Burn, baby, burn

28 04 2016

I am notably flexible when it comes to paper deadlines—and that is biting me in the ass this week.

I give my students a due date, then, a week or two before the due date, tell them that if anyone wants more time, s/he needs only email me prior to that due date and I’ll give them a week extension, no questions asked. (More than a week requires an explanation.)

It’s easy enough to do: I don’t have TAs so I don’t have to worry about disrupting someone else’s schedule, and my classes are small enough (35 or under) that, even with multiple classes, I can get the grading done.

Why not just make the deadline the week-later date? Well, then I’d have to be a bitch about deadlines, lay on penalties, and otherwise stress out all concerned. This way, I have the flexibility to offer my students flexibility—something which is appreciated by all concerned.

Anyway, this usually works out fine, but I am currently grading papers and projects for all of my classes and, well, that’s where the ass-biting comes in. It’s actually more of an minor ass-nibbling, as I’m on spring break so do have the time to grade (while also still having some time to break).

Still, all that grading is officially the reason why I’m not writing much on my blog this week.

All of that said (she said in a very long preamble), I couldn’t pass up this exquisite put-down:

Sven Mary, the attorney for accused Paris bomb suspect Salah Abdeslam, said his client had “the intelligence of an empty ashtray”.

Not just an ashtray—an empty ashtray.

Beautiful.

h/t The Stranger

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Rolling in the deep

28 10 2015

There was a Republican debate tonight and plenty o’ grading for my Friday class. So what did I do?

Watched interviews with Adele on YouTube.

I’m not necessarily a huge fan of her music—I mean, I like her husky voice and retro-soul sound and all, but she doesn’t set my hair on fire—but I am quite a fan of her.

This video is part of the reason why. Start watching about the 9:10 mark:

She starts a bit low-key, but once she gets rollin’, well, who wouldn’t want to hang out with her?

Still got to get that grading done, tho’.





Exposing every weakness

24 11 2014

Break out the champagne: I told myself that I would finish grading the research papers over the weekend—and I finished grading the research papers over the weekend!

Well, okay, I had two to do tonight (finished before 9!), but, c’mon, I’m givin’ myself the win.

What I am not mentioning, of course, is that I had the papers for 10 days before I sat down to grade them, and that had I really been on the ball, I’d have either gotten these puppies marked last week or graded a few every night so that a weekend grading flurry would have been unnecessary.

A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha—“graded a few every night”—like that would ever happen!

I get shit done, I do, but pretty much only when I have to. At some point “two weeks” fixed itself in my noggin as a reasonable deadline for returning papers, so ever since then, I take two weeks to grade, even if I end up doing all of the grading a day or two before that deadline.

More-or-less finishing the papers two whole (well, okay, not really whole, as I didn’t put down the pencil until Sunday night, and, y’know, that whole 2-papers-on-Monday-thing, but go with me, here, people) days before I hand them back?

I feel like the goddamn Batman of grading.





Stand up for your rights

10 06 2014

All professors hate grading.

Okay, I know, I shouldn’t presume to speak for all professors everywhere, especially since I’m just a punk adjunct and lack the tenure Real Professors™ have, but on this issue, I’m pretty confident that I speak for every professor everywhere ever.*

(*Except for the sadists who see grading as an opportunity to inflict pain, and those who think grading provides an excellent opportunity for students to lea—no, wait, the latter are graduate students and ABDs who’ve yet to have their pedagogy snapped into reality.)

Anyway. I hate grading, and while I try very hard to grade in a thoughtful and conscientious manner, with every paper I pick up I have to fight the impulse to rush through and offer some bullshit “whatever” comment before dashing off the only thing most students care about: the grade.

Except, this summer, this session, I might actually enjoy reading my students’ papers.

Well, maybe “enjoy” is too strong of a word, but it’s possible that it won’t entirely suck.

I’m teaching a course I’ve taught once before—women and politics—but instead of having them write papers anchored in the required readings as I did the last time out, this time they’re writing one short and two longer papers on, yep, a woman in politics.

