Thursday, April 27, 2006

    Tired of high gas prices?

    My friend the other day mentioned that by the end of summer gas would reach $4/gallon. I laughed and said it would be lucky to reach just over $3. I suffer from a lack of imagination.
    NPR : Exxon Posts First-Quarter Profit of $8.4 Billion: "Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil company, reports that higher oil prices drove its first-quarter profit up 7 percent from the prior year. Net income rose to $8.4 billion, from $7.86 billion in the same period a year ago."
    But then again, Lee Raymond isn't complaining. As CEO, he retires with a $400 million parachute. It's good to be the king.

    Not to be too sour, if you own XOM, here is your last 5 years.

    How are the double-hulled ships doing in the Artic (remember Valdez?)...oh, they haven't been implemented yet? Oh...

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    The Eroding Faculty Paycheck

    While the article is fairly interesting, the comments that follow are more entertaining.

    The Eroding Faculty Paycheck: "While professors know that physicians and lawyers earn more money, they may not realize how the gaps are growing. Between 1986 and 2005, the percentage change in real salaries for faculty members increased by 0.27 percent. The increases were substantially larger for engineers (4.68 percent), lawyers (17.73 percent), and physicians (34.41 percent). "

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    Movie meme

    Movie meme

    I thought that I had seen a lot of movies, but apparently I get out too much.  

    "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) Stanley Kubrick"The 400 Blows" (1959) Francois Truffaut"8 1/2" (1963) Federico Fellini"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972) Werner Herzog"Alien" (1979) Ridley Scott"All About Eve" (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz"Annie Hall" (1977) Woody Allen"Bambi" (1942) Disney"Battleship Potemkin" (1925) Sergei Eisenstein"The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) William Wyler"The Big Red One" (1980) Samuel Fuller"The Bicycle Thief" (1949) Vittorio De Sica"The Big Sleep" (1946) Howard Hawks"Blade Runner" (1982) Ridley Scott"Blowup" (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni"Blue Velvet" (1986) David Lynch"Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) Arthur Penn"Breathless" (1959) Jean-Luc Godard"Bringing Up Baby" (1938) Howard Hawks"Carrie" (1975) Brian DePalma"Casablanca" (1942) Michael Curtiz"Un Chien Andalou" (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali"Children of Paradise" / "Les Enfants du Paradis" (1945) Marcel Carne"Chinatown" (1974) Roman Polanski"Citizen Kane" (1941) Orson Welles"A Clockwork Orange" (1971) Stanley Kubrick"The Crying Game" (1992) Neil Jordan"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) Robert Wise"Days of Heaven" (1978) Terence Malick"Dirty Harry" (1971) Don Siegel"The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) Luis Bunuel"Do the Right Thing" (1989) Spike Lee"La Dolce Vita" (1960) Federico Fellini"Double Indemnity" (1944) Billy Wilder"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964) Stanley Kubrick"Duck Soup" (1933) Leo McCarey"E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) Steven Spielberg"Easy Rider" (1969) Dennis Hopper"The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) Irvin Kershner"The Exorcist" (1973) William Friedkin"Fargo" (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen"Fight Club" (1999) David Fincher"Frankenstein" (1931) James Whale"The General" (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman"The Godfather," "The Godfather, Part II" (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola"Gone With the Wind" (1939) Victor Fleming"GoodFellas" (1990) Martin Scorsese"The Graduate" (1967) Mike Nichols"Halloween" (1978) John Carpenter"A Hard Day's Night" (1964) Richard Lester"Intolerance" (1916) D.W. Griffith"It's A Gift" (1934) Norman Z. McLeod"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) Frank Capra"Jaws" (1975) Steven Spielberg"The Lady Eve" (1941) Preston Sturges"Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) David Lean"M" (1931) Fritz Lang"Mad Max 2" / "The Road Warrior" (1981) George Miller"The Maltese Falcon" (1941) John Huston"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) John Frankenheimer"Metropolis" (1926) Fritz Lang"Modern Times" (1936) Charles Chaplin"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam"Nashville" (1975) Robert Altman"The Night of the Hunter" (1955) Charles Laughton"Night of the Living Dead" (1968) George Romero"North by Northwest" (1959) Alfred Hitchcock"Nosferatu" (1922) F.W. Murnau"On the Waterfront" (1954) Elia Kazan"Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968) Sergio Leone"Out of the Past" (1947) Jacques Tournier"Persona" (1966) Ingmar Bergman"Pink Flamingos" (1972) John Waters"Psycho" (1960) Alfred Hitchcock"Pulp Fiction" (1994) Quentin Tarantino"Rashomon" (1950) Akira Kurosawa"Rear Window" (1954) Alfred Hitchcock"Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) Nicholas Ray"Red River" (1948) Howard Hawks"Repulsion" (1965) Roman Polanski"Rules of the Game" (1939) Jean Renoir"Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks"The Scarlet Empress" (1934) Josef von Sternberg"Schindler's List" (1993) Steven Spielberg"The Searchers" (1956) John Ford"The Seven Samurai" (1954) Akira Kurosawa"Singin' in the Rain" (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly"Some Like It Hot" (1959) Billy Wilder"A Star Is Born" (1954) George Cukor"A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) Elia Kazan"Sunset Boulevard" (1950) Billy Wilder"Taxi Driver" (1976) Martin Scorsese"The Third Man" (1949) Carol Reed"Tokyo Story" (1953) Yasujiro Ozu"Touch of Evil" (1958) Orson Welles"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948) John Huston"Trouble in Paradise" (1932) Ernst Lubitsch"Vertigo" (1958) Alfred Hitchcock"West Side Story" (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise"The Wild Bunch" (1969) Sam Peckinpah"The Wizard of Oz" (1939) Victor Fleming

