Monday, November 30, 2009

Student foul...

Stu:"Hey, you were going to send me your feedback on that paper".
Me: "I thought I sent it, I'll do it tomorrow"

e-mail system: "Stu's a dumb-ass and hir mailbox is full"

Me: Now I remember, it bounced before... hmmm.

Tis' the season for student fouls... what are yours?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A blog to watch

This blog could be really funny, inspiring and worth putting in your reader for a while... at least to see if she keeps it up.

She's an old friend I've recently rediscovered. She has a special needs child, a very bright daughter and a husband who does crazy stuff -- and she's more than willing to share her stories with the world.

When (not IF) she becomes as big as Dooce or Pioneer Woman, you'll be able to say you saw her back when... of course, I'll be able to say I was her first comment AND that I tried to teach her to swim when she was about 7. BTW, I'm not saying she learned to swim from me-- instead of actually swimming, she put her hands on the bottom of the lake and pretended...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So -- what do I do while Hubby studies??

Today the answer should be -- dissertation and some class prep stuff.

The answer is -- lunch with old pals and then a movie or two...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Intersting exchange...

Student e-mail: Prof, I messed up and missed the exam. Now I'm in deep trouble with my grade and I'm going to get kicked out of Hogwarts or something..
Me: Come talk with me..

Student: I'm here to talk about my grade.
Me: (not looking at Student's grades) what's the trouble.
Student: I missed your very reasonable on-line exam window, now I'm gonna get a D.
Me: How can I resolve this while being fair to the people who missed the exam for other reasons.
Student: but, I had computer trouble.
Me: We discussed that in class.
Student: But, I'm afraid of failing -- I'm gonna be really close.
Me: How can I help you and still be fair? I'm in a pickle here and I don't know how to resolve it.
Student: Thinking, thinking, thinking -- I don't know...
Me: Why don't you work really hard, write a brilliant paper and see how it comes out? You've been to class regularly, so you have that to your advantage. You're getting extra-credit points.
Student: do you think that will work?
Me: When I assign grades I look at things like attendance and a student's improvement over the semester. If you write a brilliant paper, it will be difficult for me to give you a D.
Student: Ok -- thanks.

GraphJam gets it right about BNCC

Time spent at community college

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A new view...

If I weren't completely lazy about these kinds of things -- I'd have photos.

Suffice it to say Hubby rearranged the office. Now instead of facing the window, it's on my left -- and his right. Instead of sitting side by side, we face one another... I think I got the good end of the deal, as I now look out over the edge of an abandoned golf course -- while Hubby looks at the deck and the satellite dish.

Yea -- this was a good idea -- and, it was free!

Dissertation update...

I think I've got a good handle on chapter 3 -- at least, on the ideas and structure it needs.... now, all I need to do is actually make the changes and then make sure it is coherent.

After that, chapters 4 and 5 -- then a general nit-picking of the whole thing and I can send it to Red State...

Oddly enough, in the next few weeks I have very little grading to do. I'll need to write exams, but the next bunch of grading comes in finals week -- which starts December 14. I wonder if I can get the dissertation into shape before then?? I think a reasonable goal is to have the substantial changes by finals week -- then, I can let it sit while I do grading and final grades -- then get into the nit-picking part immediately after Christmas. A week of working on the details should be sufficient -- which would have me sending it to Red State by early January.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's nice to be working at home...

... and, I missed all the excitement...

"About 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, there was an electrical fire on the West Campus of BNCC in a small second-floor maintenance room near the theatre. The fire was contained in that area and resulted in a power outage. One minor injury was reported. People were evacuated from the building and classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day. The West Campus remains closed at this time, pending the repair to the electrical system. Faculty, staff and students will be allowed to enter the building at the main commons entrance to retrieve personal belongings until 4:30 p.m."

This is just upstairs from my office --and just down the hall from both classrooms I use.

I'm going to start taking my house and car keys to class -- just in case.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bad news for Alaska...

From a student essay..

"In Alaska infantacide is good, in America it is bad"...

-- or, maybe that's good, Alaska really doesn't need us.


Secret Message to SuperMom -- you have a son-in-law :).... and I'm a lucky girl!

19 years...

...Hubby has been MY hubby!

I'm lucky to be married to the best man ever -- and my best friend in the whole world.

We've come a long way --- and nobody could have predicted the twists and turns of our lives -- as lived together.

I'm so lucky to wake up with Hubby every day -- to share the ups and downs and to live every day laughing at the things only we find funny...

I worry that by the time we've been married 70 years or so, we'll have so many inside jokes and other stuff that the folks at the home will think we're senile :).