The first paper is a short bio, pretty much straight-up description. The second paper focuses on the movement or party in which the woman worked, and the third, an analysis of her role in that movement and her/its impact on society.

My students have picked Jeannette Rankin, Ruth First, Yuri Kochiyama, Aun San Suu Kyi, Denise Oliver, and the Mirabel sisters.

Awesome.

Yes, it helps that this is a very small class, but this is a Murderer’s Row lineup.

Well done, students. Well done.





Teacher tells you stop your playing

5 12 2013

Oh my god oh my god oh my god do I hate grading.

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but no, I’m not. I mean, I am, but I still hate it.

So, cats.

Ahh, pretty, pretty kitty

Ahh, pretty, pretty kitty

Finally, a profile shot.

Finally, a (somewhat blurred) profile shot.

The cats, the cats I don’t hate.





Don’t forget your books

16 01 2013

Yes, I am going to comment on David Brooks’s syllabus and no, I am not going to make fun of it.

Easy stuff first: attendance and participation–20%; two 2500-word essays, 40% each. That’s not far from my 300-level bioethics course: 20% A&P, 20% science quiz, two research papers, ~2500 words, 30% each.

No, what caught my eye was the reading list: Look at all of those books!

General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman” by Ed Cray

“Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do And Who We Should Be” by Mark Schwen and Dorothy Bass

Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy by Donald Kagan

“Augustine of Hippo” by Peter Brown

“How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer” by Sarah Bakewell

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

“The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist” Dorothy Day

The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niehbuhr

“Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

I’d rather have the students read Pericles (via, say, Thucydides—and hey, let’s toss in the Melian dialogue while we’re at it) than read about Pericles—ditto Augustine and Montaigne—but if the Kagan, Brown, and Bakewell books include large chunks of these thinkers’ words, it’s defensible.

I like the Dorothy Day (of course), think de Tocqueville would have been better than Burke (and, perhaps, Niehbuhr), and while I have the Kahnemann book on my to-read list, I wonder what he’ll do with it. Berlin, eh, but perhaps fitting.

I also think  “The Character Course” would be a better title than “The Humility Course”—I think a fair amount of the snark is due to the title itself (the other part, of course, due to Brooks himself)—but it’s the content that matters, and, again, the content is defensible.

That’s not a major endorsement, of course, but its minimalism isn’t meant as a slam. It’s hard to put together a syllabus, especially the first time, and what’s on the page and what’s in the classroom are not always in sync. And that were I to teach a course on, say, political character, I’d probably keep Pericles (and the Melians) and Augustine and Day, add Plato and Machiavelli (of course), perhaps Voltaire, probably something from Foucault’s History of Sexuality, focusing on ethos and self-care. Something from Mandela. Portions of the Nixon tapes, perhaps. Some James Baldwin.

At least, that’s what I’d like to offer; I wouldn’t actually be able to do so: There is no way I could assign that many texts. My previous chair actively discouraged me from assigning too much reading (too much for a 200-level course: more than 25-50 pages a week), although the current chair might not have a problem with my overloading 300-level students.

More to the point, the students wouldn’t do the reading. I got my 100-level American government students to read the text by assigning near-weekly quizzes, and by requiring them to pull from the supplemental book (journalistic essays) for their take-home mid-terms. I’m wondering how to get my 100-level contemporary issues students to read their short-short pieces before class, and am tentatively planning to require them to hand in a brief summary of the readings before each and every class.

In other words, if they’re not being graded directly on the readings themselves, they will not do them.

I recognize this with my bioethics class, and while there is a fair amount of reading on the syllabus, I’d bet that more than half the class doesn’t bother to do all of the reading. Why would they? No final exam.

Given that, I’ve concentrated less on the answers the various authors provide and more on the questions. They won’t remember the readings, may not need most of them for their papers, so if I want them to get anything out of the class, I have to find something that will stick to the roofs of their minds.

