Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just the Same -- MOOC?

I was thinking, and since MOOCs have been in the air a lot, thinking about MOOCs.  And some of the underlying assumptions and such.

If a MOOC course from Ivy U is appropriate to anyone who logs on, and anyone who logs on and completes should, in theory, have learned everything that the Ivy U student learns in the same Ivy U course, isn't there a sort of underlying equalization of the students as learners?  What I mean is, doesn't that basically say that students at X community college, Y regional university, and Z random community member are all basically the same, since they're all taking basically the same course and supposedly should all get the credit?

Doesn't that undermine the special elite status of Ivy U students somewhat?

If Intro 101 is the same, and Medium 250 is the same for any warm body who takes the course, doesn't that pretty much say that the warm bodies taking the course are basically not that much different?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Uncoolest Cut of All

I got on a plane this morning.  Just so you know, when I fly, I don't fly first class, or super duper business class.  I fly "hold tight onto the wing so you don't fall off" class.

Anyway, I got on and my seat assignment was the middle of a three seat half-row (there were three more seats on the other side of the aisle).  So, I got there, and sat down, and said something friendly to the man in the seat next to me.  Then another man showed up and was about to sit in the aisle seat when the first one asked if I prefered the center seat, or not, and if not, could he and his friend sit together.  I don't have a preference, so I moved to the aisle, and the second man sat in the middle.

I figured they were a couple who'd had bad luck getting seats or something.

I was wrong. 

The middle man, the second one, had come onto the plane carrying a guitar case, but had to check it, and he was chatty, so he said something about being a 50 year old who still plays music, and I said I'm 50 and still listen, so what the heck, or something like that.

We chatted on a bit; the middle man, it turned out played bass, not guitar, so I asked him who he thought the best bassists were.  And we chatted a bit, and he named some names, and was pleasant enough.  He seemed at the same time a bit shy and gregarious, a bit flirty, but not in an obnoxious way at all.

He asked me about the book I was reading (The Theory Toolbox) so I explained a bit, using music examples.  And we chatted a bit off and on.

But you know how you can be having a conversation with someone, just chit chat, and one of you is talking more about himself, and not asking anything about the other?  It was like that.  I learned a bit about his genius of a record producer, about how he's working on writing music for other bands, and so on.  But it wasn't back and forth.  And that's fine, because chit chat on a plane is just chit chat on a plane.

It turned out they were also on the next flight I was on, but we weren't sitting near each other. 

And then we saw each other again waiting for our checked luggage (because I'd had to check my normal carry-on because it was so crowded, and he'd had to check his guitar, and it turned out a bunch of other stuffs).  And as he was picking up his big, hard sided cases, I thought to ask him about the name of his band.  And I vaguely recognized it.

And later, when I had computer access, I looked the band up, and yep, it was them.

Now I feel sort of bad that I didn't recognize them or know who they were.  I hope they don't feel bad.  But I can imagine their blog post (if they wrote a blog) about this woman who didn't even recognize them.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fight on the Deck

I put out orange halves for Orioles. 

Today, I saw a beautiful male Baltimore Oriole singing and eating at the orange.  Another male hopped around nearby, moving from the water bowl to deck railing, to a different area of deck railing, and so on.  And then at some point, the second one got near enough and the first went after him.  And then both of them were attacking each other, mostly with their feet grabbing, and once they'd both got hold of each others' feet, they fell to the deck and were squacking and wrastling in place. 

It was sort of scary; they were just so intense. 

But when I got closer to see a bit better, they took off instantly.

I've never seen songbirds fighting before.

The Hard Part

So that's a lie, because it implies there's an easy part to writing, and I've never found that.

This writing workshop has been stellar, though.  No one else came today, but here I am, sitting in the library, spread over a desk, and it's been stellar.  Okay, so I know right now I'm not actually writing on my paper.  Still, it's been a real help.

Yesterday, my colleague (I should give him a name, Writing Guy it is!), Writing Guy peer edited my paper, just pretty much like we were at the writing center as usual.  I admit I'm really anxious, but I like him well enough, and he seems a decent, humane person, so I trusted that he wouldn't trash me or my work.  And no, he didn't.  But he gave me lots of great feedback and ideas for improving on what I've got.

I spent much of this morning working on revising the introductory section to really give strong context and make it work better for the journal I want to submit it to.  Now I'm taking a short break from that (after turning on my computer to type in what I'd written, and thus opening up all too many internet possibilities).  And then, well, I think I should do more, but really I want to go home and mow my overgrown lawn before it gets MORE overgrown or starts raining again.

