Thursday, July 31, 2014

Already the Hoops

I'm chairing a committee again this coming year, a committee that handles certain sorts of departmental stuff.  Earlier this summer, I got a memo and had a conversation that led me to believe that we were basically being offered this cool thing, A (imagine a sort of grant to fund research, travel, or something else we might think is good), if we want it.  It was, I was told, the sort of thing to keep in mind, and then talk with the committee about when the contract period starts in late August. 

In the past two weeks, however, I got a message from our chair communicating a message from someone on the administrative side saying basically that if we on the committee wanted this good thing X, Y, and Z (imagine, perhaps, these are grants to fund research, travel, other stuff we think is good) to happen, we had to prioritize and request three specific things we want to do with X, Y, and Z.

So things looked good!  We seem to have grant A locked down if we want it, and get to ask for X, Y, and Z!

And then I was told, well, no, A isn't really locked down, and if we want it, we should prioritize it in the list that was to include X, Y, and Z.

And then I was told, that although we'd been asked to prioritize these four things, it was likely that we'd only actually get two of them.

And blah blah.  I've now met with the committee, and we've done a survey, and so on and so forth, and each time I feel like I'm communicating a new limit to the committee because the chair's communicating a new limit to me, because the administration is communicating a new limit to the chair.  I have a feeling that they forgot about A when they told us we should ask for X, Y, and Z, and then remembering A, decided that we couldn't actually have all four because they only have funding for three.  And so on.

It's all about thoughtlessly asking us to jump through hoops when I have a feeling that the administrators who decide have already decided that we can have two of our four things, and they don't really care, except they do, and we'd better request the two they really want to fund, and somehow we're supposed to know those without being told.  And since the administrators are all paid to work twelve months, they really don't see why faculty shouldn't be willing to put in some time to do this.

Of course, if our administration was competent, they'd have realized this was coming up in the spring and let us know, and we'd have taken care of it.  Instead, they told us that the budget meant that we weren't going to get any of this sort of funding for the coming year, so we didn't spend our energy prioritizing stuff.  (There's been changeover in the administration, so the new folks might have different funding priorities, and that would explain, possibly, the sudden shift.  It also might help explain the continued shifting, since the new folks are new, and some of the bean counters might be leading them around to get done what the bean counters want done.  Well, one bean counter, anyway.)

I wish there were a way to communicate to other faculty on campus to argue that we should all stand together for not doing these requests until we're under contract.  But, of course, the faculty who did them anyway would likely get all the funding, no?  And the rest would be told that we didn't put in any requests, so we wouldn't get funding.

I also wish there were a way to bill the university for the committee's time this past week.  A couple hours for each person, and probably twice those hours for me (since I've done a lot of work putting together the requests as requests).  What should I charge in my imaginary bill?  $100/hour?  minimum wage?  $500/hour?  I wonder what administrators make as consultants?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014


I accomplished that goal I had to bike either my age in years (miles) or a metric century (100 kilometers, or just over 62 miles).  (I also did that in 2007, looks like.)  (I rode 63.5 miles.)

Mostly, I had a really good time.

I saw a skunk.  At first, I saw this black bobbing thing with some white, and thought maybe there was a crow with something white in its beak hopping down the bike trail.  And then I realized it was a skunk, and stopped, a good 30 feet away.  The skunk also stopped, and raised its rear a bit (but was still facing me).  I thought, oh, this could be VERY bad.

But then after a short moment, the skunk decided that I wasn't really threatening, but was big enough to be avoided, and it made its way to the side of the trail and into the underbrush.  I waited long enough for it to be out of sight, and hopefully out of range of where it would feel threatened, and then bike on by on the far side of the trail.  And all was well.

I rode a trail I like not too far from where I live, which starts in a town, and then a couple miles away has a trailhead (where I parked), and then goes about 18 miles to a state park with a circular road, passing through a couple small towns along the way.  So I started at the trailhead, rode to the state park, rode around the circular road several times, then back, beyond where I'd parked towards the other bigger town, and then back to where I parked with about 8 more miles to go.  I stopped, refreshed my water with icewater from the car, drenched myself with lukewarm water, and then rode the final little bit towards the park and back.

Mostly the ride was fine, but the last 6 or so miles my wrists were really achy.

However, my feet didn't quite fall asleep (I kept doing stretches and stuff along the way which help), so that was a huge positive thing.

I started earlyish, and by the time I was doing the circuit of the state park, campers were starting the morning.  And since I did four or five circuits, I saw the development of the morning in several camps.  My favorite had a bunch (maybe 12) seats around a campfire.  The first circuit, someone was starting the campfire.  By the second circuit, it was going well, and there was some movement of other folks around.  But the third circuit, all the chairs were full of people eating breakfast.  And by the final circuit, all the chairs and the camp seemed empty.

Earlier this summer, I thought about trying to do a century of 100 miles this summer, but now I'm rethinking.  It would probably take me 8 or 9 hours (because I'm slow, and would be riding alone), and I think my wrists would really hurt, and I don't think I want to spend that much time on a bike not having fun.