I love you -- and I'm sure the next 19 years will be as fun as the last 19!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Breast Cancer and the problem with statistics/ utilitarianism...

As you might imagine, I've been doing a bit of reading about the breast cancer study...

I've come to see part of what troubles me about this. They didn't do any NEW investigations, rather they compiled existing data and made the declaration that it's better to start mammograms at 50 and not to bother with self-exams.

For now, I'm going to ignore the possible implications concerning insurance / government paid health care.

One way to look at this is as a problem of interpretation of statistics. What they saw was an increase in the number of biopsies but not a corresponding decrease in the number of deaths from cancer. There IS a decrease, but it doesn't match the increase in the number of biopsies. They also saw an increase in the number (perhaps the percentage) of false-positive mammograms and they saw research concluding that some cancers come and go naturally without becoming invasive/deadly. They concluded that the risk of a false positive/ unnecessary treatment didn't outweigh the decrease in deaths.

They couched this in statistics -- but, the value judgment underlying this farce is a bad interpretation of utilitarianism.

Background - Utilitarianism -- which (gasp) wikipedia has kind of wrong -- is the idea that the morally good thing is the thing which tends to produce an increase in happiness, while the morally wrong thing tends to produce a decrease in happiness.

Wikipeida is wrong -- or, probably more like confused -- when they define utilitarianism as "the greatest good for the greatest number of people." And -- that's what this study does as well. The correct formulation is 'the greatest overall good, all persons considered'.

The problem with the study is that it tries to compare the relatively small harms from false positive mammograms(thus unnecessary biopsies) and unnecessary treatments --which happen for a relatively large number of women -- to the HUGE pain of a smaller number of deaths from breast cancer, which otherwise would have been avoided with necessary treatment.

The study wrongly concludes that the concerns of the larger number outweigh the deaths of the smaller number.

I think they are flat out wrong. In order for this to come out right, in terms of utilitarianism, the number of false positive mamograms/ unnecessary treatment would have to be staggering -- as, the pain of actually dying of any kind of cancer -- breast cancer is no exception -- is huge for the patient... and their families.

In essence, what they're saying is that it's better to avoid the stress of having to do more tests and possibly a mastectomy/chemo/radiation, than it is to avoid the deaths from cancer that would come from screening women 40-50. As someone who has done mastectomy/chemo, I call BS. I think I can speak on behalf of my chemo buddies when I say that we'd rather have had all of our treatment be unnecessary than to have just one more person not figure out they have cancer until it metastasizes.

Even a good formulation of utilitarianism can reach this conclusion --perhaps that's why I'm not a utilitarian.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breast Cancer and Feminist Epistemology...

I have to wonder if this study would have been different if science included more women..

A couple of years ago I wrote a paper about feminist epistemology. The central concern of some feminists involved in epistemology is that the questions and interpretation of data is skewed by the perspectives of the scientists themselves. Their claim is based on the idea that all persons bring their own unique perspectives to scientific inquiry, and the fact that science is homogoneous skews both the questions asked and the way the data is interpreted.

The study concludes, based on statistical analysis, that women shouldn't get mamograms until they are 50 -- and that breast self-exam isn't particularly useful. The harm seems to be an increase in worry due to the need to do further tests and perhaps needless treatement for cancers that otherwise might have gone away on their own.

Really, folks, I'll be 41 next month. Without hubby feeling the lump and without my physicians taking it seriously (even though I was only 39), I seriously doubt that I'd have made 50. I would have gone along like nothing was wrong - until my cancer spread -- maybe to my bones, lungs or brain. It would take me a while longer to figure out that something was seriously wrong -- and by that time it might have easily been too late. Instead of chemo, we'd be talking about hospice.

To say that I'm outraged is to undersell this... if this becomes commonly accepted "fact", people exactly like me won't get the life-saving reaction I got. In 5-10 years, the 30ish women now won't even know about a lump until it's too late.

The idea that somehow the risk of needless treatment / stress is worse than even ONE death from breast cancer is really stupid. I simply can't accept that kind of reasoning and it makes me mad. Folks who haven't had a family history of breast cancer will now delay treatment and skip self exams. If even one of these women dies as a result, it's too much.

Trust me -- many things are worse than losing a breast and having to do chemo. No, I'd rather not have had to do them -- but, even the small risk that I might DIE was enough to make being bald with one boob be pretty attractive.

Instead of being concerned about false-positives and an increase in biopsies, why not work to increase the technology involved in mamograms so that they are more effective on "lumpy" or otherwise dense breasts? Make the tests more accurate, improve biopsy techniques and decrease the wait time on results -- presto -- less stress/worry.

