who don't want to sit through a barrage of loud cell-phone convos while eating dinner at a nice restaurant to leave and never come back.
Some years back, when I was visiting my parents, it was my last night there. We went out to one of the old, established, well-thought-of restaurants in town. We wanted a quiet dinner together. We had the bad luck to get stuck next to a table where a guy who apparently had had some travel problems was sitting - he had called up his secretary (? At 7 pm at night? Not very fair) and was cursing her out. I mean CURSING. Using the m-f word, using the "c" word you should never use to a woman....all because she made a mistake. The waiter walked up to him and said, "Sir, either end your call now or leave. You are disturbing everyone else here." I can't remember if the guy hung up or just left in a huff (I think he just left), but I know my dad doubled the waiter's tip after that bit. But really? How hard is it NOT to say the m-f word in public, even if you're really angry?
But we see this stuff all the time now - so much so that, as I said, the idea of separate "go here to play with your cell phone; go there if you want quiet" theaters seems reasonable. (I would be a lot more prone to go to movies again - well, if my town had a theater, which it does not - if I was reasonably sure of not having people who talk loudly through the film. Otherwise...I have a dvd player and I can sit at home and watch movies in blissful silence - in fact, I can even turn off my phone during them).
But there are other things you can't avoid. I don't have grocery-delivery in my town, so I have to trek out (usually to the Wal-mart, which is the only grocery store of any size within an hour's round trip of me) and deal with people. And you know? I've had people nearly run into me because they were walking the aisles and texting. I've had people push ahead of me in line. I've had to go around people engaged in a massive argument ("Get a room!" should apply to more than amorous displays). I've had kids nearly trip me, or knock over displays, or bang those stupid mini-carts some stores used to have into my shins, because apparently it's haaaaaaaaard for a parent to encourage their kid to obey at the grocery.
I try to shop early on Saturday mornings so I can avoid the crowds and also the worst of the pushy or loud-rude people. But some days I have to go after school, and I've walked out of there on occasion shaking or angry at humanity or swearing I'd rather just go hungry next time.
And then there's the issue of noise. I use a reel-type lawnmower which makes almost no noise, but when I have to use the noisy edger, I wait until after 10 am on a weekend day, just to be sure I'm not waking anyone in my neighborhood. It's how I was raised. Most of the people in my neighborhood follow rules similar to that - not mowing before 10 am, not mowing after 9 pm or so. Even though it's awfully hot here in the summer and those times might be marginally less hot.
One thing I noticed during my recent visit to family: my parents live in a VERY quiet neighborhood. There are no through-streets (really, it's a good innovation, even if it makes getting places more involved), so no one uses them as a regular route - only the people who live in the neighborhood use them. I live near the corner of a street that is a through street and I regularly get lots of street noise, even late at night. Boom cars, cars that have been badly tended to (Okay, for some that's an economic issue, but I have also known guys to get muffler cut-outs because they "like" a loud car).
But what gets me? The guys with the "boom cars." I am not sure what possesses a person to think it's OK to share their particular choice of music, played at volumes sufficient to rattle any sheet metal in the car (for a while, there was a fad to use older-model Cadillacs and similar land-yachts, because apparently they have lots of metal to rattle). And to do that at 11 pm. Or 2 am. Or some damn hour. (Even midafternoon on a Sunday, I find that mildly offensive.)
And I get it: some people DON'T think. I once asked a student who was a former smoker why smokers thought it was okay to drop their butts everywhere, including in park areas, and she shrugged, and said, "I guess I never thought about it. I guess you don't think when you are doing that."
But, it's part of what I see as a coarsening of life: getting awakened at midnight by a booming bass car is just not good. It's not pleasant. It's not a huge thing, but it's one of those small things. And the small nasty things build up: getting stuck in a grocery line behind someone who is going over the details of their recent surgery in a level of detail I don't want to hear; the person who lets their dog run loose and it dookies in my yard; getting awakened in the middle of the night by noise that I consider frankly unnecessary. And it just sucks out some of the goodness of life. I know, it seems like a little thing - but little things build up.
And it feels to me some days like the rude irresponsible people are winning. And it makes me want to become even more of a hermit than I already am. Which means they win even more. Sometimes I wonder if American culture will split, not into Morlocks and Eloi exactly, but into a group that dominates the public square, is loud, is rude, figures that they "own" the public square rather than "sharing" it, and a second group that winds up venturing into public as rarely as possible. (I think part of my fantasies of a cabin somewhere high up in the mountains stems from the "avoiding the jerks in public" desire.)
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Why, for the love of all that's good, do students NOT show up to my office hours with questions or problems during the semester, but the MOMENT the final exam is turned in, they are e-mailing me either begging me for "extra credit" (Oh honey. Oh honey. Don't ask me to do something unethical. And yes, it is unethical to offer one student extra credit that the others don't have the opportunity to receive) or berating me for not teaching them something well enough (I am required by
law my admins to hold ten hours of office hours a week. They are so you may meet with me about things you don't understand. Everyone else in the class got the topic; it is not my place to back the truck up to catch up one person who may simply not be paying attention).