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    TOM CRUISE needs an education

    Ok, while I think it is excessively Iron Johnish, eating the placenta (placentophagia) at least has roots in cultural practices (as does burying it). But even here he seems to have gone off on a nut. Placentophagia is usually a ritual where the placenta is cooked, stewed or dried and ground up. While I did not request this sort of thing from my wife, I can see the attention given to the placenta as honoring the woman's body.

    However, it is still the woman's body, and most cultures allow the new mother to prepare, dispose or otherwise take care of her own placenta--eating it if she wishes. Dads, it seems, universally should but out.

    That is what I did. It wasn't mine. I looked at it with curiosity mixed with awe, but eating it would have seemed, unless offered by my wife, as some sort of invasion.

    I am judging from without, but Senor Couch Hopper seems to take too many liberties. See this quote and then think of his two adopted kids.

    National Ledger - Tom Cruise: Katie Holmes Was Silent and 'An Absolute Champ': "-- Tom recorded the whole thing with a camera and said it was the most beautiful moment of his life."
    My final throught on the matter.

    The name "Suri" has been coming under scrutiny. I am not able to find confirmation on this story, but at least one has gone on record as saying that TC doesn't know what he is talking about:

    Language experts are amazed TOM CRUISE and KATIE HOLMES have named their baby daughter SURI - because there is no record of the name meaning "Princess" in Hebrew. According to Hebrew linguists, Suri has only two meanings - one is a person from Syria and the other "go away" when addressed to a female. Hebrew expert JONATHAN WENT says, "I think it's fair to say they have made a mistake here. There are variations of the way the Hebrew name for princess is spelt but I have never seen it this way." Suri can also be translated into a Hindi boy's name, and it also means "pointy nose" in some Indian dialects and "pickpocket" in Japanese.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

    Deep dive versus survey

    Deep dive versus survey

    This comment was almost overlooked, but it was well-said enough to get some prime-time treatment.  On the subject of teaching "big ideas" versus thinking skills (year long immersion in a given lit. period over surveys and the like),  Professor Zero said...
    Well, I teach mostly foreign literature, so I have to give context. Fewer works, more context, is what has always worked best for me. It doesn't mean you can't tell them about the works they're not reading, nor does it mean you have to give or expect seminar-style depth.Example: in the introduction to Latin American culture, I do not do what everyone else seems to do, namely, tell the cultural history of 20 countries from beginning to end, show slides, etc. NO. I pick some representative themes, and a representative author for each of these; then contextualize with other kinds of documentation and discussion.This allows me to sharpen research and writing skills also, by the way...Just my 2 cents.
    I think this is along the lines of what I was thinking.  Instead of shot-gunning ideas and authors at the poor little things, explore fewer more deeply.

    Of course, with the ever-growing canon and needs of ghetto-ized lits for a voice, there are tensions within this model inherent.  

