Monday, November 27, 2006

Double Take

I just saw a very incongruous sight in the campus parking lot: A white guy with long dreadlocks and shabby jeans got into a new Volvo with a John Deere tag on the front of it.


Monday, November 20, 2006

What's Happening

This week I have given all of my students "research days." They have assignments due next week after Thanksgiving, so since this will be a short week, I decided that they could use an extra day to spend in the library. Like they're really going to go to the library! I'm doing office hours today, but after that, I'm off for the rest of the week to grade papers and work on the new home improvement project that Husband and I have begun.

A couple of weeks ago, we began work on the upstairs bathroom. When we moved into our house eleven years ago this week, we did not finish the upstairs very far beyond the drywall stage and some doors. We finally decided that it's time to slowly finish the upstairs, and we've begun with the bathroom. I painted on Saturday. Husband finished laying the tile last week, and I'll grout it this week. Yesterday we installed new lighting. The next thing after that will be the vanity top, which we are going to make ourselves out of concrete and bits of colored glass. I'll post some photos when we get done.

In other news, I am on the warpath again with Bellsouth concerning my DSL service. I have not been able to connect since Friday (I am using dialup right now), after a week of very good service. Tech support told me today that I am too far away from the central office to get good DSL service. I say they are going to put me on a new central office or they'll lose a customer. They are supposed to send out a technician today to check my situation. Again. Something will have to change after today because I'm not going to put up with this any longer. Bellsouth is the only thing that makes me angry enough to want to throw something. Even stupid drivers don't make me as angry as this whole ordeal has, and that's saying something!

I should have some more good quotable quotes for you later this week, as I'll be spending some time grading essays.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Christmas Plans

Well, I got some good news yesterday. If you recall, a few days ago, I talked about the Christmas situation for my family, and how it has been sort of uncomfortable the past few years. I just found out that MIL and A have decided to have separate Christmas gatherings for their respective families. So I suppose that Husband and I will be participating, even though it will still mean that we'll be doing the whole gift exchange.

However, Streak has reminded me of a great idea (follow the link at his blog) that I heard about back in the summer. Micro credit is a program that allows people (usually women) in third world countries the opportunity to take out small loans in order to start businesses. For example, a lady might take out a loan for ten dollars and buy several chickens in order to start an egg business.

Last summer I watched a TV program that profiled one particular loan program and its participants. The thing that really struck me about this was the way that the loan program encouraged the women of a particular town or village to work together. Each week, the ladies who had taken out loans (men are excluded from this particular program because they aren't as reliable when it comes to making their payments) met as a group in order to make their individual payments. If one of the ladies had had a particularly bad week and had trouble making her payment, the other ladies would pitch in and help her. The idea of community was really being enforced with this program. Many of the women had benefitted so much from the first loan that, after paying it off, they borrowed again in order to expand their businesses. One of the ladies used her loan to buy a sewing machine and then she collected juice pouches and made purses out of them to sell to tourists. Another lady used her money to buy little toys and trinkets to give to neighborhood children in exchange for them collecting the hair out of their mothers' hairbrushes so that she could sell it for wigs. Almost exclusively, these women wanted to succeed in business so that they could have enough money to send their kids to school.

I think this is an excellent idea and a worthy cause, and I plan to learn more about it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Quotable Quote

From a student's essay about obesity:

American society today moves at a very fast paste.

My first thought was tomato paste.

You have to see it to believe it.

I've always been a bit skeptical about people who claim to see the image of Jesus in strange places, and I have a hard time seeing it for myself until someone explains it. This sighting is no different. See for yourself.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's Just too Early to Start the Insanity

Yesterday at BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), I overheard a couple of ladies in the restroom talking about their Christmas trees. One lady said that she had just gotten hers up but it wasn’t decorated yet. The other lady said that hers was up and decorated and already has five presents underneath it. She said she wasn’t going to let Christmas sneak up on her this year.

I guess not!

Two Christmases ago, Husband and I were laying tile on our downstairs floors, so I didn’t bother putting up a tree. Last year I remembered that I had really enjoyed not having to fool with putting up and taking down all that mess, so I gave my tree and all the decorations to my niece. I didn’t miss it a bit.

When I heard those ladies talking yesterday, I realized just how free I feel not having to worry about something so trivial as decorating for Christmas. Now, if only I didn’t have to worry about shopping. (I blogged about this last year just before Christmas. Click here and scroll down to Thursday, December 15 to refresh your memory. Perhaps it’s early enough for all of us to consider some of these ideas and spare ourselves the headaches of Christmas shopping.)

