Saturday, May 31, 2003

Yesterday was very productive as far as getting people together to work on projects. It was also a day that emphasized the positive aspects of my chosen career path and the resulting friendships and collegial networks. I also took time to mow the lawn. :}

Today I've worked more on course preparation and also went to the farmer's market. They had asparagus - I will use the pasta recipie I found in Cook's Illustrated tonight - and blueberries are just starting to come into season. The farmer I like best will have blackberries again in about a month. I also picked up lettuce, radishes, broccoli, and cauliflower. Now to get the rest of the weeds out of my garden. At least it's not as daunting as out here at the farm.

Spent Tuesday heading to Kansas City and spent most of the day Wednesday and part of the day Thursday at
the National Archives branch there. The people were wonderful and I found out there is a lot of very interesting information in the Penitentiary Records there.

I also had a chance to catch up with an old friend. Didn't realize we were staying right next to the hottest meat market in town. You never know what research will bring to you......

Friday, May 30, 2003

The Chronicle of Higher Ed examines academic blogging here. More later . . .

Monday, May 26, 2003

Great day at the farm. Worked on my NCLB - now I have to start trimming the entry. Was asked to partner on another grant. :}
Gathered 2 wheelbarrows of weeds and "opened up" the weed trimmer for the spring. Shadow was great just hanging around the house. Also getting lots and ends done around the house - things put away, cleaning most of the ashes out of the fireplace. It's going to be cool during the nights this week so we still have some spring yet although I probably need to water here before I leave in the morning. Will go check out things and then go to Carthage to go to KC with Mom to do some work at the National Archives.

From PlayStation to Supercomputer for $50,000

From reporter John Markoff:

As perhaps the clearest evidence yet of the computing power of sophisticated but inexpensive video-game consoles, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has assembled a supercomputer from an army of Sony PlayStation 2's.

The resulting system, with components purchased at retail prices, cost a little more than $50,000. The center's researchers believe the system may be capable of a half trillion operations a second, well within the definition of supercomputer, although it may not rank among the world's 500 fastest supercomputers.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the project, which uses the open source Linux operating system, is that the only hardware engineering involved was placing 70 of the individual game machines in a rack and plugging them together with a high-speed Hewlett-Packard network switch. The center's scientists bought 100 machines, but are holding 30 in reserve, possibly for high-resolution display application.

Although scientists first drove the first computers for research purposes, has there been a transformation? or an evolution?

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Went to my folks house yesterday afternoon to go with my Uncle Bill to bless Sam's latest house in Springfield. We had a great meal at Bijan's - as usual.

Today I came out to the farm after stopping at Palucca's to pick up pecorino cheese, grated imported parmesan, olive oil, pasta, and tomatoes in a box. Also picked up some imported marinara sauce to try.

Went to farmer's markets in Pittsburg and Carthage yesterday and picked up some wonderful strawberries. My experiment with the mushroom box is going well and I sauteed them in olive oil and garlic tonight. Also added a beef bullion cube to add a little more flavor - I have to overdo the flavor on almost everything to satisfy my taste buds.

I made a decent dent on the No Child Left Behind encyclopedia - and I'm learning more about it in the process which is a good thing.

I worked on the weeds this afternoon and took Shadow on a walk down the driveway. The sunset is great across the wheat field.

Tomorrow I"ll finish the NCLB entry and make some progress on the final version of the draft - made a good start this morning - if I say I only have write a few pages at a time, it goes much better.

I saw a good quote somewhere yesterday:

Did you come here to get answers or to get an education????? That will be a nice response to the students who are always trying to figure out the easiest way to the "right answer" - instead of the being more interested in the learning process.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Reading blogs is like sitting down with a good book and is even more fun - you can skip around and move back and forth and your browser - by indicating "recently visited links" and by the existence of "back" and "forward" buttons - will let you skip around without losing your place.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Oh, and another publisher asked me to do an online project - I'll talk to their rep tomorrow . . .