I'm just TIRED. I almost snapped at a student during the review session the other day because she kept stopping me and asking me to repeat stuff I had covered five or more minutes previously. This is also someone who would sit in the back of the room - with spaces open on the two front rows - and then yell "I can't read what you are writing on the board!" at me, which would make me sigh, and increase the size of my handwriting.
I mean, it's good to be diligent about stuff, but it's another thing to constantly berate your prof.
(I have three e-mails - in a class of 15 - that are all about extra credit and were all mailed within three hours of the exam being finished. Dammit.)
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Heard this on the radio this morning. I had to sit down on the foot of my bed and cry for a couple minutes:
Man undergoing chemo films his "father-daughter dance" in case he won't be around for her wedding.
My own father is healthy, but he's closing in on 80, and so every story like that gets to me a little, because like every adult kid that loves their parents, I know some day there will be that phone call that will change everything.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Thursday, July 18, 2013
First off:: Fair enough, Joel. I haven't seen the article (I don't care that much for Rolling Stone) but it seems often our culture has the habit of glorifying that which should not be, so it sounds like they did a better job than I might have hoped.
My last lab of the summer ended. It should have ended at 5:30 but I have two SLOWPOKES who just can't get done on time, and I can't justify turfing them because there's no class after mine in the room. (During the regular semester, they'd be so gone).
But today, they overstayed their welcome by a half hour. So gone are my plans of working out tonight (it was way too humid to this morning) or even mowing my lawn.
I can't really get too angry at them - it's not that they goof off, they're just methodical and SLOW.
But I've been on campus since 7 this morning and I'm tired. And I don't get a weekend this morning because it's prepwork for fall time. So blah. Anyone who believes college profs are lazy bums with too much free time on their hands are welcome to come do my gig for a week and see. I'm lucky if I get 45 minutes of an evening to do what I "want" to do. (Well, unless you count sleeping. If I could get by on five hours of sleep then I could have maybe 2 hours a night. But I can't, so I don't.)
Some years back, I commented to a friend that pirates, which were once viewed as hateful, murderous scum (And rightly so: some of the accounts I've read of what they even did to one of their own, were he to desert or simply not live up to "the pirate code" are pretty horrific). But now, they've been rehabilitated: they're figures of fun, almost-heroes in movies, romantic. There is even a very small children's show featuring a pirate crew. (Granted, everything's been sanitized even more than what Disney did to Grimm's Fairy Tales - but still: pirates. Who were by definition thieves and killers).
And I remarked: I wonder if in a couple hundred years, what remains of our culture will treat the terrorists of today the same way? If they'll be seen as almost-heroes, as romantic figures, as people living "outside the box" (I think that's part of the attraction of pirates, for some: they don't have a 9 to 5 job, they don't follow the rules of polite society, and somehow that's cool).
Well, I didn't need to wait that long. One of the murderous thugs who tried to cause a mass killing (and succeeded in killing 3 and maiming far more) at the Boston Marathon has been given the Glamour Shots treatment by Rolling Stone.
Granted, Rolling Stone is known for wanting to be "transgressive," I suspect for them, "But it won't play in Peoria" is probably considered high praise. But really, I wonder how Bostonians feel - how people who know someone injured feel - to walk past a newsstand and see that. I admit I growl low in my throat, and I didn't even know anyone injured.
And supposedly the article addresses "How his family failed him"? Um, how about how HE failed his adopted country - the one that granted his family asylum when they claimed mistreatment at the hands of non-Muslims in their own country?
I don't know. I still feel angry over every stupid teenybopper (or superannuated teenybopper - there are women out of teenybopper age who said this) who claimed he was too "pretty" to be evil. NO. Often evil hides behind a mask of attractiveness, that's how it sucks you in. Stop being stupid.
What do I hope happens to this guy? I hope he is quietly tried, quietly found guilty, and either quietly executed or spends the rest of his live in isolation bored in prison somewhere. That he DOESN'T become any kind of a romantic figure. There's NOTHING romantic about wanting to kill innocent people.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
They upfront note it's a "gamble," but I think this is an interesting concept:
Oregon to let college-bound choose: pay up-front, or pay over the course of your career. Either students can pay the roughly $25K per year upfront, or they can "mortgage" the first 24 years of their career at 3% of their earnings per year.
It's an interesting concept, though now that I read it, there are some problems:
1. Apparently the IRS would have to administer it. I don't want the IRS involved in more things; I want them involved in fewer things.
2. The higher-earning-potential students will opt to pay up front, so the university system won't "win" off of them - if you're going to be an engineer or architect or lawyer potentially making six figures a year, you're not going to opt for 3% of that to go for half or more of your career. Lower-earning-potential students will opt in, and some will "win" whereas others - say, someone who goes into writing and strikes it big with a couple novels that get optioned by Hollywood - will "lose" and the university system will "win." But I suspect most in the humanities, and many in the so-called "helping professions" (outside of, maybe, nursing) would be money ahead to take the 3% deal.