So I think I'll find a different summer goal, maybe something running, which would take less time, but still give me a good goal.  And I'll bike and enjoy shorter rides, up to maybe 50 miles, and really focus on the fun of biking, since no one is paying me enough money to have my wrists ache.  (They were fine by the next morning, and my legs, while tired that night, were perfectly happy the next morning.)

And I think I'm going to try to go camping at that park for a night.  It just looked so beautiful.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


I dreamt I was back to high school last night.

In the early part of the dream, I visited a HS classroom as an observer, and there was some administrative stuff that seemed frustrating.

And then I had to be a HS student again, and was in that same classroom, and this time subject to the administrative frustrations more directly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

New Calendar

I love getting a new calendar (I use academic year calendars) and putting in all the important dates and stuff.  It just feels so hopeful somehow.

My garden this year feels hopeful, too.

As a reminder, this is how it looked on June 2nd.

And this is how it looked on July 1st.

And this is how it looks today, July 22nd.

(I've eaten, frozen, and shared a lot of kale, and also lots of yellow squash.)
And look, there's a pumpkin starting!

I think my relative inexperience with gardening really shows.  I planted WAY too much in there.  I somehow didn't realize how huge the squash would get, and how much squash they'd produce.  And the pumpkin!  I didn't realize it would escape and go all over the place.  Still, it's really fun, and the food is good, and it's nice to share.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Slightly Sore

I've been trying to ride my bike a bit, so I'm slightly sore in the legs, not enough to make it hard to sleep, but enough to be aware that I've been working.

I have a goal to ride my age in miles or a metric century (100 kilometers, which is about 62 miles) by the end of the month.  I rode 41 miles last week, and felt good, so I think this is do-able.

It's a matter of time on task, mostly, that being willing to ride for four or five hours at a time (because I go a whole lot slower than the pros), and building up over the couple of weeks.

I also have had a problem with my left foot falling asleep.  It used to be both feet, but moving the cleats on my shoes helped, and doing some stretchy stuff and reverse pedaling (pulling up instead of pushing down) has definitely helped.  And, weirdly, I'm finding that wearing thinner socks helps somehow.  But still, if my foot starts to go numb at 20 miles, facing another 42 is really unpleasant.  And I'm not paid to bike, so I don't want to do it if it's unpleasant.

My longer term goal, which I'm almost afraid to name, is to go 100 miles by the end of September.  Time on task is hard for that one.  It would be a huge mental accomplishment for me at any rate.  (The furthest I've ever ridden was 75 miles.)


Things just got busier with school.  The busyness is very good and encouraging and wonderful, but also daunting. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Changed Times

I started reading a book for fun last night, something that's rarer than you might thing. 

For some reason yesterday, I wanted to try rereading a comic novel I'd read back in grad school, so I got it out of the library. 

It's set in 1969, and begins with one of the main characters, a male, on a charter airplane from the US to London, wishing he were allowed to smoke his cigar, and realizing that all the other passengers are women.

The main character immediately knows why.  Do you?


I didn't remember this detail, which makes me think I didn't find it striking when I first read the book, but now I find it striking (along with the characters smoking cigarettes on the airplane).

If I were setting a comic novel in 1969, this isn't the detail I'd think to put in, if you know what I mean.


The Tour has a rest day today, and I'm hoping one of you will suggest a more modern comic novel for my reading pleasure.  I'll let this rest a bit, and then eventually talk about the detail in the comments, and tell you the novel.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Clicking Through Assessment

I finally finished working on this assessment project.  On one level, it was a good learning experience about how assessment folks think. 

We used a rubric with three categories, read 40 of the same basic assignment across many sections, and then rated each within the three categories.  Then the powers that be shuffled, and we read and rated 40 more that had been done by someone else in the first set.  (But the list included more than just our assigned pieces, so that there were 3 screens of 30 each, and a fourth page that was shorter.)

Everything was supposed to be done on line by unique identifying number.

I printed out my list of numbers and wrote things down so I could do the ratings entries in groups.

And that's when the real frustration began,

To enter the rating:

Pull up the list on one tab, and a rating page on another tab. 

Copy a number from the list, and click over to the rating page.

Click on "add a rating" to open a new dialog box thing.

Paste in the number.

Click on a drop down box and pick a number.  Do it again.

Scroll down so you can see the final category.  Click on the drop down box and pick a number.

Click on the save button.

Rinse and repeat.

*** Why use a drop down box rather than just a set of horizontal buttons?  Why not make it so that the full dialog box is visible without scrolling?  They could save four motions, easily.  That may not seem like much, but if you're doing 40, it gets to be.

The final step is to enter that you've done a specific assignment.

Go to the list again.

Click on a button next to the identifying number.  That opens a separate dialog box.

In that box, put a check in a "done" box.  Hit Save.

The "save" takes you back to the first page of the list.  And then, if you're not on the first page, you have to scroll down to the bottom where they have the button to go to the next page (but not, of course, a choice of going to the third or fourth page directly).

***Why not just a click on that first list to say a given identifying number's assignment is done?

I don't think I'm super picky about on line document design, but when you're entering 40 pieces, you notice stuff that makes it less efficient.