    Perhaps there is a happy medium.  One long, intro course where the deep model is performed, which then has a survey at a higher level for exposure.  That way the student gets both a deep dive for the depth and skills of reading/thinking and then the breadth of exposure.

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    Tom Cruise can go to Hell!

    Tom Cruise can go to Hell

    And I mean that with all graciousness.  He had a child this week.  I know that because the media has told me time and again.  

    OK, aside from the fact that his plumbing works, why would I give a flying flip?  And who cares what he thinks about psychology, Catholicism or even giving birth?  Aside from the pity I feel for little Katie (although she chose this path), I can't help but feel a slow, burning sense of outright annoyance that I am subjected to this lunatic's rantings.

    There is something cosmic about the fact that his child (probably a sweet little girl who is forever tied to a whacko) will share her birthday with Brooke Shield's little girl.  Brooke, of course, worrying that she may lapse, again, into post-partum depression and whose strength in admitting such is formidable, is the one from whom I want to hear.  

    Letter to Tom: you are not an entrepreneurial pimp, a fighter pilot, a racecar driver, a secret agent nor a hit man.  You only pretend to be such.  While you may be on your way to theton-freedom, you are lumped by those who discern, right up there with Pat Robertson.  

    So, shut the hell up already.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    My current state

    My current state…

    I am teaching an online section of intro comp.  It is not much fun.  The students won't talk, the assignments are format and grammar…no fun there.

    I am also working on a project that seems to have been extended beyond the initial three months.  That means that I might possibly be able to catch up on the overdue bills and maybe, dare I dream, get a little put away—or at least start paying down the debt load.

    Working full time, though, means that I don't really have the time, nor inclination, to work on the dissertation.  This is causing conflict, both within myself and with spouse.  But, would it really be worth the effort?  I think I have a cool topic; one that may be parlayable to an actual book…but do I sacrifice at-home time in endless research and writing all for a degree that will allow me to accept jobs only in other cities at a much lower rate than I can get when I am on project? (The rub is that I don't consistently have projects)

    I know that I have been putting off working on it—I have yet to cement my committee—and I have a prospectus due.  Part of the birth of this blog is due in part to needing a channel for the energy that my dissertation should be using.  I need a distraction, and this seemed like a good one.  

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    State of adjuncting two years ago


    I came across this study that looked at the raw numbers for 2003--2004. On the surface, this article indicates that things are going well. More faculty are being hired (7.1% increase in instructional hires), the pay is good ($87k on average), and life is reasonably good.

    I looked a bit more, and I found that although direct instructional hires increased from 2003 to 2004, there was no indication in the numbers as to the increased job function. That is, where there more faculty, tt, or adjuncts hired?

    The other numbers tell the fuller story. Of instructors (anyone with class face-time), only an average of around 20% (the average is higher at public institutions at around 25%; for-profits drops to 0.6--no tenure at UofAdjunct). An additional 10% are on tenure track, which means that at a given university (these are 4 year numbers--the 2 year are comparable with slightly lower tenure tracks in the pipeline) only 1 in 4 instructors has tenure.

    The numbers are hard to make out how many "instructors" (their title) are full-time and how many are adjuncts (which can be full time or part time: depending on the number of courses taught). It does indicate that on average a little over half of the instructors do not have faculty status. I can only guess that this is code for adjunct or adjunct-like status (one year contract, etc.).

    So, two years ago a PhD would more than likely be working in a "without faculty status" position.

    Just a reminder, there are no benefits as an adjunct. No health insurance, no 401k, nothing. With all of the ado about Wal-mart in the last year, I am surprised that an industry like higher ed, which has a similar hiring practice, escapes notice...especially when those same academics decrying Wal-mart are the ones shlepping off to teach their middling courses.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

    My little feminist

    Me, seeing the little 5 year-old pookie outside playing by the sandbox by herself: what are you doing out here alone?

    LP: That's ok, no one is stealing me. (not my original fear, but now one of the top five)

    Me: I just thought you might be a little lonely.

    LP: No one is stealing me. If the did, then I would kick them. I would kick them in the penis.

    I am so proud.