3. It will probably come back to bite state taxpayers somehow, or else the school will find itself needing to cut corners when it has unexpected shortfalls.
On the other hand, I like the idea of a tuition plan where no student can come back and sue the school because they "aren't making enough money." (There have been a few cases of graduates trying to sue their alma maters, either because said graduates believed they were "guaranteed" a job upon graduation, or that they weren't makign the big bucks the brochures implied they would).
Would it be a reasonable deal for someone like me? As an out-of-state student at a Public Ivy back some 20 years ago, I was probably paying close to $20K a year (Well, *I* wasn't, per se....I was one of those evil trust-fund kids - when my grandparents' estate was sold, the money went into an eduction trust for my brother and me, and we wrote our tuition checks out of that. But $20K seems reasonable including room, cheap board (I ate a lot of beans and rice) and textbooks).
So. I'm making roughly $65K a year (let's not count capital gains on investments, though I'm sure Oregon would like to do that). Three percent of $65K is $1950. So, presuming my entire undergrad costs were on the order of $60K (I graduated in 3 years: APs and taking summer classes at a local commuter community college helped), and assuming my earnings remained constant.....it would take 30.7 years to pay off my cost of education at my current income. (Of course, with experience, ones income goes up, and in some years at least, we've gotten inflation-indexed pay raises).
Of course, if they included everything the IRS likes to look at - capital gains (yes, I do have some investments), interest, dividends, income from stuff like textbook reviewing (it's small, but it's something).....they'd probably get at least their money back out of me, likely more. Of course, at today's prices for Oregon, it would be a little longer for the payoff, but still. (I don't even want to know what a four-year degree at my alma mater would cost these days. If I were doing it again I'd go to a smaller school, possibly a private one, maybe even a church-affiliated one. The culture at my alma mater did not always agree with me.)
I don't think it would work in practice but it's an interesting idea in theory. I also wonder if a university's various committees would be so eager to approve new majors in less-marketable fields (e.g., Peace Studies) if they thought a large number of those majors would opt for the "3% of my income for the next 24 years" option.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Added, later on: To all the people (ESPECIALLY white hipsters) putting on hoodies and declaring "I am Trayvon Martin," stop it. You can sympathize with him and his family. But you - especially if you are from a more-privileged background - are NOT him. This is annoying me.This is not the same thing as walking a mile in someone's shoes; this is co-opting someone else for your own purposes.
Okay, disclaimer: I watched as little of the Zimmerman trial as possible. (Trying to find "other" news of the world in the middle of a "trial of the century number 5" means you wind up seeing some of that trial). So I don't know all the facts. Hell, I suspect that no one, outside of God, really knows all the facts.
But a phrase keeps going through my head: an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.
I'm willing to accept that Zimmerman acted in self-defense; that seems to be what the jury found. But now, the folks calling for his head, what does that solve? It doesn't make Martin any less dead. It doesn't make two families' lives any less awful now.
And I fail to see what the non-peaceful, property-damaging protests solve - why is burning stuff or breaking the windows of someone who probably never did anything to you an answer? I'm wondering if some of the people are acting that way because they feel like they have been told to act a certain way, or that it's the only way they will see "justice" - to make some other person, someone probably totally uninvolved, to make their life worse. (My minimum goal in life is to not make the lives worse of innocent people around me. It's a pretty small goal.)
Or is it just easier to be angry about this? I don't know. I've been avoiding social media since Saturday night because the frothing on the part of some just gets to me.
For that matter, if we want to be angry about unnecessary deaths, what about all the kids who are dying in Chicago due, mostly, to gang violence? What about the report (I have not been able to substantiate it from what I consider a reliable source, so it may not be true) that a 17 year old kid in Chicago was killed by gang members because he refused to join a gang?
Our society is broken in a lot of ways but it seems that the media wants to focus on only certain ways.Yes, it's awful that Trayvon Martin died. Yes, there were probably things he could have done differently, things Zimmerman could have done differently, maybe even things the local police could have done differently that would have led to a different ending - but that didn't happen. It's sad and unfortunate but I don't think it's the huge indictment of "A Racist America" that some people are playing it up to be. (There is no solid evidence that Zimmerman used a racial slur, for example - if he had been witnessed chasing Martin down the street screaming epithets at him, then I'd say it was definitely a crime in which race played a part. But from what I've seen of the case, that does not seem to be the situation.)
I don't know. This just makes me feel more and more like we're living in a fractured country, where people are being taught to distrust even their neighbors - and while there are genuinely people out there you cannot trust, distrusting and being suspicious of everyone is a bad way to have to live.
I find myself watching less and less news, because I feel like I'm being told what to think, what to feel, what someone else thinks is important - rather than what might actually be important.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Escape-artist babies. I know this is all over the web but it made me laugh.
I particularly like the one towards the end of the toddler who gets out of her crib, goes over to her sister's crib, lowers the side so her sister can get out and then *puts the side back up to avoid detection*