Today reminded me why I'm in history education in the first place! Had a great meeting with a local assistant superintendent and several history teachers about partnering on a Teaching Traditional American History grant. They really like the idea suggested by another area teacher - to include a master's degree in their 3-year plan. We can do. Some of my ivory tower colleagues will have to look outside the ivory tower but I do have the support of my chair who knows I'm the expert on teacher education. As my older female colleague said - remember we hired you to do teacher education, not to sit in your office . . .

It's a great day to be alive - and wonderfully cool May weather at the farm.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

From Joanne Jacobs:

Know when to fold 'em
A Massachusetts teachers' union official has admitted embezzling $800,000 from the union to support his gambling habit. Via EIA. At least, William Bennett lost his own money.

Walmart to Offer More Books That People Don't Read via Scrappleface:

Wal-Mart To Offer More Books That Few People Read
(2003-05-18) -- Wal-Mart announced today that it will offer more books and recordings that most people don't want. The move comes in response to an article in The New York Times which said that the nation's biggest retailer sells too many conservative and faith-oriented books and videos effectively homogenizing the culture.

"We have no right to force our customers to buy millions of copies of Bernard Goldberg, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, the Left Behind series, the Bible and Veggie Tales videos," said an unnamed Wal-Mart spokesman. "It's our obligation to occupy shelf space with things that our customers don't want to buy."

Editors at The New York Times said they still may exclude Wal-Mart sales figures when compiling the NYT best-seller list.

"If you look at Wal-Mart sales," said an unnamed editor, "You would think that America was made up of generally-conservative people who have faith in God. Here in New York we know that's not true. The best-seller list should reflect the real American culture as we know it."

Posted by Scott Ott | Donate via PayPal | TrackBack | Comments (27) | More News Satire | x

Also from Scrappleface: Bush to Get Bin Laden Like Clinton Did :}

The New York Times has several good articles today - about culture and the internet.

One on blogging - better start writing in more fiction than non-fiction format but that will fit with the inspiration box I bought in the Chicago airport. I like the title of the article - Dating a Blogger . . . and Reading All About It. :}

Another on Google and its role in our culture today.

And then, of course, Walmart.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Jayson Blair Becomes Consultant to Bloggers
(2003-05-17) -- Reporter Jayson Blair, fired from The New York Times, has launched his own business as a consultant and editor for writers of personal weblogs.

Oddly enough, Mr. Blair got the idea from a New York Times story about bloggers reporting on their friends and co-workers causing "hurt feelings, newly wary friends and relatives, and the occasional inflamed employer."

Mr. Blair will use his experience at the Times to help bloggers disguise identities, create more interesting lives for themselves, and "keep out of trouble."

"I'm going to take what I learned in my wide travels for the Times, and use it to benefit humanity," Mr. Blair said. "Jessica Lynch's father once told me, as we sat on his front porch overlooking the tobacco fields and cattle pastures, 'if life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade'."

Mr. Blair said "ongoing personal problems" prevent him from disclosing how much he will charge bloggers for his services.

via Scrappleface, of course

From Professor Blog:

Right-Leaning Students?
Interesting story in the May 7 L.A.Times. It is another one of those "man bites dog" story, expressing "surprise" at the rise in conservative student newspapers at institutions such as UC Irvine, Wingate, and UNC-Charlotte. The wheel is turning, and professors who have brought politics into the academy from their perspective are facing students who view things a bit differently. It seems like colleges are the perfect place for this type of intellectual give-and-take, but i am not sure all of the professors feel that way.

Interesting challenge - the professors choose to politicize the academy and the students demand truly free speech!

Almost back on an even keel in Kansas. We've had nothing but storms and rain but the rain part is a great start to the spring.

The trip home was more tiring than the one over - probably because the 10-hour leg was during the day and there was little sleeping on the flight. Analyze This was a ridiculous movie and the children's movie was shown to one child on board - most parents "escaping their children" had already seen it. When I got to St. Louis at 6pm Central (1 am in Rome) I kept walking around so that I wouldn't fall asleep and miss the last flight to Joplin. The Joplin flight was a bumpy one since there were so many thunderstorms but I was glad to be home.