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    Finishing the Ph.D. Stamford Style

    I have recently begun to skim the Inside Higher Ed feed, and this article about Stamford's study of shortening the PhD acquisition time came up today. While interesting, if not needed, I cited the following comment:

    Mayra, sad to say, is right on target. One important aspect not considered in this discussion is not only the saturation of PhDs on the open market (and I disagree with Hoosier who says that the mass retirement happened), but the saturation of lesser-brand PhDs on the market.

    No doubt there are name-brand humanities profs searching for tt positions, but multiply that number by a factor to get the number of total PhDs on, in or hiding from the market. Adjuncting, the preferred business model from everyone from Land-grant State U. to the University of Phoenix will continue to grow because it makes economic sense. AND as long as the supply is full, there will be enough Stamford and lesser-brand PhDs to fill the slots, semester-by-semester, class-by-class.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

    Blogger: Post a Comment

    Here is a response on evaluations for those non-dean-dad-reading folk:

    I like the idea of grade tendency reports. As an instructor I would like to know how I rank in my grading compared with my peers. Grade inflation is a concern amoung part-timers as well.

    I wonder, though about Chris's idea of tracking student performance before or after a given course. He seems to want to find evidence of the life-changing teachers, which is laudable, but statistically problematic. Say I am teaching an intro-composition course. My pool of students will most likely be entering Freshmen. They have no prior data to correlate post-class performance with.

    Ok, say I have a Sophomore-level course. Numbers would also indicate that those who move on to their Junior year are the more successful, so the overall university attrition rate would have to be factored in.

    Jumping topic: what is needed, it seems, are better metrics.

    Student evaluations often don't ask specific, concrete questions.

    * Did the course follow the syllabus (getting what you sign up for)
    * was the reading load and assignments spaced evenly through the semester (consideration of student lives and respect for their time)
    * was the instructor accessible for questions, specically: office hours held as posted, e-mails answered, phone number given, IM-available, etc.
    * were the course objectives met (which assumes that a course has demonstrable objectives)
    * did the student feel respected as a professional (subjective, but indicative of instructor orientation toward the learner--the more successful treat the student with respect, even if holding them to a high degree of work)

    This list, of course, may be added and expanded, but it seeks to move the questions from impression-based (The instructor used effective teaching methods.) to objective and demonstrable facts.

    Here is an evaluation resource that begins to approach what I am calling for.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    Shooting the Canon

    Shooting the Canon

    Crap, I told Dr. Crazy, who may be at MLA, that I would have more of a reasoned post on the canon…and I have about 20 minutes to do it.

    Here goes.  

    I wondered whether for core requirements it wouldn’t be better to have more time in which to explore a fuller context of works for a given time period.  For example, instead of a high-level survey of Am. Lit. that has a smattering of poems, journals, short stories and maybe, if lucky, one play, maybe the student could be presented with a full-year immersion where more authors (of various stripes, types and orientations) could be presented in a richer context.  

    Advantages (to a core curriculum student…not dealing with majors or grad students here):
    • More inclusive (of race, gender, of—dare I say—quality)

    • Richer context which would serve as a template for other or self study

    • Opportunity to make deeper, more complex connections—more works with similar themes because the course has more time

    Disadvantages:
    • Since credit hours are scarce, large sections of literature are omitted (British versus American, etc.)

    • Lack of adequate exposure to necessary cultural information (the sources of allusion and reference—“Hamlet, who is Hamlet?”)

    • Mid-year transfers—scheduling

    I am sure there are others, and I will update this list from comments (if anyone is out there ().

    Dr. Crazy wonders:

    I like the idea that the undergraduate major should give them a solid and general foundation in literature - without specializing in one identity-category or another - but how do we achieve that?

    I don’t think, though, this is achievable.  Let’s jump back…what is the purpose of the core curriculum…exposure.  We are not asking for deep understanding of the structure of the tarantella (although it is nice when it comes) or an articulate appreciation of Wordsworth Tintern Abbey (again, nice if you can get it).  What we are really looking for, and I argue this from the number of core hours allotted to English (which include basic composition and sometimes grammar), is a little bit of CULTURE to rub off on the poor rubes.  Crawl off of your keg stands for just a moment while we explore the despair of the confessional poets.  

    What I am arguing is that we can provide a method of reading (a template or approach) that can serve the student well after graduation.  Sure, there will be some who study a given work in a survey that years later sparks an interest.  She may very well pick up Leaves of Grass when she is 30.  She may also, with a deeper immersion, come to leaves of Grass with a deeper understanding of Victorian life because she studied Victorian and Modern British literature, learning to a deeper degree the movements and forces alive during the time period.