And I do think the lack of efficiency reveals that the people who are designing these assessments don't do much pre-testing.  And that lack of efficiency thus makes me think that these assessment designers don't think through their assessment stuff, the basics, any better.

I've been through three or four big assessment "pushes" here at NWU so far.  It started with portfolios and exit interviews, and then after some years of putting in all this effort to do these, we were told that the assessment folks didn't even look at the data, and we had to do this other thing.

The other thing got done for a couple of years, and then the assessment gurus told us that they didn't look at the data because it's useless, and we had to do this other thing.

And so forth.

There's a pattern of bad planning, no pre-testing of the plans to make sure they'll work, little thinking ahead, and a whole lot of wasted faculty (and in the portfolio days, student) time.

***If I'd designed the document, here's what it would have looked like.

A list with columns for the assessor's name, the unique identifier, the three ratings, and then a box that says "done" and, if you're concerned, a "save" tab that makes it saved, and maybe a final "edit" box so you can make changes just in case.  (If really necessary, a "comment" button that opens a place to add a comment.)

On each screen, top and bottom, page arrows and number choices so you can move from page 1 to 4 with one click.

But yeah, I'm just an English professor.  It's not like I know anything about texts.

And that task done, I turn back to starting my summer anew!  Yesterday, I mowed, harvested a bunch of yellow squash (cut them up and put them in freezer bags for winter crockpot use), and went out with a friend for some biking/paddling, with fresh strawberries for a snack.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Vacationlandia 6

And now, to the island of Anacapa itself, with lots and lots of birds!

First off are Pigeon Guillemots!  Bonus bird!

Next up, some Cormorants (though I'm not good enough at Cormorants to identify which species, alas).
But the Western Gulls owned the place!
Mostly, each white bird there probably has 1-3 chicks, though we did see a couple of birds with eggs.  Chicks!

And making chicks!

And finally, the lighthouse.



Monday, July 07, 2014

Vacationlandia 5

The main reason for our trip was that my Mom has "always wanted" to go to the Channel Islands.  So when I offered this winter to do something for a couple of days, she found a retired folks tour for three days, including a day on a Channel Island (not the English Channel, but the Channel Islands off the coast of California).  And we signed up.  But that got cancelled, and she found another, this one a five day with the same company, so we signed up.  And then we added three days to visit a friend of hers (one of which I got to go visit a friend of mine!), and then there was a party at my Aunt's house to honor a family member who just got a big promotion, and there was the planning.

The Channel Island we visited is Anacapa, which at this point of the year is fledging land for Western Gulls.  Basically, the island is mesa-like in shape, so you land at a little dock, walk up some stairs (150 or so), and then you walk around this little mesa-like area.  And that's what we did.

I'll split the photos into ones on the way, where we saw dolphins!  (Common and Pacific Bottlenose, I think they said.)  Also Brown Pelicans and what I think are Sooty Shearwaters (there may have been more than one sort, but I got one photo that seems to be identifiable).

Summer Reboot

Other than the garden, which grew wonderfully while I was away, I feel like I haven't accomplished anything this summer so far.  I need a reboot, to start over, afresh and anew.

(Of course, I've done a summer workshop for faculty development and participated in an assessment project, but they don't feel like I've really done anything.  And I was a good daughter for two weeks, which is little enough to ask of me.)

So, one more post with vacation pics, and trying to start afresh!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Vacationlandia 4

As Flavia, Dame Eleanor, and NicoleandMaggie said, the pictures were from Hearst Castle.

I was interested, I must admit, by the suggestion of the Getty, since both were started by massively rich men who were interested in art, and especially classical and medieval arts.  But one started a private house (which accidentally became a state park), and the other started a museum and foundation.  Still, Hearst Castle is pretty darned amazing.

Here are some pictures from another scene of the vacation, Piedras Blancas, which is where Elephant Seals were molting.  (This time of summer, most of the seals molting there are adult males.)

When I was a but younger, I went to see the Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo (add the tilde mentally, please), which was a big deal because they'd been almost extinct, and had started breeding there.  I didn't realize that they've since spread a LOT; in the 90s sometime, they started coming to Piedras Blancas.  It was nice for my Mom, since we didn't have a long walk to get to where you could see them well.


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Vacationlandia 3

Here's one last set, another from indoors.
You folks are getting really close!  Indeed, this is a Mediterranean type climate, with lots of purposeful plantings.  It isn't San Francisco, nor is it the Getty.  (Looking at the pictures makes me want to visit there, too!)


Vacationlandia 2

Great guesses below.  And since Contingent Cassandra mentioned the lack of landscapes, here are a couple pictures taken outside.  (The weather was glorious, just so you know.)

I kept debating with myself if these were copies or ancient.  It seems like keeping ancient works of art outside would be bad, no?
And this below is the same lamp that I showed a detail of in the last post.

And a couple more indoor shots.

Does that change anyone's thoughts?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014


I went away, and now I'm back.

And here are a couple of pictures from the trip to start off.  Feel free to say where you think I went!