I hate how statistics get used thses days -- relying on statistics lead people in the financial sector to ignore their common sense and thus to the crappy economy. Now statistics are being used to declare breast cancer not a concern until age 50.

Too many details... too little...

time -- at least, too little time to aggressively play Facebook Farmville AND read blogs AND get stuff done. I think today is a "no internet at work day"...

--- It's also 'that time of the semester' -- that time where finals week is in sight, but I'm not ready. Heck, I'm not completely caught up from midterms and I have new stuff to grade...

-- and I have a few meetings in the next week... not that they're terrible, but they do interrupt.

Motivation -- Really, I don't want to do this stuff. I know I should, and I should have a deep and burning concern for my students, but I don't. Sometimes I just wish they'd go away.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The weekend...

... was busy, but good.

Friday --
  • I had an oncologist check-up -- things seem to be fine. Assuming the blood tests come back good (I don't even know what they're testing for..), this will be my 1 year "clean" mark!!
  • Hubby participated in BNCC's pecha Kucha...I helped organize it -- and he was good.
Saturday --
  • Hubby got a new toy -- mostly because it will end up costing us very little when he gets the paperwork done..
  • Hubby's study group had a dinner with all the study group folks and their spouses. After the third restaurant (group of 11 -- no reservations = too long for us to wait at Bucca and Houlihan's...) we finally got to sit down and chat. Next time we'll think ahead and get reservations -- duh.
Sunday --
  • Hubby played poker with the law school folks. I went to get waxed.
  • I made mac and cheese for lunches -- with ham and bleu cheese... yummm!
No, I didn't get any work done -- yes, I have a lot of work to do -- do I really care, kind of -- but only kind of... hmmm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A while back...

... I got a new office chair.

It sucked -- and got worse. The Minion has clawed it up, it's ugly and not comfortable --

Today I got tired of it -- and went to IKEA.. and got this chair.

The bonus is that it matches the couch - and, if I decide it sucks we can put it out there and I'll get another traditional office chair. Hubby gets another assembly credit. If he ever comes to his senses and gets rid of me (not that I'm worried about that) , I'm going to include a lifetime furniture assembly rider in the divorce paperwork... I'm sure the killer divorce lawyer I'll hire can get that done :).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dissertation progress..

Chapter 3 is under control -- I have two sections to re-organize, but we're out of toner... and to do it I'll need to print. So --I'll finish chapter 3 over the weekend.

Chapter 3 doesn't suck... YEA.

Chapter 4 revisions may be impacted by the Ft. Hood shooting -- the chapter is on selective conscientious objection (SCO). I wonder if Hasan would have left the military, if given a chance -- his only viable claim is that our current wars are against his principles... but, not that ALL wars are against his principles. The military recognizes conscientious objection claims, but not SCO --

Really, it's very sad to have that kind of example -- but, it kind of shows me I'm right...

and --- Happy Veteran's Day.

A short rant...

.. on the "right" to have an opinion.

Ummm.. yea, you can say whatever the heck you want.

You can say whatever you want -- but, if people disagree with you, they can say whatever they want too... that's the way this works. Sometimes what they'll say is stuff you don't want to hear -- just as what you've just said is something THEY didn't want to hear. The tricky thing about freedoms is that if you have one, so do the people who think you are wrong.

Understand this -- the First Amendment protects your LEGAL right to say whatever dumb-ass thing that comes into your mind. It does NOT mean that other people won't think you're a dumb-ass. It does not mean that someone has to hire you in spite of the stupid stuff you said. It does not mean that we have to sit back and let you say stupid stuff. It certainly doesn't mean that others must provide a forum for your dumb-ass stuff.

On the other hand -- forget what I just said -- keep talking and saying dumb-ass stuff, so we'll know what's in that pretty little blond head of yours... that way we can make our own decisions.

Students, rocks and hard places...

.. and, why we need national healthcare...

I met with X yesterday--

X was doing well in class, but dropped off the face of the earth for about a month. S/he's missed an exam and some reading quizzes -- hir average is 33%...

I advised X to withdraw from the class.

X told me that hir absence was due to mental health issues. If s/he withdraws from class, s/he isn't a full-time student and then would lose access to hir health insurance -- which s//he needs to get hir medication.

I told X that I treat mental illnesses in the same way as I treat physical illnesses, transportation problems, work conflicts or childcare issues. All of these things are barriers of varying heights --and sometimes students' lives just don't go along with class. Sometimes students get serious illnesses during classes - that's a fact of life and, unless I have some documentation saying X was unable to complete coursework during that time -- I can't make an exception for her and not for the person who had transportation or childcare issues.

