Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

I'm over 2008.

Hubby and I both had rough years and I'm ready to be done with 2008.

In fact, I'm so over it that I don't even want to do the meme asking me to remember and reflect. Sure, there have been some good things -- meeting some bloggers, making some friends etc -- but, those things will be with me in 2009 --- so, we'll just count them as 2009 events :).

Instead -- I'm thinking ahead and sending out good vibes into the future -- I can do that, right? If I can send good vibes to my pals around the world, I can send them into the future.

So, here are some hopeful predictions:

By this time next year I'll have had 2 clean PET scans and be a full year away from chemo.

By this time next year I'll have a dissertation defense scheduled.

At this time next year we'll be able to pay all of our bills (we can now -- I just want to keep that going :) ).

By this time next year Hubby will have finished his first semester at his first-choice law school.

By this time next year the Minion will have settled down enough so that we can sleep with the bedroom door open and not have to wonder where the squirt bottle went.

Winter break, by the numbers...

14: days since grades were submitted
? (i.e. I'm not frigging counting): days until school starts
? (i.e. I'm not frigging counting) +2: days until Hubby has to go back to Red State
1: number of semesters Hubby has left in Red State (YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
3: the total number of years we'll have survived this long distance thing
3: the number of days until my conference paper is due
147,679: the number of days I feel like I need to get this paper right -- but, even if I had the days, I probably wouldn't use them to write this paper.

4: the number of days until we head up north (YEA!!! more snow and cold!!!)
2: the number of nights we'll spend at super-mom's --
1: the number of days we'll have to do mom's list (things that require ladders etc...)
3: the number of nights we have at fun/funky/whatever odd little town on the superior lake
4: the number of syllabi I need to write second drafts of while I'm up north
2: the number of fun books I bought with the 'ladies who lunch', with the intention of taking them up north
? (i.e. I'm not frigging counting): the number of books I'll probably buy i n fun/funky/odd town -- since our hotel is across the street from a good bookstore

2: the number of kitties in the household
43: the number of cats it SEEMS as if we have in the household
2: the number of dishes the Minion has broken in the past month
0: the number of dishes broken by all previous cats
679,899: the number of times the Minion has been squirted by me or Hubby --- this week
?: the number of times the Queen has broken into our office to sit in my chair

4: the number of seasons of "The Office" we've watched since the start of Christmas break. That's a lot of Dunder-Mifflin... we have an itunes season pass, so we'll see the rest of them before the end of break.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Tale of Dessperaux... a warning...

Don't see this movie.. really!

It looks like a cute movie about a mouse with the heart of a lion.

What it ends up to be is a confusing story with too many characters and not enough plot. It takes place in a land that seems to worship soup. The great tragedy that begins every fairy tale was the Queen drowning in a bowl of soup, mostly because her husband is too stupid to pull her head up in time.

It gets worse -- triggering every feminist and body-image trigger I have. Not only is the mean girl fat (and therefore stupid and evil), she's sold with the pigs on a farm..... and the (stupid, but loveable) princess is super skinny -- like her terminally depressed or alcoholic father.... but, they set up the Prince Charming thing and then the prince charming ends up to be a frigging MOUSE.

We went because my sweet Mother in Law likes mice -- and we all like animated movies.

If we hadn't been there with them, Hubby and I would have left to go see whatever was playing in the theater next door -- it really didn't matter what it was.

Cannibalistic Christmas...

The Minion was our big Christmas present this year.

Last night my in-laws gave me a lucky bamboo plant for Christmas -- I could use the luck :).

This morning one of my Christmas presents tried to eat the other one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Twas the day after the day after Christmas...

... and all through the house, the cats are stirring -- but not chasing a mouse.

after that, I'm out of steam -- sorry.

The Queen and the Minion have developed a bit of a morning routine... they go for a run -- around my apartment. If you happen to be on the couch, you'll feel it. If you are in the recliner, you'll see a small cat and a large cat running directly toward you.

They take about four laps and then collapse.

Today Hubby and I will have 'Christmas' with his mom, sister and the nieces and nephews... it will be fun. His sister will make Sweedish Meatballs -- we'll bring a veggie and the lefse. It will be fun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Traditions...

... around here include:

  • Cats "de-decorating" the house.
  • Spending a decent and decadent amount of time in our PJs.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas


... from the Queen.

The Minion is currently unavailable for comment, as he's been repeatedly treated to the human discipline tool -- the squirt bottle -- for trying to climb, eat, play with and otherwise cause cat-chaos with the tree.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today I will....

  • Get Hubby to put up the tree. (done!)
  • Decorate the tree in Minion-proof fashion (thank goodness we had Queen-proof ornaments from last year). (done)
  • Finish my 'read for fun' book (done)
  • Plan Christmas Eve dinner -- and maybe go to the store.
  • Watch as much of The Office, season two, as possible.
  • Write for at least 30 minutes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Memo to the Queen and the Minion:

Please note, before beginning to fight on the edge of the bathtub, you really should check to see if there is water in the tub. Otherwise, you'll get wet like you did today.

For the record, your parents think it is funny. We know you don't, but we don't care.

Love,
Mom and Hubby

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter storm checklist...

  • Got a facial and a wax today.... which entailed driving in the snow.
  • Went for sushi with Hubby...again, driving in the snow.
  • Decided we "needed" cookies, ice cream, bacon and milk -- in case we are snowed in tomorrow.... a third trip in the snow.
Can you tell Hubby won the money for new tires for the jeep?

Friday, December 19, 2008

RBO -- a "duty" day...

  • Sometimes the grade-grubbers are right. I missed including the extra-credit into the grades of two students -- within 12 hours of their grades being posted, they wanted to know why they got Bs instead of As... Of course, they weren't doing nearly as well as they thought they were doing, but -- the extra-credit changed their high B to a low A -- so, I went in and changed their grades.
  • I think today may be the first day I've actually been on campus for the Fall end of semester duty day--- at least since I had a bizzillion 10 page papers to grade in my first year at BNCC.
  • The coffee lady got a bit freaked out when I ordered a hot drink. Clearly, I'm spending too much time and money at the coffee shop --- time to start making it at home.
  • Hubby's home, and so is his stuff.
  • I must have missed some fun -- Hubby is running a bath. Both the Queen and the Minion came into the office wet --- the Queen had a wet back and the Minion had at least two wet feet. I'm sorry I missed his encounter with a tub full of water.
  • I think today is 'plug in the ipod and write' day. It will be hard to resist having it be 'plug in the ipod and play on the internet day' -- which is more fun, but less productive. Also hard to resist will be 'plug in the ipod and take photos of the Queen and the Minion' day and 'plug in the ipod, go to bed and read a book while the ipod plays in the office' day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

As I write, hubby's on the way home...

Thankfully, they huge ice/snow/blizzard thing hasn't hit us yet.

Hubby's already endured a horrible spring break storm a couple of years ago -- cutting 3 days off of his time at home before making a nearly Arctic trek to get home. I was afraid the same thing would happen this year.

By now he's probably in the BNCC metro area, so I can write this without jinxing him :).

Once Hubby is home I won't be outnumbered and winter break can begin!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm not sure how I'll handle it....

This morning I picked up the apartment and am doing laundry --- with plans to fold during Top Chef!!

This afternoon I put in my last grades -- 30 minutes after their final exam period started.

I also cleaned and organized my office at school. I filled a large recycling bin with old stuff and filed away the stuff I need to keep.

I've done a rough draft of next semester's syllabi -- during my finals yesterday. I like to let the syllabi percolate so that I can see the error of my initial plan before I hand it out.

I did another round of schedule "stuff", and even organized my schedule archives.

Tomorrow, my cleaning person comes and my apartment will be spotless.

Tomorrow night Hubby comes home with a pile of grading.

... and I'm not sure how I'll handle having no real responsibilities....

Of course, I still have a conference paper due January 2 -- which is 10 crappy pages right now... but, after a 4/4, department chair, chemo, long-distance marriage semester -- the prospect of time to do what I'd like is kind of scary.

Grrrr.....

Secret message to someone,

IF you are going to insist on any changes being on a hard copy, you should get them right when you do so.


That does not mean that you take the changes on the hard copy and screw them up. This creates an endless cycle of paper.

Additionally, when the correction you make ends up to be a mistake, you should take it in e-mail like an adult.

Tomorrow night...

.. Hubby comes home for Winter Break...

and, we could use a break!

This will be the first time he's been home this semester that won't involve chemo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I love the smell of fresh grades...

I entered grades for three of my four classes.

I have the fourth class poised to go -- as soon as their final exam period comes tomorrow-- I can finish them, enter them and be DONE!

Tripple yippee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't be too jealous --- I do teach a 4/4 and am department chair. I had about 140ish students to grade. Tomorrow, I'll clean before the cleaning person comes on Thursday -- and do laundry.

Thursday and Friday -- writing... which I didn't have time to do during the semester. The paper is due Jan 2.

to answer PK on logic....