Husband and I have discussed boycotting Christmas this year. We have even talked about taking a trip over to Asheville and touring the Biltmore estate, which neither of us have seen, instead of participating in the loot exchange. The only problem with this idea is the fact that some people on his side of the family will get their feelings hurt if we don’t show up. Is it better just to continue the tradition even though our hearts aren’t in it in order to keep peace in the family? We both are sort of leaning toward the trip, but we both are a little hesitant to be “selfish” this year, especially since we have the reputation of being the good kids. (Say, if any of y’all want to go with us to the mountains for a couple of days, maybe we could call it a spiritual retreat or something. Surely nobody could find fault with that!)

It’s really sad that what is purported to be a celebration of our savior’s birth has turning into an elaborate ordeal that involves rampant spending, tiresome and frivolous decorations, and has the potential to cause hurt feelings and resentment. Maybe this is the year to make a change.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Daunting Assignment, Should I Choose to Accept It

In the comments of my previous post, Tony, in his gentle and tactful way, basically told me to quit complaining and investigate why I continue to feel frustrated by my students' choice of paper topics. He, in essence, gave me my own writing assignment--identify a problem and solve it.

So, as the good student, I submit my essay.

As a writing teacher who likes to keep up with what is going on in the world, even if I don’t necessarily understand it all, I am continually frustrated by my college students’ lack of interest in topics beyond their normal circle of everyday movement. The issues that typically trouble the average college student—judging from their paper topics—are campus parking, dating, sex, sports, music, celebrities, beer, and marijuana. Every semester it seems, my students are less and less inclined to talk about larger national or world issues. Oh sure, they will engage in a conversation about, say, capital punishment, but their minds are made up on the issue. Invariably, a small handful of students in the classroom will offer the standard, trite arguments against capital punishment, while the majority of the class will regurgitate the same old tired diatribe in favor of executing criminals. The same holds true for hot topics of the day such as illegal immigration, or a few years ago, gun control. It seems that students make up their minds based on the standard tag lines that the media feed them (or that they hear from their parents), and they feel no need to further research the issue for themselves—unless they are forced to write a paper about it, and then they typically ignore sources that are contrary to their sensibilities.

More and more, in order to ensure a lively classroom discussion, I find that I must put myself into the shoes of an eighteen to twenty-year-old and learn what topics interest them and then bring those topics to class. However, this is a tiresome undertaking. I have about as much interest in MySpace and Facebook and music downloads as they have in political scandals or the wars of words that the United States engages in with other countries. Even when I try to bring up issues that I think they will realize will have an effect on them, such as privacy of their Internet searches, they dismiss them with an attitude along the lines of, “As long as it catches terrorists, I don’t see a problem.” Unless they can clearly see how an issue will directly impact their sphere of existence today, that issue is of little or no importance.

Most college students today do not have the imagination to envision how seemingly unrelated, unimportant events can, when viewed at the same time, come to affect their small world. They need to realize that the things that are happening in Washington and the events that are occurring half a world away in a place they will likely never visit will eventually come to touch their lives. Because my students have grown up with a cell phone attached to one ear and an iPod earbud in the other, with their hands busy at the keyboard while their eyes are glued to MTV, they have become numb to anything but the adolescent drama of their, and their friends’, lives. Events in another country might as well be taking place on another planet for as much as these young people are concerned. Until today’s college students either experience directly or can vividly imagine just how much discomfort today’s world events can bring to their lives, they will continue to remain isolated in their own little electronic worlds with their hormone-fueled, reality show existences.

And until I can figure out a way to prod some imaginative thinking, I'll continue to be frustrated at having to meet the teenage mind exclusively in its teenage world.

Tony, my essay is turned in well ahead of the deadline and contains 287 more words than the 300 word minimum that you imposed. I have also given you a shameless plug. I expect extra credit.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Need a New Job

I have just finished a week of conferences with my research and argumentative writing students. They had to write a paper in which they speculated about causes or effects of a problem and then offer a solution to the problem. Two students wrote about the problem of marijuana being illegal. Someone wrote about steroids in sports. A few students wrote about obesity. One wrote about the fact that department stores don't carry a good variety of fashionable clothing for larger sized women. One student wrote about global warming. And the rest were not remarkable enough for me to remember what the topics were.

I need to read something intellectually stimulating. Unfortunately, my next task is to read my freshman students' process analysis essays which consist of such topics as how to end a bad first date quickly, how to apply makeup, and how to drive a stick shift.

I really like my students, but some of their writing makes me feel as though my brain is going to go numb from disuse.