Here are my big "discoveries": 
1)  I like to spread out when I write.  I need to come to the library more so I can spread out.
2)  I actually write new stuff better by hand, at least in initial drafting, and then revise slightly when I type it in.  That's how I wrote my dissertation and most papers, but I somehow forgot that and tried to just type and write at the same time.  That may work for the blog, but not for stuff where I'm trying to put together a larger argument.
3)  I found it helpful to feel like I'd said "I'll be here" to the writing workshop, because I actually am here, and each day I've gotten at least a decent chunk of work done.  At the same time, I really feel like I want to be outside when it's nice and garden and ride my bike.

So, I need to balance coming to the library and sitting just with my ms and a pad of paper and whatever text resources with playing outside.

And now, I'm off to play outside!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Part of the Structural Problem

I've been thinking about some of the post-academic blogs I've seen.

I'm supportive of people who choose to not go to grad school, leave grad school, leave academics after grad school, or leave academics at whatever time.  I think folks should pursue their happiness in whatever way they want (with the respect for other people, golden rule sort of caveat).

That said, these blogs and the responses sound pretty angry.  It makes sense that their angry.  I get that.  But I also feel like there's a lot of anger directed at folks like me: people who managed to get a tenure track job, and especially those who've gotten tenure (as I have).  And I'm not sure I get that.  Or maybe I'm just really uncomfortable with that.

I've been thinking, and I can see a lot of ways that people at PhD producing programs might be more helpful, especially by recognizing the value of non-academic work, by helping grad students prepare for a variety of potential jobs (or supporting a career center that will help with preparation), and by encouraging grad students and graduates to pursue what makes them happy.  I also think that they might work to reduce the number of students accepted to graduate programs, though this isn't totally unproblematic. (see Note 1)

What about those of us at regional universities and colleges, or less than elite SLACs?  What are people like me supposed to do to contribute to a solution or make things less abusive?

Yes, I think most of us advise students that grad school is no brass ring and so forth, and the students who really want to go to grad school want to go and do go, and I'm okay with that.  They should do what they want as long as they have basic information about the toughness of the job market and such.

Beyond that?

Someone might suggest that everyone in my department should take a pay cut and use the extra money to hire an adjunct to a tenure track position.  But that's not realistic.   (Note 2)

What about converting adjuncts to TT jobs?
We just don't have the money to fill the tenure lines we have open because no one would come for the money available, and the administration won't give us more because the legislature is making more cuts.  Again.

I think we do a pretty good job hiring.  We usually tenure folks we hire unless they take another job, which they sometimes do, since we're in flyover country, don't pay well, etc.  But when we get 100+ applicantions for a position, and 50 of them are pretty much qualified, then that's still 49 people who won't have our job.  (Though at least one candidate is likely to have turned us down in favor of another job, too.)

So I don't know what folks like me are supposed to do.  But I do know that there are a lot of folks like me at non-PhD granting universities.  And I think a lot of the anger is directed at everyone in a TT position, but it seems mis-aimed at those of us at non-PhD granting schools.

Note 1:  In my grad department, if they'd reduced my incoming class from 28 to 20--if I recall the number correctly--, for example, they'd have probably done it by eliminating the opportunities those of us from non-elite undergrad backgrounds.  There were maybe four of us from public universities, and I'm guessing only one would have been in.  The other three, probably not.  That includes me.  I think grad programs should accept more, not fewer, students from non-elite undergrad programs.  I'm clearly biased about this.

Note 2: My university has just done a couple levels of equity raises (this year) to try to staunch the bleed of faculty leaving for other jobs because it costs more to hire a brand new TT faculty member and convince them to come here than it does to keep an associate prof with tenure. (This is a place that hasn't had cost of living raises or any other raises apart from promotions for a long while, and that has had pay cuts already via benefit losses.) That is to say, my university can't always convince the candidates it wants to hire to come here for what we can offer.  (And often enough, if a faculty member leaves, that tenure-line is empty for more than a year, and sometimes lost altogether.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Doesn't Feel Like Summer

It's been great, but it doesn't feel like summer.  I'm more relaxed than during the semester, but not feeling the summer yet.  I think it's a combination of things.

First, every morning and into early afternoon, I've been doing the writing workshop.  It's great, and I've made real progress on this paper.  (Seriously, this is huge for me.)  But it means I'm spending from 9:30 to 2:30 basically working on this paper or another that I'm fomenting.  (Well, except right now I've lost focus, so I'm blogging.  Actually, a fair bit of today has been a bust.)

