Friday, January 31, 2014

Scene from an exam

So I gave my first exam today. This is in a intro-level majors class; it's a class in which you have to earn the equivalent of a 70% to be able to take upper-division classes in my department.

It's also a challenging class. There's a lot of material. Oh, it's not impossible to earn an A; I have people earn As every semester. But a lot of people also can't handle the amount and speed of the material, because they either coasted in high school, or went to a high school that prepared them badly.

So we get lots of repeaters. I have three people from my last-semester class taking this one again, and one person who was in my lab section (but not lecture) last go-round.

So anyway, I gave the exam. And one of the repeaters, when he handed it in, went, "This is different from last semester's."

Uh, yeah. I'm not that stupid. And anyway, I know there are exam files floating around out there, and if you hand back your exams (some profs do not), you need to create new ones each semester.

But I am amazed at how some folks don't seem to learn from past mistakes. Maybe not so much Mr. "But you didn't just copy last year's exam," but I also have someone re-taking the class whose attendance was for crap last time, and it's bad again this time. Attendance correlates well with performance, and while it could be as much a measure of how much of a damn a person gives (that is, both attendance and performance are correlated with giving a damn, and that's what causes both to be high, rather than that attendance assures a better grade), still, he did pretty badly last time.

And I also once had the guy who plagiarized a paper, failed the class, retook it, and then plagiarized again. When I busted him, his response was, "I didn't think you'd check."

I just stared at him, amazed. I wanted to say, "Of everyone in the class, yours was the one I MADE SURE to check," but I didn't.

I don't know. I don't like to brag on how smart I am but I am smart enough to learn from my mistakes and not make them again. Hell, I'm smart enough to learn from OTHER PEOPLE'S mistakes, which is a much more fun way to learn.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Waltons, again

I think I mentioned watching re-runs of this occasionally before.

I am quite sure my family watched it when I was a kid (when it was on in its first run) but I remember almost nothing of individual episodes....I just remember the "goodnight" ritual from the end, and the music.

(The music. The music is weirdly evocative to me; I think I remember music better than other things and I can hear the theme music and be 7 or 8 again....)

Anyway, I've been watching the re-runs the Hallmark Channel does of late, partly because there's so little current programming that inspires. (I once said to the television, "TV, stop sucking." It didn't listen to me.)

I find the show more interesting, and in a lot of ways, more uplifting (even though there's sad stuff that goes on) than a lot of stuff.

I also look at the family dynamic and wonder how different a person I would have turned out to be if I had grown up as one of seven children. (I was five before my only sibling, a brother, was born).

And I like the 1930s/40s era setting, it's inherently more interesting to me than a show set in a modern-day Everycity. (Even if I now find myself scrutinizing things in the background - there was a Red Cross poster in one of the episodes I saw last night that looked too "modern" to me; the typeface and style of how the wording was positioned seemed kind of 1970s.)

Another thing struck me last night: one episode featured Ma and Mary Ellen going to check on a young mountain woman whose husband was overseas in WWII and there was concern because she'd stopped writing to him. It turned out a scumbag guy had raped her. (I don't think "rape" was ever said, but it was pretty clear what had happened). And Ma tries to report him (though the lawman reminds her that the woman would be on trial as much as the man). And she does all this while worrying about John-Boy, who is MIA overseas.

And the scumbag guy shows up one day and harasses Ma, and looks like he might attack her, but she fends him off with a broom.

Ma Walton was pretty badass.

Of course, Pa was badass too - later on he goes and talks to scumbag guy and essentially tells him, "You're not going to trial because I think your victim is probably too scared and fragile to withstand what a rape trial is like, but you better get the hell out of here or I'll make your life miserable" and then picks the guy up and bodily throws him in a creek when the guy starts to get up in his face.

I think that's one thing I like about the show: the badass people (who are still good and decent and loving people) aren't afraid to be badass; they're not afraid to pick up a gun if that's what it takes to defend their families. But they're also very loving and can be incredibly gentle with hurt or damaged people.  (And also, on the Waltons - they weren't afraid to show the family saying grace over a meal).

(It's funny: I have absolutely zero interest in Duck Dynasty but from what I've heard, that family shares certain characteristics with the Waltons).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Something that made me smile.

One of the classes I teach is a gen-ed class, which means we're supposed to take attendance so we can immediately report people who stop coming, so they can.....well, "they" so far haven't done much about it, but we're supposed to report non-attendance.

So I take roll.

(How I feel about enforced attendance policies is another rant for another time. It's enough for me to say that the vast majority of D and F earners I have are people who skip class a lot. Whether that's because they're missing vital material or because they just generally have a bad attitude I don't know, but I don't need to give or take away "attendance points" because it seems to sort itself out)

Anyway, one day in my intro-levels majors class, I was taking roll. I got to one guy's name, and when I called it off, he responded by doing "jazz hands."

I never know if it's okay or not for me to laugh about stuff like that in front of the class, but I did kind of smile.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

one of my issues

I was listening to one of the Dallas talk-show hosts yesterday (I am in the Dallas radio market).

He was talking about the story that's come out on Wendy Davis, that apparently she was not the "poor single mother" she claimed to be. And he also pointed out that she "ditched" (his word) her kids with her then-husband, so she could go off to Harvard Law School. (There are several fairly well-respected law schools in the North Texas area).

