Friday, November 30, 2007

Weekend forcast...

Outside: cold today -- and sunny -- tomorrow, warmer and 2-7 inches of snow.

Inside: Chili is already in the pot, cats are being cuddly and the apartment is relatively clean.

I wonder if I could spend the whole weekend inside our apartment complex?

I have groceries.
The internet, cable TV and TIVO are plenty of entertainment.
I have of work to do -- some grading, a course review, and a conference paper to start.
I want to exercise, but we have an exercise room in this building -- so I don't have to go to the gym.... besides, getting out of the warmish pool and going outside to get in my cold car sounds terrible.

I'll have to go to the other building to pay rent, but that is inside the building.


Sounds like a nearly perfect weekend -- if Hubby were here, it would be perfect. We'll have to plan a 'stay in for the weekend challenge' over break.

ps... the chili is almost vegetarian... 1 pound of meat in a large pot with lots of different kinds of canned beans, corn, peas, carrots and lots and lots of tomatoes. Add to that fresh onion and celery -- and the normal chili spices and simmer. For the hubby weekend version, I'll have to find something else to simmer, as he HATES chili, especially chili with anything resembling bean in it (yea, we all know he's odd, but I love him!!).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teaching schools and interviews...

Since they asked so nicely....

I'll weigh in on my experience on hiring committees at teaching schools...

First, you'll probably be doing a teaching demonstration.

The topic choice here is key -- make sure you ask who you'll be teaching to and how long you'll have -- and adjust your material accordingly. At my CC, the committee is usually made up of a couple of members of the discipline, maybe one or two other faculty members and a couple of administrators. The key is to take the teaching demonstration as a way to demonstrate your ability to teach to bright and attentive freshmen -- who haven't done the reading. Being engaging and interactive is good, but make sure you remain in control and within your time limit -- while not going above the heads of the non-philosophers.

In terms of questions asked - I can be pretty general, but even at my CC the questions change a bit from year to year.

General areas:
  • Your vision for 'normal' philosophy courses and your methods for teaching logic. Here you'll want to explain the kinds of exercises you'll do to keep students engaged. You'll also want to explain your assessment methods for those courses.
  • Your methods for adjusting to different preparation levels in the classroom. Here is where you'll have to explain how you'll deal with the kid who can't read and the kid who had to come home from Princeton sitting next to one another in your freshman Ethics course.
  • Your most challenging teaching situation and your most rewarding experience. Here is where you tell the story about little Jimmy who was sure he couldn't do logic -- who had talked himself out of being able to pass the class and who finally ended up passing the class.
  • Your use of technology in teaching. If you've used or TAd for classes using technology, make the most of it.
  • Your experience with diversity in the classroom. You should discuss both your experiences with populations that are ethnically diverse, but also you should discuss diversity in terms of age. It is quite possible that your teaching college will have students from 16-80, in your classroom.
  • How you would deal with a few students who are doing badly in the class -- and how you would deal with a significant portion of the class that is doing badly. The key with the student is to offer more help and to understand what resources are available to help students who need more assistance. With the class who is doing badly, discuss how you'd do some review to reinforce some important concepts AND to do classroom assessment techniques like asking about the 'muddiest point' etc.
  • Your professional development. Here is where you'll want to talk about the teaching seminars you're attending via your grad university, how you are a member of APT etc... This is not where you give details about conference papers, publications etc -- unless there is a research element to your position. Then you make it about 50/50.
You should do some digging before your interview.... especially to find the following information:
  • The normal class size is for your discipline. Make sure you have answers as to how you are going to adjust your teaching to either large or small classes.
  • The array of classes taught in your discipline. Make sure you have at least an outline of a syllabus for each of them in your head, if not on paper.
  • Where your students go when they are done at your potential school... this will let you show you you can connect to the students and help them to get where the school thinks they are going.
You should also do some basic on-line research into teaching jargon and trends... A few you should look for:
  • "Active learning" -- which is a very vague term, but means that you don't do 100% lecture, but rather you have means of helping your students get and stay engaged.
  • "learning styles" -- the idea that some people are visual learners, others are logical etc... if you can figure out what kind of learner you are, you can explain how you'll vary your teaching methods to help the other kinds of groups.
  • "Assessment" -- another very vague term, but something that seems to be coming to higher ed. Think about a project you could use to figure out if your students are increasing their critical thinking skills -- a pre/post test on logical fallacies or something... anything that could be standardized and assessed.
I hope that helps -- if I've missed something, feel free to leave a question in the comments and I'll do more :).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm teaching the wrong course....

Dealing with administrivia.. in doing so, a conversation was had about a course I'm teaching.

The people who DON'T teach this course also seem not to know much about it, or philosophy in general.

It was their decision that Ethics isn't "writing intensive" -- btw, according to their lack of definition about this, neither are comp courses -- and thus doesn't need an English prereq...

Which means, I've wasted a whole weekend reading a shit-ton of crappy drafts for a course in which writing is NOT important.

It seems that I'm teaching the wrong course.

Funny conversation with Hubby

Background... Hubby loves to taunt me by calling the high-capacity drainage ditch in his neighborhood a "Lake". I, being a good resident of BN state know Lakes... we have a whole bunch of them.... and that puddle, my friends, is NOT a lake.

Today Hubby called me on the way past the pond, noting that "the geese have filled the lake".

I told him that he couldn't call it a "lake" anymore, or I'd revoke his BN state citizenship.

He objected, but I replied telling him that, as a BN state native, I have special powers.... I can kick the backside of anybody from Corn state, I can end sentences with a preposition, and I can eat lutefisk... and revoke BN state citizenship...

