Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanks Joel, thanks Kate

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

sad panda

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

End of semester is approaching

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

Thanks to the veterans

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

Good lord, what messes

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 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.