Anyway, it got me thinking: this is one of my problems with modern feminism, or perhaps, a lot of modern attitudes. The concept that what you think of as your own fulfillment, your own happiness, is paramount, and that those who might depend on you don't matter so much. While I don't think Davis' kids were abused or neglected in the situation they were in, still - it would have been unhappy for me, as a child, to be told, "Mommy needs to go away for a while to go to school."

But I do think that's a "modern" attitude - that those who are depending on you, be they children, spouses, or other significant others (like aging parents), if they get in the way of your doing what you want, you scrape 'em off and move on.

Don't get me wrong: There are situations where you need to call in help. For example, with aging parents, if one of them develops dementia, or even just needs a round-the-clock care giver, it's probably a bit much to expect that of one person. But to lightly make the decision to put them in a facility, because it's easier for you to fulfill your dreams

This is something I've thought about. My parents are both closing in on 80, and while right now they are both in pretty good health and definitely of sound mind, if something were to happen - well, I'd see it as being two choices for me: first, I could quit my job here, move up there to be closer to them, and hope I could find sufficiently flexible employment as to be on hand to help them. Or (and this is what I'd think I would do, if they would agree) moving them down here, buying a small house close to mine, and being available as much as possible to help.

(Yes, I have a brother. But he has a family of his own depending on him)

I also think that some of the feminists are far too quick to dismiss stay-at-home parenting. I was thinking about this yesterday: my mom chose to stay at home with my brother and me when we were kids. Luckily, my dad earned enough money (and I think in some ways it was easier, in the 1970s, than it is now). Yes, they made sacrifices: we never went on 'fancy' vacations, we didn't get cable television until I was in college, we didn't have expensive clothes. But my mother wanted to stay home for my brother and me. And she will probably never fully realize how blessed we were to have her make that decision. I knew if I had a bad day at school and was sad when I got home, she'd be there, and she'd be willing to listen to me. Or if I got sick at school, I could have the nurse call her, and she could come right away and get me. And in the afternoons, after I got home, I could sit down at the kitchen table and work on my homework while she prepared dinner.

It made a huge difference in my life knowing that she was there and I could rely on her, that she wasn't going to have some meeting or conference or other duty that complicated things.

But I also realized yesterday: even though she may have said "no" to some things by staying at home (no to an outside career, no to her own paycheck, no to whatever prestige her working might bring), she also got to say "yes" to a lot of other things, things that mattered to her. First and foremost: a few years ago she mentioned to me that shortly after I was born, my dad said, "You know, I'm earning enough that we could hire a nanny and you could go back to work" and her response was "I didn't have a kid just to give her to someone else to raise." She didn't say that as bragging; it was more an explanation of why she chose that.

And I understand that lots of families today would love to be able to do that, but can't, either because there isn't a sufficiently good "breadwinner" job for one person, or because of taxes, or because of cost of living. And that's too bad.

But she also had time to do other things - she had a huge garden when I was growing up (and that supplied a lot of the vegetables for our family - so we ate better and also saved money. And she canned or froze all of the surplus, so we had at least tomatoes and frozen corn and beans into the winter). She baked all our bread. She sewed. Those are all things that saved money for the family (that was back in the days when it WAS cheaper to bake bread at home, or to sew clothes). But they were also all things she enjoyed, and she got to do them.

I don't have kids. But I do work full time. It's a good week when I can find an hour or so, in total, to sew or knit. And gardening? I set out each spring with huge plans but once summer classes start up, forget it. I don't get around to weeding or tending as I should, and as a result I don't get as many tomatoes as I might, and I've never even tried corn, knowing the attention (in the form of regular irrigation) it would need here.

Yeah, some feminists would claim my mom's gardening was somehow oppressing her. I don't remember it as that - I remember her taking a lot of pride in how much her garden produced, in the unusual stuff she could grow (one year she even attempted cauliflower, which is kind of Gardening Level: Expert stuff). Life is full of trade-offs, and by saying "yes" to some things, you say "no" to others, but also, by saying "no" to some things, you get the chance to say "yes" to other things that might matter even more to you.

I'm really glad my mom made the choice we did. As I said, my brother and I were immeasurably blessed by it. But I also think now, as an adult, that my mom was probably blessed in some ways, and blessed in ways she would not have been out in the workforce. And it bugs me when people belittle women who have made that choice, because they are blinding themselves to that fact.

Monday, January 20, 2014

just thinking out loud...

So this year's Big Championship Game is going to be made up of a team from Colorado (which recently legalized small quantities of marijuana) and a team from Washington State (which did the same).

So, can we refer to this year's game as the SmokeABowl?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

those are the choices? Really?

So, before the whole Bridgegate what-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it, red-meat-for-the-media scandal started, some pundit on television was floating the idea of a Clinton vs. Christie 2016 presidential race.

And I just looked at my mom and said, "Wow. Those are some REALLY uninspiring choices."

I never went for the "I'm going to cast a protest-vote for a third party candidate" thing, because I figured that was throwing one's vote away (but then again: given the Electoral College and how it works, really, my individual vote for president in my state makes almost zero difference). But I may just do it in 2016, if those are genuinely our choices.


As I said earlier: there are so many good, honest people in this country. Why do we manage to send so few of them to Washington?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ugh, finally back

The cluster of bad weather in the Midwest prevented me from getting home on time. So I'm playing catch-up in order to be ready to start teaching on Monday.

I do have a few posts brewing in my mind, especially one about a couple of diet ads I find somewhat offensive....