some pet peeves
Believe me, I have plenty. Most people do. But here are two very specific things that annoy the living crap out of me on a daily basis:
* You know the XML-based content feeds produced by blogs/web sites/etc which are then aggregated by a reader of some sort? They're called RSS
feeds (depending on the format type). They are not called "Bloglines feeds" or "[insert other news reader] feeds." These content feeds are aggregated by a reader of the user's choice, and that reader can be called an RSS reader, feed reader, feed aggregator, news reader (etc). Bloglines
is not the only feed reader out there. Content feeds are not called "Bloglines feeds" (see above). Over 60% of readers in use are something other than Bloglines
* RADIO BUTTON. Not "radial" button. In forms on a web site, the little circular form control is called a radio button
. It has a very specific purpose, just like a checkbox
. Checkbox series (or single boxes) allow the reader to select multiple elements, such as "apple" and "orange" and "banana" and "pear" etc. Radio buttons are used when only one answer is allowed/expected, such as "yes" or "no". Web "developers" who provide checkboxes for "yes" or "no" questions, thereby allowing a user to select both "yes" AND "no," can be held responsible for all time-space continuum/paradox problems in society. I firmly believe marketing people are responsible for perpetuating the "radial" button phrase, much like people who use "would of" instead of "would have" because they hear would've
but since they don't read
they don't know that would've
is actually a contraction while "would of" just makes no sense. [see also: "could of" and "should of"]
To recap: Bloglines is a reader. RSS or Atom is the type of a feed read by a feed reader. Circular on/off form controls are called radio buttons. Radial is the type of a tire.
blogger beta and feeds and your readers and blah blah blah
the power of trillwing compels me
.if you are using blogger beta
and you also
burn your feed with feedburner
, go into your feedburner settings and change your source feed URL from http://[whatever].blogspot.com/atom.xml or http://[whatever].blogspot.com/rss.xml to http://[whatever].blogspot.com/feeds/posts/fullif you are using blogger beta
and you are not
burning your feed with feedburner
, tell all your users to switch to this URL for the feed: http://[whatever].blogspot.com/feeds/posts/full by writing a post about it or somethingif you are a proactive blog reader
and you know the feeds for your favorite blogs aren't updating in your reader [note: any
feed reader] AND you know these blogs to be of the blogger beta type, just change the subscription in your reader from http://[whatever].blogspot.com/atom.xml or http://[whatever].blogspot.com/rss.xml to http://[whatever].blogspot.com/feeds/posts/full
that should take care of most blogger beta feedy things. oh also if you're a feedburner, don't forget to manually ping
Labels: blogger, blogger beta, feedburner
on getting started
In a previous post I briefly mentioned about some of the students [really just a few, like three or four out of 24] in my composition class not being able to get started when faced with an assignment. By this, I meant the short in-class writing assignments (eight to ten minute things) as well as the in-class essays (75 minutes). After they get going, they have things to say and their syntax is just dandy, but it's the "get going" part that stumps them.
It doesn't seem to matter if the short writing assignments come at the beginning, middle, or end of class (they're typically at the beginning but occassionaly they've been after we chatted about things for awhile), the inability to get started is still there.
It doesn't seem to matter if the assignment is "write an essay" or "answer this reading comprehension question" or "brainstorm on this topic" or so on—they can't get started. Even when the assignment is just to freewrite, they sit there and stare at the page despite the fact they just answered the question "what is freewriting?" with "put pen to paper and just write whatever comes in your head and it's impossible to do it incorrectly."
Some of them have long commutes—upwards of an hour to get to campus for a 7:30am class—but some do not. Some sleep during the commute, some of them read, some of them doodle.
Ideas? Suggestions? Thoughts?
obligatory where-the-hell-have-you-been post
I've been sitting right here, actually. I read all your blogs, I swear. Sometimes I even comment. But every single bit of my brain energy has been devoted to work, seminars, thesis proposal writing, comprehensive exam studying, and teaching. That's not the exact order, but it's darn close. Everything will ease up on November 11th around noon—that's when comprehensive exam part II will be over.