I went into the office a little Wednesday and a little yesterday - a student actually came in yesterday which is always a good reminder of why I really do like my job besides the petty annoyances. Our new secretary seems like she is off to a good start. She even checked on whether I was "Dr." or "Mrs." - already a nice change from her predecessor. She's also had previous experience, including teaching degrees, and working in academic departments as a secretary so it all should work out for the best. I let her know I would let her get settled in before I started bombarding her with stuff for teacher ed in the fall. :}

The senior female professor has been a rock through all of this and I'm learning more about the new chair's leadership style. I also appreciate the insight of a colleague at one of our sister's school - he handles teacher ed but is also the chair. He said that the problems I'm having with one colleague who refuses to do some simple data collection is not something I needed to deal with - I have the responsibility and not the power. Luckily, he will be seeing my chair next month at a meeting and can talk to him "chair" to "chair." My colleague here is quite simply ignoring the fact that he has had everything explained to him over and over again and that we have to do some of these things to keep our teacher education program - whether he approves or not. My chair and I had a good heart to heart about it and I think he has at least a little better understanding of my viewpoint although I'm concerned he sees it as two faculty disagreeing instead of one trying to make sure we keep a program that deals with 3/4 of our majors and the other one is mainly obstructing it. The other colleague is not recognizing that I don't just do everything I"m told from the outside world and he's not going to get all the personal feedback as long as he treats me this way. He was busy trying to get a meeting called next week and I told the chair that that was definitely the wrong approach - people will only be upset with me when they are asked to come to a meeting when they are not being paid even to teach summer school - let alone come up to campus in between sessions. So I have retreated to the farm for most of the week. The chair has a good intention - he hasn't had meetings in the past when maybe he should have - but this is the wrong time - especially to coddle an old f&*( who doesn't remember very well and won't go check his meeting notes. But it will all work out.

I will work on my entry on "No Child Left Behind" for a history encyclopedia and my Houghton Mifflin project. Then back to Greenbush projects, including writing our latest Teaching Traditional American History grant - Mike has lined up Parsons and possibly Erie - perfectly equidistant on either side of the farm on Highway 59. Better go . . .

Monday, May 12, 2003

I'm so used to my bookmarks on Yahoo that I forgot how to sign in to send posts from Rome and had been trying (unsuccessfully) through instead of

I've had a great vacation with the relatives - the Mathews: Rob, Liz, Sean, Scott, and Shannon. Shannon was just a baby last time I saw her and now is 3 1/2. Sean remembers me from trips to Cincinnati - he's 9 and Scott isn't scared of me anymore. He's 7.

Liz has taken me on some great shopping outings and we headed north to see the Webelo Bridging Ceremony/camping trip that Rob was in charge of this weekend. I've been through St. Peter's Basilica - without standing in line. :} I've eaten some great meals and have also been to a country Italian cooking class today. All kinds of pasta and I ate wild boar and lamb today.

I have a better perspective on work and am ready to go back. But I'm glad the worst part of the trip (the longer flight back to Chicago) is over first.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Professor Blog says it best:

We like to think of ourselves as inhabiting that Ivory Tower, but we wallow in the same much as everyone we look down upon.

ditto (in reference to university admissions policies not promoting student excellence no matter what their skin color/ethnicity)

Apparently the local news was on most of the evening. (I was watching Six Feet Under.) They didn't know how many tornadoes touched down. But this morning I notice we made the New York Times because of the wide swath of storms through Missouri and Kansas. They even shut down the KCI airport for awhile. It came pretty suddenly and reminded people why they have to take these storms seriously. It's too bad several older people around here were killed on their way to shelter and/or their basement. Apparently much of Carl Junction, Missouri, was hit and they won't have school for a few days. I'm glad I stayed out of the path.

Like after any storm, it's a beautiful morning. The attic fan was great for sleeping and the house smells fresh. I will get some swimming in before I head back to town. I reviewed the FolioLive book and may show up for a minute at the workshop but all these meetings about departmental matters has me worn out AND I have spent quite a few hours on the portfolio generation over the last year -I was going to go make an appearance but will see how the morning goes.