Just wait, sooner or later there will be a new character on Heroes... a BN state native.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

...another one bites the dust...

The logic quizzes weren't pretty today.

I think they got a bit lazy and forgot that they actually need to DO their homework and ask questions, even if it is the annual 'dead-bird-and-football' holiday, followed by the 'celebration of consumerism' holiday.

I have to give credit where credit is due -- one of my biggest airhead-boys pulled it out and got a good grade. Other students did well -- but, the ones who have had attitudes, loafed or missed class aren't going to be happy with me on Thursday.

oh well -- the fact of the matter is that I've passed this class. Besides, I take the quiz questions from their homework AND post the answers on my door. There is really no excuse for not getting a good f-ing grade...


at least I'm done critiquing ethics drafts. There are some small favors in my universe.

Another reason to hate monopoly air...

Of course I'm a member of Monopoly Air's frequent flyer program.

They just sent me an e-mail promising $65.00 fares...

except, when I look for a fare between here and Red State, it is $500.00.

Makes me feel a lot better about driving.

Monday, November 26, 2007

can't we just say 'uncle' for the semester?

I'm just kind of unenthusiastic about teaching the rest of the semester.

Logic is at the slogging it out point.... although, this next quiz should be interesting, as I don't think they've done the homework.... and that will hurt.

The ethics issues aren't all that compelling.

Next semester I'm going to schedule presentations at the end of the semester.... have any of you solved the group-presentation-slacker problem? I'm thinking that I might just do it like a conference panel-- Students write and present their own papers and someone is the discussant.... hmmm. I'd love to hear how you do it.

Almost out of Grading Jail...

I have 5.5 drafts left...

out of 62.

Not bad....

The rest of the semester should be easier, thank goodness!

Kitty threesome...

From top to bottom: Blind Kitty, New Kitty and Extra-Toes

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New member of the computer family....

I got my combo Anniversary-Birthday-Christmas present today..

a nice big iMac.

Actually, it is the smallest one they sell, but it is HUGE compared to my 12-inch PowerBook.

The theory is that it will let me write more comfortably -- but, y'all know that it really means I can read more blogs without eye-strain, do more photo stuff -- and that Hubby can have the old PowerBook officially to himself.... :).

Friday, November 23, 2007

6 years ago tonight..

...was the last of the old 'normal'...

My sister died suddenly. She was 30.

I still miss her and think about her often. The strangest thing is that there are no terms for the status of having lost a sibling... like there are widows and widowers, orphans etc. Perhaps it is too hard to name it?

I sometimes wonder if she's come to live with me in New Kitty's head -- New Kitty is pretty bright for a cat, and if reincarnation is true, there is nobody more likely to come back as a cat.

Notes from grading jail....

Today I'm reading drafts -- I'll update as I go.

Right now I've been reading for about an hour and have read exactly 3. This is way too slow... I have 9 more to go on the death penalty alone... sigh.

If y'all have some tips on quickly giving writing advise in comments, I'd love to see it.

Is it sufficient to use my "proofread" stamp for all kinds of errors? They should sort them out on their own, right?

How do you grade drafts? I'm looking for complete drafts -- i.e. things that look like papers they'd actually turn in. A corresponding question, how severely do I punish papers that ignore my comments? They'll have about 3 weeks to revise.

3 more Death Penalty papers down... 6 to go...

A secret note to my current and previous philosophy profs:
I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so sorry to have tormented you with my poor writing.

I must have earned some terrible philosophy karma to have student papers like these. When I was a bratty teenager, my mother said 'I hope one day you have a daughter just like you'. A similar principle must be at work in order for me to have this stack of papers on my desk.

I'm done with Death Penalty papers... YEA!
The gem of the pile was the argument that, without the death penalty or other punishments, we would all be out there murdering and raping others...

Next topic, gun control... ought to be fun!

3 Gun Control Papers left... I think I may be done for the night.

I have 31 papers left to read this weekend... I've read 28 so far.

I've had several well-written papers. Sadly, a couple of them weren't complete -- which makes me a bit suspicious -- although, since they discuss the not-so-common textbook articles in-depth, I'm guessing they just didn't know they needed to support their own argument with an ethical theory.

I've also had at least two papers that I'm pretty sure were written for another class. I don't mind if they use research done for another course in this paper, but they aren't making ethical arguments in these 'other class' papers -- so they aren't satisfying the assignment.

I think I'm done for the night. Hubby and I are going to a movie, as we've been good graders all day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, a nice mix of old and new...

Thanksgiving bittersweet for me now. 6 years ago tomorrow my sister died.... like this year, it was the day after Thanksgiving. She was 30. I'm sure I'll post about Pam this weekend -- but this post isn't about her.

I think this year was the perfect way to spend Thanksgiving. We did a nice mix of the old and new....

Old family -- my MIL is really a neat person and someone who feels more like an old friend than my husband's mother -- in a New place to gather -- we are at our new apartment this year. We also have a new cat...

My husband and his mother have spent the afternoon recording Old (70s and 80s) music, via itunes on CDs... new technology.

I used my Great Grandma Glad's dishes to serve food I ordered from the grocery store pre-made -- the new way to do holiday meals...

The really wonderful thing about doing it this way is that we have plenty of leftovers... and we'll need them, as we are both in grading Jail this weekend... Some things never change.

A few things I'm grateful for...