(Another image I’ve used? Questions-as-earwigs.)

I ask them questions, I poke their answers, turn them around and push ’em right back at ’em. Oh, you think this is settled? Well then, what about that? What, you say that that has nothing to do with this? What about p, q, r? If you approve of red, why not orange? On what basis do you disapprove of triangles?

I can do this because these kinds of troubles are inherent in the material itself; when I half-joke that I aim to trouble you, it’s less about what I come up with sui generis than what I can point to in the rumpled textures of, say, enhancement technologies. Having ranged over this ground for some years, I’ve become, to switch metaphors, pretty good at kicking up the artifacts half-buried in the dirt—and showing them how to do so, as well.

It’s be great if my students would read everything that I assign because they truly want to learn everything they can about the subject, but that ain’t gonna happen.

So I work around that, and try to get them to care enough to learn, anyway.





Talkin’ at the Texaco

9 12 2012

Quick (and not-so) hits:

I keep a list of books to find in the empty back pages of a 2009 pocket planner. The books aren’t listed in any particular order: I see a reference to (or given, perhaps by dmf) a possibility, and I scrawl it down. Since I do so much poking around The Strand, I look them up, find out where they’re located (Med Hist, Hist Gen, Amer, Pol, etc), and pen that in, boxing the location in different colors, to make it easier to see.

The fiction, however, I keep on separate pages. I go back and forth on fiction: sometime scooping up bunches, other times neglecting these books entirely.

I’m not quite sure why, but in the last few days it became very important to me to track down and list fiction.

There was, in particular, one book I wanted. I must have written it down, hadn’t I? No. In my 2012 Moleskine pocket planner? I found a number of others (The Age of Miracles, Brookland, Zone One, Forever) scrawled opposite a week in October, but not the one tickling me behind my ear.

It came out this past year, I thought. A story in which Saudi Arabia is the superpower, the US a backwater, Osama sulking in the background—something like that. The Stranger had written about it in the Slog awhile ago and, I thought, in the past few weeks, so I went to their Books section and clicked back into their archives. December, November, October. . . nothing.

Dammit.

What was the author’s name? Salim Ahmed? Salem Ahmad? Something like that. A search on Amazon brings me a number of nonfiction books, nothing close. To the Strand’s site, thinking it might be listed. . . somewhere. Found one that seemed interesting (Alif the Unseen), but not the tickler. Barnes & Noble—nothing.

Fuckit.

Back to the Stranger, back to Books, and a scroll back and back and back through the archives. I thought it might have been reviewed January, February, so set myself in, Trickster in my lap, for a slog, clicking on squinched entries to see if the book hid there, moving on, moving back.

K. Silem Mohammed! Was that it? It’s not that far (is it?) from Salim Ahmad?

No, Mohammed is a poet, not a novelist.

Back, back. Fran Lebowitz; Jan Berenstein, “Really Good Books About Lesbians”; Reverend America; David Foster Wallace; Katherine Boo; and. . . page 9, February 9, “The Reverse Jihad”: the book review of Mark Ruff’s The Mirage.

Mark Ruff?! Mark, not Salim? Ruff, not Ahmed?

Damn.

But I got it.

~~~~~

While scrolling back, I found this entry by Paul Constant, dated August 3, 2012, in which he writes

I know a lot of authors who get outraged over the consumer’s belief that they can decide what they pay for the piece of art that the author spent months—probably years—creating. They call it entitlement. (It’s not like the work is completely unavailable; Pogue could have bought a paperback for less than he spent for a pirated copy.) Many consumers believe that they should be able to access the work in whatever format they choose, and they believe that when they buy the work, they should be able to do whatever they want with it. (They accuse author’s estates and publishers of being greedy and out-of-touch.) I know the law says that there’s a right and a wrong here, but I also believe the law is hopelessly outdated when it comes to issues like this. I honestly don’t know what side I’m on, here.

I tend toward sympathy toward the authors (duh), but Constant pretty well sums up my own ambivalence.