PK asked in comments about the text I use to teach logic and what I include in my logic class...

So -- if you don't care about teaching logic, go read the next blog on your list and come back later when I have something funny/stupid/sarcastic or profound to say....

In terms of the text, I'm using Hurley right now, but am changing to Baronett (it's a pretty new textf, aimed at improving on Hurley...i.e. stealing Hurley's market). Baronett is well-written and has good examples etc. It also has a good on-line component, so they can do more practice at home. It may be a mistake -- but, I won't know that until spring :).

In terms of course content -- I've done semesters with more critical thinking/fallacies etc... and formal logic. This semester I paired it down to just formal logic -- truth tables and proofs -- mostly because I wanted to leave room in the syllabus in case I needed to call in sick due to chemo. I didn't miss much class AND they don't seem to have done any better... so, I'm not sure which way is best.

Because of our transfer agreement, we need to do formal proofs. The logic course satisfies the 'mathematical and logical reasoning' component of the gauranteed transfer agreement. So, we need to do symbolic manipulation -- categorical logic wouldn't be sufficient.

I'm hoping Baronett being better written will help next semester. Also, I'm not convinced that they need to do the difficult proofs Hurley has in the exercise set. I think next semester I'm going to work on giving them a bit more breadth and less depth -- maybe it will work, maybe it won't... either way, I suspect I'll have something to complain about :).

This week I have no sympathy for...

... the rich folks whose greed lead them to invest their fortunes with one guy, who was playing a shell game with their money. I'm sorry, but I don't feel sorry for folks who have been privileged and now have to go get jobs -- welcome to our world. Really, if I had that much money, I could NEVER trust one person with all -- or even a majority of it.

... the folks in California who are getting snowed on. Boo freaking hoo. They just said the following on the radio, "It may be -25 in parts of Minnesota, but California may get a dusting of snow." Yea -- go away. It is cold enough here that the snot freezes in your nose. We passed the dusting of snow a long time ago. The sad part about living in 'paradise' is that it makes you weak -- and, if you can't handle a little snow, you are weak.

... My logic students. If they'd kept on task until two weeks ago, they wouldn't have to be taking this final -- and I wouldn't be grading 46 of them today. Grrrrrr. Really, I should be grading about 20ish, but the little snowflakes couldn't be bothered to do their homework.

Monday, December 15, 2008

One reason to dislike my short commute...

When it's cold, as in below zero, my car doesn't warm up on the way home.

So, when I enter the heated garage under my apartment building, the windows fog up.

So far I haven't hit anything.... tonight I had to roll down the window to avoid stuff.

I suppose it's the sacrifice I'll make for living almost on-campus.

Community college interviews, the process

So, yes -- the academic job market sucks, and so do the rest of the job markets around the country. This means that MORE people will be going to community colleges. Between the 'going back to school to get a degree' to the 'I'll go here to get my general eds done until my prents can afford to send me to a 4-year school', community college enrollment will probably grow significantly... ours already seems to be up quite a bit for Spring 09.

So, it is quite possible that you'll end up with an interview at a community college. It may be the case that our processes at BNCC are diferent --- so take that into consideration...

How the process is different from interviews at a research university or SLAC:
  • Your interview will be 1 hour long, no more.
  • You'll be interviewed by a group of 6-9 folks, only one or two will be from your discipline. The others are administrators and faculty from other disciplines.
  • You will be given a set of questions about 30 minutes in advance.
  • You'll have to do a 10 minute teaching demonstration.
  • You are expected to pay for your own travel etc...

Notice -- there is NO budget for interview costs. You won't get a meal, you won't have any informal chances to talk to folks etc. In fact, we are instructed to be as uniform as possible -- asking the same questions (the ones on the sheet) and only asking individual follow-up questions if you open the door for us.

This isn't how we'd like to do it -- but, it is the way it is...

So, the thing is -- how to handle this sort of interview?

What not to do: -- know that I've seen all of these kinds of behaviors...
  • Focus on your research
  • Name-drop about your grad school mentors
  • Waste our time -- this includes asking questions you could answer within a few minutes of snooping on the internet.
  • Talk AT us instead of TO us
  • Condesend to us, 'cuz WE have jobs -- and you don't, so talking down to us is a bad move.
  • Read your teaching demo, or go over time
  • Blab on and on without realizing you have lots of questions to answer...

What to do:

  • Watch your time. It will tell us how you manage your classroom.
  • Give a teaching demo you can finish in 10 minutes.
  • Talk to us like colleagues, but understand that only a couple of us are in your discipline.
  • Come with a couple of good questions, as you should have time to ask them at the end.

Later -- I'll do a post about the interview questions and other ways CCs are different from the schools you've attended.

Another reason to love my new bloggy-friends...

... we didn't meet to have a cookie exchange.

We met at a restaurant with a bar.

Instead of making elaborate cookies, we ordered drinks, appetizers and food.... and it was brought to us by a cute young boy (well, he was 24).

yea, I like these women!

Next time, those of you from BNCC who also blog MUST come along, you'll love these women!

Another reason the Internet is bad for education...

These days you can get a list of school closings on the internet... sigh.

When I was a kid, we listened to WCCO for school closings.

On impossibly snowy mornings, we'd listen carefully for our school. The announcers read the most recently added schools first, then read all the closings / late starts in alphabetical order.

On days like today when much of the state is snowed in, there would be no commercials and no other news -- this WAS the news that counted, at least when you are 8.

Snowy mornings and WCCO taught me a few things:
  • Patience -- waiting for your school closings is even more difficult than waiting for Christmas... because you weren't so sure your school would be on the list.
  • Regional geography -- If your local schools were on the list, it was pretty likely that your school would be too... So, it was important to know where most of the schools were.
  • Alphabetizing -- When the difference between staying home for hot chocolate and playing in the snow and waiting for the bus to SCHOOL in icky weather, hinges on catching your school's name in a long alphabetical list, you learn -- quickly.
  • Ortonville, MN is EVIL. I hated them. They were the next school in the list -- they were the ones whose name was read instead of ours. They were the ones who got to go back to bed, smug and warm... and, when my old boyfriend's dysfunctional grandparents ended up living in Ortonville, it should have been a sign.
Today, the high will be -1 with a windchill of -28. Tomorrow night it is supposed to be -15, actual temprature. Not cold enough to cancel things, but just cold enough to be inconvenient.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I love the snow --

Snow, snow, snow!!!

I can love the snow because I don't have to shovel it. I also don't have to brush it off my car or deal with it too much...

So, I love watching it come down.

I wonder how many of my students will use the snow as a plea for an extension on their final opinion paper?

I've already had one claim she was up north where it is currently blizzarding (yes, that is a verb!!). Mom's confirmed it is icky up there, so she gets a small extension, mostly because if she died in a car accident I'd feel perpetually guilty -- and, I'm at least 20% sure she's telling the truth.

Budget cuts and debate

Like other schools, BNCC is contemplating budget cuts. We don't anticipate them being drastic -- but, I'm sure things will change a bit.

Right now, I'm glad I don't have to fight for a debate budget. Without a pretty decent budget, BNCC really can't do meaningful debate. BNstate sort-of has a debate circuit, but I decided several years ago --- and after several years of trying to get along/persuade folks to change --- that the local practices were counter to our educational and program goals.

In other words, the folks who dominate debate in this state are -- at best -- backwards and at worst, malevolent and anti-debate. My goal for my students was transfer scholarships. Their goal seemed to be to keep the numbers of their team up and keep the debaters from complaining to adminitration while doing as little actual debating and coaching as possible... not exactly my style.

When we got a travel budget for BNCC, we left and didn't look back.

The problem is that debate is a very intense activity. It changes the lives of the students who participate, but without a local circuit it is very expensive... So, the impact of cutting a program that involves 6-8 students is minimal, but the budget gain is large.

So -- I'm glad I don't have to start defending my debate budget, because I'm not at all sure I could do so if necessary.

I'm also glad I didn't change grad programs in order to do debate -- 'cuz I'd be in deep doo doo right now.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Well, that was fun!!

I have to say, there is nearly nothing as fun as a bunch of smart-ass women bloggers.

I was lucky enough to meet 7, plus an honorary blogger :) -- tonight. And I have Minnesota Matron to thank for organizing us... without her, most of us would still be strangers.

On the way home, I was thinking about how amazing it is that we had such fun talking about some really difficult stuff -- and then I remembered -- blogging women are like that.

I hope y'all have really wonderful holiday celebrations -- even if they do involve your kids :). If not, just think of Snap, Crackle, Pop and Jim -- and go buy yourself a toy.... it will all work out.

Love,
The nearly bald one!

The Queen and the Minion scare me...

The Queen is giving the Minion Instructions....

and she's making sure he follows them....

The scary thing is, to my knowledge the Queen has never been up there.... the Minion is exploring new territory -- and she's encouraging him.

this is not good folks --- I need to stay on their good side until Hubby comes home next week.

