Friday, August 8, 2014

Teaching Critical Thinking and Information Literacy: John Oliver on Native Advertising

I'm a little bit behind the times on the latest Daily Show spinoff, Last Week Tonight --- partly because I liked John Oliver but didn't think he had the pull to captivate us through an entire show. But it seems that not only is he doing good stuff, his segments are often longer and more researched than actual news shows. In fact, the ones I've watched have been straight-up information-based arguments punctuated with the occasional sarcastic joke rather than really being comedy bits. While having more informative, thoughtful journalism out there is great, I'm thinking the show won't last that long for exactly the aforementioned reasons.

Here is his clip on the relatively-new phenomena dubbed "native advertising." He may think it is recent in "traditional" or "hard-hitting" journalism, but it has been present in fashion mags as the "advertorial" since Ms. magazine got co-opted by its own funders back in the 60s (early 70s?).



I would love to show this clip to my students when I move into the research paper section of my comp class, but I'm torn. I have been using Steven Colbert's wikipedia sketches for so long my students no longer get the topical references (was Gulf War II so long ago, people?), but I do so as part of explaining why wikipedia has so many problems and why they need to use academic sources. Similarly, I make a huge effort to show them how to read articles carefully and skeptically and sift out the well-researched articles from the biased and cheerleading fluff. If I show this, I bet my students are going to take the same "they're all crooks" conclusion that people use in politics to justify not voting at all, and wash their hands of even trying to find news articles with balanced and objective reporting, or decide that if everybody is going to be a corporate shill, there must not be any problems with anything they are shilling.

So, yes, my frustration is more with what's left of journalism for gutting their commitment to reporting the truth and asking all the questions people don't want asked rather than what people hope they'll be asked, but I really want to teach my students to value education and that whole belief that an independent and free press is necessary for democracy, and how can I do that and simultaneously show them evidence that the free and independent press no longer exists? My students aren't sophisticated to do a postmodern critique of the institution of journalism without defaulting to "it's all lies so who cares, shrug." It's easier to teach them that there are certain crappy, poorly-sourced, useless link aggregation or advertorial sources and there are certain other trustworthy and useful ones. Grumble grumble stupid news outlets mistaking themselves for buzzfeed.

On the other hand, the whole sketch is set up as an argument, though not one that traces out consequences of this trend. I could have them watch it and write arguments in response to how native advertising is or is not a problem, or perhaps some sort of problem/solution essay?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Preparing for another incoming round

(If only I looked this debonair...)

Soon, soon I must finish juggling around readings and assignments and finalize my syllabi. I'm doing some last replenishment shopping before I get swamped with work (at least I hope; how does shampoo manage to magically empty a day after I shook all the bottles and made a list?) and I still need to get my office all organized and prepared.

I just realized that we switched one of my classes and the new one starts at 7 am. Shit. I hadn't recognized the implications of that. I probably, most likely, in all likelihood, will not be able to wake up at 7 for my 7 o'clock class. Well this causes many kinks in my plans, and the necessity of having to change my alarm clock setting may actually be the worst. It only leads "wake up" and "go to bed unnaturally early" by a hair, though. Gak.

I also think I need to clean out my freezer and force myself to consume this stuff. There is a frozen sandwich bun and several soups that are almost exactly a year old, and are probably not any good any more. There are also popsicles and frozen yogurt and frozen mixed berries that are much more recent, but I had better eat all of them just to ensure quality. :)

Also I have no clue whether I am supposed to change the water filter and other fridge-related stuff, but the ice cubes smell and taste a bit ... stale? I have never had this problem before. My first impulse is to ignore it. I should get on that though before back to school craziness. And they were supposed to shampoo my carpets (or whatever the deep cleaning thing is) because I signed another year lease with them ... they are going to wait until I have my first batch of essays and am cranky and trying to concentrate before they come in and make a mess of everything, right? I just know it.

In other news, it is not as hot and dry as it should be, though we did kick off fire season. Other places have hunting season, we have fire season. We celebrated it with rain and mud, though, because a parade would make too much sense.


You know, I'd better go...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Money pothole

Argh! Ouch! Grrr!

