Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's Not New

It's raining . . . . again and I'm busy in a project.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rainy Weekend

The family and friend time has been good but the rain yesterday and the increasing rain and thunderstorms today means I'll head home early - just too much to do. Having the internet at the lake is great (it's what I'm on now) but not the same comfort as being in my own house. And there will be more family time next weekend with the cousins in Cincinnati.

Wednesday is a personal appointment day to get myself ready for the next month of busy activities. I am disappointed because it appears we didn't get any new history grants but there is certainly enough to keep me busy. I am evaluating one grant in Santa Fe in the new round so that will mean I'll have more time head out that way - and you really do have to drag me to SF kicking and screaming, as you may know from previous blog posts.

I haven't spent as much time in Second Life this week except for the conference but, when I was there, I learned about some new tools that may be useful in introducing teachers and my pre-service teacher undergrads to some new approaches to studying primary sources as well as to the virtual world of SL.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

High School Musical

I heard a piece on NPR this morning about the high schools putting on the musical adaptation of High School Musical.

I'm wondering if there's a connection between this and the popularity of shows like American Idol? Musicals had somewhat fallen by the wayside as a _school-wide_ phenomenon and seems to be resurging. Maybe it's because as everyone sees the possibility of their being a star, the musical gives them an opportunity even if they aren't part of the "music clique" or "choir clique" at school. So, maybe this is an example of modern culture opening up more traditional opportunities?

When I was a kid, I was in two plays after my mom had played Mrs. Upson in a community production of Mame. I had the opportunity to be a Toreadorable in Gypsy and I don't recall the second one except that I liked how organized the director was - she blocked off when we had to be there instead of having to spend every night for 3 months at the production location.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Civil War in 4 Minutes on YouTube

History News Network: "CLIOPATRIA: A Group Blog

Ralph E. Luker
The Civil War in Four Minutes

The American Civil War lasted for four years. YouTube maps its major fronts and counts its Northern and Southern casualties in four minutes.

This has some interesting possibilities for visual learners. . .

Fishing in Kansas City

www.kansascity.com | Front Page

The first ad that came up this morning on this page was for Kansas City's "first web-only fishing show" . . ..

Monday, May 21, 2007

Teacher's Pet

This morning's email of the Chronicle stories contains an essay about where a creative writing professors falls on the age-old question of how we spread our limited time and energy among our students who also have limited time and energy:

But is it so wrong to offer more attention, more feedback, to the student who seems to have the best chance of success? Not the one who wears the nicest clothes or has the famous mother or even the one who reminds you most of your young self. But the one who seems to have the talent and the perseverance and therefore the best chance of going forth and practicing his or her craft in a way that makes the university proud and the world a better place?

This question is especially important in the course I teach for pre-service teachers right before their semester-long professional semester centered around student teachers. By that point, they are seniors and should have at least a relatively clear understanding of where they are going in their professional lives given the numerous hoops, including national high stakes testing, they have to jump through to get to that point.

However, I often find that there are still amazingly few who are there because they have been rewarded either for being a nice kid or for working the system. It's not a question of whether they deserve to get to that point but, instead, a question of their willingness, or shall I say, unwillingness, to do what it takes to reach the finish line. I make it quite clear that if their goal is to do the least work possible to get the grade, they aren't going to earn an A in the course. (I found a great quote from Liz Lawley of mamamusings.net several years back that basically explains why A is not a grade given for just meeting the requirements.)

And, to be honest, is not entirely their fault. I know my colleagues' strengths and weaknesses and they know mine. Our human nature wants us to give students the benefit of the doubt of their potential even when they aren't performing right now.

However, as one of the last gatekeepers before they enter the world on the other side of the desk, it is my responsibility not to impose those who aren't capable on the students in my community who realistically will also one day be my students. Obviously, the final gatekeepers are the principals and superintendents that choose to hire our graduates or not to hire them.

So, if you take a minute to read the Chronicle story, you'll see that we're not talking about rewarding the student who just flatters the teacher but instead the one who shows the most potential in the classroom but, most importantly as the author points out, the willingness to work hard to do what it takes to be a teacher - something I consider a calling and not just a job where you may be done with your official day by 5pm.

On the other hand, the point where I have to differ with the essay author is regarding the somewhat quiet student in the back. The student that is not comfortable speaking in front of his peers will most likely not be willing to speak, let alone speak authoritatively enough to maintain classroom discipline, to a room full of 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds, some of whom are more often than not rolling their eyes at what is being taught. It takes a special person to be a teacher.

