Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Admit it: you've done this

Once in a blue blue moon, for no good reason, I begin Googling for People Whose Path I Really Ought Not Intersect Again. It's the same part of me that likes to put sticks into fire ant mounts, and that likes to leave the dresser drawers open so that Mrs. will bark at me ("I like it when the cannons go off, they're loud!").

But curiosity is a powerful force. And so I Googled. And I found....

--nothing.

I'm the first to say that sometimes one should let sleeping dogs lie. It's just as well.

(No, not that one. This is one from back in Indiana.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Thoughts of a Monday

1) Obama has got to tell Jeremiah Wright to sit down and shut up. It doesn't matter that the man has some very valid points on race and cultural relativity --although the BS about brain structures would never be tolerated coming from white people (or have we forgotten The Bell Curve already?). The media are all over the Reverend Wright, and it's taking the Obamamentum right out of the campaign.

2) Does the Reverend Wright now have his own agenda? I'm not the first person to suggest this, but it is within the realm of possibility that it is now the Reverend Wright who is throwing Obama under the bus, and not vice-versa. Just as I posited last posit that Mr. Limbaugh could have more to gain from a HRC presidency, so too does JW have more to gain from either a HRC or a McCain presidency. Alternatively, this is retribution for Obama's failure to make liberation theology an overt talking point of his campaign.

3) It is a matter of time before the next major bombshell gets lobbed at Clinton. There are several possibilities: another Billious Explosion, Peter Paul's trial, yet more Whitewater dirt (there is more, in theory), the Rumored Hillary Affair, foreign fundraising, another Tuzla-level whopper being revealed. I think that socially conservative Democrats (i.e., Hoosiers) are most susceptible to the affair angle, but that is a very dangerous road for the Obama campaign to travel, since a) constituency groups like MoveOn.org who support Obama were founded on the premise that presidential politics should be above such things; and b) the very nature of the Rumored Affair could divide some of the netroots who support Obama. But as all is fair in love, war and politics, I won't be surprised if this one gets the play --but to be sure, if another target of opportunity arises, it would take precedence.

4) The Clinton campaign needs to start publicly kissing the hindquarters of the netroots and triangulating Left if they're to avoid down-ticket disaster in November. Bear in mind that this is the true long-range goal of Mr. Limbaugh's Operation Chaos: stimulate Republican anger at HRC after making her the nominee and retake Congress. This is made more plausible by the very public threats by the netroots to withhold fundraising and sit out the general election if HRC "steals" the nomination. Young people, creative-class professionals and African Americans will sit out the election in droves if She-Hulk doesn't begin moving Left, and even then, you may as well forget the last group giving its all this year. Never mind the presidential race: HRC may cost her party control of the House this year (the Senate is probably out of reach for the Republicans, for now).

5) Both Obama/Clinton and Clinton/Obama are pipe dreams. The egos involved are too large. Obama would be a fool to accept the VP slot, since there is no conceivable upside (or will HRC be such a phenomenal president as Reagan, that her coattails will extend to Obama in 2016?). This is HRC's last real chance and she knows it, 2012 against McCain notwithstanding.

6) The MSM are still a pack of jackals in their tendency to go after wounded prey. The blood in the water is Obama's, and they are all over him in their attempt to curry favor with Her Nibs. Pathetic and peripatetic. They're little better than Horace Greeley during the Civil War.

As they say over at Little Green Footballs, pass the popcorn.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

New (?) Recipe: Scrambled Eggs with Green Apples and Green Onions

So I got up this morning and decided to let The Wee One try a bit of a real apple before her main bottle. She was not as impressed by it as she was by her first taste of cantaloupe. This left me with a bit of a problem: what do to with the remaining apple? (Maybe next time I'll think to give her a red apple instead of a green one...)