X has decided to keep going and take the F if necessary, in order to keep hir health insurance.

So, in order to keep her mental health, she needs to sacrifice her GPA.

So -- a condition that can, reasonably keep someone out of class also requires them to be IN class in order to get the treatment necessary.

This is almost as bad as the binds some patients get into -- their illness makes getting to work hard, but if they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

Since insurance is like a bizarre club --when, if you have a pre-existing condition -- you can only change insurance if you currently HAVE it, we put some people in impossible situations.

Really -- this student shouldn't have to be in this hard place.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tough love --

I think the fact that I wasn't quite done with their papers was a good thing..

I had time to talk with both Ethics classes about what was coming -- before anybody saw their grade.

A few students even mentioned the helpful handout in the writing center -- and others said they'd used the link to a good college website on citation. The message to the others was pretty clear, 'we figured out how to do this and you can too'.

They'll have just under a month to do the revision. I made it clear that the revision was to be for citations only.

I also told them that this was the standard in academic writing and that they'd better learn it now than in a class where the prof calls it plagiarism and gives them an F... or when someone doesn't permit a revision -- like I was considering. I told them I thought it would be unethical of me to just pass their papers along -- and that I didn't like the idea of dealing with their papers again... but, I thought it was the right thing to do.

We'll see how they respond -- I got the 'stink eye' from a few -- and called one student on it... in kind of a joking manner, but she got the point and shaped up...

I'm sure that I'm going to adopt this policy from now on. I'm also going to round up an electronic copy of the writing center handout to include in every course -- and simply return any paper that doesn't meet basic academic standards.

Monday, November 09, 2009

umm... yea...

"The teenagers are headless of any dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and a teen pregnancy is a desired thing."...

...perhaps the "headlessness" has something to do with the pregnancy?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I have a confession...

... I love cheesy disaster movies.

Next Saturday, there's a marathon.

I'll be ... ummm... busy then, yea -- busy.

Help from my English peeps -- please!!

I need to know -- am I out of touch?

I assigned a paper in which my students are supposed to research an ethical issue.

I told them to use some form of in-text citations, but I didn't care if it was footnotes or parenthetical references.

Countless papers have come in with some version of a works cited page, but NO in-text citations. Sometimes they'll say "Smith says...." -- but, nowhere do they tell me exactly WHERE in the book Smith says it, or sometimes which Smith article it is. Other times they'll write the citation directly into the text -- which kind of works -- but makes it really icky to read.

Did I miss a shift to this kind of minimal citation?

Do they learn this in comp 1 -- or high school?

or -- are they just f-ing lazy?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

by contrast...

One of my older students came to me on Wednesday --- asking if missing Monday to hunt would be ok...

His concern was that they hunt really far up north -- and getting back for class at 4:00 would mean they'd have to leave very early Monday morning.

I told him that he hadn't missed any classes and that, as long as he got notes from someone, he's well within the syllabus guidelines on absences.

Chances are that the older student will make it to class -- and the bozo won't.... hmmm.

Friday, November 06, 2009

no more port...

So, for the first time since July 08 I don't have a port.

No hard little triangle of plastic between my collar bone and my right breast.

No more trying to get it to work at the chemo clinic -- I can go right into the lab to get my blood drawn.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

We may have to move...

... when I tell a student she's not likely to pass my class.

Folks, she lives in my building -- at our END of our rather small building.

She lives just below us and to the right. IF she were one floor up, she'd be our nextdoor neighbor.

She also doesn't come to class or do her work.

We're going to talk on Tuesday --


and, she's the one with the obnoxious mini-van -- the one with the malfunctioning car alarm.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In the blahs...

... not too deeply, but it seems like I have a lot to do and I don't want to do it.

I'd rather read, nap and ponder rearranging the furniture.

Instead I need to prep classes, write quizzes and grade the papers that have been in for over a week.

Also, my BNCC office AND my house are generally a mess.... not quite to science experiment, and the Minion doesn't mind, but it's messy enough to bug me.

I need some motivation.

I also need a pedicure.

Maybe if I get it all done by Sunday I'll get myself a pedicure at the cheap place...

The Minion can read

The Minion could have a lifetime's worth of toys in one bag of Starbursts --he plays with them, he fetches them etc...

We have a bowl of leftover Halloween candy on the counter.

The Minion was looking into it this morning.

There was a small package of Starburst in there -- among the Snickers etc... there was only one.

He picked it out -- and tried to open it.

Folks, this wasn't a normal Starburst, it was a two-starburst package designed for Halloween.

He can read.

I'm scared.

YEA!!! --

I'm having my port removed on Friday.