Furthermore, I'm in a field - history and social studies - in which there is a glut of teachers. We are certainly not part of the "increasing demand for teachers." And I would rather know that the students who go out with As in our final "assessment course," are among the best out there and that principals and superintendents at least believe they can place some weight on our evaluations from the ivory tower as they judge our students' potentials for success in the real world.

Any supporting or opposing thoughts are welcome!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday and Sabbatical

My sabbatical is almost officially over given that summers are a separate entity. I can't believe how fast it has gone but I feel like I have crammed every possibility opportunity into the 9 months. Italy, a cruise, Michigan, Boston . . ... I still chuckle at the people who ask me how I like my time off. :-) As usual with me, I was busier during my time off than when I am on 'regular' duty.

There are some new 'features' at my campus when I return. One that will be a visibly important benefit is that we have an actual grants officer now who also experience in the real world of grants. That will allow me to focus on the contents and narrative parts I do best and someone else can worry about some of the mechanics, meeting institutional and government guidelines, etc., because that it officially their job. My hope is also that this person will help others on campus not as familiar with grants understand what a truly group collaborative effort they are in order to be successfully written and implemented.

I've been able to delve into some technology realms - including the unexpected all-consuming world of Second Life - as part of sabbatical. The time at Matrix at Michigan State was invaluable - seeing the people labor and expertise it takes to get everything going and to keep it going - Energizer Bunnies all . . .

I wish I would have had more downtime but I just need to do a better job of taking time out occasionally from 80-hour to 100-hour self-imposed workweeks so that I have a fun break before hitting a wall that totally shuts me down and makes me feel guilty - both for not working and for not enjoying the time off.

The only goal I haven't achieved - or at least I'm not where I want to be - is in writing about what I am doing and getting my work out there where it needs to be seen instead of being frustrated by others write what I should have been writing about much earlier. I just need to set aside time each day and also concentrate more analytically on what it takes to write instead of being frustrated by a blank screen first thing in the morning. I do need to take more time to read (not only websites but TRADITIONAL BOOKS) in order to write more consistently.

I'm starting to get closer to that goal with the reading I started this afternoon - Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. It started as an article in Wired and the book was written via a website with all the inherent feedback that provides. Just from reading the introductory material, I'm impressed with the variety of experts he was able to get assistance from while working on this project. This is the kind of thinking I want my brain to do. And, it's quite unusual that, as an author and idea mean, he is the first one to point out all the people whose thinking helped get him there.

So, now to go to www.longtail.com

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Working Outside

I've been busy catching up outside this week and handling repair issues that have been hanging out a long time (and not necessarily because I didn't get to them . . . :-) ). It's been great weather and I do love seeing immediate results from my work - the joys of weedeating. And so far, I'm keeping myself from getting poison ivy. Jumping in the shower immediately plus applying Ivy Block beforehand makes all the difference I think.

Shadow has lost his observation privileges given his last adventure off the property a few weeks ago. His bad hearing and eye sight (he's obviously following his nose) make it even more worrisome. So, if he's not sitting on the fourwheeler, he's in the car so he doesn't walk away without my knowing about it because I'm getting equipment ready, etc.

I made a great dent in the weedeating yesterday and spread weed killer around the house. Now it needs to have water added and I need to finish the weedeating. Then it's blowing away the excess and spraying more weedkiller along the driveway so I can stay on top of it. The rain the last several weeks meant my schedule didn't connect with staying quite on top of it. But it keeps getting better all the time. And now that I have learned to change the heads on the weedeater - life is MUCH better. Besides putting a stop to the rotation, you have to first find where the little stopper goes ALL the way in on the circumference instead of just up against. What a PhD doesn't teach you. :-)

There's family work to do tomorrow and then it's off to the lake for the weekend.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thanks for the Memory - Chronicle article on Technology

Chronicle Careers: 5/14/2007: Thanks for the Memory: "When that time comes, I'll just be glad if professors haven't been replaced by downloadable avatars from the textbook companies."

This is interesting given that I have recently created my own avatar in Second Life and have seen the possibilities of content within that second life . . .

Sunday, May 13, 2007

History and Technology

I've been thinking a great deal about how best to organize and access history-related content (or any -related content) on the web and it's clear that metadata is the key to a working and efficient database application. Furthermore, it's essential to have a smart search interface such as that developed by google to both anticipate what a user might be looking for AND suggest alternate (sometimes correct :-) ) spellings and/or topics. Someone in a meeting last week suggested like the Amazon interface.