So here's the bullet list:
* work: It's work. It's actually fine (unlike this same time last year) because with the exception of one big project completely under our control, there's just a lot of fluffy stuff for me to do each day ("fluffy" in that it requires little thought on my part).
* seminars: I still love them. I'm still not a fan of poetry, but I love the poetry seminar. I haven't done much on my seminar project besides gather all my research into a pile, but at least it's something. I had two presentations in the class last week, and they went fine. In my composition studies class, I've thought of a topic for my seminar project and it's nothing at all related to computers. Hooray!
* thesis proposal writing: I'm working on it as we speak. I have a large pile of stuff, so the annotated bibliography portion is taking the longest to do. I told my thesis director I'd have a rough draft of the proposal to him tomorrow, so I shall. Note the term "rough," which is why I'm not freaking out about it or anything.
* comprehensive exam studying: Our group has ramped up to twice-weekly meetings, and we met yesterday morning for a few hours. We're firmly into the 18th Century, but thankfully an American or two were on the reading list so it wasn't all English authors, all the time like it has been. We're meeting again tomorrow. I have to talk about Tristram Shandy
for the group.
* teaching: I still love my class. They have an in-class essay tomorrow (description), during which time I will be reading Tristram Shandy
Labels: gradschool, life
sunday plans and other random bullets of crap
* I'm taking a stack of student essays to a coffeeshop. That's right, I'm going to grade in a coffeeshop like one of the big kids.
* My comp class is modes-based, and now we're doing description (narration was first). The essay for this mode will be an in-class essay on the 25th. Their in-class writing exercises for the next two class periods will lay the groundwork for their in-class essay. I figured doing this would be a good idea for the first official in-class essay (there are three total plus the final, and three more out-of-class essays), since their biggest problem seems to be getting started. I have a few people who take a really long time to get going, and then they run out of time at the end and end up with a short essay not fully formed. The text they end up writing is mechanically sound, it just takes awhile for them to get to it. My thought for this essay is to have a couple in-class assignments that are essentially essay prompts, but the assignment is simply to pre-write in whatever way gets them a thesis statement and an outline for what they would
write if it were an actual essay prompt. For the actual essay, I was going to give them a choice of prompts, drawn from the ones they had already worked with in class. Too nice?
* Must re-read a bunch of stuff for my study group meeting on Monday. We're into the 17th C/early 18th C now! We started with the Iliad
and have gone linearly through the list. So, the early 18th C is an accomplishment. On Monday we're discussing Milton, Congreve, and Pope, plus Biblical things with which we should be familiar. We're ramping up our schedule to go to twice-weekly meetings beginning next week, so we can finish the reading for Part I of the exam by Sept 30. Then we'll have twice-weekly meetings for all of October to handle the 19th & 20th C. I'm strong on all things Romantic through WWI in both British and American camps, and the others in our group are strong in 20th C poetry, but none of us were strong on anything pre-19thC. In other words, eight study sessions for Part II of the comps will be just fine. We're all still terribly anxious about it, but less so.
* Had a great meeting yesterday with two of the profs who hold my future in their hands (they happen to be married to each other, but have different last names. Very handy for rec letters). The "thesis talk" went something like this: "what is your plan?" ... "I plan to take the paper I wrote for your class, multiply its length by 4, and add a sizable chunk on Thoreau." ... "good, that's what I thought you were going to do." ... "ok then." Then we talked about the second reader, and how crappy it is that the other prof in the room can't officially be a second reader. So, this week I have to write my thesis proposal draft and send it along to him, then talk to the potential second reader, then wait for it to get approved by the entire committee, blah blah blah. You can bet I'll start the actual work on it the moment comps are over in mid-November. Although the thesis credits are for next semester, the entire thing has to be complete by the first week of April—way before
the end of the semester. I'm not worried about it. I just have to work in a trip to Yosemite in the next six months. I can't write a thesis about John Muir, the quintessential transcendental naturalist writer, without ever seeing Yosemite. That would be incredibly lame.
* I need coffee. Bye.
a brief note about my poetry seminar
Previously, I mentioned
my poetry seminar was quite fun. It still is, and I still am not a huge fan of poetry, yet I am compelled to mention this seminar once again.