The following isn't en exclusive list -- nor is it in any real order....
  • An amazing husband. It takes an a amazing person to keep me intrigued for 17 years :).
  • A wonderful family. It is pretty cool to be part of a family of fun, funny, educated and old people.
  • 3 mostly healthy cats.... very healthy if you don't take mental health into consideration.
  • The large percentage of my co-workers at BNCC who are smart, compassionate, competent, and fair.
  • My in-person and cyber-friends.
  • The fact that I have a job teaching philosophy.
  • My logic tutors -- both are pretty amazing young women with bright futures.
  • My smart and engaged students.
  • Not coaching debate. That was fun, now it's done.
  • My new apartment, which is mere minutes from BNCC and nice.
  • Relaxed Thanksgivings -- a pre-cooked meal, movies and grading. Not a bad way to spend Turkey day.
  • Snow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Near Cat-astrophy...

Extra-toes and New Kitty were wrestling in the office.

As they snarled and hissed, things started to sound serious...

I turned around to see Extra-toes' extra claws caught on New Kitty's collar.

As he'd try to pull away, he would pull her toward him, thus escalating the fight.

They got separated, but it was a little tense.

Thanksgiving Eve...

The Grocery Shopping is done.
The mostly pre-made dinner is in the fridge.
The MIL will bring a pie tomorrow.
The kitchen is clean.
The Pumpkin Loaf is in the oven.
The frozen quiche we'll eat for dinner is in the oven.
Hubby is taking a nap with the cats.

I love Thanksgiving Eve -- I think I'll go watch something on TIVO.

An evening with the Red Head's mom....

I've known the Red Head forever -- we were in 6th grade when we met in music class. Thus, I've also known her mother forever. The Red Head's mom is kind of like that sweet, slightly batty auntie you love to chat with while doing the Thanksgiving dinner dishes.

The following is the text of an e-mail the Red Head sent me recently quoting her mother...When you read them, imagine a "Fargo" accent and you won't be far off.

1) "What do they mean by 'Hi Def'?"

2) At Applebees upon learning they will accept a check with an ID: "Well, I need my Driver's License back, so don't forget to bring it back. Now, just so you know, my phone # is not on the check because the bank says it's safer that way."

3) When asked why she didn't just pay with a debit card like normal people: "Well, I'm not sure how much is in my account and we get paid tomorrow so I know the check will clear." When asked why it matters because she has overdraft protection: "Well, they charge so darn much if you go over your balance. I don't want to pay any fees."

4) "You know, when we drove through Texas I was so surprised that none of the men were wearing cowboy hats!"

5) "Back when 3D first came out, we had to wear these special glasses so it didn't hurt our eyes."

6) While watching "The A-Team": "Where do they take a shower and keep their stuff?"

7) "Well, I think there's room for punishment, but I think prison just takes it too far."

8) "When you get catalogs in the mail, don't put them in the recycling until you've taken out the order form and the mailing label with your name and address. Because thieves will take it, write 'change of address' on it, place an order, and you'll get charged for it."

9) Last night I was going over the shopping itinerary for Friday. I told her that we have to get "bathroom rugs that don't have hair dye on them." Without hesitation she said, "Well, that shouldn't be too hard to find."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bright and Busy

Last night I had a good chat with a student...

Mr. X is a very recently returned Iraq vet. He's in the BNState National Guard, so he has on-going obligations.

Mr. X, at the beginning of the semester said, "Coming home is hard. Over there I had 9 guys with me at all times. The officers told us what to do and we figured out how to do it. If I had a problem, there were 9 other guys there to help me out." He'd been home for a month or so... maybe a little bit more.

Early in the class, he struggled-- a lot. I could see him struggle and he expressed his frustration in class. Then, he started missing classes and missed at least a couple of quizzes. He told me he had a new job and they were messing with his schedule.

I was sure he'd drop. He was headed down the path many logic students take -- miss some classes, get behind, don't work to catch-up, get more frustrated, avoid classes and eventually realize it is hopeless and withdraw.

A big part of what students learn in my logic class is how to be college students. The class moves pretty quickly, I don't grade homework and everything could be 'on the test'. At the end of the class, your grade depends on how well you can do the required symbolic manipulation.

They learn that I mean it when I say they have to do the homework and come to class, or they'll be sorry. Frankly, I don't care if they do the homework before or after class -- but they need to do it. They figure out that part too --

Mr. X surprised me last week -- with an excellent quiz score.

He stopped by my office last night before his night class. He told me he'd decided he was just going to do it -- his job is doing overnight security at a big-box store. He's the guy the employees leave there overnight -- in his words, "all night, it was just me, the radio and my logic book. I just stared at it until I go it."... yep. That's the case.

He then told me that this is the first college class he's had problems with but stuck to. He also told me his grandmother called him at work last week and was very proud to hear he was busy studying logic.

After his quiz, and after class on Thursday he asked me questions from the NEXT section of problems... and, he was figuring them out, on his own.

My logic syllabus is designed so that students like Mr. X can, if they work hard, figure it out and get a good grade. Often, they don't do it -- they haven't figured out how to do hard intellectual work and/or they don't have the time to do it. Thank goodness for Mr. X's job, which gives him the time to struggle with the material.

Now I have two students in that section to root for -- Mr. X and the student who told me a B in logic would earn her a graduation trip to Italy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

17 years with hubby

17 years ago today hubby and I got married. It was a small ceremony, with a couple of friends as witnesses, my mom and sister in attendance and a very wise judge to perform it on her lunch hour. The judge asked me if I wanted to promise to obey hubby, I declined and the rest is history.