Still, it reminds me more than anything of my grad time spent just going to a library (I worked extensively in three different library spaces writing my dissertation: a campus library, a local public library, and a special collections sort of library.  All three were GREAT!) and working. 

I should remember and do this even without a workshop.  for one thing, I'm spread all over a table.  You might be able to fit someone else's work on one corner, but otherwise, I've pretty much colonized this huge big library table.  (There are plenty of other tables, and not many people, so it's fine.)  I remember how much I like colonizing a table and working intensely for a couple of hours.  I need to remember and do that more regularly.  I'm much better at working this way than I am working at home or in my work office for some reason.

Second, there are all these other things I feel I need to do.  I'm taking on a departmental thingy next year, and it's a little scary because it's a big responsibility, but I think I'll do a good job.  Still, I feel like I want to get organized up front so I don't need to worry about that part of it.

My garden is nuts and I want to spend time, but I haven't been because of the other things. 

Among the other things, my young relative sent me a paper and editing instructions from hir teacher, so I spent several hours reading and responding to the paper.  I'm impressed by the teacher's instructions, which seem quite good, especially if they're intended for parents and such who aren't much practiced in reading school essays.  And I think my young relative's writing has improved in nice ways this year.  Still, it was several hours this morning reading and responding to the work.  (My young relative is, like most teens, not always quite as communicative as one might wish.  I'm not sure when the paper is due, so I wanted to not be the thing that would cause my young relative to be late or stressed about lateness.)

I'm leaving town for 10 days on Sunday.  That's good, but it's also stressful.  I'm going to get together with college pals one day, but will mostly spend time with my Mom doing a variety of things.  So it's great.  But it also comes in what will be my first real free week to do summer stuff here. 

I'd like a couple days where I just don't have to do anything.  But then I probably wouldn't get anything done of the many things I need/want to get done.

Now, back to work on this paper.

Edited to add:  You know what's, well, frustrating (among many other things)?  I can write intensely for a couple hours, and really feel like I've put in work and energy, and then I got to type what I've written into the revisions for the paper, and it takes all of 3 minutes to type in.  Seriously, I've spent a couple hours and gotten what, two or three paragraphs revised.  Sigh.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Our new writing center guru rocks.  Zie made whatever arrangements, and then sent out an invitation to faculty to do a writing workshop.  Basically, anyone who wants to goes over all this week from morning til early afternoon to work on whatever they want to work on, with support from the writing center.

It's a great way to get a start on summer writing projects.  I made some decent progress on one today, so that's good.

I'm really happy that zie is trying to make the writing center work for faculty as well as students.  Very neat!

Friday, May 17, 2013


I've been a grading demon, and they're all done.



My final exams involve two bluebooks.  One is for the open book/open note essay section of the exam, the other for the no book or notes short ID and passages section. 

So I have a bluebook for one section from a student, but not for the other section of the exam.

Did the student not do it?  It's possible.  This student is pretty, well, not always totally on top of academic things.

Or did it fall out of the pile in my sunroom (where I was grading) or car?

So now I have to go home and double check those places before I can turn in grades for the class.

My victory lap around the department can't happen until I know, and then I won't be here.  So phooey!

Still, the grading is DONE for the semester!

Let the summer begin!  (More on exciting summer plans soon.)

Good luck to all of you still grading.  Congratulations to graduating students!  Congratulations to my colleagues who are graduating, too!  (That's what I call retiring, how about you?)

Now for a short office clean up so that I can find what I want to find for summer stuffs.

Next up:

Summer project #1
Planning class for our intro class and ordering books!
Reading lots!

Next semester, I'll be teaching two new classes and one I haven't taught since 2004.  So it might as well be new.

For now, summer begins!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finals Week Revelation(s)

Our first year writing course has several required components these days.  One of them is a self-evaluation that each student writes about his or her progress towards the course goals.  These are pretty fun to read (and quick, since they turned them in during the final, and won't get them back unless they ask to at some point).

Naturally, everyone felt that they'd accomplished all the course goals. 

I found it really interesting that about a third of them mentioned freewriting, most to say that they hated it and found it valuable at the same time.  I totally understand that.  I know when I ask them to do it (and I have them do it a lot in classes) they tend not to like it.  But it's nice to see a number of them look back and write that it was actually useful.  They also tended to acknowledge that they'd never do it on their own.  I wonder if even one of them will use it to get started on a writing project at some point in the future?  Some also mentioned bubble mapping and other brainstorming practices, and some readings, even.