    I can’t say that I am totally convinced of my proposal, but I get the nagging feeling that a little bit of a lot isn’t always as good as a deep amount of a bit.

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    Reassigned Time: Canon Formation and Ghettoes in Literary Studies

    I posted the following comment to Dr. Crazy's exploration of the Canon and women's writing. I will explore in more depth when I get some time:

    I don't think there is much value in discussing the relative merits of male versus female writers (insert ghetto group of choice) as all discussions are, to be precise, relative.

    I think the idea you are moving towards, if I may be so bold, is one of canon formation and time. The time aspect, which I will blogwhoring write more in my own blog, it seems, is central. There is simply, given the current structure and orientation, not enough class time for everyone or everything. So, what choices will be made?

    I think that if academia is to get serious about opening the canon, then it should be done NOT with specialized courses (at least not in undergrad, and should be used sparingly in grad) but with longer, more inclusive surveys. Instead of restricting American lit to pre and post Civil War, which takes a full academic year, why not 4 classes where there is more time to explore all manner of texts (critically acclaimed AND those not so much).

    But wait, we can't add more required hours...then shift the requirements within the hours allotted. That is, instead of requiring 6 hours of Brit Lit & 6 of Am Lit, require 12 continuous hours of one over the other. The student would have to choose between Emma and Huck Finn, but with 12 hours to explore over-looked texts, the context of said texts could be better established (impact of patriarchy, need for voice, etc.) and explored.

    What I am saying is instead of factionalizing the lit., exploring it in larger context with more players...and if you need to cut out a large segment for the general undergrad (say Brit. Lit., World Lit., etc.), then so be it.

    What do you think?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Confession is good for the soul

    Confession is good for the soul

    Okay, I have to admit this up front.  I work in a cube.  In fact, I am on project, swept away for need of money into the world of commerce.  I haven’t read a book in months…at least nothing literary.  Wallace Stevens seems so much more identifiable at the moment.

    I am actually working for a corporate university.  My recent comment to Dean Dad forces this full confession.  I remarked how his outside expert really didn’t add value.  I found myself streaming this litany of consultant-speak about “solutions” and “value” and meeting the client’s core needs…and a sense of self-loathing crept in.  I have become a suit.

    Sort of.  I consult, which may or may not be a suit.  I have no promise of pay outside of my short-term contract (much like adjuncting—actually, a lot like adjuncting), no benefits and still no health insurance.  In fact, consulting as an Instructional Designer for a corporate university is exactly like adjuncting.  I build courses (which I sometimes teach) for students, just mine are usually a bit older and in manufacturing (for all of you who bitch about whiny 18 year olds, try whiny 40 somethings).

    Yet, I like what I do.  I think that going into a new environment, soaking in the structure, politics and needs and then advocating a workable and affordable solution is kind of cool.  It is satisfying, and it pays way better than academics.

    This is what I throw back and forth as I put off the e-mails to my dissertation committee…do I really want/need the final degree.  What value will it really add to me?

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Monday, April 10, 2006

    Roles and Choosing

    Roles and “Choosing”

    Today is going to be a hodge-podge of sorts.  Dean Dad has an engaging post about the causes of adjunct-nonTT teaching OR “why my life sucks more than my father’s.”  B. Tozier has a strong reply, but then goes a little grandfatherly (“this confounded younger generation” sort of thing which really should not undermine his points but kind of does).

    But for popularity, nothing beats sex…or at least hints of sex.  Bitch PhD blogged late last week about flirtation among the geek set (anyone reading her blog would, no doubt, be accorded this designation (more below).  Running close to a 100 comments, her post raises the green-eyed monster in me…in my pants…

    Back to topic.  As I was driving the hour to work this morning (not teaching, consulting—which should be read, not waving, drowning) avoiding the break-lights-hitting-the-left-shoulder-as-a-car-spins-out-up-ahead, I was thinking about choice and roles.  I am certain that nothing new has been discovered here, but it was insightful for me.  I begin:

    Why am I the way I am…that is, NPR asked, in a story on living wage and poverty, what socio-economic level this guy felt described himself best.  He said “rich poor.”  Of course, Fussel would say he is ill-informed and should be bowling.  The story missed the point that the guy, divorced with a penchant for body art, felt rich because he could indulge his hobby (he had a work-in-progress scrolling up his arm).  The correspondent felt that tattoo-guy was really buying into the classification system (two puns for me).  