Scrambled Eggs with Green Apples and Green Onions
Three eggs
One green apple, peeled and diced
One green onion, hastily gathered in the rain and the wind from one's garden, diced (NB it is permissible to eat half of it while dicing)
Three tablespoons of grated Romano cheese
2-3 tablespoons margarine (butter if you're decadent)
Optional: cinnamon, brown sugar

Melt margarine in skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced apple and green onion and cook until apple is soft. Add eggs and scramble, reducing heat if necessary. Just before eggs are at desired degree of doneness, add cheese (and cinnamon and brown sugar, if desired) and fold in, reducing heat to avoid scorching. Serve warm with toast.

I imagine one could add some bacon into the mix and it would not hurt a thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I grow weary of this...

"Hillary with decisive win in PA!" (Note: 9.4% should never be rounded up to 10%, this isn't a high-school history class where the emphasis is on giving out passing grades.)

"Obama has trouble closing the deal." As if presidential nominations are historically decided by the end of March. Look at the history of nominations since conventions became the norm. Traditionally conventions are where candidates are supposed to be chosen.

"Operation CHAOS is a tremendous success!" Yes yes, Mr. Limbaugh, we know how you love to beat Democrats at their own game (and thank you, too, Mr. Moulitsas, for making this a viable idea in the first place). But stop and think about it for a second. If you've succeeded in making a good chunk of the public feel that BHO is a weak candidate with no chance in the general election against McCain, then why in the world are you continuing to go after him, especially by telling "operatives" to go register Democrat and vote for HRC? Would it not now make far more sense to tell everyone to vote BHO and clinch it for this so-called Modern McGovern? Do you really feel that HRC has no chance regardless of what happens in the remaining primaries? Or maybe you honestly do want HRC as the candidate? After all, if she can come back from this primary campaign, she can win in November, which would probably result in a huge ratings boost by next summer for you.

"The mainstream media are a pack of jackals." Well, I've been weary of this for years, so that doesn't count...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

For Earth Day 2008, Mrs. Mojo and I burped.

I planted a bigger-than-normal garden this year for three reasons. First, last year the garden went in late because of the fencing issue (blast your flea-ridden hide, Ginger-dog!) and I didn't get nearly as much out of it as I had wanted. Second, I was busy during the harvest period last year owing to the (premature) arrival of The Wee One and the associated remodeling, and I felt cheated because a lot of what was planted ended up as bird bait. Third, as this is likely the last year in this house, I am going to get the most out of my beds, which were expanded as a result of the fencing project. So I'm trying a lot of things I haven't had time/room for before.

This evening I came in from class, went straight to the garden to inspect progress, and behold! The snap beans were ready to be picked. Spinach had already been harvested (and consumed) over the weekend, but the rain had added sufficient growth so that I harvested some more of it as well. Hmmm...snap beans and spinach...

Verdure Sicilliana al Mojo Bison (which I may have unconsciously stolen from someplace else)
1 bunch freshly picked spinach, washed
1 bunch freshly harvested snap beans, washed and in pod
1/8 - 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/8 - 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
4 tablespoons olive oil (less if desired)
Red pepper, black pepper, and garlic salt to taste

Toast pine nuts before-hand if needed and reserve. Add oil to skillet and warm. Add washed snap beans to skillet and saute until almost tender. Add spinach and pine nuts and continue to saute until spinach is wilted thoroughly. Toss in Romano cheese and remove from heat. Pepper/pepper/garlic salt to taste. Serve warm.

So we ate off our own land tonight. Burp.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This comes as no surprise to me

Dr. Helen: Girl Violence: YouTube Fad?:

Administrators of the Raymondville school system said they will review the district's cell phone policy after a report of an assault on a middle school student that was recorded with a cell phone and then displayed on YouTube. It was at least the second time this year students from the school district uploaded violent videos to YouTube, said school board president John Solis. Early this year, a Raymondville High School student used a video to solicit someone to beat another student...

[T]he school board president, said officials will have a workshop to discuss policy on student cell phone use. "We're going to see if we need a stricter cell phone policy or not allow them anymore," he said. "That's what they're doing -videotaping on cell phones.
Knock me over with a feather: violence in a public school, and the administrators immediately say that the problem is videotaping.