(I've probably blogged about this before, but when I was in grad school, teaching comp with the army of grad students, one of us down in our cubby filled basement was talking about hir difficulty with writing block.  And I asked, because I'm rude enough to ask, if zie had tried freewriting.  No, zie said, zie hadn't.  So I asked if zie didn't teach freewriting in hir comp class, and yes, of course zie did.  But zie had never figured out or become convinced that it might actually be useful to hirself.  I became a convert to freewriting within a couple weeks of learning about it, and it helps me write whatever I write, not enough, but it helps!)

Of course, there's always the chance that my students are just kissing up.  But if so, they shouldn't mention how much they hate it!

I now have left to grade: 
1 set of finals
1 set of finals (partially graded)
3 (I think) late papers

I figure at least five hours of work (including submitting grades). 

My dog, I hate late papers to grade.  You think you've made it through, and some student hands you yet another thing to grade.  I wonder how they'd feel if I said at the last minute, oh, here's another assignment you need to do before you can be done? 

They'd hate it. 

Of course, the late papers come from a handful of students, and often because someone got ill or something.


I have this fleece jacket that I love.  It's warmish, and fleecy, and loose enough to go over three or four layers, and it has outside AND inside pockets.  It's probably closer to 20 years than to 15 years old.  I wear it pretty much all the time, or did, until this fall and winter, the zipper stopped working.  So I wore another jacket, which was a bit less warm and didn't have inside pockets (I need inside pockets for my reading glasses, among other things).  But I somehow always felt just a little too busy to figure out where to get the zipper replaced.

Until, finals week.  It's the time to get stuff taken care of, especially if doing that means avoiding grading.

So I called and checked, and found an alterations place that replaces zippers, and they said I should bring in a zipper, since they might not have the right size/color in stock.  So I went to the sewing store and looked pathetic, and the nice saleswoman helped me find the right size/color of zipper.  Then I asked her about the best alterations place she could suggest (because she would know, right?) and she and another saleswoman suggested this other place.  So I went there.

And when I got there, the alteration woman took a look at my demonstration of what was wrong and said that I just needed a new pull thingy, and withing about five minutes, I had a perfectly working new pull thingy on a perfectly working new zipper! 

Now I'm feeling stupid that I waited so long.


And last week, my OLD laptop died.  Fortunately I'd been having problems with it for a while, so I'd pulled pretty much everything important off onto a flash drive and put it elsewhere.  So at least I'm not losing anything vital that way.  I took it into the shop today, in hopes they can fix it.  (I don't use it much for computing, but mostly for watching DVDs and playing an OLD computer game.  


My bike took me out for a ride yesterday, and it was glorious!  I only went on a local bike path (so pretty flat), but it felt just great.  But the shifting had felt sloppy (the rear shifting), so now it's in the shop getting a rusty cable replaced.  The bike ride totally changed my day for the better.  I mean, I was feeling pretty good, and finished giving my final.  I debated trying to grade through, take a nap, or go for a ride, and I chose a ride.  Then I went home and had the best nap.  So I went from feeling pretty good to feeling really, amazingly, wonderfully good.  I think that bike's about the best investment I ever made.


About seven or eight weeks ago, I decided to try the 100 pushups thing again.  I tried it a long time ago, and didn't really do it after a week.  So I tried again. 

I want to admit right up front that I'm an overweight, middle-aged woman who could barely do 2 knee pushups in the initial test thing.  I did "day 1" for a week, and day 2 for just as long.  But I progressed.  I'm now on "week 4" and have been on the first day of that for a couple days, just barely able to do the day's pushups.  But still, that means I've gone from barely being able to do 2 in a row (knees pushups) to being able to do 20 at a time (in the self-test) and now the day's set is 12, 14, 11, 10, 16 (you're supposed to do at least 16, and more if you can, but I can't).  And I can do it, if barely, and using the knee push up method.   I'll be doing this day at least another day or two.

I still can't do a proper toe push up, though I think I'm getting close.  I'm thinking of using a prop about six inches off the ground to see if I can do them that way, and restart the program once I can do a full bunch from the knees.  (Or maybe mix?  I just know that I want to try to keep going until I can do some actual push ups.)

The program adds push ups faster than my body seems able to, but since I seem to be slowly improving, I'm trying to keep my hopes up.


And now it's time to grade.  I have until early next week to turn in grades, but I'm hoping to finish by Saturday.  There's an exciting thing starting on Monday, so I'll be talking about that, too!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MOOCs and Power: Gender and Imperialism

Historiann has a really insightful guest post up today by Susan Amussen and Allyson Poska about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses).  It's well worth your reading if you haven't already.