My teaching class meets for their "cooperative learning" lesson. We go to a nearby restaurant/bar for lunch and then I leave and they can hang out for awhile. During student teaching next fall, they will be divided by geographical area rather than subject area and won't necessarily be around each other much. All of them have earned As and will be happy campers.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Glad I missed this . . .
I'll need to watch the evening news. I almost went back to town - I would have been right in the middle of this had I gone.

Just had some hail at the farm. I did get in a great 4-wheeler ride just before it hit. Found some more places to wind through in my woody sections. Heard hunter Matt's shotgun this morning at 6am - pretty close to the house - but at least I know he won't aim this way. I hope he got his turkey.

My Starband is back! The tech made that special trip out here to install the new transmitter but it didn't seem to be working when I got here. I called the "tech line" since I am officially certified and it went much faster. They had changed a subcluster on me. The guy wasn't sure I was an installer and asked; my response was that I was and would he like my passcode? I gladly gave it to him. (Remember I spent a few Saturdays ago on the phone with the customer tech people for 5 hours.


Another good item from Tightly Wound:

Refreshing Quote of the Day

From Pay-Per-View only Chronicle, an interesting article by an English professor among physicists, in which he explores the differences in collaboration and collegiality between the disciplines. Reading this explained to me the faith my hard science pals had in peer review versus my scepticism about the process in the humanities. But beyond that, there's this quote:

The story of the Bell Labs physics scandal initially intrigued me because I thought it might turn out to be a scientific version of the culture wars, with scientists coming under attack from groups that help finance them. It didn't turn out that way. ... But humanists have long been embroiled in their own conflicts with the society that finances them--and one of the reasons lies in the way that we raise roadblocks and bar the world from entering our neighborhood. That's the opposite of what we ought to be doing, and it's all the more shameful because humanists are in an unusual and enviable position: The nature of our work makes it easy to open our doors and share that work.

Thank you, professor Cassuto. Part of my extreme disillusionment with the English discipline came from the desperate attempts of faculty to justify its worth by making it more "scientific" and thereby more exclusive. I believe that the worth of humanities education is in teaching subjective versus objective analysis, and in learning how to read, comprehend, ENJOY, and make cogent and accessible arguments about a text. There is value in those skills--the declining quality of debate in this country demonstrates that when the humanities give in to their insecurity and try to add "science" to their field, the students--and by extension, the populace at large--suffer.
posted by Big Arm Woman 5:13 AM

When Grad Students Strike :

The New York Times Magazine is running an article (or is it an editorial?) entitled Eggheads Unite. I was one of a few graduate students who quietly opposed the unionization of graduate assistants at the University of Washington. The question remains for me whether these are employees or apprentices. Far from being oppressed, I felt very well treated as a graduate student. I was embarrassed to see my fellow grads marching for their own community instead of for the truly disadvantaged of Washington State. (Let me include a caveat here: many of those students also worked for those less advantaged, but it still rung a little off-key when they considered themselves somehow disadvantaged.) Part of this also came of being "lifted" from paying tuition to being supported. Those pushing for unionization considered themselves exploited labor, I thought of it as a scholarship and a chance to get teaching experience. Those who were paying for their education would gladly have availed themselves of this "exploitation" rather than working part-time or full-time in real jobs while paying tuition. Moreover, we were paid far more per hour than the folks in the student union who were doing real work.

If the argument is that TAs are an economic rather than an educational decision, explain to me why we don't hire adjuncts instead. I fully support unionization of adjunct and temporary instructors. Here is a market of experienced teachers who are often exploited. (Again, there are the exceptions, but by and large this is the case.) If it is a strict economic decision, it is an easy one: hire temporary, adjunct, and visiting instructors rather than TAs. They have more knowledge and experience, and do not require tuition-waivers.

Many who argue for unionization point to campuses where it has occurred and say that there were no negative consequences. It's hard to imagine that they can be so naive as to think that changes in culture are either so immediate or so measurable.