A semester without PowerPoint

I'll confess, I'm one of those horrible instructors who uses PowerPoint.

I think I do it correctly -- I don't put too much information on each slide. I use the slides for discussion prompts etc... BUT -- I do use it.

My reason is simple -- I generally teach multiple sections of Ethics or Intro to Philosophy. This means that I also write very similar exams for each section -- and I don't want to leave something out of one section that I include in the other section -- and then expect both sections to know it for the exam.

In Spring, I only have one section of Ethics and one section of Medical Ethics. Since I don't need to coordinate multiple sections, I don't need PowerPoint.... or, maybe I don't need so much of it.

The thing is, I don't think that PowerPoint actually increases student learning. They might print the slides and use them to structure their notes -- but, I don't think they actually DO that very often. Instead, when a new slide comes up -- they take their attention away from me or their classmates, they read it and write down what it says. This is pretty irritating, especially when what the screen says is what we've been talking about all along (i.e. I get ahead of my slides...).

I think, instead of having a separate set of slides for every class -- I'm going to have one longer set of slides -- for the whole semester. I may use one or two slides for the whole class (both are evening classes, so that's one or two per night). I'll use the slide to do something like give the bullet points of an ethical theory -- so it is more like an object we'll talk about --- rather than a way of providing an outline for our lecture/discussion.

I'm also considering ways to prompt them to bring their textbook to class -- maybe I'll have a low-point "textbook quiz", in which they get a point or two for writing down what it says on line X of page A.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cat photos...

Hubby and I should be scared, very, very scared -- That's the Minion and the Queen -- sharing the top of the cat post. His eyes look pretty evil, because they've been plotting something....

The Minion --- in the hat I've been wearing since August....

Of course, he's sitting on my desk. Where else would he be?

The cable guy and cat jail... new ways to procrastinate...

So, I was just getting ready to write when the cable guy came.

His visit requires imposing Kitty Jail on the Queen and the Minion. Generally my office is kitty jail -- as we have french doors and can see what the inmates are doing.

I think this is going to change, as the Queen made not one, but two jail breaks. She had to go to maximum security (i.e. the bedroom). She wasn't happy -- and I'm sure there will be much punishment, as she holds a grudge.

The Minion remained in the office, so watching him yowl and climb the bookcases was entertaining...

Procrastination -- live blogging...

So, I'm supposed to be working on a paper today.

I'm also waiting for the cable guy to show up.

Thus, I'm in full-on procrastination mode -- I do have the file off of my laptop and on my desktop AND I have the article printed that I need to reference.

So far I've:
  • Cleaned the kitchen
  • picked up the living room
  • cleaned my desk and the area around it -- including the CATastrophy created by my darling feline companions when I was on the phone with the cable company.
  • Made coffee -- and figured out that a packet of coco mix added to coffee = a decent mocha...
Later procrastination projects:
  • General grading
  • Washing pots and pans
  • Filling out rebate paperwork for Hubby's new phone
  • Calling to pay the electric bill
  • Making a CD for Wise Woman
For now -- I'm going to write until the cable guy shows up.

This is supposed to be a writing weekend -- so, I'll have plenty of time to do my other procrastination projects.

So much for the sabbatical...

I just wrote an e-mail asking to withdraw my sabbatical application.

Hubby's job situation isn't working out like we thought - -and we can't afford the pay cut.

This isn't a new thing ---- but, somehow I'd hoped it wouldn't happen.

Oh well, it is more likely that hubby will go to law school -- and when he's done, we'll be able to afford a sabbatical.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Last day of classes... YEA!

Today was the last teaching day.

Finals are next week -- and my finals week schedule is pretty easy, since most of the Ethics writing has been turned in and graded already... and the Logic final is easy to grade.

My goal is to have all grades entered by sometime late on Wednesday.

Between now and Monday, I'm writing a paper.... really I am. I may have to leave the house to do so--- if only to avoid the distracting cats and the chaos they've caused in my apartment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dear Blog Pals,

I'm sorry if I've missed a post or four recently...

I'm trying, but my cats seem to be very good at the "plop down on Mom's keyboard and activate 'mark all articles as read'," or other inconvenient features of my reader.

Recently they've also rearranged how I my reader shows posts and even my desktop.

Since they don't know you, I'm sure it is me they are trying to make a bit more crazy.... so, please don't take it personally. Eventually the Minion will turn into a regular cat who sleeps all the time and expresses his disapproval of my very existence. Until then, there will be chaos in my apartment.

Advice for the day -- erase the blackboard....

I'm going to tell you my own tale of student woe --- just to remind you that, sometimes we proffies actually make a mistake.

About this time of the year, 20 or so years ago, I was a freshman at an R1.

I was in a pretty darned big American Lit class. We had the usual suspects, sweaty undergrads, overworked TAs and a blow-hard, but fascinating professor. It seemed like college to me.

Because I was kind of a smart little cookie, and because I'd had a good high school education that covered much of the material in the class, I was doing well. I was headed for my first college A and knew it.

One day, it snowed and I was a few minutes late to class. It was the first snow, which causes everyone in my home state to lose all ability to drive -- and around the R1, it was even worse.

On the board it said "Final exam, Wednesday, 1:00" -- Dr. Blowhard was lecturing and I took my seat. I wrote down the words on the board, like any good little freshman -- and was relieved to know when the final exam would be.

Fast forward to Wednesday at 1:00. My little freshman self shows up ready for the exam -- only to find another class there.

I panic.

In my panic, I ran into someone from my class -- who asked why I'd missed the final the day before. This person explained the evil that is the final-exam schedule... something they either didn't cover in orientation or I'd somehow missed it... Remember, this is the first quarter for me -- and all my other classes ended with final papers with due dates on the syllabus.

I consult the syllabus looking for the final exam date -- which wasn't there -- but I do find the Blowhard's office. I go over there, only to have Dr. Blowhard not believe my explanation. He told me he thinks I made it up to get extra time.

The final was worth 35% of the total grade -- my A was now a D.

Moral of the story -- don't be a lazy-ass like Dr. Blowhard -- and the prof before him in the room-- ERASE the board.... and realize that it is possible for you to make a mistake.

The Queen and the Minion...

... seem to have a new game.

'Gauntlet' - in which she takes a position on the floor near me and the Minion tries to pass her.

Since the Minion has serious kitty-ADD/ADHD, he wants to frequentlycome and go from wherever I am.

The result is sometimes just a whapping paw from the Queen to the Minion -- other times it is full-on wrestling match, lasting about 5 seconds.... they've had several since I started writing this.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New game... guess the attendance....

Update: the answer is 20 -- including all the people presenting....



Factors to consider...

Official class size is 30 (drops and odd things made it small...).
Class time is 7:45. We have no dorms, thus no on-campus students.
Today is a presentation day -- 5 students (one group) will be presenting something that is worth nearly 1/3 of their grade (I'm assuming most of them will make it)
The rest of the class will not be responsible for knowing the material, but they will do a feedback sheet worth small points.

the biggie --- we have 6-8 inches of new snow and it is cold and windy outside.

Go ahead and put your guess in comments --- (yes, even you Sunshine, but you have to post it before 7:45) ---

Monday, December 08, 2008

For the record...

  • Corn state is bland, at it's best. At it's worst --- it is an icy hell.... like today. Actually, most of Corn State was ok, but the northern part -- the part that is right next to BNstate -- sucked.
  • Southern BNstate was ok. It was snowy, but folks seemed sane and the plows were out.
  • The metro area of BNState was a disaster -- snow coming down during rush hour.... re-freaking-diculous...
  • In case you are wondering, a Coldstone ice cream cake will NOT make it from Red State to BNState in the trunk of a Toyota Corolla. If you like that 'melty ice cream with your cake' stuff, it is great. Otherwise, don't try it.
  • The Queen and the Minion made a mess at home. They actually play with balls of yarn -- and have managed to knock a lot of stuff onto the floor.
  • Just now the Minion gave a loud meow (maybe the cat equivalent of a battle cry) and ran head first into the bookshelf. Don't ask me why he did this -- I think the Queen told him to...
  • I'm going to do a few little details, pick up their mess, and go to bed....

On turing 40

... really, I have nothing special or philosophical to say.

I was born 40 years ago today. Thanks Mom!! I bet you were glad to get me out -- finally.

My 39th year was pretty challenging, so I'd like to move on now -- thank you.

Yesterday I got some pretty good work done on a paper I need to write.

Last night we had excellent Indian food. We also booked a short January get away, which will be both fun and relaxing.

This morning I'll have leftovers for breakfast, along with birthday cake :).

Later I'll drive back to BNstate -- which means spending a significant amount of time in Corn State... which isn't really fair on my birthday.

This week is the last week of classes in the semester-o-chemo.

I'll actually miss many of my students. The whole chemo thing seemed to make them see me as a person -- or perhaps give them an avenue to express that the know I am a person -- and for the most part they were decent, kind and hardworking.

