Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Summer" Time

One of those crazy misconceptions about being in academia is that you have your summers "off" so you can do whatever you want. Yeah, that would be nice, but not exactly the case. See, (1) we still need some sort of income, (2) school year craziness means there is a lot of stuff that needs done that just gets put off until the summer, and (3) academic work never really stops--books and journals keep coming out (which we need to read), we have to try to get our own stuff published, and, oh yeah, once we get far enough along as grad students, we have to write a dissertation. So yeah, not so much with the breaks. But, with all that said, I am getting the first meaningful slow-down in my schedule since the beginning of July last year. Last summer I taught my first class on my own, which basically ended at the start of the fall semester, in which I taught another class, wrote my prospectus, and took a class. Then, in the Spring, I taught two classes at one of the regional campuses, took one class, and presented at 4 conferences (one of which was technically the summer), which led directly into teaching a class this summer. Now that my class is done, I actually have some time to slow down, take a breath (catch up on some video games finally--I finally beat Zelda after not playing it for over a year), and, oh yeah, continue (start?) to work on my own stuff before I have to prep my class for the Fall (a 200 person lecture class).

But, with all that said, I absolutely love what I do. I really enjoy teaching, and I get to research and write about what I want, which is a good feeling. I'm currently editing a paper I've been working on editing for about 2 weeks now, and I think I'm finally getting close to the end (at 40+pages...), and Corinne and I will be heading back to Ohio soon to visit family and friends before the school year starts. So, although things are still pretty hectic, I completely enjoy what I do, and that is a great feeling. In fact, I actually just intended to make this a short post about my summer class that just wrapped up, but I got a little carried away, plus I haven't posted in awhile, so there was a lot to talk about--way more than I plan on posting about as I'm just too lazy and have probably forgotten most of what I wanted to talk about.

Anyway, I was scheduled to teach Modern Political Theory this summer, and seeing as the term "modern political theory" is so broad as to basically be meaningless, I decided to do things the hard way and get really creative with the course. I centered the class around the question of the roll of capitalism in modern political theory, as well as how these ideas relate to the current economic crisis. I set up the syllabus around political theorists who talk about the implications of government and markets for capitalism, and looked at theorists who praise markets as well as demonize them, and a little bit of stuff in between. I knew I was taking a bit of a risk, especially for a summer class, as this was either going to be amazing or completely tank, with very little chance of any middle ground. Fortunately the class went really well, beyond my expectations even.

I ended up with seven students, all but one of which participated a lot in class and offered really good insights into the class discussions. I really loaded the students with reading, so as incentive (compensation?) I heavily weighed the grades towards doing the reading and discussing them in class and on the class's discussion board, which worked out really well. The students all worked really hard, and were not afraid to offer their ideas--and more importantly--to admit when they did not understand something. I found myself, several times, with really good pedagogical moments when I would ask a question, would get silence in response, and then one of the students would say something like, "I didn't really understand this part because..." and then explain what he (it was an all male class, which was a little weird) thought was going on and where he got lost. This provided a unique opportunity to then go through exactly what was confusing and work with the students to come up with a reading of the various texts. Prior to this class I never had anything quite so rewarding, and I'm still super excited about how the class turned out in the end.

I also had a student who had taken the class twice before with other professors, and for various life-related reasons, ended up not getting credit for the class. He was trying to pick up GPA and wanted to take the class again and needed special permission, which I gave him. This was definitely one of the smarter things I have ever done, as he was one of the hardest workings students in that class, and ended up going above and beyond what I expected for an A, and I tend to have fairly high expectations. It is really nice to have students like this (especially in a small setting where I have a chance to get to know my students) to remind you that the students are human and fallible just like everyone else, and that sometimes life can get int he way of school work, but this says nothing about who these students are or will become. Also, it is a great testament to giving people second and third chances, as you never know when they will solidify your faith in others.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

That doesn't sound like a present

So my car tried to kill me.  Well, really it blew out a tire on the freeway right before I-84 and I-384 split.  So I was of course in the middle lane (of 5 lanes) to stay on 84, and suddenly I hear this noise, and then smell this smell and suddenly am having a hard time keeping control of my car.  My brain worked enough to go, OMG, my tire is no longer inflated, must get over to side of road.  So I manage to get over through two lanes of traffic, thanks to a very nice man in a large truck who also pulled over after I got over and helped me change the tire.  Yay for the random kindness of strangers! 