The grand irony here is that many districts live in mortal fear of privacy-rights lawsuits and severely limit videotaping, even through surveillance (assuming that the district spends the money to keep the cameras working). They know they won't be sued for "unsafe educational conditions" because there are too many ways districts can make life miserable for the families involved --it's far easier for the family to (rearrange its whole life and) relocate or else find another school.

In my world, the best justice for the victim's family here is to demonstrate how YouTube is making money from these videos (increased site traffic --> higher ad revenues), then sue for unlawful appropriation of image for commercial purposes. Go for the deepest pockets!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Adjunct Hell Expands Its Boundaries, Again

I had a good conversation again with one of my department heads. I'm well-liked, the students love me, BUT... the school has hired two tenure-track Ph.D.s for the fall, and my services will not be needed.

One of them is younger than I am and has taught precisely one year.

This is, ultimately, my own fault for dropping out after my M.A. (and not doing more to find a Ph.D. program when my first choices for re-entry didn't pan out). Still, I'm sitting here eating sushi at the on-campus cafe and growing steadily darker in mood. If I don't get a full-time position somewhere soon, I may either have to return to public school teaching or actually become a grad student again.

The first is a non-starter, unless it's a question of Mrs. losing her job and me being the only means of support for the family. The second is going to be very difficult. I know what I want to do (poker, local history), but I also know that I have to find someone who's willing to chair a committee for me. That's going to be problematic. And then there' s the hassle of applying. Applications. Recommendations. (I've been out more than a decade; do they really matter?) I may even have to retake the GRE because the old scores may not even exist anymore. I'm a former National Merit Scholar who already has an advanced degree, for the love o' Mike; do you really need to know if I can do well on a standardized test?

There is also the very real possibility that I will have to kiss the hindquarters of some snot-nosed newly-tenured hot-shot who's younger than me. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Ugh.

Wisdom comes at a very high price. Looks like I'll be sending out employment apps to the other local area colleges all over again.

Matt Groening had it right years ago in one of his Life In Hell panels: the bitterest person in the world is a grad school drop-out.

(AFTER-THOUGHT: I was told that I would most likely be needed again if available the year after this next one, since enrollment is going to go up even more --but that doesn't solve the short-term problem.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How To Win Any Historical Argument, Even When The Facts Are Completely Against You

The Hazards of Telling the Truth:
Like other postmodernists, [Afro-centric scholars] believed that truth is impossible to know -- that all "narratives" are socially constructed and thus possess an equal claim to legitimacy.
I remember one of the first courses I took in graduate school was a piece of well-intentioned-but-ultimately-useless fluff about "finding your voice as a historian." I didn't do well in it, largely because a) my voice wasn't as well-developed as it is now; and b) my voice was right-of-center, which made me an Untouchable to many in that department. (A dead giveaway: the professor teaching the course loved the Sandinistas.)

Now I recognize that this all-important search for "voice" was reinforcement of the dominant postmodern paradigm in liberal arts academia: the facts aren't nearly as important as the narrative, even to the point that facts can be safely ignored --particularly when those facts go against the grain of leftist ideology. "Deconstruction of the dominant narrative" is a fancy way of injecting the non-sequitur "you're a racist/sexist/conservative" and winning aplomb in the eyes of one's peers.

I wonder if I'm going to have to rethink my underground poker research in terms of its effects on race/class/gender to get it published. (I don't, I know already I'll have to have that hook.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

How To Skip Class All Year And Still Graduate High School, Without Summer Class!