For those of you who know hubby now, imagine him in his Air Force dress blues, barely able to speak -- just squeaking out his vows. Imagine me with long hair and big glasses. We were younger then than many of my students are now.

For 17 years he's been my best friend, my confidant and my rival. We have so many inside jokes conversations between us often take on the characteristics of 'twin talk'. Nobody can brighten my day like hubby, nobody can more reliably make me laugh until I snort, and nobody knows what I'm thinking better than him.

We've survived the death of my sister, the death of two cats, the hassles of finishing several college degrees, countless moves, and several job changes. Now we are figuring out how to have a long-distance marriage AND write dissertations. Some people call their spouses their "partner" in order to be neutral -- my hubby really IS my partner, and I couldn't ask for a better partner than hubby.

Hubby is my lover, friend, research assistant and especially my google. I was truly blessed when I got to marry him. Although he can be a challenge at times, I've never regretted saying yes.

Tonight, I have to teach -- so we are going to see "Bee Movie" in a little bit, he'll cook me a simple dinner after class tonight and we'll celebrate our anniversary tomorrow with a nice dinner out. As I've told him -- this is just the beginning of 'anniversary week' -- so, we'll see how the rest of it turns out :).

The quick slide into Christmas break....

Tonight begins the slippery-slope into Christmas break....

This week in my classroom:
  • Ethics, night class: watch Star Trek & in-class draft exchange, day sections, draft exchange.
  • Logic, both sections: "optional" day -- i.e. helping the ones who need some extra attention, but not teaching new material.
Next week:
  • Ethics, economic justice topic and drafts back from me.... obviously, Turkey goes well with drafts of applied ethics papers... sigh.
  • Logic, a quiz and then one more section of new material.
The following week:
  • Ethics, GLBTQ issues
  • Logic, one last quiz and the quiz re-take day
The following week:
LAST week of class.....
  • Ethics, watch Transamerica (excellent movie, see it!)
  • Logic, see who is eligible to opt out of the final (send my logic students good vibes so I'll have fewer final exams to grade).

The following week:
FINALS --- and Las Vegas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All in all, there will be about 5 more class sessions to teach in Ethics, 2 more to formally teach in Logic. Awesome!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

An ethicist and a political scientist watch movies...

So, what kind of movies would an ethicist and a political scientist watch?? Add to it that they both deal with war....

Last night, "The Last King of Scotland".

Today, "Dr. Strangelove".

RBOC (random bullets of Cats)

It has been a couple days since the last obligatory cat news...
  • New Kitty is left- pawed. She just tried to attack the cursor with her left paw, and the more I think about it -- she uses her left paw to hit Extra Toes.
  • Cat threesomes are much more adorable than the human variety ever could be. Today, again, they spent a large portion of the morning sleeping in one big pile of kitty.
  • Several years ago I bought a black fake-fur pillow from Pottery Barn. Lately, this pillow has been a favorite sleeping place for New Kitty and Extra Toes. Yesterday I realized that Blind Kitty's fur is the same color and length as the furry pillow.
  • Catnip seems to work to calm Blind Kitty -- he'll probably be getting some at bedtime every night.... as will the others. I hope there are no real side-effects from an addiction to catnip.

Friday, November 16, 2007

'hostile' enviornment....

BNCC has been a bit of a kerfluffle recently. It seems that someone used the "Everyone" e-mail function to solicit Christmas cards for the troops.

Someone else, correctly, pointed out that the troops aren't 100% Christian -- although, it should be noted that most say they are, and a large number of them are conservative Christians at that -- and suggested "holiday cards". As you may imagine, tempers got heated -- people said stupid stuff and everyone with a stance on religion (pro, con, 'Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.) went a bit nutso in "everyone" e-mails.

As it went on, it wasn't personal -- at least that I could tell -- and everyone tried to be civil, even when writing some pretty ignorant stuff.

On my hallway, we made some jokes about it and mostly blew it off. It should be noted that 'my hallway' includes the people who teach philosophy, our only religion class and communication studies. Nobody from ' my hallway' "contributed" to the cycle of e-mails.... maybe we are just too busy teaching huge classes -- or, maybe we realize that not responding is a good option and that people say ignorant shit about religion on a daily basis. For us, it seemed to be a non-issue.

Today I was at a meeting with folks supervised by my Dean. Someone asked the Academic VP a question (that wasn't a question) about the "hostile work environment" created by the "proselytizing" going on in e-mail.

Last I checked, "proselytizing" was an act intended to promote conversion to a new religious faith. In order to be "hostile" the person would need to feel threatened by that attempt, no?

Unless she got some e-mails I either deleted or ignored, I didn't see ANY "everyone" e-mails that could be called an attempt at religious conversion, nor did I see any kind of threat.

She also implied that there is a problem of Church/State separation, as BNCC's e-mail was used to conduct the conversation and that she was concerned about "the kind of advise and the quality of education" provided by those she saw as creating the "hostile" environment.

Really, until this faculty member started talking in the meeting, the e-mails didn't really anger me. A few people said stupid stuff, others shut them down and it was over.

What angered me was seeing someone who ought to know better using hot-button words in an inappropriate way... and that really does bother me. If someone were really proselytizing and/or being hostile, I'd be in opposition to that kind of activity -- the problem is tagging ignorant but innocent actions one of those terms decreases the power of those terms when they are used to describe real instances.

I left the meeting sincerely worried about the critical thinking skills this faculty member was teaching - seeing as how she'd just demonstrated her own lack of critical thinking skills.