Walking to the parking garage with my school chum, Jim
, we both shook our heads and said, "I don't know how he does it," referring to our prof. Sure, our prof is good at it because he's taught this same seminar for decades, but still—we walk out of class filled to the brim with knowledge of all things poetic, yet not exhausted or anxious about it. Instead, we're just mentally full
of poetic goodness and confidence in our analytical skills.
Last semester, one of my profs embodied every.single.trait I vow never
to display to my students. (concentrated suckitude...good times!) This semester, I have a prof who is a walking list of "positive things to do in the classroom." You can bet that many of the notes I take in this poetry class are not about poetry—they're about the profession.
random bulleted things
* Tomorrow, my students will turn in their first essays. I expressed to one of my fellow TAs that I was really stoked for my students. My fellow TA looked at me like I was insane. "But...the grading!" she said. "That's what we do
," I said. She still thought I was nuts. But some of these students have good stories to tell, and these are narrative essays, so I think they'll all start out on a positive note—and I'm excited about that. They all had their drafts with them on Monday when we did a mini-workshop. I glanced at them all, just briefly since they were doing peer review, and all the essays looked like Cs or better (at first glance). It'll be nice not to fail someone on their first essay.
* Most of my stress right now (re: school) is related to things of an administrative nature. For instance, until today I was in this zone of the unknown regarding conflicting dates between comprehensive exams, GRE subject tests, the departmental final exam for comp classes, and inconsistent publication of important dates. Everything has worked itself out, thanks to a flexible and accomodating grad coordinator (plus one other person in the same predicament). Two of us (so far) will sit for a specially-proctored exam the day before the rest of our pals take the exam, and when they're taking it we'll be taking the GRE subject test. Then the next week we can all sit for part two together, and this other fellow and myself will be able to proctor our class during the final in December. All is well. But all was very stressful until today.
* The next bit of administrative stress involves interesting and unique ways to clear my foreign language requirement. If I could get any sort of answer from the person in charge of signing off on language requirements (not in my dept), all would be well. But I haven't been able to track her down via email or in-person yet. Frustrating.
* I set a deadline of the 25th for a draft of my thesis proposal. I'm not exactly sure of the precise thesis of my thesis, but I have research out the wazoo to support whatever it is I decide I'm doing. I just have to decide what that is, then write my 10 pages of proposal, meet with my adviser, then make changes and send it along to the committee.
* I'm a little angsty about my composition studies paper. I feel I should write something related to a particular subject, given that I know a significant amount about the subject, but I really and truly don't even want to get involved in it
. But then—and yes, I've had this feeling before—I think it would insane not to tap into the knowledge and experience I already have. But then I remind myself just how much I hate discussing the subject. Repeat ad infinitum. This is similar to just how much interest I have in building digital archives—zero, if not less—despite the fact that I can build those things in my sleep. No joke...and no interest. Um, anyway. So yeah, I have a little angst about my composition studies paper. [But I will note that it's neat to read around a topic and mentally note the articles written by people on my blogroll.]
* I haven't even discussed the awkward rift in my study group. Let's just say that three of us are on the same page and it's a good page, but there are more than three people in the group.
flickr support for blogger beta
Flickr is one of the first (if not the
first) to upgrade their service to include an authentication/posting method for Blogger Beta.Read the Blogger Buzz announcement
I hope this signals a wave of upgrades for other third-party services, although the majority of the ones I use fall into that "not owned by Yahoo! or Google" category and therefore resources are scarce. I would be super pleased if Performancing for Firefox
were next on the list. Fingers crossed.
Labels: blogger, blogger beta
why my parents are cool
Recently, I sent some pants to my mom so she could hem them. I can mend things, but not hem things.
Of course I could just take my pants to one of the many alteration shops nearby (we certainly have plenty), but I wanted to give my mom something to do.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the return package...it included the hemmed pants PLUS whoopie pies.
freakishly accurate prediction
The Amazing Criswell is brilliant
He says: "This weekend, for example, you will purchase a copy of Michael's new book, What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?