~~~~~

I must have the only cat in the world who is afraid of cat beds.

*Jasper*

~~~~~

I’ve bitched about Rod Dreher before, will bitch about him again, and am bitching about him today.

Long ago (and far away) I read First Things, Christianity Today, and National Review Online with some regularity, partly to keep my secular-leftist self honest, partly to keep tabs. I fell out with both FT and NRO as they became less and less thoughtful, although I do read CT at least weekly, and have since added Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock at Marginal Revolution to my teeth-grinding reading.

Still, I felt the need to keep up with some kind of thoughtful social conservative, and since I’d been reading Dreher from back in his BeliefNet days, I re-upped with him once he returned to blogging, this time at The American Conservative.

Dreher is thoughtful about a third of the time, and mildly-to-quite interesting about another third; that final third, however, is enough to make me reconsider reading him.

He writes well about himself and his own struggles, his family, and what he’s drawn to, but when writing “from the outside” of a phenomenon, he’s terrible: small-minded, close-minded, and mean. When he’s called out on his cruelty his defensiveness rises into bile, or when corrected on a crucial point or reminded of a double-standard, he’ll either double-down or ignore the commenter. When all else fails, he’ll bring out the sneering “you’re-making-too-much-of-this/can’t-you-people-take-a-joke” response.

All are on display in this post, ‘Buckwild’ and Self-Exploitation. The post for the most part is fine, but when he gets to the end, he pulls a classic Dreher move:

Nevertheless, to what extent does the framing of films like this, and the informed consent of its participants, ameliorate one’s moral squeamishness? Jersey Shore was about the sexy trashiness of working-class Italian-Americans from New Jersey. Buckwild is about the sexy trashiness of working-class Scots-Irish Americans from Appalachia. How would you feel if the next installment were about the sexy trashiness of working-class African-Americans from the south side of Chicago, or the sexy trashiness of working-class Hispanic-Americans from El Paso?

That last question is in and of itself is worth asking, but it’s a problem coming from Dreher because he loses his mind when he talks about race.

I don’t think Dreher hates black or brown people, and I have no reason to believe that he would be anything other than gracious to any black or brown person introduced to him. In short, I wouldn’t call him a racist.

And yet. And yet he has a hard time seeing that black people are a plural, not a singular, and he cannot seem to extend any sort of sympathy to those who would argue that racism is still a problem in this country, especially not to those who write from their own experiences.

Unless, of course, you’d count Steve Sailer. Sigh.

Anyway, read the comments, especially his response to those who bring up The Dukes of Hazzard and their car, the stars-and-bars sportin’, Dixie-horn-blarin’, General Lee, and the, um, particular cultural politics of that show.

Dreher’s not having it, not one bit of it.

Now, as I was re-reading the entry and the comments while writing this, I thought, this is hardly the worst of what he’s written—see George Zimmerman’s Bloody Nose, for example, in which his last line is Remind me, why, exactly, is George Zimmerman on trial?—but perhaps this is one of those cases where the more I read Rod on race, the less credit I’m willing to give him.

He used to go on rampages about those horrid gay activists with some regularity, but now, for the most part, he manages to confine himself to saving religion from queer marriage. He’s terrible when it comes to liberal Catholics, especially liberal nuns, and is a damned bully when it comes to trans folk (one faithful trans reader, also from his BeliefNet days, finally had enough and bowed out).

I guess this is all so enraging precisely because he has shown himself to be capable of reflection and reconsideration of what matters to him; that he is is not when it comes to that which matters to others betrays a deliberate meanness.

Perhaps that’s too harsh, perhaps there are simply limits to his reflectiveness, limits which he himself cannot recognize.

Given that I almost certainly have those same limits, albeit in different places, perhaps I have a third reason for reading him that I can add to the two above: as a reminder of the existence of my own blind spots, and that I need to look for what I cannot see.

~~~~~

End of the semester—naught but grading ahead.

Blogging will be more erratic than usual.