Friday, October 24, 2014

Things That Make Me Wonder

First, how does the US have jurisdiction over murders that happened in Iraq or Afghanistan?

The Blackwater men were tried here, and now the news says the US is bringing a Russian national who fought with the Taliban for trial in the US.

I just don't understand.

Also, I don't understand someone coming back to the US after having worked with Ebola patients, and deciding to go ride the subway and go bowling and such.  Wouldn't you say to yourself, "well, self, I think I'll hang out in my apartment for three weeks, just to make sure, and contact the rest of the world via email and the internet.  And ask a friend to drop groceries by, but not come in."

It just seems like that would be common sense, doesn't it?  You don't think you'll get sick, and you sure hope you won't, but since it's a pretty serious disease, and since the subway has lots and lots of people, wouldn't you just think that staying to yourself for a couple weeks was do-able, and going bowling wasn't really necessary?

(I ask this as someone who always catches colds when I spend lots of time in subway systems.  And yes, I know it's a whole lot harder to spread Ebola than a cold, I think I'd manage to be that careful if I might be incubating Ebola.)


I'm thinking of applying for this special faculty position here.  I might be a stretch.  But again, I might not.  I need to talk to some folks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Advertising Classes

I'm sure I've seen these for years, but this semester, things seem to be ramping up.  Basically, someone makes a poster of some sort to advertise a course they're teaching in a coming term.

We do these pretty officially for courses taught in terms that aren't fall or spring semester, but the other day, one of my colleagues handed me a BIG yellow piece of paper with a description of his course.  I happily put it up on my door.  But it got me thinking.

Then another colleague stopped to chat in passing and said he was going to make a poster for a class he's teaching.

I got to thinking, and then I powered up the powerpoint and made a small poster (just a black and white) for my Chaucer class.  So there!


It feels strangely like competition where there really shouldn't be competition.  A poster is a poor reason to choose a course.  But maybe someone sees a course listed and doesn't know what it will be about, and a poster tells them, and they realize they might find the course interesting?

That seems like a poor excuse for having jumped on this particular little bandwagon.


On the other hand, I learned powerpoint basics years ago, so at least it didn't take me long to put together a small poster.


Do you put up posters?  Are they part of your institutional culture?  Do you think they even work?

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Eyes

I'm teaching a course this semester on ecocriticism and early modern lit (as I posted here).  It's a learning experience for me.  We spent the first few weeks reading ecocritical theory, and now we're reading early modern texts paired with a critical text. 

I'm really enjoying this class and learning a lot.  I hope the students feel like they're learning as much, and also enjoying it.

One of the cool things is that when you start thinking theoretically about something, you suddenly start to see things you hadn't noticed before, start reading differently.  I'm really enjoying that about reading some texts I've read and loved for a long time.  This feels like a really fruitful area of inquiry.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Green Grass on the Other Side of the Fence

Is it just here at NWU, or is it everywhere?

Our English Ed folks always seem to want to teach literature.

Ask them why they did a doctorate in English Ed, and they'll tell me that they were aware of the horrid prospects in lit, and so chose English Ed.

And they're right: my school starts English Ed assistant profs at about what associates in lit make.

But then they'll say that they want to teach lit, and they're totally qualified to teach whatever it is in lit that strikes their fancy... because they taught it in high school.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Writing Some Letters

I'm writing some thank you notes in my official capacity as a committee person, trying to draft these so I can get some input from other committee members before I send them out officially.

But yesterday, I started reading a new novel, Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher.  First, I was sitting waiting to pick folks up in an airport, and kept laughing inappropriately loudly, but I couldn't help myself.  And here in the upper midwest, loud laughter in public is pretty unappreciated unless you're a white male, drinking, and watching your local sports team or something.  At any rate, I got some weird looks in the airport.

Second, beyond the amusement, the novel makes me want to get a little more action into my own letters.  (These letters are very sincere, but it's hard to say much beyond "thank you for doing this extra work" at this point.  I'm trying.)

If you haven't read it, I recommend the novel.  And if you have, I wonder if you're reimagining the various letters you write for recommendations or whatever, as I am.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Paradox of Im/Permanence

I decided to try a new (for me) organizational strategy that I read about (here).  I'm hoping that it will help me keep longer term stuff on track better, and inspire me to less procrastination.  We'll see.  At any rate, I bought myself a little journal book, and that and pen ink seem to be the only financial investments, so at least there's that.