And here's a helpful contextual piece with a cogent critique suggested by Jonathan Rees of More or Less Bunk (who has blogged about taking a MOOC and blogged critically and well about MOOCs).

(In other news, I need to grade.  Of course, if I were teaching a MOOC, I could depend on my students to grade each others' papers and give appropriate and critical responses.  I've now handed back the papers with comments to each class, and now just have a couple of late papers and two sets of finals to grade.  If I were teaching a MOOC, I could just have them all take a multiple guess exam via computer and the grading would be automatic and already done.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Need Focus

Some of the academic bloggers I read are now into their summer work, others, like me, are in grading slog.  I think some others are still in teaching mode.

I'm not doing well at the grading slog right now.  I'm finding it hard to stay focused and get things done as I need to.

As of last Friday, I had 63 papers and projects of various lengths to grade.   Of those, 31 had to be graded by today.  The rest need to be graded by tomorrow morning.  I now have 15, I think.  The ones for today are all done.

There's a point with any sort of paper that I'm just tired of reading them.  If they were all superb papers, I would still be tired of pushing through them, trying to grade and respond in some useful way.

It may seem to people who aren't grading that it shouldn't be that hard.  How hard is it, after all, to read a couple of hundred pages of a book, even a scholarly book?

If I don't have to prepare to teach it, I can cruise through a fiction text pretty quickly.  I suppose if I didn't have to think about how I was going to use it or take notes, I could cruise through scholarly texts reasonably quickly, too.  But it seems that I'm pretty much always thinking about how I can use them in classes or research, taking notes, trying to synthesize and put things together, and that slows me down a good bit.  It also means I can't just read when I'm tired because I won't retain enough.

Grading reading is more short term for me.  I have to be able to retain what I'm reading long enough to write a helpful comment, but not longer.  On the other hand, I also have to figure out how to formulate a helpful comment.  If something's brilliant, that's not too hard.  You talk about the best points and how good they are, maybe make a specific suggestion to help make something better.  For lousy stuff, it's harder.

You know how in pedagogy classes folks are always talking about leading with a positive comment?   Sometimes it's really difficult to say anything positive, especially if the writer hasn't really done the assignment or turned in something that gets anywhere near the assignment.

For middling papers, experience has taught me that if I give something a B and lead with a really positive statement, I have to be pretty careful to balance it with at least one specific suggestion for improvement.  Otherwise, I'll inevitably get a student coming up to me wanting to know where s/he "lost points."  I hate the "lost points" discussion.  You didn't lose points.   You didn't earn the points in the first place to have them to lose.

Break is over.  I have a final to give in an hour, and should be able to grade three or four essays in that time.  So I need to try to get a couple more graded before that, and then my evening will be manageable.

Please send focus.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


We discussed Chaucer's retraction yesterday, and it got me thinking about the Book of the Lion it mentions, but which modern scholars, at least, don't know.  I wonder if it's a version of Ywain, the Knight of the Lion?  Or something?

And then I got to thinking about other famous unknown texts.  There's Cardenio and Love's Labours Found.

How about it?  What other famous unknown texts are there?

And then, of course, that brings us to the unfinished projects, like Spenser's last 6 books of The Faerie Queene.  I'm not sure I really regret that Spenser didn't finish the project (or the projected next 12 books, either). 

I'm not sure if The Canterbury Tales is finished or not.  I'd love a few more tales.  But I'm not sure that a whole trip's back worth of tales wouldn't be just too overwhelming.

So, finished or unfinished?  Other unfinised projects?

Look on my works, ye Mighty...

and despair.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Moving On

A colleague I like and respect a good deal is moving on to a better position.  It's not, perhaps, an ideal position, but it's a good move for my colleague.

I hope zie loves the new position and that the new employer treats hir like the gem zie is.

It's difficult, isn't it, seeing a great colleague move somewhere that's better for them.  I mean, I had my fingers crossed that this colleague would get a great job offer, was wishing for the very best for hir.  And yet at the same time, I'm sad to be losing the close proximity and collegiality.

I'm not in any of the decision making loops, but I sure wish those who were had seen fit to make a competing offer.  Alas, apparently not.

I'm both elated for my colleague and bummed for me.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


I'm at that point in the semester when my preferred response to pretty much every thing would be "I prefer not."

Bardiac, you need to be at this really important meeting to discuss stuff for a committee you won't be on next year.  "I prefer not."

Bardiac, there's a special student event you need to go to.  "I prefer not."

