Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I just spent some time searching and adding labels to old posts. I think some of them are not perfect fits for the categories I created, that is the problem with going back and doing this quickly. Oh well. The new posts will fit better I guess - and over time, as I go through, maybe I will be able to clean it up a bit.
The Registrar moved two of my classes, and I was able to secure technology for the other one - so I am finally all set. All the rooms are far from my office, but that is OK. I could use the exercise. My online class is too big this semester, though. Last semester I had only 14 students. This semester I have 30 and students are still asking to get in. I've never seen so much late registration generally and late applications to the graduate program (yes, another of my duties). Anyway, it is always hard to predict enrollment in the online class because of the large number of students who panic and drop in the beginning. I will manage, but small groups will wind up being a misnomer. My Thursday night class is the same size as the online one, which is OK. The other two classes are smaller, 20 and 26 students, respectively.

Last night, after my evening class, as I was packing it in, a student comes up, introduces herself, firmly shakes my hand, and then procedes to say that the material is challenging, her day is long, she had trouble at the end paying attention, and could I please break it up? I wasn't offended or anything, but I'm not sure if it was what she said or the straightforward way she said it that surprised me. I always give a break during the class, but last night, since we switched rooms, which involved walking across campus and took up a lot of time, I didn't bother. I let them out a little early instead. The class was no longer than usual, it just started later and ended earlier. Another complication was that when I got to my originally assigned room, all the students were waiting outside. The door was shut, the instructor and all the students from the earlier class were still inside. They were watching a movie. It was "Shane;" I heard the little boy yelling it at the end. The class should have been over at 4:05, and it was 4:20. My class should have started at 4:15, and it was at least 4:25 before that class ended! What is it this semester? I'm glad to have changed rooms, hopefully it won't happen in my new location.

I got a thrill yesterday. My quote is on the back cover of this book. I was a reviewer, and I did like the title a lot.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I am up to the end of 1864 in Team of Rivals. When I got to the summer of 1864, I was curious about the exact date and other details of my great grandfather's enlistment in the Union Army, so I went on and did some searching. Since genealogy research is an interest of mine, I've had a subscription for a long time, but it has been a while since I last searched it. The search utility, and access to the original documents has improved a lot. They are always adding more databases. After I discovered he enlisted in October 1864 and did some reading about Company F of the 15th NY Volunteer Engineers, I decided to search for a few other folks. My paternal grandparents died when my father was a kid, which of course was long before I was born. I had seen them in the 1920 Federal census for Philadelphia a while ago, and more recently I had located the ship manifest for when they came over to the United States from Sicily in 1913. But a few days ago I found my grandfather's WWI draft registration, it must have been newly added, or at least was only made easily searchable recently. This has us all very excited. The information is interesting - including his exact birthdate, address and that he worked at Hog's Island shipbuilding facility, but what seems to be most touching to all of us is that his signature is on it. His handwriting was nice! Aside from a few pictures, we have nothing this tangible. Seeing something so personal from nearly 89 years ago makes him more real, more vibrant.
How sad. RIP Barbaro, another casualty of a disgusting, evil "sport."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

One really annoying thing this semester is that I didn't get even one "smart" room for my classes - usually I get at least one, if not two of the three in a smart room (meaning there are a computer and desktop projector). Over the years, I have made powerpoint presentations for almost all of my class sessions, and making overheads is a real hassle. Plus, I demonstrate some things on the web in a few classes. But when my class is in my building or the one next door, and you land a room with no technology, we have a computer guy who will bring a computer cart with a desktop projector to the class, and you can schedule it for the whole semester.

So while it isn't as good as a smart room, it works OK. However, when your class is in any other building, you have to go through the campus audio visual department for a computer and projector. This semester, I have no classes in my building at all, and only one of my classes is next door - one is two buildings away, one is across campus in Siberia. So not only do you have to go through audio visual, but you have to pick the cart up and return the cart yourself (which means going to the lecture center area where the audio visual office is located, and wheeling the cart from there through the tunnels to the classroom. This includes having to take the cart down and up a "hill" in the tunnels since you can't use the stairs), and you also are only able to schedule to have the cart two weeks in advance. The audio visual folks are nice enough, but what a hassle! Since I am always running late, I have no idea whether this will work for me. You'd think the university could use some of the budget to wire more rooms! Or at least hire some student assistants to schlep the carts around.