Edited to add:
A friend/reader sent me an e-mail saying that there was a call to religion in one of the more recent 'everyone' e-mails. I went back and actually read the most recent one -- and she is right. the message was kind of like 'the world we live in now sucks because people have ignored God'. I'll grant that the message was the weakest kind of proselytizing -- and, really the least effective method.

I still don't see it as creating a hostile working environment or establishing A college religion (thus the church/state separation problem). And, if it were the case that that created a hostile environment and violated church/state separation, then the only Philosophy class we can teach is Logic. The World Religion class is in trouble, as students are required to observe a religious practice and write about it. Further, my Introduction to Philosophy course is in trouble because I sometimes spend time on the philosophical underpinnings of religion and (gasp) arguments FOR the existence of God. My Ethics class is also in trouble because I talk about Natural Law and other ways philosophical ethics intersects with religion. In my Medical Ethics course we'll talk about Natural Law as well a the diversity challenges that come when people have different religious beliefs.

Also, since philosophy has large classes, I'm sure the number of students we teach in a week is significantly higher than the number of people who read to the end of the worst of the 'everyone' e-mails. Thus, we responsible for significantly worse violations of church/state separation and are creating a significantly more hostile environment.

Textbook selection...

I'm teaching a section of Biomedical Ethics next semester.

I've done it once before, and while I loved my students and the topics we cover, I hated the book.

Thus, I need to select another one.

I've narrowed down the stack from my office and brought the contenders home with me.

Since the decision date was two weeks ago, I really should decide soon.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Logic updates...

  • To X, do you have something really uncomfortable in that back, corner chair? If not, why run out of class like we've been poking you with sharp sticks?
  • To A, follow the f-ing directions. You were warned several times (or, you would have been, had you bothered to come to class) that I'd deduct points for form. I also announced it at the beginning of the last quiz. Frankly, there is a bit of logic that is like filing TPS reports -- you do it because following directions is important in life.
  • To C, why didn't you listen to me last week when I told you you were making mistakes? I pointed them out on your paper, wrote the correct logic in your notebook and told you that you need to do the problems correctly on the quiz. The resulting low quiz score shouldn't be a surprise.
  • To my 7:45 class, I'm about to lock the door at 7:50--- getting there by 8:05 just isn't cutting it, especially since it's the same bunch of late people every time. Maybe next time, I'll give an extra point for being on-time. You'll regret stopping at S'Bucks.
  • Overall - I'm happy with both classes and really happy with my tutors... I'll miss you gals next semester.

Waiting for Hubby...

Hubby will be home for Thanksgiving tonight!


Blind Kitty will have someone else to snuggle with.

Extra-Toes will have to give up his chair in the office.

New Kitty will have the opportunity to supervise someone in the bath, as she supervises everything that involves water.

our bizarre little universe will be complete...

safe travels, hubby

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First snow...

I love winter.

Today was the first snow -- it didn't stick, but it was coming down about noon -- and blowing around the parking lot.


My apartment is very cozy, my cats love to snuggle and all the stuff I'm allergic to is frozen.

No wonder I love winter.

Vegas, baby!

Hubby, for many reasons, is a genius.

His latest brilliant act was to book us a trip to Vegas after we are done with finals.

Even better, we can pay for the airline tickets with American Express points -- and the hotel rate is very good.


Sure, I'll have some extreme grading to do when we get back -- but, it will be worth it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Random Thoughts from a weekend...

  • Why does Corn State have to be so big and corny? If Red State were just south of BNstate, my drive would be much better... drat.
  • It is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong to start Christmas just after Halloween! This goes for stores and TV shows in particular. If I can watch the end of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas on November 11th, there is something wrong with the world.
  • I thought I was hearing Blind Kitty last night -- but, he's 400 miles away.
  • I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving. MIL will be over. I've ordered the dinner from the grocery store (on-line, I love this store!). All I'll have to do is bake a pie and assemble. I think I'm done cooking holiday dinners for a while, especially Thanksgiving. I've cooked Thanksgiving dinner before -- I know I can do it. The question is whether or not I want to. This year I'm going to have too much grading to do to mess with it.
  • I really don't like starting CST earlier. The problem is that two weeks makes a huge difference in terms of getting dark. So we go from twilight at 6:00 PM to DARK at 6:00 PM, in one day. It is very disorienting.
  • We took a long and meandering drive today to get to the military museum. One of the small towns had hundreds of flags out for Veterans' Day.
  • Yesterday was the anniversary of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Sometime I'm going to be on the North Shore of Lake Superior on November 10th... If you don't know about the Edmund Fitzgerald, or the song, Google it.... it is perfect in its own way. If you've ever been near one of the Great Lakes in the late fall, it will give you chills.
  • The other thing I'm going to do sometime is to be up at mom's during the sled dog race. I keep meaning to go, I even have a friend whose wife works for the BN state sled dog association... and I still manage to miss it.

Veterans' Day

We spent Veterans' Day with some actual Vets....

We went to Red State's new and pretty amazing military museum. It has been out there between here and Grad School city for quite a while, but we never managed to make it out there, until today. It wasn't crowded, so we had plenty of time and space to look at the displays of aircraft and missiles. Hubby knows a lot about this stuff, so he kept a narrative going the whole way.

At one aircraft we ran into an older vet who told Hubby a bunch of stories about his time in the service. He was wearing his Red State VFW hat, jacket and shirt. His wife was in a well-worm t-shirt with a huge US flag splashed across her chest. She completed the look with some flashy flag earrings.

The old guy was in for a big chunk of the Cold War and had some tales to tell, he'd been stationed some of the same places as Hubby, only about 20-30 years before him... As they compared service stories, she told me she was his second wife. She confided that she married him after he got out of the military, but that she gets to use his retirement benefits.