One of the interesting bits in the website is that the guy who developed the system (Ryder Carrol, to give credit where credit is due) talks about the journals forming a record of sorts.  I'm not sure that I need any sort of permanent record of to do lists and such, but on the other hand, we find Philip Henslowe's account book invaluable, so I do respect that.  Part of its value lies in its rarity.  If we had account books for every theatrical enterprise in the period, Henslowe's probably wouldn't garner as much attention.  I'm pretty sure at least some of the other theatrical companies and such kept some sort of records, but they don't survive.  And in all likelihood, even if this system works well for me and I keep at it, my little journal books are unlikely to survive for very long.  Nor should they.

The system is paper-based, which means as long as the paper survives and the ink is readable, it will survive.  So even though paper is pretty easily destroyed in all sorts of ways, if it survives, it's pretty accessible.

Digital stuff paradoxically is super survivable and minimally survivable.  At least, that's how it seems.  We warn kids and students not to put pictures or whatever else might be someday damaging into the internet because we think of those things as coming back to haunt people later, at some distant date into the future.  But at the same time, if I wanted to get at files I wrote on a computer just ten years ago and stored on a floppy, the standard of the time, it's going to be super difficult.  And I doubt in ten or fifteen years flash drives will still be totally accessible (maybe I'm wrong?).

I cringe when I hear someone use the "cloud" metaphor and realize that they don't think it's a metaphor at all.  But there's physical, material stuff somewhere that's storing the information in bits and bytes and such, and that physical, material stuff can be destroyed in lots of ways.  But unlike my little journal, which I can (I hope) keep track of, most of us have no idea at all where the server farms are storing information we think of as being in "the cloud."

Heck, I have no clue where my own campus's servers live, even though I store tons of stuff on my "private" little area there, and trust that the campus folks are backing it up and taking good care so that it doesn't get destroyed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Final Harvest

I dug up most of the veggie garden yesterday, harvesting the last of the carrots and the pumpkin.

(Link to post with pictures from the summer garden.)

I did leave one kale plant still going pretty well, and expect to have kale salad this evening.

Here are the final harvest pictures, with a quarter so you can see how big (or small) my pumpkin is.  You can also see where the pumpkin is scarred from growing on a concrete block:



Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Return, Again

I've written here (December 2013) and here (April 2014) about difficulties with an MA student who has moved away and still wants to finish hir thesis.  We had contact in April, when I responded to a "full" draft that it wasn't acceptable, noting that the writer hadn't responded at all to my revision suggestions.  And the last I heard was that the writer was going to think about whether to finish or not because zie was pretty down and busy and life is complicated. 

Yesterday, I heard, just a short note asking for clarification about some notes I'd put on draft chapters.  (I've received emailed draft chapters, read them and made marginal notes, and then typed up an overall response.  I then pdfed the pages with my notes and email them back along with the overall response.)  My writing is difficult at best, especially on a pdf.  I was able to read my marginal notes easily, even on pdf.

BUT, these are the marginal notes I made way back on the first chapter draft, and the student is only now looking at them carefully enough to notice that zie couldn't read them? 

I'm dismayed.  How much does it take to read a 10-25 page piece of writing and respond thoughtfully, trying to be helpful?  A bit of time, no?  And a bit of energy, no?

The email yesterday promised revisions to come soon.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Third Through

We're about a third of the way through the semester here at NWU.  First year students are dragging, mostly; I think things are beginning to catch up with them and feel overwhelming.

Some of the first years in my writing class are working full blast.  Some aren't.  I've had six no shows for todays conferences.  I'm not sure if they're confused about where to be or what, but I've gotten a lot of small tasks done while I wait.

Juniors and seniors seem to have settled in, and where they're interested, they doing really good work.


The student I wrote about here dropped by to say thank you today.  Zie is fine, thank Dog.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Looking from Two Sides

I was walking somewhere and saw a colleague from across campus the other day, and we started chatting in the way you do.  The colleague mentioned how much zie loves first year students because they're so enthusiastic and interested, and lamented how students seem to lose those qualities by the time they're in her courses in the third year.

I recognize levels of enthusiasm in first year students, but I appreciate how enthusiastic and interested my junior and senior level students are.


My colleague teaches juniors and seniors, mostly required courses for the major, and occasionally teaches electives at lower levels.

About half my load is first year writing, a course that's not on most students elective list; my junior and senior courses are pretty much electives for majors and minors.

I'm guessing the elective vs required thing is actually a bigger factor than the year in college.  What do you think?