Lacking Credits, Some Students Learn a Shortcut - New York Times
Several things hit me while reading this piece. First, teacher unions aren't universally A Bad Thing (although I'm still very suspicious of the ones in major districts like NYC and LA). Here they are speaking up against something that I guarantee I would never condone and would risk disciplinary action to expose were I to witness it. On the other hand, the cynical side of me asks what gain does the union have to make this exposure? It could be an attempt to bolster the union's moral legitimacy. Or it could be something else entirely. The article mentions that teachers who work in these ad-hoc programs are paid overtime. While that may be substantial, it may pale in comparison to the bonuses paid to administrators whose campuses meet graduation goals --I'm simply not sure in the case of NYC. However, if so, then the teachers' union is engaging in a veiled shakedown of the system: give us more of a cut of the bonus, or else we spoil it for everyone. Again, I'm not sure here, and I may just be talking through my hat.

Second, we need to ask how many of these kids are going to do anything with their lives at that point. It would be nice to convince ourselves that these students, through dint of hard work and exposure to Teachers Who Care Enough To Do This With Them, will experience an epiphany and go on to CUNY or Columbia and get advanced degrees. And it may well be that one or two do, in fact, reach that place. But my gut says this is not true. A high school diploma is almost worthless these days. Illegal immigrants with less than ten years of schooling (in their native tongue) can earn a very decent living in the United States (hint: speak a modicum of English and know how to hang drywall straight). A significant percentage of incoming college freshmen end up taking remedial courses in basic subject areas (e.g., here and here); guess where many of these 'short-cutters' are going to end up? No, my gut says that the union is right on this: the ad-hoc makeups are in place simply to bolster graduation rates (and hence administrator bonuses).

Finally, what message are we sending? It's all ad-hoc and on an individual basis now --the keyword being "now." What happens when interest groups (or worse: pedagogy academics and district administrators!) become interested in making this standard procedure. I can see one upside, though: if the only school-time that matters is the last four weeks of the school year, we can save a ton of money by keeping the buildings shut down the rest of the time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Edward R. Murrow rises as zombie, makes beeline for CBS Headquarters

CBS Said to Consider Use of CNN in Reporting - New York Times
Not that I'm a huge fan of television news --although my wife shared an elevator with Walter Cronkite in Vienna. Demographics and logistics have been working against evening news broadcasts for years, so blaming Katie Couric isn't an appropriate response.

The truth of the matter is that network news coverage has always been about profits by way of enhanced ratings. People listening to Edward R. Murrow on Sunday night were likely to stay tuned for what came on later. Now the question remains: why were they listening to him in the first place? Because there was a demand for instant news coverage that no print media could satisfy at the time of Murrow's ascendancy. Remember that in 1939, all of the major U.S. radio networks were pulling reporters out of Europe out of fear of violating the Neutrality Acts. Murrow cajoled his boss into letting him stay on and giving him carte-blanche to set up operations. But at the end of the day, it was the fact that Murrow brought huge listenership to CBS Radio that made him relevant to the network.

All of the other network newsies may laugh at poor CBS News now, but they're whistling past the graveyard. I live in the Central Time Zone: who's at home at 5:30 anyway? And why can't they watch Fox or CNN or MSNBC --or just get online and get after it, for that matter?

Monday, April 7, 2008

I lay down the laptop for one weekend of Moving Heavy Things, and look at all the stuff that happens...

1) Mark Penn quits the HRC campaign. This man is no Edward House, or Mark Alonso Hanna, or even Lee Atwater. This might could be a good thing for Her Nibs.

2) Charlton Heston has finally entered the Promised Land. Every year, much to Mrs. Mojo's amusement, I would get out my staff, put on my fancy Tuscan striped bath robe, and part the Red Sea along with Moses. I'm no huge fan of ABC but I'm glad they run this chestnut every year. The man marched for civil rights and the right to bear arms. And he stayed married to his wife!

3) Troubles in London and Paris over the Olympic Torch. This is bigger than it looks, a huge loss of face to the Chinese government. I'm tempted to go out on a limb and predict that very soon, you may see athletes pulling out. Certainly those with nothing to lose would be likely candidates (name-level soccer and basketball stars, i.e., people who are already pros and have nothing to lose by skipping the Games).