And so on.

It's not that I don't go to my share of "special student events."  I do.  Last week, I spent maybe four hours at special student stuffs.  They were good hours, but they were hours when I wasn't prepping or grading or doing committee work or doing other work, none of which doesn't also need to get done.

All of these special student things are important to the students involved.  I know that.  But they also sometimes feel like I'm watching the clubhouse of mutual congratulations.  This goes doubly for a certain faculty person who will not stop talking or trying to run things despite being retired.

I noticed yesterday that I had a headlight out, so I went to the car mechanic to get it replaced.  He opened it up, pulled the bulb, and off he went.  A moment later he came back to tell me that they'd replaced a bulb in another car that didn't quite need replacing, and they didn't actually have a new bulb, but they'd put the used bulb in mine, and didn't charge me.  But he also noticed that the dye he'd put in the air conditioning system had indeed leaked, so that would need work at some point if I want to run the a/c.  And worst of all, he pointed out some areas where the insulation looked like mice had been at it, which isn't that horrible, except that if mice are after your car's insulation, they may also be heading for the wiring, and repairing wiring gets VERY expensive.  So he suggested I put a couple of moth balls in the compartment, and that might drive the mice away.

I stopped at the hardware store and bought a box of moth balls, and put five on each side of the compartment, closed the hood, and went in, closing the garage door.  And within a little while, the whole area began to smell of moth balls.  Bleargh.  So I went back, took all but four of the moth balls out, put the moth ball box in a plastic bag, and closed the hood again, this time leaving the garage door open.  I left it open til fairly late, but you could still smell the moth balls in the garage pretty well in the morning.  I hope the mice run away. 

I think I need to clean the garage and make sure that anything that could be food for mice is gone, and that anything that could be nesting material is also gone.  (The food, well, I did put some dead marigolds in there over the winter, so I moved them out.  Now I have to get rid of hiding places, too.)

It's always something.  Though I would prefer not.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Automatic F

For anyone who uses the word "bard" when they're not writing about really early texts.  Double F for anyone who uses the words "immortal" and "bard" in the same sentence.

For misuse of "irony."

What are the things that make you want to write the old one legged A?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Text o' the Day

I drew this in class today.  What was I teaching?

This post brought to you by the word "sweat."

Lesson from the Humanities

Literature provides myriad examples of people and cultures at war or in fights, often to the death.  It's pretty clear from most of these examples that people are capable of great hatred, cruelty, and violence.  In literature, those are pretty common and, for want of a better word, acceptable.  We don't think less of epic characters for thoroughly killing their enemies.

That changes the moment the enemy is dead, however.  At that point, we see a split.

There are characters in literature who, once the enemy is dead, stop and allow whatever funerary rites are culturally appropriate, either doing these rites themselves, or allowing the dead characters family or people to perform them.  Consider, for example, Hal in 1 Henry IV, treating Hotspur's dead body with respect.  It's one sign that Hal has what it takes to be a real king (in an age of violence).  Compare that to the ways people on stage react to the reported mutilation of the bodies of the English by the Welsh women at the beginning of the play.  Think then of how vile Falstaff becomes in the moment when he mutilates Hotspur's body by wounding him in the thigh.

Or think of the beginning of "The Knight's Tale," when the mourning widows stop Theseus mid-march and ask him to make Creon allow them to bury their dead properly.  Theseus immediately goes to war and defeats Creon.

These examples are from earlier English lit, of course, but world lit is full of examples: one of the basic lessons from the humanities is that you treat the dead, even of your greatest enemy, with care and respect.

So when I read about the resistance to burying the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, I think about how little we (as a culture) have learned one of the basic lessons of the humanities.  (Here's a link to the Washington Post article.  In contrast, the funeral director who's taking care of the body, and his uncle  who washed and wrapped the body, these people have somehow learned that lesson.

It's not just ancient history that teaches this lesson, either.  US people get rightly mad when our dead are dragged behind trucks or mutilated, too.

I wonder when we in the US became so out of touch with basic humanity?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Special Adjuncts?

Ariel Kaminer has an article in the New York Times, "The Last Refuge from Scandal?  Professorships," about high profile political and military men (at least I think they're all men) who get hired as adjuncts to teach one class (a year?  a semester?) for some colleges.