And this afternoon, you will watch Penn State defeat Notre Dame, 19-17."
I bought the book on Wednesday (sorry, Criswell, but your prediction was a little off) and it's a freaking page-turner! So, when I'm ill-prepared for class on Monday, I'm blaming Bérubé.
Also, for The Amazing Criswell to be completely accurate, the Nittany Lions need to get their collective shit together.
i nearly shuttered the blog last weekend
...not for any scandalous reasons, but because I have nothing
to offer right now and don't see that I will for the foreseeable future. It is very difficult to be responsible for three large and distinct things: my actual full-time job (completely removed from academic endeavors), my academic endeavors (2 seminars to take, 1 comp class to teach, 1 thesis proposal due in a month, 1 book to index (not mine), 2 comprehensive exams in November), and writing about things loosely related to my books (that is, techie things and blogger things).
The vast majority of my blog readers are here for the latter, which is unfortunate because that's the stuff that lives at the very bottom of my to-do list—not necessarily because I don't want to do it, but because the things above it are far more important to me
, as they involve things like a paycheck and my future. A blog without readers is just a paperless personal journal, and I was never a big journal writer, so it seemed it would be kind of pointless to keep a blog around.
So, I really can't say why I did decide to keep it around, other than perhaps next semester will be different (as far as time constraints go), and the following years will be much
different, so maybe I'll get back to writing about the things people actually want to read. Maybe. Sometime. It's extremely difficult to schedule time for things secondary to job and school, since neither of those things follow a strict schedule. Given how I like to schedule
things, you can imagine how frustrating it is, never knowing when I'll be able to do x, y, or z. So for those of you wondering when I'll do x, y, or z, I don't know
Yesterday was Day 4 of my comp class, but Day 2 of actual teaching. It also happened to be the day the TA Coordinator/my thesis adviser/man-holding-my-future-in-his-hands scheduled as his observation day (first of two). Argh! Gah! Stress! Ok, truthfully I didn't have much of that. I actually volunteered to go first. I wanted to get it over with, and I also wanted him in there at a time when the students were still shiny and new and participatory. (I'm kidding...kind of...)
I had a plan for Day 4, and through some miracle we actually did everything on my list and only had two minutes left at the end. True, if we hadn't gone on a five-minute tangent about poor Pluto
, we would have had more time left at the end, but it all worked out. My plan included a reading quiz at the beginning followed by several distinct blocks of discussion, and the students were talkative and smart. Boy oh boy does that make things easier, and far less boring than me standing up there and lecturing about the narrative essay.
After class, the "debrief" went something like this: it was fine, class has an identity, they're responsive, etc etc, what do you think? I said, "I just don't know what to do
with myself," which is absolutely true. My biggest problem right now is that I don't know where to stand
...and I totally forgot I had a huge chalkboard behind me, and could write things all over it for the visual learners and such. Duh. We used the chalkboard extensively last week, and yesterday? Totally ignored it. Then again, if those are my biggest issues, I'm starting at an ok place.
The thing about not knowing where to stand, it's partially because we have stupid furniture in the classroom. The room is jam-packed with chairs, then there's a large rectangular table at the front. I stand behind the table because if I stand in front of it I'll be smushed against the first row of students. If I shove the table to the wall so I can walk in front of it, then I won't be able to use the chalkboard. So, I just have to get used to wandering outside of the bounds of the table (outside of the safety zone!). All of the critical things the observer had to say matched the critical things I had to say, so again—totally on the same page. Thank god.
On Wednesday, the students turn in their first essay-that-counts, and it's an out-of-class essay. I'm actually looking forward
to grading them, to see where everyone really
stands. I think many of them will be quite good.
Labels: gradschool, teaching
plans for this weekend
* In half an hour I'm off to refresh my GRE general scores. [Done! i did exactly what I planned to do, which was increase my score significantly. If I can only do the same with the subject test in December, all signs will point to yes on the grad school app ouija board. right now they point to "meh."]
* After that four-hour diversion, I'll come back here and do my reading for next week's seminars. [done! I must say, two classes instead of three is like christmas.]