Speaking of Amazon, if you haven't been keeping up with their business model, it's worth nothing that they have gone well beyond books and even other consumer products. Now, they are leasing out server space and actual physical space at Amazon shipping facilities to smaller vendors. Jeff Bezos mentioned that he knew if his business needed these parts of the business chain, others did, too. And, he could make money off of providing them for smaller companies at much lower prices for the companies in question but at a significant source of profit for Amazon. I only wished I had realized this before their last stock price spike based on their reporting said news.

This week if full of phone conferences. Just 3 weeks until the family get together and the whirl of summer teacher workshops. At least this year, I didn't lose track of the end of June and the July 4 holiday. Last year, I added a week of activities without the requisite number of 7 days with which to do those things and ended up on the road WAY too much all at once.

This year is deciding whether or not to attend another high school reunion. They are a bit anti-climatic given that they have been held every 5 years and I have gone every time. Time will tell.

My new vehicle starts going through the production line on Monday so it should be here within about 2 weeks since it's just down in Arlington, TX, and doesn't have to jump on a train to get here. I'm glad I decided on the Tahoe Z71. I was considering the Yukon Denali - but my neighbor 3 doors down just bought one and I like to be a bit more unique - especially in not having the same vehicle as my retired neighbor. :-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Tudors: Showtime in Second Life

The Story of My “Second Life” � The Tudors: Showtime in Second Life

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

www.kansascity.com | 05/09/2007 | Greensburg devastation followed by political storm

www.kansascity.com | 05/09/2007 | Greensburg devastation followed by political storm: "Greensburg devastation followed by political storm
Democrats, GOP now try to becalm the flare-up over the diversion of disaster gear to Iraq.
The Kansas City Star

The Greensburg tornado has turned into a political storm.

It started when Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said a lack of National Guard equipment would slow recovery efforts, because much of it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given the political black eye that President Bush still wears over his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Sebelius’ comments about Greensburg struck a nerve.

The Republican White House was snappish. Spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday morning that Sebelius had asked only for “FM radios.”

He also appeared to lecture the governor about how to seek help from the government: “If you don’t request it, you’re not going to get it.”"

Wacky Packages T-Shirts

Wacky Packages T-Shirts

I _loved_ these t-shirts - one of the things I wish I had kept over the years. My early signs of being an "individual" showed up this way - I wore them over my school uniforms that were gray and red jumpers (which I preferred to the uniform skirts because I didn't have as much trouble keeping my shirt tucked in.

A real blast form the past!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

HistoryTalk: There is No Millennium Generation

HistoryTalk: There is No Millennium Generation

Where are these students? Who has them in class? The digital generation strikes me as the most unexamined assumption in contemporary business and education culture. I teach at a metro university in a relatively affluent area of the US. One would expect that my students would be representative of the “raised-by-computers” generation. They are not.

In her post, Paula links to the New York Times story and the TeacherTube video related to the "digital generation." Interesting food for thought for anyone interested in the future of teaching, studying, researching, and writing history.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Confessions of a Community College Dean: Telling Without Telling

Confessions of a Community College Dean: Telling Without Telling: "Over time, you learn that some people just have issues with authority, and like to gain a sense of control by playing bizarre mindgames. Don't engage."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bloggers and the AHA

This is an interesting post at Cliopatria - they had a great idea about proposing a panel composed of bloggers not about their blogs. EXCEPT, they forgot the gender diversity requirement of the organization. It's also been interesting to watch Cliopatria develop - it still reflects the inherent gender leanings of the profession. Personally, they are nothing but gracious, but simply look at the postings by women versus men and come to your own conclusions. It would be an interesting point to discuss - is the history blogosphere much different than the rest of the history profession?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Inside Virginia Tech Tragedy

I was browsing channels late this afternoon and discovered that Bill Kurtis has a special tonight on the VA Tech tragedy. His work is always interesting and provides great food for thought. Plus, he grew up and his family still has property (including the original Little House on the Prairie site) not too far of a drive from here. He's done quite a bit to rebuild the small town nearby.

The rain has stopped for a bit but more is on the way. I did finish an evaluation project this afternoon and really enjoyed the mental challenge and analytical tasks involved.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Native American Zuni Fetish Meaning

Native American Zuni Fetish Meaning

What is a fetish?

American Indians have used fetishes throughout recorded history, especially the Indians of the Southwest. A fetish is an object which is believed to have magic power. Fetishes may be of any form or material, but they all have one purpose - to assist man against any real or potential problems. The problems can be those of the mind, body or universe.