So I have the situation of many academics and teachers where I am only on contract and paid for nine months of the year. When I learned this, I opted for the plan --- also, theoretically, common for academics --- of having smaller paychecks paid 12 times a year. I'd rather get regular checks than have to deal with making sure that my big rent amounts stay there in the account all summer. My mom, the conservative, has always railed against this "infantilizing" treatment of teachers which was in place when she first became a high school teacher back in the early 60s, saying that it was insulting for them to withhold your money as if they knew better how to steward it than you. Well, I am totally ok with that, and these days my savings accounts are getting about zero in interest, so it's not like I would be better at investing it than the school. Sign me up for a paycheck every month the rent is due, please.

Then I discovered that HR is basically closed during summer and they cut all the summer checks at the same time and you have to come to campus and pick them up and dump them in the bank yourself. Argh. So I am in the same place as where I started. Why is your 12-check method in any way useful, HR?

This left me in the position of having to budget and plan and generally not be an infant ---- and I swear! budgeting went on! there were columns and plans and lists and stuff! I swear!

But what has now come out to bite me are: 1) my desire to pay off these damn credit cards and 2) my inability to realize the the one-year anniversary in this place would mean that various introductory deals for things like the internet would be ending and the prices rising and the new higher rent rate would also kick in. Plus my dad, who has been getting ever more confused, told me it was time I took the cell phone bill back ---- he had been really nice and put us all on a family plan that he paid for back when I was adjuncting and then my brother and then my sister all lost their jobs. It was real nice of him, and I gladly agreed that I could go back to paying my cell phone bill now that I have salary. I just didn't know that I would be doing all the paperwork and calls in June and then not get a bill until the end of July and that the bill would include all of June, July and August. Crap. I guess that would be unknown number 3).

Problem number 1) of course is not actually an unknown ---- it is well documented that I am an impatient, impetuous, idiot. So when I had this big pile of money all in a lump sum and goal date of October for the credit cards and one of them being tantalizingly close to zero, of course, after totting up a couple budget scenarios, I decided to cut it as close to the line as possible and slam as much money at the credit cards as I could. Hahahahahaha! Stupid me. Sigh.

Anyway, super frustrating. With the higher bills and paying the minimum on my cards next month and one tiny savings account stockpile paying the cell phone and the other paying the electric bill (have I mentioned I live in The Hot Place?), I will be able to squeak through August to the next paycheck with literally pennies to spare over the required minimum balances I need to keep. Yes, that is including my student loan payment. Everything just barely covers. Sigh. I struggled so hard to build up those teeny silly savings balances!!! This whole adult responsibility thing blows sometimes doesn't it?

Ooh, and did I mention that another house came on the market in that historical neighborhood I like looking at? This one is a total all-American 50s style, flag on the porch and Harvest Gold carpet and everything. It's cute! ....Yes, I know .... another good word for me and my bad habits would be incorrigible.

Monday, July 28, 2014

One year in The Hot Place!

Hello, I've been here about a year now! Congratulations to me! And I still haven't burst into flames, huh. To think that last summer was so crazy with worry and packing and moving heavy objects and cats meowing!

This summer has been so peaceful --- empty even, in comparison to last. I still haven't gone any further with looking into house loans, because that would involve cold-calling people, and unfortunately I slipped out of my walks and walking group lately --- I tried walking super early this morning, but when it only drops into the 70s/80s overnight, it is already hot and yucky out in the sun even at dawn. (Side note: I am really appreciating my shady balcony in the morning because it faces south. Often it feels warm on my balcony and I decide to go for an early walk only to discover that I can't handle walking in a non shady area because it is so hot.) And my hiking group walks at 6 pm on a weekday which is actually the hottest part of the day, yuck. I hit some of the weekend hiking/camping and cheezed out on some of the others. I'm still more anxious about going places alone than I should be.

But what I have discovered is the pool. Not the lake, which is full of awesomeness and rents kayaks, but the pool in my apartment complex, which is not exactly awesome but has the advantage of not requiring any planning or driving, so I can procrastinate on things all morning and still go. It is almost too small to swim across, but I got some goggles and try anyway. I learned the hard way though that when I turn and flop back the other direction I set the waves sloshing so much that slides my suit top almost all the way around to the back. Not very dignified. Luckily ---- and bizarrely, I must say ---- the pool has been almost empty or empty every time I have been there. When it is 100 degrees, it is perfect pool weather. When it is 108 or 110, it is great pool weather if you stay in the water ---- and you can't even really sit on a mattress and hold a magazine out of the water or your hands will burn and be too hot. I also discovered that chapstick is not enough and you can get a lip burn, so you have to sunscreen them up and then slather on the chapstick. And for god's sake don't lick your lips. But the great thing about it being so desert-dry is if you stand up out of the water the breeze wicks the heat right off of you and you are shivering. If it is 95-100 you can then lay out in a partially shaded area and slowly get dry and warm. Over 105 or so it really is going to only take a minute to get from shivering to uncomfortably hot again so laying out isn't practicable.

