Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Things that are wrong with me

No, I'm not asking for suggestions, thanks.

I already have a few specifics in mind.

One, my hand! Owie! All the knitting has left my right hand and arm sore. Either an inflamed muscle or tendon or something, I'm thinking. The pain goes right from the base of my ring and pinky fingers to the underside of my elbow. Massage only makes it worse, but frozen cranberries (we're out of peas) feel really really good. In any case, I'm forcing myself to take a knitting hiatus until the pain stops. (Or mostly stops... whatever.)

Second, Farscape. People whose opinions I respect say this is a great show. We've just finished the 4th episode and are still waiting for the greatness to appear. Does the beginning just suck? Does it get better? Should I keep watching, or is this all there is?

Here's what underwhelms me:

It's a neat concept and the visual delivery is excellent.

But the writing! Ack! I mean, I've had beatings that were more subtle. If I want to be smacked around by moralizing lessons delivered with the finesse of a falling piano, I would go to church. Jay and I were both sitting there, rolling our eyes, yelling "We GET IT ALREADY" at the TV. Not a good sign. I don't know whether it's the writing, or the editing that's so poor, but we agreed that the episodes could be trimmed by about 20% without losing any meaning.

And LORD, I can tell the creators were muppeteers, because anything involving the muppet characters is extremely well done. Anything involving live actors clunks. Not that there aren't good lines, but they get lost in the dragging pace of delivery. It's as if they decided, if expressing an idea once is good, then expressing it four times would be even better.


Any fans out there have opinions on whether the series resolves these problems as it progresses, or should we give up now and move on?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

iPod Love

Jay got me a 2G nano for christmas and our neighbor filled it up for me - need to weed out some of it, but found a few new favorites. The Be Good Tanyas - love them love them love them. Something about the combination of their voices and the lyrics and everything. Makes me very happy.

Also got Hayseed Dixie's hillbilly tribute to AC/DC - hilarious. Ryan Adams - whom I'd never heard of, but who I'm really enjoying. Bunch of Gillian Welch and some Steve Earle. A few good Beck songs - a few I'm going to delete as soon as possible. (I tend to either love Beck's songs or hate them - not much middle ground.) Old 97's seem pretty good, as do the Jayhawks and Jim Miller & Buffalo Country. I'll have to keep listening... kind of got hung up on the Be Good Tanyas.

Good to have friends with connections.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Not so politely stolen from Devan

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished, and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

And, you know, a few more of them sound really familiar, but I can't remember if I've actually read them or not. Might have. Might not have. There's a few on the list that I haven't marked as read that I would like to get to at some point, but I just don't read a lot of science fiction these days... more into fantasy, mystery, history.

I think I loved a lot of these books - as I was reading them. Some I've read over and over because they gave me what I needed at the time. Some of them I now loathe ( :coughThomasCovenantcough: ) and some I would still pick up and read again if someone ( :coughbastardexcough: ) hadn't stolen my copy ( :coughEnder's Gamecough: ).

I suppose that's my way of saying that I read all of these before the time I decided that finishing books that suck wasn't a good use of my time, that if I had hated them, I wouldn't have read them in the first place, but that I can't remember which of them I loved enough to indicate that either.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holiday (or not) of Choice

Jay and I are celebrating this year by not going anywhere for the holidays. We're staying home, sleeping in, not driving or flying or waiting in lines. Yay! What a great xmas present to ourselves, I say.

I've been finishing up the holiday knitting - done 2 hats, 1 lace scarf, 1 pair gloves, three ski bands - just one more hat to finish up, one set of gloves that needs the bezillion ends woven in, and I will be ready to ship out the packages. What, you say? By the time I send them it will already be AFTER xmas? Well, of course, silly. I'm sending NEW YEARS presents. Duh. (They might get there by then...)

I also have to finish the tail end of a queen-sized afghan that I've been working on since September, but I've decided that we'll give that to the recipients when we see them Jan 5th or so...

But after THAT is done? No knitting for anyone outside the house (ie: anyone not me or Jay) until Spring. Yeah baby. 'Bout time I got to keep some of the fruits of my labor. (I have a few things, but I realized that most of the knitting I've done in the last year has made its way out the door. Usually before I remember to take a picture of it, too.)

First on the in-house list? Another hat for Jay - something warmer and washable than the one he has now. Second? 1 chunky scarf for me, 1 lacy scarf for me. Finish pair of socks started in November...

