Friday, February 28, 2014

I can't believe it is this cold on the last day of February! There is no let up in sight, so March will be coming in like a lion. The cold is what's most memorable from this winter, but it looks like another snowstorm is on the horizon too. But Spring will surely come eventually!

Yesterday was Rosie's 2nd Gotcha Day.

Since I'm all about equal opportunity

Once again, I have had some pent-up things to post but just haven't gotten to it until today. In faith formation (where the kids have been awesome after the email about their behavior a couple weeks ago), I brought in the Bible I used when I was in catechism to show them. One boy looked at the battered little New Testament of the Jerusalem Bible and asked incredulously, "how old are you?" I laughed and said "I'm 52." "You're old!" he said. "Yes, I am old," I responded, "and believe me, you will get there someday. It seems like only yesterday I was your age." He won't understand this for many years, but maybe someday he will remember and it will resonate as the wisdom of elders often does.

I gave both my foundations classes a talking to about their use of electronics in the classroom, and that how apparent it is that they are not reading (the latter was mostly directed at the evening section). The evening section was perfect afterwards. In the day class I still had to call out a few students for nonstop texting, but on Thursday they shaped up.

We did an exercise called "the five most important events in American educational history" that I started using last semester, inspired by this website. The activity is similar to the new fad known as "flipping the classroom." Students individually do a scavenger hunt through this comprehensive online resource to find their five, then work in groups of 4-5 to come up with consensus lists that they write on the board and present to class. At the end I suggest events that might be missing. (Yesterday I added the Old Deluder Satan Act, the Morrill Act, the GI Bill.) Students are engaged by it and it works really well.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Twenty-one years have gone by since then, but they have had absolutely no effect upon my spiritual constitution; they have left not a single trace upon it; on the contrary, I seem to feel several years younger than I felt then. When a man reaches fifty, age seems to suddenly descend upon him like a black cloud. He feels immeasurably old—very much older than he is ever to feel again, I am sure. I doubt if any person ever crosses his fiftieth parallel without experiencing what I have just described. (Mark Twain, 1906)

Friday, February 21, 2014

There has never been a time in the past thirty-five years when my literary shipyard hadn’t two or more half-finished ships on the ways, neglected and baking in the sun; generally there have been three or four; at present there are five. This has an unbusiness-like look, but it was not purposeless, it was intentional. As long as a book would write itself I was a faithful and interested amanuensis, and my industry did not flag; but the minute that the book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures and conducting its conversations, I put it away and dropped it out of my mind. Then I examined my unfinished properties to see if among them there might not be one whose interest in itself had revived, through a couple of years’ restful idleness, and was ready to take me on again as amanuensis.
As I have mentioned recently, I am currently reading volume 2 of Mark Twain's autobiography. Every sentence is a gem. What an insightful way to capture the inspiration that fuels creativity: amanuensis.

 Gina Loves Mark Twain (2007)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I started this post last Tuesday, but didn't get back to it until eight days later. Snow, snow, snow absorbed a lot of time! But what was on my mind was the Mark Twain autobiography. It's a continuous source of joy. I was up to August 31, 1906 in volume 2 at that point.

I am just ticked by a couple of things I've read recently. First, he talks about writing as amanuensis. That the person is just holding the pen, and the words flow out; it isn't laborious at all. It is just transcription, the "writer" is just an effortless pass through. He believed when writing isn't like this, one must stop, let it brew, until the process naturally starts up again.

Next, he writes about going to Onteora for a visit. On October 9, 1906 he wrote:

Onteora was situated high up in the Catskill Mountains, in the [centre] of a far-reaching solitude. I do not mean that the region was wholly uninhabited; there were [farm-houses] here and there, at generous distances apart. Their occupants were descendants of ancestors who had built the houses in [Rip Van Winkle’s time], or earlier; and those ancestors [page 251] were not more primitive than were this posterity of theirs. The city people were as foreign and unfamiliar and strange to them as monkeys would have been, and they would have respected the monkeys as much as they respected these elegant [summer resorters]. The resorters were a puzzle to [them,] their ways were so strange and their interests so trivial. They drove the resorters over the mountain roads and listened in shamed surprise at their bursts of enthusiasm over the scenery. The farmers had had that scenery on exhibition from their mountain roosts all their lives, and had never noticed anything remarkable about it.