Anyway I'm glad I finally got it together to go out to the pool regularly, although I am annoyed with myself that I still haven't spent a day at the lake and haven't done the kayak rentals. There was an ad for stand-up paddleboard lessons too, which I kind of want to try. There is even a stand-up paddleboard yoga class, which I am sure is not for me, as I can fall over easily without the added stressors of either yoga or standing on a board in water. It just wouldn't go well. My one complaint is that I still haven't really found a good group of people to hang with, and hiking and lake-visits and such are more entertaining when shared with friends. The people I know from work have basically scattered for the summer, and the local people I have met have regular jobs and can only do stuff on weekends or are retired and aren't necessarily into hanging out with me. But I will admit that I am partly to blame, since I haven't really been out there pounding the pavement for new acquaintances. If only I could do that from the couch or the pool.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pardon me, but could I wear your parlor decor?

I just went shopping with family and bought several things. Call me weird, but many of the cute things in Crate and Barrel I had no interest in using, but really wished they were something I could wear. Alas, they are pricey enough I could not buy a bunch, take them apart and use the fabric for my own purposes. Especially if it is outdoor sunbrella type fabric rather than a nice soft blend.


This should be a notch-neck 60s-style shift dress with some black blocking --- not sure if the whole back side should be black or if it would just need some strong black edging and trim.



Can't you see this one making a nice skirt, or maybe even a button-down blouse? Heavens, no, not together!


This chevron-triangle one is my favorite ---- some people might think that it should be turned 90 degrees and made into a maxi dress, but I am too short for maxi dresses, so I want this to be an a-line flared skirt at about knee length.


This one is my least favorite but I could see it as a fun wrap dress or perhaps a shell to go under a jacket/cardigan type situation.

Thank you for indulging my weirdness. Please make all these clothes for me. Heh.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Still alive. Still inside. Still in hiding.

Well, I hope the fireworks here are as exciting as people say. My family has refused to go see fireworks for years, mainly because in the Bay Area it becomes a hugely crowded thing where you have to go to Great America or drive really far and get trapped in a crowded parking lot and still not get a great view, so they don't see it as worth it. But since I am on a hill I am told there will be a good view of the fireworks from right here, so here's hoping.

Still here, sitting around and reading and sometimes hopping in the pool. The only problem with the pool is that it is really only comfortable when fully submerged, or else you are fine except for your head which is on fire. Not having gills, the fully submerged route doesn't quite work for me. Also, there's not much to do when completely under water in a pool that is not much bigger than my couch or a good-sized sofa sectional. I went in the other day because there were no loud splashy children, and then discovered that only loud splashy children, because they are so small, are going to have fun swimming from one end to the other in a pool that small. I know, I know, I am complaining in the face of riches. What I need is a waterproof book.

Changing the subject completely, has anyone tried stand-up paddleboarding? There is a co. that rents out these boards and (I hope) teaches you how to use them without falling off. There is also a lady who does regular SUP yoga classes, but considering that I can easily fall over while doing regular land yoga, that sounds way too challenging for me. But probably highly entertaining for anyone who wanted to watch me.

Anyway I am working up towards trying out SUP. I have promised a lady in the apartment complex I would go with her and try it. Eeesh. It is unfortunate she knows I am a teacher and have summers off. This lady is a definite SoCal type that I would not have expected around here ---- she is clearly way over 65 and has told me about being retired (and bored, as you will see) but dresses and tries to emulate Paris Hilton. Now, Paris Hilton doesn't look particularly good on Paris Hilton, but it looks especially bad when you are in your sixties. All the bling and bracelets and long, bleached, cocker-spaniel style hair ---- yeah, all of that is also the stuff that I loved to hate when living in Gradschooland. Like I said when I moved away: I hate California, but there is "California" and then there is a sizeable population of "people who hate California but in such a California way," and I am so very much part of that group. Hence the weird homesickness for hating on things when I was in Postdoc City. What I need to find here is the second group and I keep running into people who want to be the first group.