At another aircraft, a very distinguished older gentleman and his country club wife told Hubby about flying the first intercontinental flight guided by inertial guidance (whatever that is...).

Inside yet another aircraft, we met some guys who are currently assigned to work on that aircraft. They were climbing around to see how their model differed from the one in the museum. It seems that their generation of aircraft (6 out from the one we saw) isn't much different than the museum piece...

I have to say, the best way to spend Veterans' Day is with a Vet or five...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lions for Lambs

If you want a good, thought-provoking movie about the war, go. Really, you should go. It will make you think and probably scare you more than you are already.

Especially those of you who are teaching college folks --- the Robert Redford character is excellent.

For a movie that mostly stars 6 people, it is extraordinary... and, it is hard to argue with that if three of the people are Tom Cruise, Merrill Streep and Robert Redford.

Friday, November 09, 2007

End of the semester numbers...

well.. at least the countdown to the end of the semester.

I know it is early, but humor me :).

By the end of the semester, I'll have to grade....
3 sets of logic quizzes
180 logic quizzes total
1 logic final, about 30 total (many will take the 'opt out' -- YEA!)
15 or so make-up quizzes
120 3-page papers
60 drafts for comment
60 final papers

not so bad -- I think I can do it.

RBOC, from Red State....

In the form of a few life lessons...
  • If your committee meeting never starts on time, people will always be late. If they really can't be there for the start of the meeting, move the meeting time a bit later and insist on being timely.
  • Don't pick unnecessary fights. This goes for student/teacher interactions as well as faculty to faculty interactions. Sometimes you really can get by without having it out -- and if the other person wants to fight, then let them start it and look like a jerk when you have excellent responses. Starting the fight gives them the advantage because you put your arguments out there, thus you lose the element of surprise.
  • Just because you think something, doesn't mean you have to say it. Really, nobody cares about 95% of what goes on in your head -- only let out the stuff that makes a difference.
  • Driving a big truck doesn't make you a man -- really.
  • November is a deadly time for deer on the road -- the road to Red State was often smeared with the blood of deer hit by cars. It was really icky.
  • Changing time sucks -- especially if you plan to drive from BNState to Red State after classes... and, due to road construction don't even really get out of the area of BNCC until 3:00.... Today it was almost dark by the time I hit Corn State ---ICK!
  • Gas is cheaper in Corn State -- due to the ethanol subsidy. I can do this trip by only buying gas in Corn State, YEA!
  • I like my music ritual for arriving in Red State city... There is a song about this city that describes it well -- So as soon as I can see the tallest buildings at a distance, I start playing the song on my ipod and singing along in the car. I repeat the song until I get to hubby's.
  • I'm glad the semester is close to being over, at least from a LD relationship point of view... I'll probably do just one more Red State trip this semester. The trip itself isn't bad, but staying awake and aware all the way down, in the mostly dark is kind of a challenge.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Temporarily caught up... on the teaching side...

Right now I have no grading to do -- and none coming in tomorrow.

My next set of quizzes will be in on Tuesday, and the next set of papers not until the week of Thanksgiving (but, then that will be 80ish drafts of long papers, so I'll do my time in grading jail with the leftover turkey).

I only have about 10 minutes worth of work to do on the BICC project, then it is DONE.

My office at school is a nice, tranquil spot -- and pretty clean. My home office will be tamed before I leave town tomorrow.

I do plan to do status reports for my students, but that isn't complicated and can be done pretty easily in Red State.

We don't have school on Monday (Veteran's Day, odd -- huh?) -- so I can even leave from Red State at a reasonable time, as I don't need to be back for my 6:00 PM class -- YEA!

The thing is, I'm feeling kind of anxious about being caught up at work. I get a similar feeling the day or two after grades are turned in, especially if my syllabus is done for the next semester. I feel like I'm missing something -- like there is some huge mistake I'm making by being current with my grading.

Committee meetings and debate...

BICC met today, and I somehow ended up having to stay for most of it...

The good news is that I'm done with the icky bits of the curriculum revision project. This is good and makes for a happy day.

The bad news is that I had to listen to a poorly defined topicality debate conducted by BICC. Those who say that topicality doesn't happen in real life should have been with me today.

As a department, we shouldn't be required to deal with BICC for another 5 years, which is wonderful.

I do anticipate starting some trouble with BICC when I revise the newly revised ethics course to be a writing intensive course. I'm going to force them to deal with some really bad decisions that were made long ago, as well as the continuing issues they have with administration... This time, the revision will be a project of mine and thus more like a hobby than a task.

Monday, November 05, 2007

One of those mornings... aargh

My morning started early... 4:00 AM to be precise.

I woke to a weired buzzing. It sounded like the alarm was going off, but there was no reason it should. In my groggy state, I un-plugged and re-set my alarm. The buzzing stopped.

By that time, I was awake -- so I got up to check e-mail and read the blogs in my reader... and the internet was out.

4:30 I went back to bed.

5:15 Blind Kitty had some kind of bizarre night-terror incident and woke me up. I put him out of the room and went back to sleep.

6:00 New Kitty goes nuts in the bedroom, walking on my bedside table and waking me... I put her out and went back to sleep

6:45 AM Hubby called, usually a reasonable time... but this time he woke me up. I went back to sleep.

7:10 The weird buzzing from 4:00 AM starts again. I unplug the alarm and try to figure out why it was going crazy. I moved it... and finally noticed that the buzzing was coming from the phone.

