lolaraincoat: (snowshoe hare)
So I was talking with a friend who teaches in another department at The University with the Name That Rhymes with Spork. She said, "I'm worried about this new Associate Dean."

I said, "Yeah, I had some dealings with her when I was running our grad program and she was on the grad faculty, and not all of them went all that smoothly."

And my friend said, "Well actually what worries me is that I was kind of mean to her when we were both in high school. I mean, if I known I was going to end up working for her ..."

Meanwhile we also have a new(ish) dean who is making himself unpopular with the faculty - even less popular than mid-level administrators usually are. His big new innovation is enforcing rules related to paperwork, to ensure financial probity and cut down on waste. So now when we are making budget requisitions (for example to reimburse ourselves for minor expenses by charging them against the budgets of grants, if we have grants) we have to fill out a spiffy new two-page form, as opposed to the previous one-page form, and then sign it in blue ink. If we accidentally sign it in another color of ink, or if either of the requisite two counter-signatures by other people are in another color, the form gets rejected and we have to submit it again. But since the dean's office neglected to send out a memo or anything to let anyone know about this new rule, a whole bunch of people (me included) got our expense forms bounced back to us because they were signed in black ink. And no note was attached explaining why. If our department secretary didn't have a sister working in the dean's office we would never have known.

There's this whole complicated mess involving getting copyright clearance for every single item on our course websites which will take too long to explain and is too complicated to go into so I will just say that even though I am not even teaching this term and don't have to worry about it until December, and by then the rules will have changed at least once since they seem to be completely revised every six weeks, the whole nightmareish disaster is making me sad.
lolaraincoat: (leap!)
So, it's all over but the grading for this semester at my weird but beloved university, and I'm sad about it, because although my graduate class (Modern Cultural History, theory and method) was wretched and the second-year undergraduate class (Latin American History, 1450 to the present) was just so-so, the fourth-year undergraduate class - a seminar on Gender, Sex, and Family in Latin American History - was amazing. Definitely, by far, the best class of my entire teaching career. I was considering flunking them all just so I could see them again next year, but that turns out to be impractical - there would be a lot of paperwork involved. Instead I'm going to write down some of what made the class work so well this time, in case some of it is reproducible:

What made this seminar turn out so well? )

Mostly it was luck. It was just the right combination of students at the right time. I won't have that kind of luck again. All the rest of this is just what helped that luck along. Here's hoping that the next time I teach the class it turns out half as well.
lolaraincoat: (insane troll logic)
Herewith a genuine email just received by me:

oh Spork U., how are you so disfunctional? )
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Meanwhile, last night Fishwhistle performed in the orchestra of an experimental opera which was not so good, although it was better than all the other experimental operas I've seen this week probably. But it was so experimental that the singers only sang nonsense syllables, and also there were no program notes at all. (In fairness, Fishwhistle did warn me that the whole show was basically Spinal Tap Does Wagner, abbreviated - though that makes it sound way more fun than it actually was.) So I entertained myself by attempting to figure out what the show was all about, and took notes which I will place here behind the cut. )
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
And then I came home and discovered that the whole internet was full of zombies, which gave a pleasing circularity to the whole day.

Well, I'm going to go send a lot of emails now. Resend, that is. Grrrr. Argh.
lolaraincoat: (home)
Spring is coming. I have proof. Yes, it's well below freezing out, and yes, most of the snow that fell on Friday night remains on the ground. But The Kids Who Say Motherfucker are once again roosting in the alley beside our house, trucker caps backwards on their buzzcut heads, looking as menacing as they possibly can be while bundled in puffy down jackets. They chirp out their profanities, slap hands, toss their cigarette butts into the street and spit on the sidewalk. We have entered the mating season of the neighborhood youth once again.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Friday night I went to a concert the various student percussion ensembles of The University with the Name That Rhymes with Spork -- the Brazilian escola de samba, the Korean drummers, the Malian dancer-and-drum group, the ensemble working on chanting and drumming from Ghana, the Afro-Cuban group. It was kind of amazing. The samba school was the best I've heard outside of Bahia. The others weren't quite that brilliant, or else my ear is less atuned to their styles of music. But still, they were awfully good: all the drumming and some of the dancing was at least at professional levels. I went with a couple of colleagues and their two kids, who are two and four years old; dancing with them and watching the kids roll around like puppies under everyone's feet was maybe the best part of the evening.

It reminded me, too, of what's so great about Spork U.: you know, we probably don't have enough serious classical string players on campus to make up a good string quartet, and we probably have a football team but I don't know that anyone has ever seen them play. But two dozen well-trained Korean drummers? Fifty gifted African percussionists? A huge, enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience for parade-style samba music? Sure, no problem; we've got that.

A great university can support all those things -- as salsa dance is not the natural enemy of string quartets -- but Spork doesn't have those kind of resources. What Spork U. does have is a truly amazing group of students. And sometimes that feels like enough.
lolaraincoat: (mr earbrass writes)
Okay, not really. But what is it about 19-year-old boys that makes them selectively deaf to instructions of any sort? I said, when handing back the first batch of papers, I told them, I did, I said: where most of you went wrong was that you selected random sentences from the two books you were supposed to be comparing, ran them through a word processor's thesaurus function to avoid plagiarism, and dumped them on the pages until you had enough words. Don't do that!

So why did all the 19-year-old boys in my class who did that the first time do it again? The girls who did that on the first paper did not do it on this second paper. But the boys did exactly what they did before, but more so. If I told those boys not to chew glass, would they go chew glass? If so, do you think I should tell them not to chew glass?

I actually wrote this on one student's paper: Do not paraphrase. You do not understand what you are reading well enough to paraphrase it. Which is not very kind of me, but it's true and I'm tenured.
lolaraincoat: (crappie)
Today is one of a long series of jampacked and unfun days, hence the long silence. Though I will, I swear, do an AHA report one of these days. (And [livejournal.com profile] mincot, are you okay?)

But I have a problem -- well, I have a series of problems, but there is one which I hope you, dear Livejournal Genie, can solve. And that problem is: my laptop, what the hell?! Or to be more precise about it, I came back home at 11:30 today to find that my laptop (a year-old Lenova running Windows) had shut itself down, but would not power back up. Eventually I realized that it was not off but the screen had gone mostly, but not quite, dark -- if I hold it at a certain angle and squint, I can make out the WELCOME screen. But nothing I've tried so far, including rebooting, has restored it to where it was at 9:30 today. The screen is still dark, and also it seems to have reset itself (though it's hard to tell, since it's dark) to defaults as of a year ago, e.g. it offered me the Windows "tour."

I guess I should just haul the fucking thing in to the place where I bought it, but I won't have a minute available to do that until Saturday afternoon and I really need it NOW. No worries about data loss, because everything is backed up three ways from Sunday, but I need my damn computer.

Help me, Livejournal Genie! You're my only hope!
lolaraincoat: (insane troll logic)
I had intended to do a year-in-review post, plus also complete a lengthy exegesis of Spike Lee's New Orleans documentary When the Levees Broke (to sum up: wow, wow, wow) but instead I am grading. The second-year survey class is making me suicidal again. We've had the by-now traditional references to "slaves who were badly paid" in the midterms and oh so many more facts which are not. Many of their essays have begun with the dread phrase "In today's society" despite my repeated and specific warnings that if they used that phrase they would be cruelly mocked in front of their peers. They all seem to agree that while everyone has a race, only women have gender; in fact, one student made that idea (and I use the word loosely) the basis of his paper's argument. I have to get through seventeen more of these essays before tomorrow morning's class. Or I guess I could just kill myself now. Augh!

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