Now, EternalYouth Neighbor has been living here in the complex for years, and I think she likes to know everyone and get all in their business (hey, that's very much like Postdoc City people!). I think I mentioned her and probably gave her a different nickname in a way back post ---- she had an annoying fat little pug when I moved in, but it died and now she has a cute but annoying fluffy eared little chihuahua type mix. From listening to her, it sounds like she has gone through a lot of cats and dogs which doesn't really speak well of her. Some she has "lost" or they escaped, some had health problems she didn't deal with or understand and they died, some she hands off to people for reasons I don't quite follow. The pug, at least, I know was old because when I first got here I heard the whole saga about how she thought it was developing dementia and couldn't get the vet to agree.

I about died when I mentioned I was putting off going to visit family because I wanted to drop the cats off at the vet and board them when they re-opened after the 4th and she cried out, "oh, but I could come in and take care of your cats!" I just have the feeling that she would go through every inch of my apartment and my personal stuff while I was gone. Not that I had a good way of explaining that to her, so I just know I got this weird string of facial expressions go over my face before I said I wanted the vet people to keep a close eye on the cats, especially after the fireworks. It is true, my cats are afraid of the fireworks noises, but not so bad that I'm not going to go out on the street and watch them.

So I am trying to walk this balance between not being rude and not getting myself roped into being a constant companion of this lady. It seems like she has absolutely no interests except talking to people (but without any thing really to say) and being the center of attention ---- she has borrowed my laundry facility key because she locked her keys inside and at the same time mentioned that she locked her keys in the apartment so often the management installed a special lock on her door so she can't lock herself out). More disturbingly, after a call to the health hotline asking about what happens if you take twice the muscle relaxant dose by accident resulted in them dispatching EMTs, the fire department, and the police ("I never had so many men in my apartment before!"), she now seems to be regularly manufacturing incidents that would bring out those numbers of people and levels of attention. I guess the good side is that I get weird and interesting stories to pass along here, but I never get to put a word in edgewise.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Girl on Fire

This is just a little post from The Hot Place to make the announcement OHMIGOD ITS FRIGGEN HOT ARRRRGJH IT BURNS!!!!!! Yesterday I had the un-fun experience of staying indoors all day and watching the thermostat number climb steadily despite the AC running full blast and not having it cool off indoors that night. It was a hundred and friggen fourteen, people! That is just wrong. It also really sucks that I feel trapped inside on days like that when the only things this place has going for it are the outdoor places of natural beauty. And Netflix. I am currently catching up on the various iterations of Borgia/s that appeared a few years ago. I could do that, however, anywhere.

Last weekend I went up, up, up to higher elevation on a hike that I hoped would be cooler and more pleasant. It was a good hike, but "cooler" according to wunderground meant 95 up where we were. Gack. And pretty, but not as nice of vista views as you'd expect from the elevation gain. Stupid trees. Or topography. Something. And now I have an enormous blister on the side of each big toe --- whatever, that is to be expected and they will go away soon. But what's odd is that I just noticed I have two weird little blisters on the middle finger of my left hand --- from cooking? from what? OMG have I somehow picked up --- warts? Ew. How did that happen?

With the heat being this unpleasant I am halfway convinced to just pack up and go on a progress throughout the countryside to visit various friends and family. But alas, my cats. Usually I love them and they are what keeps me sane throughout the rest of the year. But they do not like travel, even down to the vet, which is 1.2 miles as I have told them when they are screaming in the car, and boarding them at the vet is incredibly expensive.  I just don't like the idea of spending those levels of money on travel and it doesn't even count towards my hotel etc. And I am far away enough from most of my people that I can't manage short trips on a drive ---- most of the time is driving to meet them. Grumble.

Also, I conceived a plan to drive out to Isolated Mountain Retreat, and now I have chickened out. I haven't taken that road, and when I looked it up in the news there are regular reports of people losing control on the curves or driving off the cliff face. Now I feel like I can't handle driving it. You know that one stretch of the 1 highway down California, the beautiful cliffside road by Big Sur that they put in all the car ads? I used to be able to ride around and even drive on that stretch because I didn't think about it. Then I thought about it too much and I am too freaked out to go on there any more. I am silly, I know. It is this kind of overthinking that keeps me grumpy and on the back balcony instead of out having adventures. (BTW, I am on my balcony now; it is very balmy and nice out --- only abut 80 when I came out here at 7.)

Anyways, that's all the news from The Hot Place: It's hot. I'm my own worst ball and chain. The tomato plant stubbornly refuses to ripen any more of the green tomatoes. And the cats like to sit and watch me from behind the balcony door, occasionally making meows of protest that only barely can be heard through the glass.