Of course there was no way that I was going to be able to get back over to get on 84, especially not driving on a donut.  I took 384 and my wonderful Droid navigation app got me home safely.

Yay, I survived!  And we're going to get my tire replaced and a couple other things fixed on it and all that jazz.

But now I'm kind of scared to drive on the freeway.  I'm sure a couple times without having a tire blow out on me will help, but starting to lose control of your car at 70mph in heavy traffic is pretty terrifying.

Actual Story:
So I can't get a ride from Chris and Sarah to church tomorrow.  Normally not a problem, I can drive myself.  Except my car is not really drivable for long distances at the moment and also I'm kind of scared to drive on the freeway.  Solution: Ask Dan to come to church with me.

So I ask Dan again tonight (I had asked previously because I'm playing flute tomorrow as well).  This resulted in a pretty hilarious conversation.  I present this in dialogue format in case anyone would like to reenact it.  :)

Me: "So will you come to church with me?"

Dan: "Yeah, how else are you going to get there."

Me: "Because I'm afraid that if I drive on the freeway something bad will happen again?"

Dan: "Well, I guess you would take my car, but that doesn't really fix the problem."

Me: "No, the Fear is still there."

Dan: "I was actually thinking you and mornings and that you won't be awake enough to drive."

Me: "No, mostly the Fear.  And the Cougar."


Dan: "I know I already got you a birthday present [my Droid Incredible], but I am totally painting a cougar on the hood of your car for your birthday."

Me: "That doesn't sound like a present."

Dan: "But it is, the greatest present."

Me: "No"  :(

Dan: "Ooookay, but I'm still painting shake 'n' bake on one side and El Diablo on the other."


We're all fine and the car is going to be fixed, but Dan and I are a little nutty.  :)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

PAX East

So rewind back to March.  Santa brought Dan and me tickets to PAX East for Christmas, so we splurged on a hotel room and blew off work for a weekend and went to enjoy ourselves! 

We had  a wonderful time!  We got to go to a lot of great panels, we got to go to the Paul and Storm and JoCo concert on Saturday night, which was totally amazing.  We got to meet Wil Wheaton and Mike Krahulik!  Wil Wheaton blessed my dice! We got to play in a Dungeon Delve which was super fun!  We met some really cool people when we were looking for dinner, had dinner with them (Lobster Mac and Cheese = Heaven) and then went and played Rockband with them.

More than any of the really fun stuff we got to do, probably the best part was being around geeky people and feeling totally at home.  We can't wait for next year! 

However, next year, we will probably do a couple things differently...

1.) We will not forget our actual camera and have to buy a new one and then promptly lose it once we get home.  Please see earlier post.

2.) We will just splurge and stay at the conference hotel, or at least a hotel very close to the conference.  See, on Saturday night, we assumed we could take public transportation back to the hotel.  Or catch a cab.  Because it was in Boston.  That's a big city.  A real city.  It's not like we were trying to catch a cab in Cleveland or something.  Except... the public transit was no longer running.  At 2am!  Seriously! And we could not catch a cab to save our lives.  You know how after a concert lets out and there are cabs everywhere, just lined up, waiting to get paying customers.  Yeah, we didn't have that.  Which was dumb, because there were hundreds of people trying to get cabs.  We tried walking around.  We tried getting a hotel to call a cab for us.  It took us over an hour to get a cab.  So yeah, next year we will be staying someplace within walking distance.  It's worth it to not be wandering around Boston at 2am in March. 

Enjoy some pictures!

Corinne with Wil Wheaton!

During the "Watch Mike and Jerry draw Penny Arcade" Panel.  Mike was having a bit of fun while Jerry talked.  One of the least inappropriate examples of Mike's "going off script."

 Penny Arcade fans know what this is.  Everyone else, just think of him as an extreme juicer :)

Corinne and Dan get to meet Mike!  And he signed our book! 

This is Robert Khoo.  He is responsible for Penny Arcade being something other than some jpegs online.  I eventually worked up my courage and asked him to sign my book. 

One of the questions at the Q&A with Mike and Jerry was who would win an arm wrestling match.  They decided to answer it.  Jerry egged Mike on, Mike didn't want to do it.  Mike won.  Oh sweet delicious irony. 

And it all ended with the final round of the Omegathon.  This year, it was a classic video game relay.  If anything went wrong, they had to restart.  So of course something went wrong.  One team was incredibly far ahead when that thing went wrong.  After the restart, the other team won.