I am trying it this week, but I am afraid that I may have to go back to overheads. Here's why. I don't give my posts titles, but if I did, call this "a lesson on how not to be collegial."

I got the computer and projector from audio visual yesterday for my afternoon class. When I got to the building, the class that is in the room before mine was still in session. It was early, so that is not unexpected. So I waited, and waited, and waited. The class is supposed to get out at 1:05, and mine starts at 1:15. Well, the instructor opened the door shortly after 1:05, but the students didn't leave. They were all crowded around his desk, and he still had the overhead set up. I couldn't even get the computer cart in the door, and my students could not get in to sit down. So forget being able to get set up and test everything in advance.

Finally, at 1:15, I shoved the cart in the door, but the crowd of students didn't budge and the professor acted like I wasn't even there. He was youngish (30s), long, bushy hair and beard. Stereotypical sociology or anthropology type professor. Seemed nice enough, but extremely disorganized, and still going over details with the students crowded around him. The overhead he had up had a tiny font and was a complete page of words, like he printed a word document of lecture notes out on a slide. Finally, probably about 5 minutes into my class, he got his stuff together and said, "sorry. First week of class and everything. Do you need the overhead projector?" I said, "Umm, no. I have a computer cart." I wanted to say "can you spell O-F-F-I-C-E H-O-U-R-S?" But I was pleasant instead.

After he left, I asked my students who he was, and they told me, also his department. I was only curious, not planning to do anything with the information. (Not that I could even if I was so inclined.) Then one student volunteered, "he will do that every class." Great! Well, after a nightmare of getting everything set up and one call to audio visual when it wasn't working right, I finally got started. Then, at 2:32 (my class ends at 2:35) I dismissed my students so I could unplug everything, erase the board, and get out of the room and not be rude or clueless like the guy before me.

The minute the door opened, the students from the next class poured in, and so did the professor. She flung her briefcase on the desk, even though my stuff was still there, and stood nearby, acting very impatient! She began to do housekeeping stuff with the students that had already arrived, even though I was still snaking the electrical cords out from between the desks and rolling up the ethernet cable (one other irritation is that there seems to be only one working jack in the room and it Siberia). Anyway, her class doesn't even start until 2:45! Unbelievable. So needless to say, the experience confirmed my suspicion that I will have to use overheads instead, because that will take less time to set up and break down, except for on a select few occasions when I absolutely must use technology. At least I can avoid the "hill" in the tunnels.

To top it off, I got to my evening class, the one in the building next door...and no computer or desktop projector had been delivered. At least I remembered to bring a marker (despite the absence of technology, the room has a white board rather than a chalkboard).

But it is kind of funny for the afternoon class to be scheduled in a room after a professor who is so laid back, and before one who is so uptight. That's me: ultimately middle of the road.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A very happy announcement. After years of whispers, and appearing last year on the diocese's closure list, our little mission chapel will remain open with no change of status!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Classes started yesterday. I was feeling very "blah," mostly because I was tired. My owl tendencies resurface when I don't have to go to campus for a long stretch, and I find myself staying up way too late, reading. So I'll have to stop now that I'm back on a schedule.

To combat the "blah," I wore a suit yesterday. That is something I have not done since my days in administration. It didn't do much to perk me up, but I think it got students' attention. The two classes I had seemed OK, hard to tell this early.

For the evening class, there was a typo on the schedule. It said "ED" instead of "ES," meaning that the class was in Earth Science, when I thought it was in Education (my building). So I was about 15 minutes late! Once I figured out the mistake, I thought Earth Science was only two buildings away, but when I turned out to by Physics. Turns out that Earth Science is across campus. I didn't take my coat, so I had to use the tunnels to get there, something I usually avoid. Hopefully my blah + suit + lateness won't cause the students to drop!

We got a little snow today. This usually wouldn't be worth mentioning, but it has been a snowless winter. As always, it reminded me of Rudy. I imagined him dashing outside to roll in it. I have been thinking a melancholy thought: that the lack of snow this winter and last is because he isn't here to enjoy it.
Thursday Threesome
::No California Oranges this Year!::

Onesome: No California-- drivers allowed! Do you drive and talk on the cell phone? Come on, fess up...

Well, since I don't drive, and I don't have a cell phone - the answer would have to be no.