* I will gather some Dunbar research and figure out the articles I need to get from ILL. [done! we have new photocopiers in the periodicals area, and they rock hard.]
* I will think a little about my comp studies project idea [thought about it. must think more, after reading more]
* I will make my plan for Wednesday's comp class [done!]
* I will do my reading/make notes/etc for my MA exams study group meeting [ongoing]
* Football will be on the TV as background noise. I love baseball, but I am so pleased it's football season. [yay]
* I will work on Blogger Beta-related blog posts, I swear. Now that the template editor works, there is much to say. [maybe someday. this is such a low priority for me it's not even funny.]
brief thoughts on my own class
Previously, I said that I'm not going to talk about my actual students or class except in very general ways like "fun!" or "I gave a crappy lecture," because I am not an anonymous blogger. This is still true. I won't tell you (dear blogosphere) anything that I haven't said to them already. This is not to say I don't have anything to talk about. :)
I said that my class did miserably as a group on the grammar diagnostic, and now I can say that they did average
as a group on the essay diagnostic. I was (honestly) able to say something positive about each essay, followed by a ton of "here are things you should focus on and hey, guess what? they're exactly the things you'll learn in this class" kinds of comments. I had a couple students who wrote what would have been B+/A- essays right out of the gate, and some who wrote what would have been D essays. But the vast majority fell squarely in what would have been the C range. I was pleased, and we finally got down to business on day three.
Remarkably enough, by the end of day three I could match names and faces. Sure, I only have twenty-five students, but I am so bad with names that I assumed I'd have to wing it for most of the semester. Not so. I think the part of your brain used to store student information fires itself up when it knows it is faced with remembering important things. I couldn't tell you the names of eight of the twelve people in my poetry seminar, but I know every single one of the twenty-five students in my class. Whew. One hurdle down.
By the middle of day three, people were talking and we did a collaborative exercise re: writing a narrative essay and they seemed to dig it. Then we went around the room and did the "tell us about yourself" routine, and people were making connections with each other either because they went to rival high schools or a bunch of them liked tennis, etc. Hooray.
I have more than a few students who spent the last few years in remedial classes (some schools call them developmental classes, which I think is far more positive-sounding than remedial!), and they were not shy about saying so in their intros, because they were so proud to have made it through. That was pretty cool, but the really cool part comes next (or maybe I'm just easy to please). The writing exercise for the day was to write some sort of narrative about yourself (just a paragraph), and it turns out that one of the former remedial students, one who was at the low end of the group based on the diagnostic, wrote the best paragraph. It would be a perfect example of what I planned to talk about in our next class, so I e-mailed the student to see if she would be ok with me using it as an example and having her read it to the class and using it to jumpstart the discussion. She was very happy. I was very happy. It was pretty darn cool.
So, day four of class (wednesday the 6th) will be day two of actual teaching. It is also the day that the TA coordinator/my boss/my thesis advisor/thankfully an all-around-good-guy will visit my classroom and sit in the back and freak me out. Good thing I'm confident about what we're doing that day!
brief thoughts on my seminars and new students
When I wrote (briefly) about my first week of seminars
for this semester, I didn't really know
anything about them—we had only met once, on administration day (syllabus and general chatting day). Now that I've had full-length meetings of both seminars, I can safely say that both will be great. These two seminars will be a good way to end my MA coursework—on a positive note and all that.
Although I am still not a huge fan of poetry, my poetic craft and theory seminar is a lot of fun. The fellow who teaches it has done so for a gazillion years, and he's still so gleeful about it that you can't help but be enthusiastic with
him. It's no secret that a confident and enthusiastic instructor is the key to a positive learning environment, and this fellow/this seminar is a perfect example. The classroom time goes by pretty quickly as he moves us through our thought processes and we come out the other end all learned and such. I love it when that happens. "Oh that's
what I know? Awesome." Plus, it's nice to be able to play the "what period is this from" game with a piece of anonymous poetry, answer correctly, and have a reason besides "I used the Force" to say just why
I placed it in the correct time period. For those of you remotely interested in the poet I plan to work with for my seminar paper, I chose Paul Laurence Dunbar. He was really the only person I had on my short list, and I put him there for various reasons (in other words, I didn't flip through the Norton and randomly choose him). I think I'll have fun with the project. Oh, and another thing...we're reading Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate
and it's really quite fun.