Now, if I could only get those results without the whole chemo thing....

Sunday, December 07, 2008

to avoid the writing thing....

My stuff is in bold... what have you done? -- not bad for almost 40, although I need to travel more...

1. Started my own blog

2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo - no, but played many on the flute
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child -- maybe later...
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors -- does Iowa count?
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied --- maybe after Hubby is done with law school?
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - no, but I've bought the person behind me coffee in the drive-thru
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance -- for the only time, this summer.
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle -- no, but on a couple of fast snowmobiles on frozen lakes...
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person -- both sides...
80. Published a book -- eventually the dissertation?
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House - I assume that seeing it from the outside doesn't count as "visiting"
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating -- mom says not to learn to do that... 'cuz you'll always have to do it if you can...
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life - Mom was choking and I gave her the Heimlich.
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous -- I danced with Hubert Humphrey, after he was VP.
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person -- I was little and freaked out a bit... afraid of ghosts or something.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - nope, but I have been swimming in more than one Great Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Undergrads are noisy in every state....

Grrr...

I'm at my BA library in Red State. I'm here to do some dissertation work.... but I can't seem to get away from the interruptions of 18 year-olds....

There are four undergrads in a "study" room near me. They are so loud that I can hear them with my headphones on. The group is two girls and two guys -- I can't tell what the purpose of their meeting is -- but, before the meeting the girls had the most insipid conversation I've been forced to hear in a long time.

They won't stay in the room, don't seem to actually DO any work -- They even come out here to talk on their phones -- you know, where it is supposed to be quiet.

Every once in a while they'll see someone they know -- which only increases the volume ---

Kids, this isn't the common area of your dorm, nor is it the student center, coffee shop or a bar. Please leave your mating behaviors and other obnoxiousness in your own space -- and stay the hell out of mine!

I suppose it serves me right for coming on Sunday, rather than Saturday --- when I know they are too hung-over / watching 'the game' or whatever to go to the library. Really, I'm guessing their project is due tomorrow -- and, being typical undergrads, they haven't started yet.

To be fair to BNCC..

My previous post shouldn't be construed, at all, as a complaint about not being acknowledged or appreciated by folks at BNCC. That simply isn't the case -- I've had plenty of people, both administrators and faculty, show their appreciation when I've taken initiative.

The college President himself decided the debate team was important enough to fund. The person who is the acting President this year was hugely supportive of both me and my team. The question was always, 'what can we do to make this happen?'.

As Chair, I've received many accolades from the folks in my division. They've appreciated my efforts to communicate with them, without having monthly meetings most of them can't attend. They've appreciated my suggestions concerning their options for classes, on-line teaching and other things that made their lives better.

It isn't that I'm even feeling over-worked and under-paid. Of course, I'm in academia and my pay isn't amazing -- but, it isn't bad and I have good health insurance (thank GOD for that, this year I've needed it!!!!!!).

Rather, I'm kind of wondering what it would be like to be someone else? Someone who finds it possible to teach and leave. Maybe it's a function of age and seniority -- at least at BNCC, the people who teach and go home are fairly senior. Most of the ones I know about aren't going home to kids -- maybe a spouse and a pet... but, it isn't as if they are leaving quickly and not involved because they have kids getting off the bus.

This may be one of those questions, similar to the ones like 'I wonder what I'd be like if I were _________ (taller, shorter, had rich parents, were Asian, etc). It is impossible to answer, because you can't actually create the circumstances. Maybe it's the older-sister in me, I can't leave things alone -- it's part of my personality, just like my sense of humor and the stuff that makes me cry (mostly sappy songs on my ipod).

So -- I'll continue to wonder, just like I'll wonder about the folks in other kinds of jobs --- who can mostly leave those jobs at work. Some days I'd love to have that kind of a job, but then I realize that even when I had them -- it wasn't the case that I treated those jobs as 'leave the work at work' jobs.

Sigh... tomorrow I'll be 40, don't you think I could get used to being ME in 40 years?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

What is it about me??

I've been thinking about my time at BNCC.... and, really before that.

It is standard for us to teach 15 credits per semester. For those of us in the philosophy factory, that means a 5/5 load. We have no formal advising requirements, but we do have kind of generic service obligations. We also have very, very, very generic research expectations -- in that we are expected to know what's going on in our fields and to look at new pedagogical methods. There is no publication expectation -- and, frankly, they'd rather we only go to conferences that are pedagogical in nature and not connected to our actual academic interests or areas.

The whole time I've been at BNCC, I've been plugging along on my dissertation. I consider that professional development and thus something that I should be doing, mostly for myself. I won't get a raise at BNCC when I finish it. Although the rest of my department is comprised of Ph.D.s -- I don't feel pressure from them to complete, although they are very supportive.

The first four years at BNCC I started and ran the debate team, in addition to my teaching duties. For part of that time, debate was counted as one class in my course load and the last semester I had a 1 course release. Otherwise, I did debate in my 'extra' time. This included hosting a national championship one year, all the work to establish the team and secure funding etc. I also did all of the expense paperwork, travel arrangements and other administrivia.

About the same time I decided not to do debate, I decided it would be a good idea to be department (really division) chair. This is my second year as chair -- and I kind of think nobody else wants to do it -- so I may have it for a while. Being chair at a CC is different from being chair at a 4-year school. Mostly because I have significantly less power, but I still get the same BS to deal with.

As I drove to Red State yesterday, I realized that I've never had a semester in which I wasn't doing something leadership-ish... I've never had a semester in which all I needed to do in most weeks was to teach my students. Many of my colleagues have this EVERY semester --- 'cuz my campus isn't all that different from yours, you know the ones who teach (maybe grade) and go home. I have them too... and I'm kind of envious of their jobs.

Even if you want to count research -- it seems to me that at BNCC the research is stuff THEY are really interested in, and that will directly benefit THEM with a CV line etc. I put this in the same category as my dissertation -- something they do for themselves. I can't count it as 'leadership-ish' stuff.

hmmmm--- -maybe after Hubby finishes law school -- my 9th year at BNCC--, I'll take a 'ROAD' (retired on active duty -- a military term that fits the teach-and-go folks) to see what it feels like. Until then, I'll need to do the extra to pay the bills... which is kind of ok, since I seem destined to do the extra anyway -- why not get paid for it?

Caught-up...

I'm caught up with grading.

I know that is kind of amazing -- especially since next week is "grades" day in logic, so my task was to grade their last quiz and then see if they satisfied the conditions for being exempt from the exam.

Sadly, more than a few who were doing well bombed the last quiz. So, they'll have to take the final. I don' t exactly understand why they didn't perform, but I do know that if they'd done their homework they would have performed -- because the quiz questions come from the homework. It is also the case that they can access an answer key for the homework questions, so they have no real excuse.

So -- at the end of the semester I'll need to:
-- grade logic finals (doesn't take too long, thankfully!). Their final exam grade IS their final grade at this point...
-- read and grade opinion papers from the students presenting today... and do the misc. stuff to calculate grades for my Ethics classes.

If I say "uncle", can next week just BE finals week??? I want to get it over!

Wish Hubby luck!!

Hubby is taking the LSAT today. He also has a cold (darned germ-factory students...grrrr).

His previous high score is too old by a year or two...

Wish him luck -- not that he needs it :).

Friday, December 05, 2008

today by the numbers...

2: the number of youngish cats I left home alone for the weekend. It is scary, as the Minion is good at knocking stuff around and I had to use the squirt bottle on the Queen for similar behavior. They've started to hang around together more -- which can only mean that she's training him and, by the time I get back in town, they'll have cooperated with all the other cats in the building to occupy it until catnip is planted in the hallway. Thank goodness they don't have thumbs, or they'd spend the weekend shopping on the internet and looking at kitty-porn.

too many to count: the number of Minion scratches I have. I needed the weekend to heal...

2: the number of fancy coffees it took to get me down here -- the trick is to buy one cold one and one hot one... drink the cold one first, while the hot one cools down enough to drink while driving...

105, 96, 50, 26: The mileage signs counting down to the city in Red State.

$16.00: What it cost me to drive down here.... I love low gas prices!!

6: the number of wind turbine blades I saw on the road between BNstate and Red State. Each of the blades is HUGE!!!!

67: the number of oddball songs in my "Drive and Sing" playlist...

1: (after this one, which I consider to be nearly over) --the number of semesters we have left doing the Long-Distance Marriage thing!

A Friday without Chemo...

I've been doing Chemo on Fridays since September.

Today is the first Friday I don't have it.

Today I:

I don't have to think about exactly what to have for breakfast so that my tummy doesn't get upset.

I don' t have to remember to take the steroids before I leave home.

I don't have to get called from the waiting room three times (hook up the port/draw blood for tests, doctor's appointment, get set-up in the chemo room).

I don't have to get stuck with an inch-long port needle -- and I don't have to remember not to look at it before they stick it in.