This article from the Chronicle made me think about how this money is being wasted in some cases. I am so thankful that this semester is the last one I will be teaching my Tuesday evening foundations class. It's a shame, really, as for many years it was my favorite section, but for the past couple of years, it has been nothing but trouble, and this semester is shaping up the same, sadly.

It isn't large (16) this spring, and I was hopeful that would make it better, but unfortunately that might make it worse! When there is a large enough proportion of students who are not engaged and put in little effort, there aren't enough average and serious students to dilute them, and it ruins the class.

Last night five students didn't show up, and I estimate that half of the students present had not done the reading. They were unresponsive, sat with their heads down, a couple texting on smartphones, others typing on laptops. I had an image of the prepared and participatory students harnessed and pulling a rope, hauling the millstones along. If it drives me crazy as the instructor, I can only imagine how the good students feel.

Are the slackers borrowing money for this? Are their parents giving them a free ride? Either way, they should not waste the money or time. Go get a job in retail for a few years, grow up and come back with some direction and work ethic.

Another rant. I've written before about the campus center dining situation being ruined after Aramark landed the contract in 2013. A few weeks ago I decided to give it another try, and was pleasantly surprised by a salad line (called something like "sticks & stems"). I discovered I could get a custom-made side salad for less than $3, or with avocado, less than $4.

So yesterday I ventured over there again. The line at Sticks & Stems was ridiculous, so I strolled (limped, lol) around to see if there was anything else appealing. Answer: No. The one place I tried was out of hummus. Is all students eat hot pretzels, subs, pizza, bagels and sushi?

I waited on the long Sticks & Stems line. Out of spinach. Wiped out of most other veggies, such as cucumbers. No blue cheese dressing. Salad wound up being half as much as last time I went, in other words not worth $4 or even $3. I will not be going again, I hope aramark improves or at least loses the contract next time it is up for bid.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Friday, February 07, 2014

A public service message brought to you by Rosie & Harry: "Boycott the Olympics."

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

I meant this to be "III" yesterday, but ran out of time. This is immoral, evil, disgusting, horrifying. I am boycotting not just the Olympics, but all thing Russian, forever. I will not stay in a business that is broadcasting the games, I will tell anyone who tries even the briefest mention of the Olympics to me of my outrage.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

I. In faith formation last night, we focused on the Sign of the Cross. We read about its significance, studied the painting "Christ on the Cross" by Barthelemy d'Eyck (15th Century) and made these stained glass (actually plastic) suncatchers.
I was pleased to see this week and last (when we looked at "Four Corners of the World" by Pablo Picasso (1952-54) and read about St. Sebastian), they have learned something unexpected from being in class with us for 1.5 years. The minute they get a handout with graphics on it, even when the image is simply decoration and not part of the formal lesson, they immediately start analyzing the artwork with reactions about what they notice, how they feel, speculation about what the artist meant, and questions.

II. I've read a lot of Mark Twain's writing. I really mean a lot. Currently I am reading Volume 2 of his autobiography. It's such a treat when I stumble across an entry I haven't encountered before! But something is bothering me. Ever since I started to read a lot of his work, I've noticed that the "scholars," those folks who write the introductions and "make their bread"* from being experts, invariably assert that Susy was his favorite daughter. I always found this surprising. True, some people have favorites (although shouldn't) but most people do not, or if they did, they would certainly hide it.

 I had a hard time believing it could be true, but what did I know? At least that was my thinking. Now that I am into Volume 2, and encountering previously unpublished writings, I call BS. They have no clue what they are talking about. Unquestionably he was fond of his eldest daughter, why wouldn't he be? And of course she died as a young woman, which was a terrible blow. But I see not a shred of evidence to support the ridiculous claim of "favorite."

* thanks to Mr. Twain, he loved this phrase