Take everything I said about my poetry seminar and apply it to my composition studies seminar, less the seminar topic and book title. I still don't have the foggiest idea about my project for that class, since "anything related to composition studies" is a bit broad. Ok, that's not entirely true—I have some glimmer of a thought about something but I don't know enough about what I'm thinking about to know if it's viable. I'm going to think more about it this weekend and then bounce it off my prof next week. It's technologically oriented, which breaks my whole "no! I'm not using technology, damnit! I just spent the last decade (plus) of my life building things, and I'm taking my toys and going home" rule, so I have to square that with myself first.
Moving on...let me say a word or two about my classmates. Finally
, idiot girl is not in any of my seminars, nor is idiot boy. It's like Chriskwanzakah for us! Seriously, their absence alone makes this semester exponentially better than the other two. So far, the new students we have are simply quiet and shy (and overwhelmed). As is common, they were given no instruction as to The Way Things Work. As someone who knows The Way Things Work, I took it upon myself to help. The whole mentality that exists about not helping out your fellow student because everything's a competition and you may be helping someone who will one day be your competitor on the job market, well, I call bullshit. Of course, it is
true that your classmate may one day be your competitor in the job market, but really, telling someone where to get their parking pass or how advising works in the department, or detailing the responsibilities of a Teaching Associate, or answering the "what does academic writing look like?" question and helping them start down their own path—it's just being a good citizen. So after comp studies class on Thursday, I answered questions for a couple hours and generally made people feel better about themslves. Come to find out they're not actually sullen—which is how they appeared in class—they're just terrified. But no more! Hooray.
Best line in my classes so far: we were reading several essays in The Writing Teacher's Sourcebook
and several of us (including the prof) noted that one essay was particularly bad. One of the new students, a week removed from China, said, "I am so happy you said this is a bad essay. I thought it was my bad English!" We all laughed and said not to worry, for it really is the authors'
bad English. Ha ha. Everyone felt better.
I never found just the right CSA or other farm subscription
for me—they tend to be too expensive or the shares too large for just little ol' me (don't want to waste
food), or the pick up day/time/location didn't work, and so on. Additionally, I can never remember when and where all the various farmers' markets are held, and when I do remember, it's usually after I just picked up my groceries for the week and thus don't need anything. In other words, I'm lazy and disorganized but well-meaning.
Everything changed when I got an organicexpress.com
flyer in my mail. The company is a cross between a CSA, a farmer's market, and the now-defunct Webvan (or any other grocery delivery service) in that they have small or large boxes for delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, the boxes are all fruit, all veggie, or a mix, you can add all sorts of other organic groceries to the box (cans of beans, things of pasta, cartons of soymilk, etc. It's a very long list of extras), and they deliver to your door (on Wednesdays).
You can also customize your box by indicating the stuff you don't
want. For instance, I checked off "eggplant" because I never want eggplant in my box (I like eggplant, I just can't work with it). Although they have a "this week's produce" list at their site, I thoroughly enjoyed the suprise when I opened my box—it was like fruit and veggie christmas! The box contained three valencia oranges, a big bunch of grapes, eight tree-ripened plums, and four nectarines—the nectarines were a substitute for canataloupe (I love it but I don't like to mess with it). On the veggie side, the box contained a pound of green beans, a big bunch of carrots, a head of cauliflower, and two pounds of gold potatoes. Now I can pick things to cook based on what I have here, versus what I have to go purchase elsewhere. Since I also bought a box of groceries (many cans of beans, some soymilk, veggie broth, some polenta, some cereal, etc), the only things I would have to get at the "real" grocery store are miscellaneous paper items or meats (if so inclined).
If you're in Northern or Southern California and any of this process sounds appealing to you, check them out
. They're a totally low-key but completely repsonsive company (I've asked a few questions) and I really think this delivery process (plus the whole cooking-at-home thing I've finally implemented on a consistent basis) will be life-altering for me. Hooray!