Meantime, there was Heavy Manual Labor at the Home Range this past weekend. Moving is a huge pain in the backside. And we haven't even put the sign in the front yard yet.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why, every now and again, you should read a bit of Kipling

from "The Holy War" by Rudyard Kipling:

Likewise the Lords of Looseness
That hamper faith and works,
The Perseverance-Doubters,
And Present-Comfort shirks,
With brittle intellectuals
Who crack beneath a strain--
John Bunyan met that helpful set
In Charles the Second's reign.

It may be horribly Incorrect to admire Kipling these days, but still...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yet Another Reason To Believe HRC Is The New Nixon

Hot Air » Blog Archive » Hillary fired for lies, unethical behavior from Senate job: former boss:

I had also informed Hillary that the Douglas impeachment files were available for public inspection in the committee offices. She later removed the Douglas files without my permission and carried them to the offices of the impeachment inquiry staff — where they were no longer accessible to the public. [emphasis added by TMB]
Wow. Assuming this is not Evil And Devious Propaganda (and there's a good possibility that it isn't), this is the sort of behavior that is, quite frankly, Nixonesque.

It reminds me starkly of the behavior of certain public school administrators where I used to work. They would routinely hide or otherwise "lose" pieces of information that, under state and federal law, were matters of public record.

HRC, for better or worse, reminds me of every snarky principal or dean of instruction who would lecture teachers about the need to cater to the students, stab the teachers in the back any chance they could, and then cover their own hindquarters at the students' expense. All the while pontificating about how they Really Did Know Better Than We Did.

And this is why I should never EVER make exceptions to my syllabus

Ahem...

Exams
No student will be allowed more than one make-up during the semester, and all make-ups must be completed within one week of the originally scheduled examNO EXCEPTIONS!

(source: the syllabus for pretty much every course I ever teach)

The second exam of my community college survey course was the Thursday before Spring Break. As usual, I have the study guide (and practice exam!) posted a week in advance. So around March 1, all of my students knew what the essay prompt for my exam would be. Now fast-forward to last week. One of my seldom-seen students reappears, asking about the exam. I point the wayward one to my syllabus. Student then says mother has been in the hospital and that student had been taking care of her.

"Okay, why didn't you tell me that you were doing this
before now?" Blank stare and silence.

"Okay, do you have the documentation to prove it?" Affirmative nod.

"Well, I'll cut you some slack. Let's make up the exam on Tuesday the first. Be ready! And you are a Good and Dutiful Child for doing all that."

Student shows up today, three weeks after the original exam date, takes the make-up, hands it in.

"You didn't answer the essay question." Blank semi-sheepish stare.

"You
do realize that this is about half the exam and you'll fail if you don't answer it." Student retrieves paper and attempts to answer essay question. Professor Instructor silently grinds his teeth, then sighs.

I mean, granted, community college students are somewhat ill-prepared for the rigors of collegiate classes --that's why I tend to grant a lot more slack to those students who obviously mean well. But
come on! You knew about the exam well in advance of anything else that came up, you knew about the essay last week when you asked to be allowed to do the make-up, and this is how you reward me: by being totally unprepared for the exam? And see, this is why I really began cracking the whip on my students this semester. I had some students blow off the first exam and then somewhat angrily drop my class when I told them that no, they could not make up the exam without a valid written excuse (doctor, ER attendant, bailiff, undertaker). This is college: you don't just blow off exams, and if you aren't mature enough to accept that, you aren't ready to be here. I'm not doing you any favor by reinforcing your public high school training (i.e., show up, don't cause trouble, automatic passing grade regardless of quality of work or effort extended).

I
do feel bad for this student. But I'd feel worse for the other students who passed the exam the first time if I gave this one a passing grade for effors alone.
--UPDATE: student has handed in the essay. It's quite obvious that the student tap-danced the whole way, but did at least get part of the response close to a reasonable answer. So not a total goose-egg. Still, I hope the rest of the exam was done well.

Or maybe I'm still grumpy from last week (cf. previous entry). Oh well, I can always pump iron after my evening lecture.