Twosome: Oranges-- and Apples and Pears, oh my! Do you have a favorite fruit?

I like most fruit, though especially apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, pineapple, and bananas.

Threesome: this Year-- I'm going to _______ (go ahead; fill in the blank. No, it's not a resolution !)

Hmm. Not sure! Let's see what 2007 brings.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Long time no post! I spent several days in Samsonville. Threw in the towel on the wireless and just used wire instead, and it works great. That is a relief. Hopefully, Staples won't give me a hard time about taking the stuff back. It has gone from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold. Classes start Thursday, and I still have some things to finish to be ready.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday Threesome
::College Bowl Games::

Onesome: College-- playoffs? Yes or no? ...or 'who cares?' Is the current BCS system something you think works or would prefer things a bit more 'tidy'?

If I am restricted to those choices, I guess "who cares?" I don't even know what is BCS. I am not a sports person at all. Now Sam, on the other hand, is completely a sports dog. I don't know how that happened, but he's my first truly athletic dog.

Twosome: Bowl-- of cherries? Chips? Tofu? What's on your snack list during a game. ...or a favorite show?

Gee, is this a TV oriented question, or what? See Onesome, above. I think my TV would stop working if I put on a sports program. Favorite show, hmmm. I try not to eat while watching television, and I don't have a lot of favorite shows. But I guess cookies and milk are favorite snacks of mine. Both dogs (Sophie especially) love them too (my cat Edna loves milk), and sometimes their demands are what sparks me to get the snacks. I also like Polar Old Fashioned Golden Ginger Ale. That's the only kind of soda I enjoy at all. I like Culligan water a lot too, and usually that's what I drink when I watch television or a movie.

Threesome: Games-- within games: if you're a sports fan is there any sort of 'inner game' you like to watch during the contest? I'm thinking in terms of line work in football or post play in basket ball. ...and if you're not into sports, how about something similar in your favorite pastime?

I don't have any clue what this question means. And since I don't know what is line work or post play (aside from the generic meaning of the words), I have no idea what to compare it to in my favorite pastimes. Reading? Maybe examining the dust jacket or reading the chapter notes at the end? Gardening? Digging up the soil in preparation? Watering afterwards? Browsing in a garden center or buying seeds? Really, I haven't a clue!


I haven't made much progress on anything work-related during the break. Which means I have to update syllabi, my online class, my WebCT pages, write new assignments, and send emails to all students in my last semester's classes with a breakdown of their grades. I thought I might have done all of this already, but instead I have been cooking, sleeping, surfing, and reading. I am about 1/3 of the way into A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I got it for Christmas (2005!) and it has been waiting for a year. She writes well and it is a fascinating book, especially for a history buff like me.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Yesterday, we went to the governor's inaugeration concert at the Times Union Center. Performers included Natalie Merchant, Ben Vereen, James Taylor, and Jimmy Fallon was the MC. The arena was only about 2/3 full which was a shame. All the media was saying that it was a "free concert" and technically that was true, but the average person couldn't get tickets. Bob tried in early December and the website wasn't working right. You had to be connected to an organization like the legislature or a labor union or something to get a ticket. Which was too bad, because I'm sure there were ordinary people who would have loved to go if they could have. Probably a lot of people who got tickets through their jobs blew off going once the day arrived because they didn't feel like it or were hung over from New Year's Eve or something. My nephew had 7 tickets and he only used 4.

It was great, overlooking the political BS. I mean I like Spitzer and everything, and I'm glad he is governor, but I can do without all the insulting and unrealistic hoopla of the speeches about him being the savior of our crappy state! Give me a break! Also, Jimmy Fallon seemed totally unprepared at times - I'm not sure if he didn't prepare enough jokes or what but it was almost embarrassing. One group was late coming out to the stage and Jimmy Fallon had a hard time filling up the few minutes while we were waiting! Now what MC wouldn't prepare some material in case that happened? Or be able to come up with something off the top of their head? Ben Vereen and James Taylor were both great. Natalie Merchant is my favorite of all the performers, but it was really obvious that she is totally ignorant. At one point between songs, she was making some compliment about Spitzer's election and she said something about the next 6 years. She didn't know that the governor's terms is 4 years! Wow, and they think we should listen to celebrities about political stuff, eh?