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend (even if that just means an extra day off work for you)!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Comment experiment

Trying to figure out the switch from Haloscan to the Blogger comment system...

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Tears Yet

I just finished the end of term reviews with my students. No one's started crying yet - at least not while in my office - so I'll count that as a minor triumph.

Today was hard for me - had to fail two students who just weren't demonstrating the skills they need to succeed in the college level course next term. I always feel bad because they're always in such denial about their abilities that the failure comes as a shock. Often they've already signed up for the next class in the spring, so failing this class means they have to rearrange everything.

Granted, I know that failing them now is actually kinder than sending them on to fail the next class over and over. (The class I teach has no effect on grad point average.) Also, it is their responsibility to make sure they do demonstrate the minimum skill level in order to pass. SO they don't have anyone to blame but themselves.

But I still feel like the bad guy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Season Seven

NO! Captain Tightpants cannot be a villain.

Whatever were you thinking, Joss?

I'm so disoriented.

(Watching the end of Season 7 of Buffy this week...)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hope this doesn't suck

I just switched over to the Googlized version of Blogger. I really hope I don't regret it.

Anyway... on to some actual content, eh?

Today is the last day my class will meet. Yay! The reason for the early end is that the remainder of the week will be taken up with individual portfolio reviews in which the student brings all the work they did over the semester, and we look to see if they've made actual progress. For some students, this will take maybe 5-10 minutes. For others? Half an hour.

For the best students, this is merely a confirmation that they're ready to move on to the college level courses - a brief review to remind them what they've accomplished during the term. For the students who will not be passing, it's a chance to see exactly what they need to improve in order to pass the next time.

For the students on the borderline, it's most important. Sometimes I'm not sure until the portfolio review if a particular student should pass the class. Generally, even if the student isn't quite performing to standard, if they've shown great improvement, thereby indicating an ability to learn from instruction, I'm likely to pass them.

It's the students who are clearly performing below standards, who haven't shown improvement, but who do not understand this, are the hardest to deal with in the reviews. They don't understand why they're not passing - and I can't understand whether it's because of the same dimness that renders their work substandard or whether it's the result of willful denial of reality. Either way, those are the conferences I dread the most.

Except perhaps the conferences with the students who are probably capable of passing the class, but who have decided that because of their obvious and superior talents, they don't actually need to DO all the work. Little shits. They knew the requirements from Day One, but somehow decided the rules didn't apply to them. These are the abusive types, who shovel attitude at me all term, who try to go over my head to the department chair to "test out" of the class without "actually having to pass". These are the ones I hate. Personally hate. I don't want to pass them, because they don't really deserve it unless I rely on psychic grading to know what they *could* have done. But I don't want to fail them, because then I'd have them in my class next term. I may have to meditate on the solution to those students... preferably with a large glass of wine in one hand.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Maybe because it's finally snowing

Or maybe because I'm in the home stretch on this fall's classes, or maybe it was that one of my favorite students brought me a sample bottle of his family's homemade Shiraz, but I'm feeling less bleh today than I have in a long while.

I've been seriously dreading coming to work lately. I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, that the students aren't even interested in learning, that another term of this will kill me, etcetera and so forth - bad mojo all around.

A couple things have helped me not want to get all AK-47 on this place.

I finally managed to drop by one of the staff people who teaches the same class I teach during a block of time when she wasn't crazy busy. One of the hardest things about teaching is that you're pretty much on your own - it's hard to know if you're "doing it right" until you get the students' work as proof of their understanding. What makes these remedial level courses harder, is that sometimes, no matter what we do, some of these students are never going to "get it", either from lack of interest, effort, or ability. I have to learn not to take that personally. One of the other things that my colleague told me, that I hadn't really thought about before is this: these students are not happy about having to take this class, even though it's more a gift than a punishment, and they've never learned to separate the class from the person teaching it. So all that angsty resentment they've been projecting at me is not about me. It's about the class.

Must remember that. Must remember that. Must try to remember that. Ommmmm...

The second thing is that I do have some really great students - students who put in the effort, who ask questions, who show huge leaps of improvement, who bring me bottles of wine... I just need to focus more on the great students and less on the cranky, resentful, unwilling-to-do-the-work students. I'm trying. But it ain't so easy as it sounds.

And in any case - 3 more class meetings, then individual portfolio reviews, and then DONE!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006


That's it. I am so not doing this again next year. Four is enough.