By that time, I was UP. I got up to see if the internet was working. It wasn't. I called the generic internet provider (GIP) we have here (yea for FCC requiring competition in apartments!! It's about time!!). GIP checks things out, it isn't them -- it is us.

8:00 -- and since I'm UP, I decide to go to water aerobics. So, I get dressed and head out.

8:20 I get to my gym. The pool is closed, because they can't manage the chemicals, or some such nonsense...

Now I'm determined. Something is going to go right -- dammit. I know that far-away suburb location of my gym has a 9:00 class.... and I can make it if I scurry...

9:00 I get to the gym, stuff my things in the locker and get in the pool...

only to find that this teacher is someone who thinks that having us move back and forth in the pool is a good idea. This would be fine, if I were of average height -- but, I'm tall and the pool is just almost too shallow... there are a few deep spots that are almost ok -- but the rest of the pool is where I spent a good portion of the class, so what would have been a decent class outside was kind of sucky.

At least I didn't spill the coffee I drank on the way home...

I don't teach until this evening, so I think I'm going to hang out and not try anything too challenging. I need to change the course of the day, or class is going to be rough.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Calendar Girls...

Calendar Girls is a movie I managed to miss in 2003.

I'm watching it right now...

I don't know how it will turn out, but so far it is wonderful.

If you missed it, make sure you see it.

Ready for Winter....

I got my new winter coat...

It is nothing special, except that it is warm and roomy enough to wear over a sweatshirt...

It covers my backside, has a hood and plenty of pockets.

If I have to walk down a snowy highway in Iowa (knock on wood), I won't freeze.

Funny line from BNPublic Radio...

The local Public Radio guy was giving the weather forecast...

"...and, Monday brings the cold air sweeping down from Canada, with love."

Yep, it could snow a bit tomorrow....

and I couldn't be happier about it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

An office supply question...

I went to Office Max for erasers..

I needed some of those eraser caps you stick on the end of pencils. I have the perfect pencils for logic. They are the ones we got as kids that have the little plastic led refill things -- you put the old one in the end of the pencil and it pushes the sharp one out.... but their erasers suck. I found them at Target in packs of 10 for 1.00.

I needed about 20 of them.

The erasers came in a pack, I kid you not, of 72!!!!

Who would need 72 of these replacement erasers....


A race for coffee...

Hubby's idea, to talk on our cell phones as we go get coffee. He's in Red State, I'm in BN state.

I tell him that I'm closer to my coffee than he is to his.... he says I'm not, so the race is on...

We leave our parking spots at the same time, chatting as we go.

He goes to S'Bucks, (I could have, but would have had to get out of the car... boo... and I don't want to be THAT girl who talks on the phone in S'Bucks.... ick.).

I go to my local chain with a drive-thru....

I arrive first, as he hits a stop light just outside of his neighborhood.

I order and get in line behind three cars ---

As I wait, he pulls into his S'Bucks and orders.... with nobody in front of him.

The real question becomes, who gets coffee first.

He has to wait for his coffee, I could still win...

I pull up to the window, she hands me a muffin and says $1.65 --- In my mind, I'm saying "foiled, she didn't get my coffee order! Aargh, Hubby is going to win! Did you think I was just discussing my favorite drink... you've got to be new!" -- to her, I'm saying "yes, I did order coffee, yes, I'd like a __________, thank you."

as, hubby got his coffee....

I lost, just barely.

Tomorrow, we'll do another race. I'll spare you the details....

Darned ABC radio...

For the last two years I've been listening to our local "chick-talk" radio. For those of you who are local to BNCC... 107.1 FM.... (it is best during the week, on the weekends they do re-runs and other stuff I don't like and I listen to NPR...).

The station itself seems to be doing really well. They have lots of local sponsors and increasing ratings overall. Their target demographic seems to be women of "mom" age... adult women who are interested in local and national public issues, but don't like the confrontational nature of other talk-radio formats.

Our local station uses 3 nationally syndicated shows to complete their line-up. One of those shows is the "Satellite Sisters".... and ABC isn't renewing their distribution contract. The show is really good -- the idea is that these five interesting sisters get together on the radio from different cities to do the show -- thus the 'satellite' part. Like any group of 5 sisters, they have very distinct personalities, inside jokes and all the other fun things about 5 people who know one another well. And ABC doesn't get them. Next Friday is their last show ---

The good news is that the Satellite Sisters will continue to do podcasts, so I can catch up with them when I drive....

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sleepy day...

The only productive thing I did today was to clean the kitchen. Otherwise, I napped, read blogs and watched stuff on TIVO.

I know I needed this day off, and the fact that I'm sleepy now tells me that I'm probably sleep deprived.

Tomorrow has to be a different day -- maybe tonight I'll clean the office so it is a good work space for me tomorrow.

or, maybe I won't.

Martian Child

On impulse, I went to see Martian Child.

We live very close to a huge movie theater, so sometimes when I want to procrastinate, I go to a movie. I don't see movies often (I have other ways in which to procrastinate), so I just find a movie that looks non-obnoxious and is starting in the next 10 minutes... It is kind of a random movie selector...

Today it was Martian Child... and it is good.

If you are a parent, you'll love this movie.

The general premise is John Cusak (or, however you spell it) as a widower who decides to adopt a child, because he and his wife intended to but never actually did it... He's a science-fiction writer whose work is about Mars. The child he meets and decides to adopt thinks He's from Mars.

There is no doubt the kid is kind of weird, but he's intelligent and generally healthy -- even though he spends the beginning of the movie in a box.... by choice. The story is about their developing relationship... and the challenges both of them face.

