30 June 2005

- Hard Wired -

You knew it had to be a really stupid organ.

- Work -

I finished a review yesterday; today I started working on my book proposal. I also managed to get a small grant to cover at least some of my xeroxing/microfilming expenses for the summer. Now I have to figure out how much it might cost.

Anyone out there know of a (not too expensive) place to send microfilm for digital conversion?

29 June 2005

- Teachers Have it Easy -

B* has a short post on Teachers Have it Easy, by Daved Eggers, Daniel Moulthrop, and Ninive Clements Calegari. The book addresses the issue of how hard teachers work and how little they are compensated for it.

A story: my father's first job was teaching middle school. This was in the early 1970s. Well, he was in a particularly stingy school district, and with the oil crisis, stagnation and general economic malaise during the period, the school board refused to raise salaries anywhere close to the rate of inflation. Thus, the paltry salary my dad had started with just became smaller and smaller. Mom tried to work on and off, but then as now child care options were expensive and extremely limited. I think my parents figured out that with the commute they were actually losing money. Dad took up working full time in the summer and nights during the fall to make ends meet. Actually, I think he made more working in the canning factory.

In any case, the canning factory only needed extra workers from late July through October, so every winter was tough going. After one particularly egregious school board meeting where one member said that teachers had it easy and were grossly overpaid, and the Board voted to freeze salaries, Mom was so furious that she decided to take matters into her own hands: she applied for food stamps. We qualified. Yes, teachers have it easy. Well, Mom made a point of using the food stamps at the local store and she wasn't shy about noting that Dad was indeed still teaching and yet we qualified for food stamps—not that she really had to: it was a small town of about 5000 so everyone knew our family and what Dad did.

As you can imagine, this didn't go down well at all with the School Board, which tried as hard as it could to discredit Mom and Dad, going so far as charging fraud on the food stamp application. The social service agent, however, confirmed that the application was accurate and the food stamps justified. Embarrased, the School Board backed down and agreed to a very modest pay increase.

Dad, however, was blackballed, coming under intense scrutiny not just by the board but the superintendent and his principal as well. Soon after, Dad began selling insurance on the side and, though he loved teaching, he was making so much more money that he quit and took up insurance full-time.

Yes, teachers have it easy, so easy.

- Running Update -

I'm now up to 3-4 miles three times a week. Monday I did a bit over 4 miles, today a little over 3. I'm working up to a neighborhood 5K on the Fourth. I'm pretty sure I can do it under 30 minutes. If I'm feeling good I might possibly get it down closer to 25. We'll see.

- Running Scared -

After Sept. 11, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy.

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.

Can I just say that this man is a complete chicken-shit: he still doesn't have the guts to defend his war on its own terms.

Would that we were in the last throes of this idiocy.

It will be interesting to see what sort of bump, if any, he gets out of this in the polls.

27 June 2005

- Now Enrolling -

Can I just say that I hate the annual insurance enrollment?

25 June 2005

- Fun Fact -

I was curious about a hit I'd been seeing regularly for a long time (lj2480.inktomisearch.com). Not knowing much about these things, I finally googled it and discovered that it's a search spider crawling through indexing and caching pages.


I guess.

24 June 2005

- Where IT is, there teaching will also be -

Last summer I wrote about my experience taking some Instructional Technology courses. It seems that IT has become an issue again. New Kid points to an article in the most recent Chronicle by Patrick Allitt. Allitt basically says that IT sucks. New Kid does a great job of dismantling the article, pointing out its many rhetorical sleights of hand. Among other things Allitt lays responsibility for poor student writing at the hands of IT—well actually it's all the fault of the computer. Of course, I exaggerate; but I exaggerate in just the way Allitt exaggerates. (Like Camicao, I also admit to loving a good rant, so I enjoyed Allitt's essay even if I found it a gross distortion.)

Faculty have been complaining about student writing for as long as I've been in the field. I'm sure we've been complaining about student writing since the beginning of time. Personally, I've seen a general if slight improvement in student writing since I began teaching. I believe this has largely been due to technology, in particular the widespread use of email and IM, both of which encourage students to think about how they present themselves in writing. I'm sure blogging will further this trend—assuming students blog on a regular basis. No, student writing isn't perfect. Yes, it still has a long way to go. I'm sure it will always have a long way to go. Actually, the biggest problems I find in student writing are thinking problems: poor sentence structure, poor word choice, disorganized paragraph and overall paper structure, the lack of a clear thesis statement—all of these result from muddled thinking and/or from the student not being sure what he or she wants to say. In my experience, it's generally been the case that if you fix the thinking problems you fix the writing problems.

I very much doubt that such problems lie with PowerPoint per se. Those faculty abusing PowerPoint would no doubt abuse the chalkboard, the overhead projector—hell, the speaking voice itself. To my mind the issue isn't really about technology at all but about the effective presentation of the material. That's why I so do love those PowerPoint reformers who try reducing good use of PowerPoint to a pithy list of "do's and don'ts" presented in oh-so-proper Powerpoint form. First off, these so-called reformers have clearly so internalized bullet-point thinking that they apparently have great difficulty breaking out of that form of thought. Second, they confuse transparent use of technology with effective presentation of the material. Certainly, the two often coincide. But while bullet points make the technology of PowerPoint almost utterly transparent, it's not at all certain that such transparency always (or even usually) translates into the effective presentation of the material. Indeed, complaints about PowerPoint suggest the opposite.

As always, thinking about what you want to say and how best to present it is what matters.

23 June 2005

- Irritating Editor Yet Again. -

Another day spent dealing with Irritating Editor today. Tried to pull out, he backed off. Went back and forth. Sounds like he's going to give me more or less what I want. I'll wait till he actually signs off on it, though, before celebrating.

22 June 2005

- Irritating Editor Redux -

Irritating Editor is at it again. Irritating Editor just sent me back a completely mangled version of my text. Methinks Irritating Editor knew that he sent me completely manged version of my text, because Irritating Editor sent no cover email, not even "here it is."

Grrrrrr. Time to pull it, whatever Irritating Editor might say.

21 June 2005

- A Bad Night's Sleep -

Judu had trouble sleeping last night due to an earache. She ended up coming down and sleeping with us, which allowed her to sleep well, but left Spouse and I extremely tired this morning. This morning I was complaining to Spouse about how I only had about six inches of our king-sized bed to sleep on; Spouse said the same was true of her. So that means that Judu must have been sleeping horizontally between us. Ah, to be the little princess!

In any case, the earache seemed gone this morning, so Judu went to camp as usual, which is good, since neither Spouse nor I particularly wanted to give up a day of work and Judu really wanted to go. Clearly she wasn't in any mood to sit on the couch and watch TV.

- Irritating Editor -

The most irritating editor in the universe wrote back today. Irritating Editor wants to run through yet another round of edits. Irritating Editor still doesn't get the piece. Irritating Editor still doesn't get my style. Irritating Editor wants to destroy both style and argument. Why? Who the hell knows?

What's really weird is that Co-editor is on my side. Co-editor likes the piece just fine. Co-editor has signed off on it as is. Co-editor has argued vehemently on my behalf, though I don't even know Co-Editor. Co-editor is rather enamored with the article. Co-Editor is clearly a brilliant man. Yet Irritating Editor still insists on changing it. Irritating Editor is a moron.

Now, if that's not enough, there's this. Ok, Irritating Editor might not like the piece. Irritating Editor might not think it works. Whatever. That's fine. That's life in the academy. But Irritating Editor won't let the piece go. On any number of occasions, I've offered to withdraw the essay. Really I don't need it, but I won't let it go out under my name in a form I can't defend. At this point in my career that's what matters to me, not another line on the CV.

So here's the question: Why the fuck does Irritating Editor insist on keeping the essay if he is so bound and determined to kill it off? That's what I don't get.

20 June 2005

- Signature -

ok, I have to change my signature from \*/ since Haloscan refuses to recognize the leading slash. So, I'm changing to this: —*—

Not that anyone except me really cares. :)


As per Julie's suggestion, doubling the "\" does the trick in haloscan. Now I just have to remember when I'm commenting in haloscan!

19 June 2005

- The Round-up -

Spouse is back from her week away. She's tired, I'm tired, Judu's tired. Nevertheless we went canoeing today for Father's Day. Even on the water it was hot, hot, hot. But it was a good workout. And as we canoeing about enjoying "nature," I couldn't help but think of David's dissertation, our need to get the kids—but also ourselves—out of the city and into nature and all that.

Judu's been a bit hyper and whinier than usual since Spouse got back. She's also been bossier. I assume that's just her settling back into the routine.

It's odd how kids react to these kind of changes. For instance, this morning, Judu had a bug bite that was really bothering her and woke her up. Well, normally she would have come down and awoken Spouse. But this morning she came down and woke me up. At 6:30. Woohoo. Then after I put some itch medicine on the bite, she spent the rest of the morning asking when Mama was getting up. I didn't quite know what to make of it. The whole thing struck me as more than a bit funny. In any case, I was happy that she woke me up, as Spouse really need the sleep much more than I did.

I've managed to get quite a lot of reading done this weekend. I'm working on a long book I need to read in order to write up my book proposal. The book is recent and on the exact topic as mine. So I have to deal with it in a rather substantial way. I have nothing but good things to say about the book and my project in fact takes a completely different tack on the material, but it's still going to be a challenge to write my proposal in a way that makes it clear that there is room for two books on the topic. Given the realities of academic publishing these days, that might be a hard sell. On the other hand, given the realities of academic publishing, perhaps no one will notice that the overlap between the books.

In any case, Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.