I knew some famous folks got hired to teach classes, but I guess I thought they'd be making a whole lot more money than this article suggests.  It says, for example,
for Mr. Spitzer’s weekly seminar, which he taught from fall 2009 to spring 2012, he was paid slightly less than $5,000 a semester, which he donated to the school after other professors said it was on the high side of what adjuncts earn. Mr. Spitzer, who said he sought to make his students “both enjoy and learn how to think about questions at several different levels,” described the experience as a “huge joy, every week.”
That's high for an adjunct, certainly, but a drop in the bucket compared to what he's used to earning or earns if he takes a high level law firm job, no?

I was interested in how students found the teaching.  Here's what one student had to say about Spitzer:
One of his students, Melissa Lynch, said he was one of her best teachers and he encouraged the class to call him on his cellphone if they had questions about readings. When it came to the mechanics of running a class, however, “he didn’t really seem to know what he was doing.” The class required one writing assignment, “but he didn’t know if it should be 2 pages or 30 pages,” she said, adding, “He kept asking us, ‘What do other professors do?’ ”

I think it's telling that he didn't have a clue about how to run a class.  It's one thing to talk or lead a discussion about something you know well (and I'm guessing all these folks know their old business well, even if they made stupid mistakes to cause whatever scandal).  It's amusing that he invited them to call him on his cellphone.  I'm guessing he's not doing a 200 person lecture, eh?  Or teaching four classes at a time.

The schools inviting these folks to teach make sense; they're mostly in or near New York or some other big city, which is where these folks are likely to be living anyway.  (Yeah, it would be fun to see the Compass Point State in the Upper Midwest convince one of them to come as an adjuct.)

David Petraeus will be teaching in both New York and LA.  I'm guessing that his adjuct salary wouldn't even cover the semester's airfare in economy, and I'm guessing he doesn't fly economy.  Special arrangements?

I'm sure students are pretty excited to be taught by famous instructors.  And I'm willing to bet in some cases they're getting a really great experience.  I'm not sure that's always the case, though, and I wonder how the grades these instructors assign compare with grades in similar classes at these schools?   I'm guessing even without terminal degrees (and some of them certainly seem to have terminal degrees), their experience makes them qualified to teach within their specific areas.

It would be weird beyond belief to be in a faculty meeting with someone like that, though, wouldn't it?  I mean, we have a few sleeze cases, but they aren't sleeze cases whose sleeze has been publicized widely.

Suddenly, Green

This last snow has melted quickly, and the revealed grass and such is suddenly much greener than before.

I'm told (well, one hears on the local news and such) that when the snow first melts in early spring, the ground is really frozen and so doesn't absorb much of the water, so it runs off.  But once the ground is mostly unfrozen, then new precipitation gets absorbed much more.  So maybe the ground is all getting a nice, slow, thorough watering?

I've had my first Red-breasted Grosbeaks (two males) at the feeders, and the regulars continue, though it looks like the Juncoes are mostly gone, and I haven't seen the Tufted Titmouse around, either.  (They may find other preferred food in the area, or migrate elsewhere for breeding?)  The Orioles are really going at the oranges.  That usually changes once more native fruits become available, it seems.  Or they leave my neighborhood for actual breeding.

I'm thinking of planting an apple tree.  One of my neighbors has a couple planted (across the street and on the back side of his house).  Another neighbor is thinking of putting one in, too (a bit nearer).

The question is, how close is close enough for pollination with another tree?

Perhaps the title should have been "Suddenly, Pink"?  The second stage of the Giro is today!  The first stage was a sprint stage, which means it's mostly exciting for the last few minutes.  Today is a team time trial, which means it's really not all that exciting to watch.  (I'm sure it's pretty cool if you're there, since anywhere you are, you'd get to see teams woosh through every few minutes for a long while.)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Oriole in the Snow

I got home this afternoon a bit late.  It had been snowing all day, and it showed.

I went to take a couple of pictures on the deck.  This is a half an orange that I'd put out that morning for the house finches.    You can tell that it's got a lot of snow piled on it, but where the snow isn't, the birds had eaten a bunch of the orange.  So I cleared the snow off it, and took a couple other pictures.
This is basically the same picture I took earlier today out the back of the deck, but as you can see, there's considerably more snow, and it's heavy, wet stuff that's sticking to branches.  (Trees are falling, I've heard, and power's out in some parts of town.  Ugh.)
Then I went back out the front of the house and dug the driveway out wide enough so that I can get my car in and out.  I'd gotten it into the garage, but figured if it snowed even two or three more inches, I'd have trouble in the morning.  So to avoid that possibility, I dug out, but it was heavy stuff, so I dug a bit wider than my car rather than trying to dig the whole driveway.  It's heavy, nasty, wet snow, but it went fairly quickly.