    How do I describe myself…the bane of teenagers everywhere seems to be a driving force throughout life.  In pre-school I see the little boys and girls acting out sex roles reinforced by society and biology.  In educated blogs I see very smart people struggle with labels and roles…

    Here are some thoughts toward this:

    • I must choose a role—I cannot be unlabeled, either to myself or to others.

    • I can only choose from a limited number of roles

    • Definitions of roles do not change as often, as much or as quickly as we would like to think they do

    • A chosen role will determine my actions, attitudes and options

    • I cannot opt out of this process

    So, am I an adjunct? A professional?  A consultant?  A graduate-student on “break” from the dissertation? An agnostic? A father?  A husband?  A wanna-be blogger god?

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Geek Alert--how I blog

    Geek Alert—how I blog

    For those who could care less, skip today.  See you tomorrow.

    I have immersed myself in the geekified air of blogging software, and here is what I have found.  

    I use mozilla-based Firefox browser because it is not a spawn of evil.  With that, I have recently found the plug-in Wizz RSS reader, which pulls the RSS feeds from my growing blog-list to a nice left-pane frame.  I also use Sharpreader, although I like not having to open a new application to get my feeds.

    With Firefox, I also have the extension called Blogmark, which allows a right click capture of a blog-page’s URL while opening up a blogging window.  Nice little tool for quick link posts.

    I have also used the “see source” quite a lot, bringing myself into a growing HTML awareness of cascading style sheets (CSS) and page layout.  With Photoshop I created the banner image, crafted after BitchPHD’s (I took her image and used the dimensions to craft my own).  I also noticed that Bitch had a cool icon in the browser URL window.  I snagged hers and with Photoshop copied the dimensions and posted the file extension…then looked at her code and found where to put it…and viola.  A little icon.  Mine kind of stinks right now, but I may swing back through and update it.

    What I need is a quick and ready WYSIWYG application.  I use the preview window of Blogger, but that seems like a clunky way to make changes.  It took me a week to find the setting for the margins for the text frame here.

    I have also recently found Blogrolling, which provides a nice list of who has linked my site to theirs.  With that, I have found Tabitha Writes Back and Writing as Jo(e).  

    I have experimented with various pull-codes (my term): one that updates the cost of the war in Iraq and another that The Truth Laid Bare ranking system.  Both of these I linked through from other blogs, signed up and inserted the code.  All of this while ignoring the mounting work I have to do.

    If you know any cool tricks or applications, link them in.  

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    Reassigned Time: Voices

    I quote at length here because it is so well said:

    Reassigned Time: Voices: But as I was working on the article last week and writing in my diary after a night of working on it and thinking about the blog in relation to journal or diary-writing and my academic writing, I think I realized that what blogging has enabled me to do is to experience the development of a writing voice in a sustained and public way.
    I think this speaks to my reasons for beginning the blog too. I struggled with what to call it, what voice to assign, what content to focus on, etc...

    I finally decided to be open about my frustration and anger about the feelings of betrayal of academia, to allow some room for my lost faith and happy agnosticism and to vent in a specific and tangible way about politics or social/class events.

    As I write this, I don't think that I have been true to that this week. I have felt forced, and I have not posted well. So, I will be true to my inner demons, and I will set them free.

    Get ready.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Teaching humanitiess...the state of things

    Teaching humanities…state of things

    Doing a little google-search on this week’s topic of big ideas vs. job-skills, I was curious as to the web-wisdom on the topic.  So, here is a brief compilation of what I found:

    It seems that through the humanities, the most elite and the most marginal segments of our society can teach something to each other.
    In an era when global capitalism reverts to inequality, war, and crisis, rock and roll is one of many ways to reinvigorate the pressing teachings of the humanities.
    • A local news story on a cross-departmental SUNY offering where scientists teach an intro humanities course.

    While helping my love through a stint at Brand U, I was able to adjunct an intro-Classics course (Classics broadly defined).  I enjoyed the course tremendously.  The students actually read the ancient texts, and we found points of reference and application.  It was true “big ideas” coming into modern life, full of specific and meaningful applications.  Dean Dad would have been proud.