Yes -- it's another surgery, but a very minor one.

I've had it for 16 months... but, I'm not going to miss the little hard, plastic thing under the skin just below my collar bone.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

hmmm... faculty edition...

Funny how things work...

  • The Squeeky Wheel faculty situation continues a bit -- but, I found out something interesting just now... part of the issue seems to be that one member of the discipline doesn't know how to use the copy machine. This person has been here at least three years -- but, come to think of it, I haven't seen hir at the copy machine...

So, I taught hir to make copies today. Maybe that will make things easier...
  • Another person outside my department is cranks... for good reasons, but those things aren't my fault. I'm not sure how cranks is going to get this resolved -- but, I suspect that complaining about it to me isn't going to do any good. I suppose what kind of irritates me is that this problem is something I predicted three years ago -- but, was told that wasn't a problem. Well -- welcome to the problem.

I also got a flyer from Biology Products... Inside the flyer I can order "preserved cats" -- they range in price from $20.50 to $45.00 each... They have a photo of a sad preserved kitty ... and a not that "we also stock skinned cats; see our catalog or our website for pricing"

-- ummm, no.... although, I could take the flyer home and hang it at 'cat level' as a warning... Do you think the Queen and the Minion would shape up?

BNstate "Holidays"

BN state has the regular holidays -- plus two.

The June holiday isn't much of a problem for me -- summer classes don't meet on Friday -- so the FISHING opener isn't much of a problem... Students can get to the woods, get properly drunk, (hopefully) not fall out of their boats on Saturday and make it back to class on Monday in decent shape. Fishing season lasts all summer -- so they have plenty of time to go to the lake, drown some worms and drink.

The November holiday is much more problematic -- you see, DEER season is about 10 days long -- and some folks think they should be able to stalk Bambi, drink /pee in the woods and try not to shoot one another for the full 10 days... no matter that it means they'll miss a full week of classes, plus travel time.

So, yesterday I had a short exchange with Stu.
Stu has already missed 5 classes...5 of our 75 minute classes, which means he's missed 2.5 weeks of class. Last week Stu asked me about maximum absences -- and, I think he's asked me before... so, this has been brewing for a while.

Yesterday Stu asked again when I'd start dropping students. I told him (again) that due to the H1N1 stuff I was being more lenient with absences, so if he wasn't feeling well he should not come to class.

Stu told me he was going hunting over the weekend and that he may not make it to class on Monday. It doesn't help that we have Wednesday off next week for Veteran's day -- so, Stu can get a whole week of shooting/drinking/peeing in the woods by missing one class. I really wouldn't mind, but Stu hasn't managed his absences well so far...

My only response to Stu was to give him one of those 'over the glasses' you've got to be **itting me looks.

Really, it doesn't matter if Stu shows up -- he's AIC (absent in class) anyway and not so likely to pass the class.

Monday, November 02, 2009

YEA!! The boys in Purple won...

The whole Farve thing is pretty funny...

Packer fans are pissed, and now pouty -- in a way they weren't when he was with New York.

The thing is, the Packers essentially fired him. They held his contract, said they wouldn't play him but wouldn't let him go to play for someone else.

Now they're calling HIM the traitor -- and they're mad that he's across the border.

and -- with the Vikings, he's kicking butt... kind of like when the person you broke up with shows up at a party with someone much smarter, successful and more attractive than you.

take that Packer's Fans... now, go lay down by your dish and eat that cheese...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What's cooking -- today?

First of all, a disclaimer... I want the Pioneer Woman to move in next door, I really don't want to move where she is, but I'd love to be her buddy... If you don't read her on a regular basis, you should. She's also an amazing cook -- and she's really good at photographing food, so check out her "Pioneer Woman Cooks" section!

Today, we have a few things on the ITPF menu..

Buttered Rosemary Rolls... they are so easy, they may be today or they may be later in the week when we need something yummy. I suspect that this will be a staple for a long time to come...

For lunch this week-- I'm making a version of her simple sesame noodles.. I'm going to add some chicken breasts and some leftover veggies to it -- we'll either warm it up to eat it or eat it cold like a cold salad... either way, I'm sure it will be good. This should be all I need to make for the week, as we have plenty of stuff to add into the lunch bag, including a Costco sized bag of halloween treats -- which we bought for our TWO trick-or-treaters...

For the BIG GAME -- (i.e. the Purple guys in Green Bay...) or -- for lunch, or whatever today we'll have take out from Big Bowl -- because they have yummy food AND sell their amazing dipping sauces by the bottle... Once I have the bottles, all I need is a vehicle for them, which will be fried won ton skins...