Go ahead and see it -- it is nice, sweet and compelling.

Lessons learned.... about faculty and how they are like students...

So, I'm division chair this semester. Since Wise Woman is on sabbatical this semester, I'm also the "senior" philosophy person, i.e. the person on whom all the administrivia is dumped without any release time or other compensation.

My major projects this semester have involved dealing with BICC and coordinating schedules for the division, including assigning rooms. I also sit on two committees....These observations are generalized from both of these projects... and all of them, even the contradictory ones, can easily apply to the same person.

My experience so far this semester is akin to the experience writing students have in peer review exercises... I'd never guess that people would be like that!

My general conclusion is that faculty members and students aren't all that different....
  • Just like our students, faculty members can be sweet and wonderful. They can be creative and kind to one another.
  • Just like our students, faculty members have complicated lives that get in the way of fulfilling their obligations.
  • Just like our students, faculty members can be terrible about following directions --- even the easiest directions.
  • Just like our students, faculty members can both ignore deadlines placed on them and expect others to meet the deadlines they construct.
  • Just like our students, faculty members sometimes make-up rules that help them and then assert that they ARE rules.
  • Just like our students, faculty members often fail to proofread. This can take one of two forms, either they write poorly or they fail to notice discrepancies on dates or other factual-type data in their written communication.
  • Just like our students, faculty members procrastinate.
  • Just like our students, faculty members have important insights, passions and points of view.
  • Just like our students, faculty members have a hard time admitting they make mistakes.
  • Just like our students, faculty members often fail to communicate. Oddly enough, this seems to a problem even in disciplines that are supposed to teach "communication".
Really, just like our students, faculty members are people...

who would have known....

Light bulb Moments...

My logic class took their first hard quiz yesterday.

I was nervous, especially for my morning class, as they have been pretty non-responsive as we worked problems in class. They've also been late and generally unprepared for class.

As of Tuesday, many said "I don't get it" -- about the general idea of completing a logical proof. Many more said "I understand what you do on the board, but I can't do it myself"....

My later class was a bit better, but there were still many students who didn't get it.

I could tell something was up when they turned in their quizzes...

everyone was smiling at me, and happy. The last student in my afternoon class wanted me to look at her quiz right away... she was nervous because she thought it was going to be harder. This is the last class she has to do to graduate. She'd already tried logic once, but withdrew because she was failing. She's getting incredible pressure from her mother -- she also has a good incentive. If she gets a B in logic, her mom will take her to Italy for a graduation present.

I figured they were either delirious, deceiving themselves, or they actually got it.

After grading the quizzes, I can conclude that they got it.

Almost all of them got As -- nobody failed.

We did have a few Ds, but they were really 65-69% D's...

Setting aside the uber-class I taught at the Air Force base in Red state -- I've never given a quiz that nobody has failed.

I don't think this is because I'm some kind of uber-teacher or anything. For one thing, the several students who were likely to fail the quiz didn't come to take it -- perhaps because I gave it the day after Halloween??

I do think it is because of the syllabus structure, which lets them figure out how to be logic students before they have to start learning to do proofs. It also lets them figure out that I'm not kidding when I say they have to do the homework at some point...(many of them do it after class discussion... which is ok with me, I suppose).

I also think that our embedded tutor program is working. Having the tutor come to class and the two of us being proactive about identifying students who are likely to have problems early, and getting them help early has helped. Add to that the fact that my tutors are awesome -- and I may have a situation in which my students actually learn...

Work Weekend....

Hubby and I are having what we call "work weekend".

Thus, he's in Red State and I'm here.

The nice thing is that I have most of my major projects at school in a place where I don't have to do anything about them immediately.

As for grading, I did the logic quizzes yesterday. I do have a stack of movie question responses to grade, but that is pretty much a job for my new stamps :).

I do have a meeting today, but it isn't a meeting for which I need to do a lot of preparation, and it will get me out of the house -- and thus to the gym afterward.

So -- for the most part, it is my work. You know -- that dissertation thing, that book-like thing I'm working on so I can stop going to school.

So, for the weekend is me and Supreme Emergencies.... YEA!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is it unreasonable...

In my life as debate coach, I got pretty good at asking for money. I didn't always get it, but I was always good at asking. For me, part of being good at asking is breaking down a budget to the level of student experience.

So, I could tell an administrator that X amount of money would bring y number of students to z number of local tournaments etc... These are fairly complex calculations and generally they were based on assumptions of costs etc -- but, the assumptions were usually pretty good because I did my homework. I did this homework before EVERY time I asked for money, and I made additional handouts for the people who would be making the decisions.
  • Is it unreasonable to expect an answer to "how many hours will you be open?" in response to a large request for money? Student funds are being used to support part of the infrastructure, thus the question was something like, 'how many hours will students not in your department's classes have access to this stuff?'.
  • Is it unreasonable to expect someone asking for money for any reason to be able to articulate why they need it and how it will be spent?
  • Is it unreasonable of me to worry about how we are educating students at BNCC if they can't answer these questions? How about if faculty and staff can't answer them?
  • Is it unreasonable of me to be concerned that the students and faculty members in question hadn't anticipated the basic questions that might be asked concerning their requests for money? Isn't that part of preparing for the meeting?
  • Is it unreasonable of me to ASK the questions?
  • Is it unreasonable of me not to accept the "is / ought" philosophy on distribution of funds?

It may be the case that my time on this committee is limited by my own desire for sanity..... is it unreasonable of me to quit?