    However, I am fast approaching the old consensus that big ideas, as institutionalized in a degree, are more readily presented and accepted according to class lines.  That is, those with the money for leisure time (which is what Dean Dad was calling for) are more likely to seek out opportunities for engagement with big ideas over those who may feel the call to seek them out, but that simply don’t have the time or means.

    Think I am overstating things?

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Blogger: Post a Comment

    Just to pull a comment discussion into the main blog area (Hume-anities--comment), I will elaborate on the impetus of my specific students in going to college. They are, sadly, there to "think big thoughts." For the most part they have heard or feel that advancement only comes through the degree. This quote is typical (posted today, actually):

    I notice that a lot of us are experiencing the same thing, a difficult time advancing in our careers without a degree. I too have managed all my life without a degree, but now am finding that if I desire to advance any further, I "must" have a degree. There have been positions open that I have been experienced and qualified to do, but without a degree, I was over-looked. So I decided that this is something that I can control and it was time to do something about it, so here I am!
    And so here I am...not pushing the notion of big thoughts, but out of exigency, teaching the basic skills.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

Monday, April 03, 2006

    Hume-anities: picking an intro comp text

    In the spirit of this week’s discussion on the role of big ideas and the need to earn marketable skills in college/university, we take on academic freedom and composition texts.


    I have just started an online course where the text is centrally chosen. That is, I am teaching intro composition from a text that is geared toward using literature to teach writing. It should work, in theory, like this: student reads well written essays, fiction and poetry. Student is exposed to “big ideas” well crafted. Student discusses said ideas. Student begins to write better from the whole exchange.


    I like this approach. I really do. I think it has great merit…for a full semester, on-ground class. Course discussion is a wonderful way to explore ideas, but not online. Why? What I call the “let-me-tell-you-what-I-think” imperative endemic in students. They read and then have an overwhelming demand within themselves to describe the encounter…in detail…with personal history thrown in. “Yeah” I say when I have an hour to fill. Not so good when online. The difference? Online, while I get a sometimes more intimate and graphic encounter with ideas (again, not necessarily a bad thing), I also get a more limited encounter, which all seems to depend on the student’s ability to type. If they can type, then they might talk themselves through a difficult idea, but this is a rarity. More likely they will skim the surface, hoping to fulfill the participation requirement and get on to the graded assignment.


    My choice for online composition would be less Peter Elbow and more skills oriented (clear expression, understanding of grammar, etc.). This places me about 1930s…


    I am not entirely happy with that.


    Why, then, would I disregard free-writing, voice, expression, big ideas, etc.?


    Logistics.


    I have six weeks of asynchronous communication to move below-high school writing level to a demonstration of the basics of documentation. That is, by then of the course, my students are expected to be able to adequately prevent themselves from plagiarizing…something at which portions always seem to fail.


    Any thoughts?

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen

    Week-long discussion of Kant working?

    In my usual skim through the blogs of the day, I came across this comment. The original post was debating the merits of what I would call "think time" for students. If a student works a full time job, lives away from campus, etc., is that student missing out on an important opportunity for intellectual growth.

    One response stuck with me:
    To a person the non-trad dozen counted job advancement as the reason for getting a degree. And this should be taken into the discussion...higher education has moved from a scholarly elite to an educated/skilled percentage where contemplation gives way to skill acquisition.

    You won't get a job thinking big thoughts...
    Dean Dad's (DD) answer was that critical thinking allowed one to advance past the initial, entry-level job (which the degree allowed). Thus, for him, thinking the big thoughts had an ultimate career payoff.

    Some of the other responses, though, argued that one should not be so focused on the monetary aspects of life: big thoughts are their own reward.

    It was toward this idea that Inside the Philosophy Factory (IFP) posts:

    I currently struggle with my students, trying to motivate them to read hard original authors in philosophy. Why should a modern student work hard to digest Kant or Descartes? The core of my worry is that most students will move away from working on the hard stuff and only take classes in disciplines that are "feel good" and not a challenge.

    Where is the balance between developing the critical thinking that DD says will allow career success with the IPF assumption (I assume) that Decartes and Kant are worth the effort?

    This week I will dedicate a week's worth of postings (for the two people who read) to this discussion.

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen