Monday, August 28, 2006

last minute chaos

When more than one person is teaching a section of a survey class, it's a good idea to touch base ahead of time. I got in touch with my partner-in-crime this summer and we agreed on a textbook and careful use of occasional primary documents. I planned out the class and various assignments based upon this conversation.

Throught sheer potluck, I just learned that my PIC is also using another textbook, one I've never seen before and about which I know nothing. I have very little time in which to retool my syllabus, not to mention at least scan the book.

Still in all, this is far more fun than struggling with yet another diss rewrite!!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Many, many years ago, I somehow fell into a discussion group. The leader drew questions from The Book of Questions and then people would signify agreement or disagreement with a position. To the question, "Would you watch an execution if broadcast on TV" all but one of us said an emphatic NO. One very small but strong voice replied, "Yes, I would. I am pro-death penalty, and if I am prepared to vote that way, write to my representatives about it and support it in a group such as this, I should be prepared to witness the outcome."

I mention this because I whiled about the hours of class preparation yesterday by listening to NPR. A story discussed a new movement toward asking anethesiologists to perform lethal injections to prevent additional pain and suffering. When the authorities asked for volunteers, no one in that state proved willing to, as they saw it, violate their professional oath or office to preserve life by participation. (One doctor in another state did volunteer, but has yet to be accepted.)

Listening to this while fumbling through my notes, I saw the words "public spectacle" and became chilled to the bone. Today "spectacle" includes AP wire photos of Boy George sweeping streets on his first day of community service for lying to police. It's not all that long ago that hanging, quartering, disemboweling, castration and floggings, far from limited to twelve carefully chosen witnessed, served as entertainment for the masses.

I truly believe, from all that I have read, that post-modern snuff films are every bit as barbaric as the executions of old. I do not advocate their public consumption. At the same time, what if randomly selected groups of 2006 Americans were required to watch executions as civic duty?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ah, the possibilities

New Mexican suggests another possible set of uses for my history degree.

Fess Parker's birthday was yesterday - Davy Crockett's birthday is today. Coincedence?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

what's in a name?

It occured to me that many cities have streets or roads or blvds name after Martin Luther King, Jr. Now ths is all well and good - he's an important, significant and great man of American History. I'm all in favor of naming streets for him. At the same time, I can't think of a single street I've ever seen named for, say, Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman. I assume that they exist, but it's far less common.

Now I grant you that Malcolm X is, for some people, far more controversial than King, so perhaps that explains the geographical difference. What about someone like Jackie Robinson? Are there streets named for him?

Clearly it is my summer vacation. It's about to end - classes to prepare, textbooks to scan, syllabuses to plan. I am more grateful than I can say that I still have a job and can make such plans, even as I curse the mechanics necessary to enable me to go into the classroom.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Thunderstorms at night are exciting and occasionally even romantic. Thunderstorms at 10:30 AM on a Thursday are a nuiscance and not much more.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

pain and suffering

I realize that my students spent plenty of time and energy studying for their final exam. They are entitled to a final grade based upon that exam. I still hate reading and grading the blasted things. This is the moment when I must face the fact that, despite all of my enthusiasm, sleepless nights and personal passion, quite a few of them see me as just another Dibert cartoon. It's not personal - they might even have enjoyed my class - but they didn't study.

Three more exams to read and then I will be done and I will have a very large glass of red wine to aid in my recovery. Excuse me.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: too many

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

dog days of summer enlivened

Another good, solid, fun teaching day - I got to talk quite a bit about sex and reproduction. This is always fun. I've been at this game long enough that I can throw out the name of various anatomical features and sexual activities without batting an eyelash. The same is not true of my students, so out of the corners of my eyes I can watch them slowly cross their legs, shift slightly away from the person next to them and raise eyebrows.

I promise, the bits about sex were entirely appropriate and fully relevant to the course materials. All students are 18 or older. (grins)

Sam is thoroughly tired of heat indexes of 105+. He desperately needs a walk, but neither of us has the fortitude to do it properly. We've grown soft in the last few years, he and I, and can no longer brave the elements. I do worry about taxing his heart and nervous system. He's almost ten, pretty old for a dog. With all of the news accounts of death due to heat indexes in the news... all right, I worry too much, but Sam is a pretty special fellow.