And when I went in, this is what I saw out my back sliding glass door!
It's an oriole!  In the snow!  I put out more suet, too, and before long, I was able to see two orioles in the yard (both male), a pair of cardinals, several tufted titmice, a chickadee, a brown thrasher (I saw one earlier in the week, too), and a couple of song sparrows.  Weirdly, I didn't see the usual house finches, goldfinches, or juncoes.  (It was getting late, though, so maybe they had already eaten their fill.)

I'm pretty jazzed to see the orioles up here already!  (I made a new orange holder this year.  It's a thin piece of wood with three nails through, sticking up, screwed to a big block of wood with some nails in there on the sides to tie it down.  It seems to be working pretty well.)

Now is the Sprinter of our Discontent...

Over at Historiann's place, it's "wring."  Here, folks are calling it "sprinter."

Here's what it looks like out my back this morning.

It wasn't a lot of snow when I took this, but more is falling, and we're due for a fair bit.  (And when I say "fair bit," remember that the upper midwest doesn't usually get anything like the snow mountainous areas do.)

Still, it's May.  May.  MAY!

I like "sprinter" more than "wring" for a couple of reasons.  First, it sounds more hopeful.  Instead of wringing my hands in frustrations, I'm sprinting towards summer.  Second, it fits rhythmically into all the "winter wonderland" and other winter verse stuff.  That's important!

There's even a bit of fun to the sprinter craziness around here. 

Someone has put up a poster of a beach scene in one of the elevators, and people keep adding bits to it.  So the original poster was just there, and then there was a "Nemo" type fish, and a beach blanket, ball, and so on.  My favorite is the blue-footed boobies.  Or maybe my favorite is Adam and Eve lying together.  If you embiggen the picture, be sure to look at the white bit on the island off in the distance.

I'm sure putting up big posters in the elevator is somehow against someone's rules.  But people just keep adding, and it's been there a while, so I think the powers that be are in sympathy.

Outside my office, though, there is snow, and it's at that beautiful sticky point.

If this were January, I'd be enchanted by the way it sticks to the trees and such.  It's really beautiful in a stark winter way.

In a spring way, though, it's something all together different.

Back to grading.

This post brought to you by the letters W, T, and F.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Rays of Hope

In preparation for the final exams in my literature classes, I have students work in a variety of ways to write essay questions for the exam (there's an essay portion).  

We start by doing some thematic brainstorming in class, and then students can write questions individually, and then they work in groups to take the feedback I've given to individual questions and write questions, and so on.

It's not just that I'm lazy and don't like to think of essay exam questions.  Rather, I do this because I think students learn a lot by thinking about questions that will allow them to demonstrate that they've learned a lot over the semester.  They start putting things together, and then put them together in small groups, and so on.  (At each stage there's sharing both of their ideas and my responses, especially in terms of whether I think I could write a really good essay about it.)  So once they're putting together things across the semester, they're actually learning stuff more fully.

Anyway, in my two lit classes this semester, we're at slightly different parts of the brainstorming process, and the potential essay questions I'm seeing are really good ones.  The questions give me hope that at least a good proportion of the students are putting things together and making connections between the texts and learning something in the process!

Words Fail Me

I'm so ready for the semester to end, and I'm not the only one.  I think the whole state is in a grand funk.

And we're expecting more snow. 

I'd put some seeds in small starter planters last week, including sunflower seeds.  They were doing that sprouting and growing with the seed covering still on the initial leaf things.  (I think there's a technical term for those, and it's not quite the same as leaf.  But I can't really remember now.  I'll be sure to call at 2am when I do remember.)  Anyway, yesterday while I was home, I thought that it would be a good idea to let the new seedlings be outside so that I could transplant them once we get out of snow season.

So I put them outside.

And about half an hour later, I glanced out, and they were all gone, with just the seed coverings left.  I'm pretty sure some bird came by and got a lovely snack.  [expletives deleted]

I handed back papers today in one class.  I was feeling a little bad because several students really bombed the paper.  I was less sad when those same students didn't bother showing up for class.  And less sad still when one of the bombers complained about hir grade.  I actually used the word "crappy" to describe the work.  I could easily have used a worse word, but I was trying to be gentle.

Several students, however, did absolutely beautiful pieces of work.  Some more did good, solid work that really showed they could do good, solid work.  Sometimes, that's as good as my day gets.

Did I mention I'm ready for spring?

One of my friends was complaining about the snow on effbee, and another friend consoled by offering that we'd had good news: Summer is supposed to fall on a Saturday this year.

Please, please let it be spring and let the semester end!