Fetishes can be owned by an individual, family, clan, kiva society or an entire tribe. Special care must be taken by an individual to feed and admire the fetish. They are believed to feed on cornmeal while they are kept in a special pot or pouch. Ground turquoise is often mixed with the cornmeal.

Fetishes are decorated with turquoise, arrowheads, coral, etc. as a means of adornment. This is to show affection and appreciation by the maker and/or owner. The better treatment a fetish receives, the better performance it is likely to provide.

Most fetishes relate to animals. Usually they are animals of prey, which are acknowledged as the most powerful providers in life, therefore they are accepted as having great powers and strong hearts.

The Zuni Indians of New Mexico believe strongly in six cardinal guardian fetishes. Each is symbolic of a direction and has a specific color which is synonymous with that direction. The guardian fetish of the North (yellow) is the mountain lion. The South (red) is the badger. The West (blue) is the bear. The East (white) is the wolf. Additionally, the mole is the guardian of the nadir (inner earth - black) and Zepath (sky - any color) is the eagle.

I've started collecting these when I go to Santa Fe. I didn't realize they were supposed to bring such powerful positives.

Politics in Academe

Thanks to Cliopatria for a link to this article:

The New York Sun

May 2, 2007 edition

Mark Moyar, Historian of Vietnam, Finds Academe Hostile to a Hawk

Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 30, 2007

Mark Moyar doesn't exactly fit the stereotype of a disappointed job seeker. He is an Eagle Scout who earned a summa cum laude degree from Harvard, graduating first in the history department before earning a doctorate at the University of Cambridge in England. Before he had even begun graduate school, he had published his first book and landed a contract for his second book. Distinguished professors at Harvard and Cambridge wrote stellar letters of recommendation for him.

Yet over five years, this conservative military and diplomatic historian applied for more than 150 tenure-track academic jobs, and most declined him a preliminary interview. During a search at University of Texas at El Paso in 2005, Mr. Moyar did not receive an interview for a job in American diplomatic history, but one scholar who did wrote her dissertation on "The American Film Industry and the Spanish-Speaking Market During the Transition to Sound, 1929-1936." At Rochester Institute of Technology in 2004, Mr. Moyar lost out to a candidate who had given a presentation on "promiscuous bathing" and "attire, hygiene and discourses of civilization in Early American-Japanese Relations."

It's an example, some say, of the difficulties faced by academics who are seen as bucking the liberal ethos on campus and perhaps the reason that history departments at places like Duke had 32 Democrats and zero Republicans, according to statistics published by the Duke Conservative Union around the time Mr. Moyar tried to get an interview there.

I, too, find it interesting that many in academe that I meet simply can't understand how someone doesn't necessarily agree with them on politics and yet possesses genuine intelligence. Even some of my most liberal friends have intervened to let others at the table know to back off from their insults. Our job as professors is to make students think - not indoctrinate them.

New Dog Breeds

This came via Kevin Jarrett:

These new combination dog breeds are now recognized by the AKC:

* Collie + Lhasa Apso: Collapso, a dog that folds up for easy transport
* Spitz + Chow Chow: Spitz-Chow, a dog that throws up a lot
* Pointer + Setter: Poinsetter, a traditional Christmas pet
* Malamute + Pointer: Moot Point, owned by….oh, well, it doesn’t matter anyway
* Great Pyrenees + Dachshund: Pyradachs, a puzzling breed
* Pekingnese + Lhasa Apso: Peekasso, an abstract dog
* Irish Water Spaniel + English Springer Spaniel:Irish Springer, a dog fresh and clean as a whistle
* Labrador Retriever + Curly Coated Retriever: Lab Coat Retriever, the choice of research scientists
* Newfoundland + Basset Hound: Newfound Asset Hound, a dog for financial advisors
* Terrier + Bulldog: Terribull, a dog that makes awful mistakes
* Bloodhound + Labrador: Blabador, a dog that barks incessantly
* Collie + Malamute: Commute, a dog that travels to work
* Deerhound + Terrier: Derriere, a dog that’s true to the end
* Bull Terrier + Shitzu: Bull….. Oh, never mind!

For now, I'll just stick with rescuing small poodles from the pound or from animal control rescue groups.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tuesday in Second Life

I had some productive meetings today - which is always nice. I also met someone who is doing a great deal in Second Life in Real Life. I'm also finally meeting more like-minds in SL.

My six-week "opening" of not being on the go constantly is quickly passing by. The rain for most of this week will help keep me near the computer, however.

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