Sunday, June 14, 2009

Goodbye Spring Semester, Hello Summer!

Sunday evening and the house is all mine for the rest of the night. Time to catch up on a few things.
  • First, I finally uploaded a selection of Las Vegas conference photos. You’ll have to go here to see them.
  • Campus—Things just never let up on the academic front. Never. This past semester was entirely absorbed by the exhibit and the new prep. This latter course is the one we use to “assess” the sociocultural outcomes for our major. It was lots of work. Lots. Lots. Lots. Lots. Except for my grad seminars, which are always changing along the lines of my own research, I hope it is the last new prep I have to do for the rest of my LIFE. I enjoyed teaching the course and ran it like an undergrad seminar (which is how it should be taught), but grading the final essays (which double as the assessment instrument) was brutal. It was certainly made somewhat easier than it might have been because I had produced (and given the students) a pretty solid rubric, but even so, this course is capped too high. I think the only solution is to run two sections of this class (25 students each) for at least one year, till we get all our majors transferred to the new catalog , and then maybe this system of one section p/semester will work.
  • Money, money, money—Once all my grading was done, I went right into a week-long teaching workshop. It was exhausting, but I did learn some things, and most importantly, I got $800 toward conference and/or travel-related expenses. This is super good—as it seems there will be no travel money next year. We also got some other fun and useful freebies—a very cool flash drive wrist band, for instance, and a book on Universal Design Learning (UDL). They also fed us breakfast and lunch every day—nice, indeed (although it started to feel a bit like we were hostages).
  • Grad Students--I currently have five of these in the prospectus-writing phase. We had an informal advising session one week ago Friday at a nearby restaurant. To prepare them for summer writing, I gave them an exercise in which they had to distill their projects down to the bare bones and state their problem in a single interrogative sentence. They were to follow this single question up with 2-3 sentences elaborating on the problem, and then 1 more summarizing the intended course of research. I also made them identify 3 sources (from 2004 on) that they deemed critical to their work. This served some good ends for me, as well as for them--or at least the 4 who came to the meeting (and *all* my students from here on out will now have to jump through this hoop). One student was already well on her way (having produced a couple drafts), a second (with whom I met again this past Friday) is now 100% on target w/a project that seems more exciting every day. The other two are going to generate drafts over the summer. Actually, one of these last two produced a draft on a more broadly-conceived project and now needs to narrow her scope and do lots more reading on relevant themes (her project involves a bit of insider-ethnography), while the other needs to make a commitment to a do-able project, but has some critical informants lined-up in the wings (and in some ways—that’s half her battle). Cross your fingers.
  • Old Fun-For-Me News from the Spring semester. Top of the list: I got to see my brother who was in the South Bay for a few days on a job with Ap*le. His company is fabricating the display furniture and related apparatus for marketing the i*hone overseas, in locations where Ap*le will not be opening stores. TH and I met him at one of our favorite seafood restaurants and had a great time. He lives in Chicago and I don’t get to see him very often. Who would have thought?—At the spring conference where MGC and I set up a mini-version of his exhibit, I met an officer of the host organization who is an assistant professor of WS and has a book in press. She came to our session and saw my PPT, which included a slide featuring an artifact (given to me by most-excellent grad student KJD) and then dropped by the mini- exhibit to see it in person. She was so excited by it that she asked if I’d let her use it in her book. So now, my photo of said artifact is going to be published! I’ll get a copy of the book and photo credits to boot (this is a very weird thing for me as I am not a photographer). Extended family good news round-up--My niece Sara (my brother's eldest) is having a baby! My mother will be a great-grandmother, although she'll never, ever, ever answer to that title. My brother will be in 7th heaven as a grandfather (he's turns 50 this month--so it's perfect timing for him), our cousin/niece Ryan graduated from Berkeley and her parents threw a great graduation dinner at Trader Vics. Even though I have eaten several times (a thousand years ago) at the Trader Vics in Houston--I never realized he (Vic) was the inventor of the Mai-Tai. They are still cranking them out in fine form some 70(ish) years later. Yeah for tradition and college grads who get out in four years.
  • I have finally located and paid up all my professional memberships. Most of these come due in the summer, but this year I let some that renew in the fall and early spring lapse due to the various crises in our lives (exhibits, deaths in the family—my FIL last in Nov. and my favorite Uncle this past month--retinal repair surgeries and check-ups for TH, etc). The most expensive dues are for the AAA (and can I just say that re-adding a section I had dropped out of for about 7 years [as a cost-cutting measure] has raised my membership fees to $310.00???? I cannot drop out of the other two sections at all, so I wonder how long I’ll be able to stick with this one again. Good grief!).
  • “Spring” Cleaning of the Closet—we now have a goodwill donation truck parked near our regular grocery store. I’ve been taking them 3-4 bags per week for several weeks. This is such an easy way to unclutter my life. I may keep this up all summer. It is kind of horrifying how much stuff we keep that we do NOT need and never, or rarely, use!
  • Books—in the process of organizing my bookshelves and research files, I’ve probably recycled or given away 300 pounds of books and journals this past week. I’ve been really good about thinning journals down over the years, especially as they’ve more or less all gone on line. My policy is that I’ll keep the journals that aren’t on line and any hardcopy issues of other journals if I have an article or book review in it. Since I last culled journals, two more titles have been fully digitized, so that frees up an entire shelf in my study. As for books, well, I’ve held on to quite a few from waaaay back in the day when my specialty and focus was pretty far afield from what I now do. So, I’ve done a major edit on those from the home office side and will do the campus office some day when I’m stuck up there with nothing better to do. I've also dumped tons of textbooks. And wow, has this ever been therapeutic.
  • Making Progress with Small Projects--I finally finished a slightly late ms. review, as well as an "author survey" related to a recent publication of my own. I want to say here that I am shocked (shocked!!) how many authors, reviewers and editors do not have the brains to realize that sending a manscript electronically is (apparently) risky business. My own ms. reviews came back to me electronically. One reviewer wanted to remain anonymous but used the track changes functions and call-outs to make remarks, etc. When my cursor hovered over the callout boxes, up popped the "author's" (as in the computer/software owner's--and thus the reviewer's) name. Likewise, the ms. I just reviewed was sent to me electronically and so clearly read like a dissertation vs. an article that I took a look at the properties and yep, there it was--the author's name. My work computer "signs" all my docs with a generic "admin." Needless to say, that's the one from which I send my own reviews--because I do NOT trust editors/editorial assistants to cut and paste my remarks into another document. Okay--enough of that rant.
  • Tomorrow, I'm probably going to IKEA so I can buy another one of their handy-dandy hanging (and rolling) file frames so I can get all my archival copies from LAST summer organized and ready to roll.
  • My ILL requests all came in last week and are sitting on my newly cleaned-off desk. One of them is fantastic and hot off the press (literally). It is really exciting to see an entire book on this particular subject. And with that...time to get some reading done.

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