Maybe they are right. Maybe the university is already too much of a corporation to retain these pre-capitalist ideas of service and apprenticeship. But I hope they are wrong.

Posted by alex at May 3, 2003 10:02 AM | TrackBack

I never understood why having the CHOICE to apprentice and receive (and make the most of) an education that many other people would gladly accept (and be grateful for) is being "exploited." I was sadly disappointed in graduate school to run into more people interested in escaping from or staying out of the real world than in pursuing the "life of the mind." I know each university-setting is different and sometimes even reflects the geographical constraints of the region but, in general, only my professors encouraged this higher pursuit. I was back in school so that I could earn my credentials to teach at the college level. I had a goal in mind and wanted to get there as fast as possible. I thought 26 made me old but quickly found people several years older who had NEVER left school. In other words, their only real life experience was being a student. I'm glad they had it down pat but it was pretty amazing to see their insecurity so often surface as superiority and disdain for others who dirtied their hands (and broke their backs) for a living. We need all kinds of people in this world to do all kinds of jobs and we shouldn't be judgmental about the choices of others - but that usually comes when we're not happy with our own choices. If being a graduate assistant was a forced servitude, I would understand, but it's a choice. And, while in graduate school, you have to make several adult choices about how you will handle everything that is thrown at you. But, you come out stronger in the end. I remember discovering fellow graduate students pushing books behind the shelving in the library so that no one else could find them. Even my junior high students didn't usually stoop that low.

Having sad all that, there are many people genuinely striving to enhance their education in graduate school. It's only a few who can spoil the image of the bunch. I chuckle a bit to myself when I read about a recent unionization vote that did not pass and the losers, like some political party losers I know from the 2000 election, just claim that they "didn't get their message across" - NOT that people got their message and just don't agree.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

We Never Talk Anymore - another good piece of food for thought from Easily Distracted. why do we humans often let the outside world determine more about our self-concept than we ourselves do - the people who know us best????

I just finished a 10-mile bike ride through town - listening to birds and looking at everything blooming - the joys of small town life. :}

Friday, May 02, 2003

Where did the week go? I was more worn out at the beginning than expected - probably because I had worked all weekend. . . . But it was a much more enjoyable week - more time with friends just doing things like going for a walk and going to lunch. I'm pretty excited about today - I'm going to teach a high school class on using primary sources. The National Archives' Digital Classroom has lots of good ideas. Along with that, I'm working on paperwork for the traveling trunk we're trying to create for Project Mine. The irate student is now directing that at my chair since I told her that is where to go next once grades are official on May 20. She sent a long diatribe telling him to straighten me out and he had to reply with a question "What is the specific problem you're having?" - this from a communications major.

We had our departmental banquet Wednesday night. The obstructionist almost jumped up asking if she could speak after she was already more than appropriately recognized. It was a STUDENT recognition banquet, after all, but that fits with her past behavior. She made it quite obvious she had contempt for some of us in the department and that she was really special because she is now buddies with the dean in her new college. (She doesn't understand simple politeness). But a colleague finally helped her conclude by very accurately pointing out that the good thing about history is that she will always be a part of our past. The obstructionist didn't get it but I sure did. As we work on various paperworks required for students, I'm realizing how much a certain colleague let her take care of his responsibilities and he's not going to like that I pointed out that I assumed he was taking care of this and that, if not, it was obvious that advisers should be doing so. The bottom line - no wonder she thought she could tell students what courses to take when she was told to fill out paperwork that I've never seen anyone but faculty do at three other institutions. Sheesh... problems are always more complex than they apear. Thanks for the venting option - luckily this will no longer be a frontburner topic. I was happily surprised this morning to notice that I woke up WITHOUT a clenched jaw. :} Standing up for what is right, even when it ends up with unintended (but positive) consequences is well worth it.

Tightly Wound has another great entry today and the sham of anti-intellectualism in American life. She also points to a Washington Times review of Diane Ravitch's new book, Language Police.

This entry appears to be a great example of tangential thinking. :}

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