I don't have to do the gymnastics necessary to get my port to work.

I don't have to remember to drink more so I can give a urine sample (they seem to think everyone can pee on demand -- I can't, maybe I'm a freak?).

I don't have to get weight and blood pressure checked.

I don't have to answer the same questions every week about my side-effects.

I don't have to have my one breast examined.

I don't have to sit in a semi-comfortable chair hooked into a series of bags of stuff.

I don't have to give my birth date every time I need a new bag of stuff.

I don't have to get IV Benadryl, xanx, Taxol and avastin.

I don't have to wait for the nurse to make my pump stop beeping when a bag runs out.

In short -- I don' t have to get chemo today.

Instead, I'm going to Red State!!!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Others" need to mind their own business...

Really, if other folks would pay as much attention to their own duties as they do to the duties of others, my day would have been much better. As it is, things ended well -- but it was freaking exhausing -- and it wasn't my fault. It was the fault of "others".

Those of us in the philosophy factory are too f-ing busy teaching huge classes of un-motivated and often stupid students to go snooping into what folks in other departments are doing... this isn' t the case for "others", they seem to have plenty of time to snoop -- and to bitch about what they find, without actually knowing or asking about the details.

Down in the philosophy factory we are also too busy teaching a 5/5 because we got screwed in the quarter/semester conversion.. so all of our classes are 3 credits. That means that we teach MORE sections, AND our sections are bigger than most departments on campus.... So, every year we teach many more students than the "others" who are snooping around in our business.

In the end, y'all (you "others) need to be grateful that you don't teach under philosophy factory conditions --- because I'd be glad to trade what you think we think we have for your smaller classes and fewer sections. You and I know that teaching a 3 credit section is no more work than teaching a 4 credit section --- that's a dirty little secret I learned at a SLAC. I'd also trade what you think we have for the classroom technology y'all get because you have the political clout on campus that we lack.

Finally -- if some of you "others" did your jobs properly, y'all wouldn't have to worry that we are somehow encroaching on your territory with one of our classes -- 'cuz you'd have the students and we wouldn't. They end up taking that class out of desparation, because you can't seem to teach them the material they need, when they need it. If another group of "others" worried more that your students can't write, my job would be easier.

But -- you don't find me bitching about all of this to anybody ... because I'm too f-ing busy teaching students. Try it sometime -- it may not always be more fun that being a snoopy-ass-bitcher, but it is a lot more rewarding in the long-run.

Also -- look around, your own department(s) have the same stuff going down that you complained about. Solve that first -- then look elsewhere... or, mabye you should just keep your eyes on your own work...

Question for the internets....

I'm taking an informalish poll...

Does your institution or department have a set of schedule rules?

BNCC has the following among their rules:
  • All faculty will be on campus 5 days per week, unless they are teaching TWO night classes (6:00-8:50)... then "an effort" will be made to give them a 4 day per week schedule.
  • No 'back to back' classes... i.e. you can't have a class at 8:50 if you also want to teach one at 7:45 or 9:55.
Some of the others make a bit more sense... but these two?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hubby had a good night

.... and won a bigger bunch of money at poker than he has before.

We're using most of it to pay debt -- but some of it will go for some R & R in January...

a spa, in a neighboring state.

To say I'm looking forward to it is an understatement.

Grading logic with Spock...

The Minion's real name is Spock.

He's trying to "help" me grade logic quizzes this morning.

Clearly -- he's not as helpful as Mr. Spock -- or, perhaps even Dr. Spock... although, if Spock the cat had a Ph.D. in philosophy, I would put him to work--- or, tell him to get a job.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Common sense updates...

... I have nothing particularly philosophical to say.

  • Two young cats get in more trouble than a young cat and an old cat.
  • The Minion is growing every time I look away -- I think he grew a bunch since this afternoon.
  • My students are tired, I'm tired and we're all cranky.
  • I wish it was December 19.... Hubby would be home, my grades would be done and I could spend the day tomorrow watching the first season of The Office.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Last needle stick...

... until my port flush on December 23.

I had an EKG and MUGA today. I let the MUGA tech put the needle in my arm because I'm not going to need many pokes in the near future...

because, I'm DONE with chemo.

It is kind of weird, because it doesn't seem real -- and probably won't until Friday when I'm not at the clinic.

Until then, I've got a few things to do... finish grading (only 3 papers left -- be jealous...), record a whole lot of stuff in my grade book -- and finish the turkey soup.

But --- I can't do anything until my jeans are dry.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Grading woes...

I wish we had a central database of paper topics used by students. Is it coincidence that I have 6 of 11 total papers on the same topic -- the Death Penalty? I suspect not -- I suspect that many of these folks wrote about the topic elsewhere and are recycling...

While recycling sources isn't a bad idea, I don't like the idea that they are double-dipping in terms of earning credit.

I think what they are doing is distinct from the way I'm splitting up my Advancement to Candidacy paper for use in my dissertation. I'm only getting one "credit" with that work.. .i.e. the degree. I'm also not supposed to change topics from the Advancement paper to the dissertation, so -- if I have a good take on the material, why start from scratch in the dissertation -- especially when my Adviser and most of my committee have already passed on the old version?

At any rate, here I go -- the last 11 papers until finals week... Which is a good thing, because I have some of my own writing to do soon... which will be a nice change from reading their stuff.

I wonder how many students will get to see my new handout on citations?? I staple one to every paper with inadequate citations, just so they can see how much their citation method sucks.

I'm going to keep the camera handy for a while....


The queen isn't exactly happy that the minion is in the room...


The battle for the back of Hubby's chair happened this morning -- the Queen won, although the Minion put up a good fight -- retreated and came back a few times -- and there was no hissing, spitting or growling from either combatant.


I suspect that the Minion will spend a lot of time in Hubby's chair... when he's not otherwise occupied by all the distracting stuff on my desk.... like my keyboard. He also has a distinct preference for the thumb-drive with all of my dissertation back-ups on it...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cat name...

For a while the most likely name was Gibbs... because it seemed to suit a cute cat who would probably grow up to be bossy and sexy like the NCIS character.

Now it seems more like his name should be Spock. Hubby thinks we could call him "Spok"...

I think this is a good name for him -- every vulcan has black hair, and Spock/Spok is a good name for a cat ---

plus, right now he seems to have some kind of kitty transport technology. One second he's on the floor, the next he pops up by your head...

Another reason to love my department...

Last year we decided to have irregular department meetings, with the promise that they'd read my e-mail updates and respond appropriately.

Previous chairs held more meetings. The problem with that was that, if you were teaching during the meeting -- like the vast majority of us were -- you never got an update on what was going on... there was no e-mail follow-up etc.. So -- more meetings = less communication.

We are required to have three face to face meetings per year -- according to our contract. The real challenge to having more meetings is having a time at which more than a few of us can attend... we are a very diverse department (Philosophy, Music, Humanities, Theater and Global Studies make up the department) -- and we teach a lot. So, we agreed on minimal meetings and more e-mail communication... which seems to be working out well.

Really, we don't have the time or inclination for weekly 4-hour faculty meetings -- like some of my pals are forced to endure... So, I love them.

I also love them because, with a little nagging, they meet my paperwork deadlines 99% of the time.

Yep -- they rock! (some of them literally, as we include music :)--

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cat photos...

Introducing -- "The Minion" -- He's fast, he's devious and he's starting to get along with the other cat in the house. Here he's dominating Hubby... Note, he's 1oo% black, from his whiskers to the tip of his tail. He may end up being Mr. Mistoffelees-- or Gibbs...

For the record, getting a good photo of a black cat isn't easy. It is more difficult when the cat seems intent on setting apartment-carpet speed records--- and is at least a shirt-tail cousin of a gas molecule.



Since she can no longer be "New Kitty" -- we'll call her "Queen Cat"... this is her protest yawn.... She's claimed the top of the cat post. From here she can see the whole living room, kitchen and most of the den/office. This has been the site of much protest sleeping of late -- which is distinct from other sleeping in that it is clear, even in her sleep, that she's irritated with us for interrupting her household with The Minion. The Minion has advanced to the platform just below her, I'm not sure she saw him do it.

Old photos are fun...

My cousin is making a photo calendar for my grandparents, so I started looking at the old photos for a good one of me and Pam. I found it -- and a lot more... Once Hubby scans some of them, I'll post them -- as they are pretty fun...

Among the photos...
  • Hubby and his first cat. He was pretty thin and the cat was pretty fat. That was the only cat who has ever hated me.... and he really, really hated me.
  • Lots of photos of currently deceased kitties -- when they were young and spunky.
  • A photo of Old Kitty (now, recently deceased kitty) when he was younger than newest kitty is now.
  • A photo of my grandfather in the Army from 1940. The inscription was interesting, " 'ITPF grandpa's name', 1940, property of his mother.
  • Lots of baby photos of me -- I was the first grandchild and all my relatives seemed to do was look at me and take photos...
  • Photos of the construction of my Grandmother's Speakeasy.... in northern Iowa during prohibition... The story is that they went to Minnesota, where they could get good bootleg alcohol and smuggled it via back roads and across Lake Okobojii in the middle of the night.... The really funny thing is that my dad ended up going to a military school and eventually he became a police officer.
  • Photos of my niece and nephew as very little kids -- those are the ones who are away at college now. The youngest two hadn't been born yet.
  • Photos of my cousins and I with my great grandmother --
  • Photos from my wedding to Hubby-- we were such CHILDREN--- really, we would have fit into either of our classrooms...

Yummy smells.... and a good day

The turkey breast is resting.

The stuffing and gravy are done.

The cranberries and 5-cup salad are cooled.

The pumpkin pies are also cooled (a full pie and an improvised smaller square pie made of leftover pie crust and leftover pie filling).

My house smells like Thanksgiving -- and we'll have leftovers for the weekend.

It is a weird tradition cooking for leftovers, but it makes some sense to cook a meal and plan to use it all -- right?

Not bad for a girl who had her last chemo infusion this morning.

By the way, when you finish chemo at my clinic the nurses sign and decorate a coffee mug -- very sweet!

I think this summer I'll see if they have a volunteer driver's list for folks who need a ride to and from chemo -- if I like the folks, I'll sit with them too.... I think some people getting chemo long-term are pretty lonely. I could be a good companion... I'll bring my own work if they feel like watching TV or reading, but nothing pressing so if they want to chat, we can chat... hmmmm.

Cancer skills

Now that I'm officially in the "observation stage" -- and will be for 2.5 years... I can make a list of the skills I've gained in the 6 month cancer journey... in no particular order:
  • The pole dance -- the IV pole, that is. How to most efficiently drive one. How to negotiate the bathroom and other tasks while hooked up and how to make sure you come back untangled.
  • Recliner operations -- How to make them tip back, how to work the attached tables etc.. My cancer center has two versions, I've mastered them both and have a distinct preference for the green ones.
  • Port aerobics -- The implanted device that takes the needle so they don't have to put one in my arm every week -- is kind of tricky. I know all the gymnastics and movements to make it work.
  • How to live without hair -- this one is easy, ignore the fact that you don't have hair. Don't try to hide it, just pretend you have it. People will look at you funny, but it doesn't really matter.
  • How to talk to insurance companies and hospitals -- this one I've only gained a small skill at, but so far it made me see a $220 error in my favor.
  • How to hold still for scans -- the trick here is to think about someplace else. Close your eyes and pretend you are elsewhere. Mentally walk down the beach or wherever you are. This trick also works to bring your blood pressure down when you are having it taken.
  • This isn't really a skill, but rather a bit of advice -- always be nice to your chemo nurses. They're the ones who will make it quick or slow for you to get done with your infusions... they'll look out for you to make sure the oncologist orders the right stuff.... Also, be kind to the chemo scheduling people -- they can make you come in early or late -- when it's busy or when it isn't etc...

Thanksgiving Memories...

The smell of turkey brings up a host of thanksgiving memories...
  • More than a few Thanksgiving dinners at Aunt Kay's. She was a terrible cook -- dry turkey, decent gravy and tart JELLO salad with sour cream -- that looked like whipped cream. The best part about dinner at Aunt Kay's was watching a newbie get into the "sweet potato vs. yam" choice with Uncle Earl. 20 mintues later, Earl would be done explaining the difference and the newbie would regret asking -- as their choice would be cold.
  • Thanksgiving in the little house I grew up in --- Mom's a great cook, but often worked the holiday, so sometimes Pam and I would go elsewhere and then sometimes Mom would cook another day... so our "Thanksgiving" might be on Wednesday, Friday or some following Sunday.
  • The first turkey I ever cooked --- I was just married (anniversary was last week...) and we lived in Colorado. I had all the stuff -- but no real experience with the bird. I tried to call Mom in Minnesota, but all the phone lines out of Denver were BUSY ---- which made me very homesick.... it was 1990, so I knew Mom wouldn't be on IM or able to take a text... In the end, I did talk with her --- and ended up cooking the bird without taking the paper out of the bottom of the tinfoil pan.
  • Last Thanksgiving it was me, Hubby and mother-in-law. I bought the whole meal at the grocery store -- and it was pretty good, although I can do better. I spent the weekend reading ethics drafts --- something I vowed never to do again.
  • Alternate Thanksgivings with Hubby's side of the family --- The same basic meal -- always really good, which is something to be thankful for in and of itself, because my sister-in-law could be a terrible cook ala Aunt Kay :). Good company, nice conversation (no alcohol, so no drunken fights :), ), the kids are growing up -- so the group gets smaller as the older two are in school in Utah. One of the really good things about being here is living close to them ---they're really different from my side, but not "different" in a bad way :). Yesterday I was pretty proud of myself for not getting into a big political fight with my brother-in-law (sister-in-law's husband, not Hubby's brother). He's a fan of Michelle Bachman -- and not so hot on Obama.... I realized that I wouldn't get anyplace with him and did some smiling and nodding... yea me!
  • Today we'll cook a mini-Thanksgiving dinner--- mostly so we can have leftovers. We'll do a turkey breast, stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, 5-cup salad (ha -- Hubby, my blog, you can't change it to "Ambrosia" -- I win this one!) and cranberries. I'll also make a pie -- but only quasi-from scratch. Those are the Thanksgiving leftovers we don't throw away :) ---

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A lot to be thankful for....

This has been a difficult year --- breast cancer and chemo qualify as "difficult"....

But, it has also been a year of blessings...
  • I'm thankful that Hubby found my lump early and that the radiologist decided to work the sonogram a bit extra to see it and biopsy it. Letting it go surely would have proved fatal.
  • I'm thankful for Hubby and Mom. Both of whom put their 'other' lives on hold to take care of me -- even when I wasn't particularly thankful, I really do appreciate it.
  • I'm thankful for my oncologist, who is aggressive about both treatment and follow-up observations -- as well as for the chemo nurses who make every treatment much easier... and they know their stuff.
  • I'm thankful that I have a job that will let me work and treat my breast cancer... included in that are wonderful colleagues who both ask about my chemo AND talk about other things --- as well as my students, who have been much more kind and understanding than I expected them to be... they are 18-22ish, after all.
  • I'm thankful for the two cats we lost since my diagnosis -- both were wonderful "boys", sweet, loving and funny... I'm also thankful for the newest "boy", who is funny, surprising and seemingly a direct descendant of the Energizer Bunny.
  • I'm thankful that Hubby and I will be together next year --- we may be poor and overworked, but we'll be together. After three years working 400 miles apart, it will be a blessing --- even when we get grumpy with one another.
AND -- I'm super-duper-uber thankful that tomorrow is my LAST CHEMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Old cats and New cats....

Old Kitty had a vet appointment today -- and it wasn't good news.

The short of it is, we decided he wasn't a good candidate for surgery -- and that it was time to put him down.

It was a difficult decision, and it wasn't... He hadn't been himself for quite a while. He'd gone from a cat who was nearly 20 lbs to about 5... and it was clear that, although he'd purr and snuggle a bit, he was in pain.

Hubby and I realized we'd said goodbye to him a while ago, that New Kitty NEEDS a companion, and that we should get one while we'd be home to mediate disputes...

So -- we went to the Humane Society and brought home a 5 month-old black boy kitty...

We've been home for five minutes, New Kitty wasn't all that phased by the sight of boy kitty. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'm trying to ruin debate... really

I still participate on the debate message board... I know I shouldn't, it is kind of like watching the "Real Housewives of _______" -- a guilty pleasure.

The thing is, now that I have no teams in competition, I can be honest with these fools. I've just finished posting an argument against judge adaptation. The basic idea is that the debater should adjust their arguments and presentation style to the judge who is watching them. In general, it isn't a bad idea -- BUT, the reality of it is that doing so takes a basic comm studies principle and twists it into an impossible burden for the debater.

It really is kind of fun to be on the outside of debate looking in. I don't miss the travel, the stress or wandering around a strange campus on a Sunday morning when I should be drinking coffee and petting a cat. I do kind of miss the debaters themselves and I actually miss a few of their coaches.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A book and Grading Jail...

First -- I've just finished a fictional book about someone who is, in essence, a blogger... It is pretty good -- "Why Girls are Weird"

It is a bit odd, because she's creating a quasi-fictional version of her own life -- and her on-line persona and her real-life get mixed up a bit. Really, it is fun to read because the author is fun to read. For the record, my personal details are true -- Hubby exists etc :).

Second -- is it sad that I decided I would not take a shower until I finished part of my grading? I really need to get some of this done -- and I've reached my first plateau, the reward is a shower. After the next set, I'll take a nap.

I think the end of the semester is going to be a bit difficult, if only because the fatigue is getting worse. I've had two cups of coffee, breakfast and a big glass of V-8, and I feel like I could go back to bed for a week or so. What is odd about it is that it feels like I'm coming down with a cold or something -- with only the fatigue as a symptom.

Maybe the shower will help...

The good news is that Hubby is doing the domestic thing today -- laundry, dishes and general cleaning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Loving a snowy Saturday morning...

We have contentment all over the house...

Hubby is sleeping in.

New Kitty is sleeping under my desk, on the furry rug that is no longer for my feet -- but, for her highness..

Old Kitty is in bed with hubby.

I'm contemplating the following choice -- make coffee and stay up, or go back to bed and read a bit in the snowy early morning sun...

back to bed is winning....

Friday, November 21, 2008

The just war theorist and the gamer...

Scene: Hubby and I in our office. Our desks are next to one another - each of us can see and hear what is going on next door.

Among the insurance paperwork, phone messages and remnants of my sabbatical application, are a variety of articles about the ethics of warfare. On my desktop are several chapters of my dissertation about the ethics of warfare.

One of the primary aspects of the ethics of warfare is that an unprovoked nuclear attack is a no no.. a big no no.

On hubby's screen, as I type, he's nuking a variety of innocents in his video game -- and taking a bit of glee at it all. In fact, he just asked me if he could nuke his own people -- just for fun.

Come on hubby -- do you have anything to say in your own defense?

Philosophy Jobs, part two -- writing a cover letter & CV for the CC...

So -- you've seen a job announcement for a CC --- and you think you could bring yourself to work there.... (If you need more convincing, see the previous post with this tag...)

The question is how to write your letter and CV so that you'll be an attractive candidate. The chances are that your usual letter will need a bit of modification, as the people at your research institution don't generally have a clue as to how to appeal to a community college. Don't worry, you aren't alone in that problem...

I'll start with some advice about your CV...

Overall, remember that your package will most likely be read by folks outside your discipline. There will probably be at least two or three people from your prospective department on the committee. There will also be faculty, staff and administrative folks from across the college on the committee as well. These folks don't know the buzz-words, trends and specifics of your discipline, so they won't be impressed if your CV is full of jargon and name-dropping. All of that kind of nonsense is a waste of space.

Generally, your research interests are significantly less important than your teaching experience. This section should be the last on your CV - behind one about your coursework and the one about your teaching...
  • Give a brief synopsis of your dissertation. Make it comprehensible to people outside your discipline and sub-field. Think about how you'd explain the topic to your mom and write that.
  • Move your publications to the back and only list the three most impressive discipline specific publications -- and EVERYTHING that is at all teaching related.
  • Summarize your discipline specific conference presentations and elaborate on anything that could be seen as teaching related.
Having a good preparation in the field is quite important. It should be the third section of your CV.
  • If your field has several sub-fields, indicate the coursework you've done that gives you a background in that field.
  • Include a brief description of the course, if you have space. Make sure that the descriptions, as a whole, indicate a broad view of the discipline itself.
  • Remember, you'll need to contribute to shaping the first classes students take in your field -- you need to show that you have the flexibility and knowledge to do so -- and perhaps to teach those classes.
Service is important -- be it on-campus or volunteer.
  • Include any departmental committees and especially any university-wide committee work. Show you are involved beyond your own research agenda.
  • It is great if your committee work involves projects that directly support student success, increase access for students or overall improve the lives of undergrads on your campus.
  • If you have off-campus volunteer activities that are academic or human-services in nature, include them. Here is where you'd mention that you've been tutoring inner-city kids in math, are a big-brother or big-sister or the coach of a high school debate league.
  • If you think your political or other kinds of activity will make you more interesting, then include it -- otherwise list it but only briefly.
Your teaching experience is very, very, very f-ing important. It should be at the first major section of your CV.
  • Make sure you include every kind of course you've had any part in teaching. We are looking for someone who has taught a variety of courses
  • Make sure you are clear about making distinctions between the courses you've TA'd and the courses for which you are completely responsible.
  • Be clear about the number of sections you've taught/TA'd. An entry like "taught ethics 2005-2007" is mostly useless, but "taught 4 sections of ethics per semester 2005-2007" is much more helpful, as we can get a real picture of how many students you've taught.
  • Not all TA positions are alike, so make sure you indicate whether or not you were pretty much a grader, whether you held your own recitations, met students in office hours etc. Generally, the more student contact the better.
  • Include any professional development activity that has focused on teaching. If your grad department requires a professional development course, include that in your teaching section and highlight the topics covered. If you've gone out of your way to do additional courses at your university about teaching (preparing future faculty etc..), include that as well.
At the very top of your CV you should list your career objective and your degree status. If you are ABD, include your MA as well as the fact that you are ABD. If you actually expect to defend before the job starts, include that information.

As for your cover letter...

We'll probably look at your CV and cover letter as a whole. If your qualifications and experience are clear on the CV, they only deserve a brief mention in the letter. Generally, your letter should be organized and jargon free. We'll read your letter as if you are talking to us -- and thus we'll get a picture of how you'll talk to our students.

What we want to see in the letter is how you might fulfill the minimum and preferred qualifications listed in the announcement. There are often things like "experience teaching with technology" and "contibutions to access / diversity" that can't be communicated easily in a CV. So, tell us about the fact that the undergrad population of your university is 40% minority -- or about how your TA experince includes TA for a class that does a lot of work on-line.

Tell us about your experience handling a classroom with students who have very different levels of academic preparation. Tell us about how you held special tutoring sessions with a small group of struggling students, and tell us how those students went from a D to a B in the course.

Tell us about your own experince with community colleges. Did you take classes at a community college as part of your undergrad -- either in the summer or in the first two years. Did one of your parents teach at a Community College?

Do you have some other reason to relate to our students? Did you work full-time as an undergrad? Was there a semester or year you had to drop back to part-time and take evening classes? Is there something in your life experience that would let you relate to someone who is barely holding on in college while trying to lead an otherwise busy life? If it is only something like seeing your mom go back to college in her 40s, so that you understand the struggles of our students -- it helps.

Overall, tell us about what makes you interesting, unique or special. Why would we want to have you come in to interview -- out of the other 250 applications on our pile. What do you have that will make our college better? What can you give us that the other 249 applicants can't.

1 chemo to go...

I have my last chemo appointment scheduled--- hopefully forever!

Next Friday, instead of Christmas Shopping, I'll get chemo.

It is kind of weird, I can't believe it is almost over. I've been on this roller-coaster since the middle of May.... literally the week Spring 08 grades were due. Everything was a step toward next week, successful completion of chemotherapy.

I have a schedule of follow-up appointments -- for the drug study I need to do an EKG an a MUGA December 1. Sometime in early February I'll need a PET scan before my follow-up appointment with my oncologist February 17.

That means that for the months of December and January I won't have cancer-related doctor's appointments. That seems so very strange.... I've been living on a cancer schedule for so long -- the prospect of not doing so is something I'm going to have to get used to.

My oncologist said that the Mayo's standard procedure is to NOT do follow-up scans etc... because they found no increase in survival rate with the scans. I'm very glad my oncologist doesn't agree with them. If only for my own sense of well-being, I want some scientific proof that my cancer hasn't metastasized. He also says that he thinks people who begin treatment before they feel sick enough to realize the cancer has metastasized, handle the treatment better.

It has been a long -- but also kind of a short -- time. Really, in the terms of most academics -- it has been a summer and most of one semester. Considering how long it takes for us to complete projects, degrees etc... it is pretty short. Think of what you've finished writing since May (I don't mean to depress you :) ) --- that time is relatively short.

On the other hand, seven months of thinking about it -- of reacting to a small lump in what used to be my left breast -- is a long time. What, in most cases, is a result of 'you have nothing to worry about' -- for me was, you need surgery (twice), a port inserted under your skin, a series of infusions of toxic chemicals, steroids and anti-nausea medications. And -- what is really kind of odd, and lucky, it all ended up in one calendar year -- thus one 'annual out of pocket maximum' for my insurance.

I have dirty pajamas....

... sure, they are in the laundry waiting to be washed....

But -- the real thing is that I just noticed that the pattern itself is sexually suggestive.

They are flannel pj bottoms I bought at Target. They have a blue background with suns, moons, stars and other symbols I don't know exactly what they are...

AND -- "69" -- all over.

I don't know what the other symbols mean, but I know what that one implies...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I have to wonder...

... why a student who has neglected to even attempt assignments that are worth 1/3 of the grade AND has had two poor take-home exams -- even needs to ask whether or not they should withdraw?

S/he is actually pretty engaged in the course itself, but neglected to do the writing assignments.

After a bit of a confrontational beginning to the class, I actually like this student and wanted him/her to succeed.... and it makes me sad that they haven't even tried to do the assignments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

...and then the vet called...

It looks like old kitty will be our Christmas present this year....

His blood levels aren't good, so he'll need surgery.

This is sad because he's an old cat -- and kind of frustrating because we just can't seem to get ahead money-wise.

I kind of doubted we'd be able to afford a vacation before Spring starts -- now it is for sure.

grrrr...... I could have used a little vacation....

I know things could be worse -- it is just a bit frustrating.

18 years.,,,,

Hubby and I got married 18 years ago.

We were so young. We had no money, very little education and three cats. We lived in Colorado -- he was in the Air Force and I was working for a hair salon answering the phone.

We got married by a judge -- who asked me if I wanted to promise to 'obey' -- I declined to do so. He married me anyway :) -- really, I doubt Hubby would have been happy with someone who would make such a promise.

Hubby is rarely unable to speak -- (those of you who know him must be giggling at the masive understatement right now) -- but, when it came time to say "I do" -- he was very quiet. I'm sure he said it, but it wasn't easy to hear him.

Over the years we've moved many times. We've had 5 cats -- and a whole lot of laughs.

This year hasn't been easy -- and I'm sure next year will be better.

Our 19th anniversary may find us in some 'yet to be determined' college town -- or hubby will be a 1L... who knows? One of the reasons I love Hubby the most is the adventure he brings to my life.

What I do know is that next year we'll be together -- our 'adventure' of a long-distance marriage should be over -- or, at least on hold :).

I love you honey --- I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Logic macho...

Today I tried something different in logic...

I divided the class into groups -- with at least one A student per group -- and an even distribution of so-so students and poor students.

I assigned each group a problem to do and told them to write a legible proof.

I put the proofs on the data projector and we talked about them.

I did this instead of doing much of a 'lecture' -- about the new rules. I briefly discussed the rules and then had them work with the rules and ask questions as they came up.

The results were pleasing -- we discussed many more problems than we would have using other methods. Students discussed what to do and how to do it -- and helped one another pretty well.

I like this method enough to do it again -- and next semester!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Victory -- I think....

I've been trying to sort out a difference of opinion between myself, the hospital, and the insurance company.

I think I've finally found the problem -- way, way, way back in June I gave the hospital $220.00, for which I didn't get credit.

Their collections folks called me in August and I gave it to them again.

At the end of it all -- they thought I owed them more than I thought.... and we began the shuffle...

It looks like I'll finally get credit for my $220.00... and, if they don't think I actually paid it -- I'll get my credit union to beat them up. They're a military credit union, I think they can take a wimpy hospital.

Loving my "commute"

From our old apartment I had about a 20 minute commute -- all highway, which could take up to an hour depending on whatever the asshats in the trucks were doing that day... [my road was the 'truck route' so that the rich folks don't have to have trucks on the INTERSTATE that transverses their neighborhood -- they resisted finishing the road for decades until they got their way... a 35 MPH speed limit and no trucks!].

Anyway, my commute used to cross the X, Y, Z intersection -- which is glare ice this morning.... and I don't have to go there. I live almost spitting distance to BNCC. YEA!!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Notes from grading jail... don't be a dumb-ass edition...

Just a few hints and tips from grading jail...

  • If your prof makes a big deal about getting a question right -- listen up. Especially if it has been on BOTH exams, discussed after the first exam and while handing out the second exam -- AND especially if the prof has mentioned posting a PowerPoint explaining the answer -- the least you can do is to try to get it right.
  • If your prof asks a question involving a paper she wrote and handed out to you -- and posted, you should probably look at it when it turns up as part of a question. Then, make sure you at least read enough to pretend to reference it in the answer. Really, this is all that is necessary for a decent grade -- and failing to do so will get you a crappy grade. Deal with it.
Also -- a general warning -- when your prof is mostly bald, has one boob and is just finishing chemo, your whining and bitching about a bad grade you clearly deserve isn't going far.

I hope your final papers / projects will be better.

Philosophy Jobs -- part one, the CC may be your friend.

First off -- let me say that getting a job in this year's job market is really hard. Most of the SLACs and state schools are freaked out about their financial prospects. The nice, research-oriented jobs -- the ones where they pay you think and then publish, are getting more competitive --- before they are put under some kind of hiring freeze.

The big secret is that there could easily be MORE community college jobs around -- if not for 2009-2010, then for the year after. Currently CC's instruct about 48% of ALL undergrads. Naturally, many drop out etc -- but, if you are looking for a job, it is a good thing to remember that jobs go where the students go.

CC jobs are counter-cyclical. When fancy-pants schools are worried that their students' parents can't pay the $35,000/year tuition -- they ought to be worried. Those same parents look at a bill for $150/00/ credit hour and pay it gladly to have their kid in college. Their college may well be BNCC. Plus, people who get laid off etc... go back to school. Sometimes they are changing careers, so they need their 'generals' for a new one -- other times they are working on a degree they quit from a long time ago etc... The thing is -- they are going to their local CC first.

CC jobs respond to enrollment pressure -- especially in my state. We have a contract that specifies how many classes must be covered by full-time faculty. That means for every set of sections we add to meet enrollment demands, we have to hire folks into tenure-track jobs.

Just to start you thinking about the job -- because the idea of teaching at a CC makes many philosophers cringe -- I'll start by saying it really isn't as terrible as you may think.

The pay and benefits are pretty darned good. I have my own office, with a window. I can apply for a sabbatical every 6 years -- and, since you wouldn't be in the 'cohort that got screwed by the contract' like I am -- your first one will be a year long at %80 pay.... Mine will be at %60, second at %80... grrr... At my school, I love my discipline and my department. My dean has good days -- and generally doesn't get in the way of what we want to teach. I get to choose my own textbooks, write my own syllabus as long as it complies with a VERY general course outline, and overall teach and grade as I think best.

The bad part is the 5/5 teaching load and the big classes. This semester I have two ethics classes at 50 students per class and two logic classes at 40 students per class. I have a one course release to be Humanities Department Chair... Next semester will be one of my smallest number of students so far (besides one debate coaching semester) -- I'll have 160 total, over four classes. If I'm teaching in Fall 09, I'll have 240 in five sections.

Before you ask -- yes, I have my students in logic do proofs for quizzes and exams and all of my non-logic students write several short or longer papers. Yes, I'm often up to my eyeballs in grading, but I've developed a system to grade papers quickly. No, I don't have anything like a TA or even a secretary that can enter grades in my gradebook. No, I currently don't use bubble-sheet exams -- but I have in the past and I may go back to them on a limited basis. Yes, the grading sucks and often their writing sucks.

Right now, because of the big class sizes, I've decided my school does not want me to teach my students to write in philosophy classes -- so, I'm not doing it. I circle errors and make comments about their reasoning. I do consider form when determining grades, but I don't do more than that. To be honest, if the comp folks can't manage it in classes half my size -- how could I possibly do it in classes of 50?

So -- when the Eastern APA turns out to be a huge, expensive, hassle and waste of time -- don't get too depressed. Start looking in the Chronicle and other places for CC jobs. They'll be there --


Next time -- how to write the cover letter and CV so that we'll WANT to invite you for an interview....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thoughts on group work.. so far...

This semester I waited a bit longer to form groups. I also considered their academic performance as of the first exam, when determining groups.

Students who were in danger of failing the class weren't allowed to be in a group -- they had to complete a paper to pass. This is a good thing, as most of those folks have since faded away from the class.

In one section I made a group out of several folks who weren't doing well, but really wanted to do a presentation. That group is shrinking pretty quickly -- and none of the remaining members made it to class last week... sigh. I kind of wish I hadn't let them be a group, because one less group would mean that each group would get a full class period to present.

Overall, the groups seem to be functioning much better than they did in previous semesters. I'll know more when I meet with each group on Tuesday.

Today I'm arranging my T/Th logic class into small working groups -- based on their most recent quiz scores -- I think this is the right time to do so, as they will really need some logic-pals to get a good grade on the last quiz...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Utilitarianism definition

For the record, the common definition of Utilitarianism as "the greatest good for the greatest number of people" is both popular and an incorrect synopsis of Mill's theory.

With this definition you can be forced to do that which benefits more individual people instead of doing what is the greatest good.

For example, if you can make 50 people slightly happy with action A, but move one person from extreme pain to extreme happiness with action B. The formulation that entails making the greatest NUMBER of people happy means you do action A (because 50 people is more than 1 person) -- when, in fact the greatest utility (change from pain to pleasure, i.e. increase in pleasure) comes from action B.

Careful reading of Mill -- hell, a cursory reading of Mill -- shows that Mill is concerned with the net increase in happiness. To calculate this increase, all impacted persons must have their pleasures and pains considered -- but, this does not entail his position was "the greatest good for the greatest number of people".

This is one of my biggest pet-peeves -- and the easiest way to know that my students are using the internet instead of class notes when writing a paper or exam. I thought I'd write this post in the hopes that the argument against this flawed definition will be out there... Along those lines, the argument that 'most people use this synopsis' is committing the basic ad populum fallacy... I suppose it is easier to say "everyone is doing it" than to actually read and think critically about Mill.