Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Class themes and book lists: switch them up or keep them the same?

This semester I have been Having Ideas. I have started to read enough interesting articles and news snippets that I have started a file on my desktop and in my Firefox bookmarks, and this is a clear sin that these Ideas are coming to a head. Usually, when something has been happening and I want to talk about it with people, I force my freshman comp students to read and write about it. I did a little around the Arab Spring a while ago, but was living in a pretty isolated place where getting them to think and care about other countries was difficult. But this year I am interested in two ideas: Transportation of the Future, and Surveillance. I could pick one of them and shape a course around the Idea.

Generally I like to start out very simple and concrete and we practice making little easy claims and arguments. My first theme clearly stems from my interest in choosing a new car at some point in the near future, and of course you can have a lot of fun writing essays about the various aspects of car culture and how people customize their cars to send meaningful messages about themselves. But this quickly spirals out into other important questions ---- should we really be spending so much of our money on personal transportation? What about the upcoming crisis with peak oil and environmental issues? Why not walking or bicycling? Car sharing? What about how our cities and suburbs are laid out ---- why are they laid out that way? How are we allocating money and should we divide it up for our current priorities ... for example, why is The Hot Place not putting much money into public transportation and infrastructure and funding? Should they put their money into public transit, or into making private transit more convenient?

By the end of the semester, students could spiral out into research projects on any number of topics related to just about anything on transportation, transportation technology, infrastructure, or even the cultural implications of these changes. I foresee this being more easily appealing to the males in the class, but since I have been doing pop culture from a very heavily fashion perspective I am ok with it.

The second Idea, of course, is a bit darker and more threatening. We could start very simply, with the idea of "creeping on" someone. I will leave aside for a moment how this bit of slang completely offends my ear and my understanding of prepositions. As my students have explained it to me, creepin on people involves checking out everything someone does on facebook, trawling back through years of their past posts and pictures, and even obsessively checking when that person is online. It opens up all sorts of interesting discussions about gossip and how their social media changes their friendships and love relationships and casual acquaintances that they may want to see succeed or fail. But who else is monitoring us, and what are they doing with this information? I don't want to just talk about Wikileaks and Snowden and Big Data, but also this disturbing trend toward self-surveillance that I find creepy and Foucauldian. Besides the FitBit and sleep devices that will constantly monitor your "performance" in terms of steps and heart rate and breathing and sleep patterns, I just found this at my local pet store:

Sort of like the nanny-cams hidden in stuffed animals I have seen for sale, this allows you to track everything your pet is doing, monitor its vital signs, and "see through the pet's eyes" so to speak if you switch over to pics or video. We seem to not only be completely reimagining the concept of privacy but the very notion of separateness. And not simply being tracked and assessed and categorized through intrusive technology everywhere we go, but we are apparently imposing it upon ourselves. The apps and "wearables" that allow you to hyper-intensively track your own productivity and efficiency of exercise, digestion, and sleep are particularly troubling when considered in light of Foucault's microphysics of control, that grid or webbing he hypothesized would form an ever-tightening mesh around us.

So, as you can see, I find both of these topics interesting and complex enough to build out an entire course around them. But I don't have readers, and I need to turn in book orders very very soon. I haven't gone through the process of making my own reader here yet, and I think those course packets are also due now, but I don't have the time to compile them or the strength of will to commit to one reading over another at the moment. (Decisions are always the toughest for me! Both/and, please!)

Hence my inclination to put this off and re-use the current reader/photocopies for the next year while I figure out how to teach the below transfer writing class (I have that in the fall and have never taught it before. It is part of my Special Program and it has a special theme. One very good sign that I am not cut out for this Special Program is that I should be re-designing all of my courses to match its theme; many people have proposed that as a good idea, and I am hesitant to do it, especially when Pop Culture and Surveillance and Transportation Futures are so fun.)

I have already bitten the bullet (it was tough for me) and decided (see?) not to change anything yet with my Comp/Intro to Lit course, and to stick with the same anthology and novel. I put in the book order today, yay!

Do you, oh wise internets, have a suggestion one way or another whether I change my freshman comp class readings? And what would you suggest for a book (and an anthology, and a "how to write essays" book, for a one-level-below-transfer writing class? And any guidelines on how much reading and writing to assign?)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tell me: what is service?

Things are going pretty well here in The Hot Place, as long as you ignore the fact that I am super behind in grading everything and have gone into denial and just simply stopped doing work today. And that I am counting down the hours until spring break. Really, I think I am at a normal level of tiredness for the semester, and I am in a good mood overall, so it seems to be standard levels of stress.

Anyway, one of the things I like about this place is that I have been protected from service this first year, which is very very nice, especially since I have been spending all my time figuring out where on campus I get food and how to set up lib sessions and all that good stuff.

Also: book orders! Crap! (Do I switch out my texts or not next fall? Decisions! Expect another post soon. Why are they due so early anyway? Argh. Ok. To return:)

So at my tenure review meeting (where they said they were happy with what I have been doing and were glad to recommend me for another year, yay!), they mentioned I should start thinking about what committees I should get on for service next year. I am still so fuzzy on what they do and how many are required per year and all that stuff.

Also, this place is The Land of the Acronym (TLotA --- I think it is Nahuatl). We have our fair share of bureaucraticisms (though not PIE) and the accreditation report we just got back is studded with them, so a major side project of mine has been to figure them out and learn them. I am doing a terrible job remembering them from one occurrence to the next. People start talking about the committees and all their various acronyms and my head starts swimming.

So, when they said to figure out about committee work my heart kinda sank. The good news is that, since this is a community college, I don't have to do any research at all. I say good news, because I don't have the time or energy to do that, for sure. But it is also a little sad because I love doing research and I think I would like that better than doing service. Alas.

My observing committee is a snarky and sarcastic one. I don't know all these people all that well, but they seem like good people. When they mentioned committee work ("but not X committee ---- we already have 4 English department people on that committee and we don't need that level of coverage"), someone immediately said, "OOh, yeah, Y committee, put her on that. THAT would be fun. Not." (I immediately committed to memory that committee name and vowed to never go near it.) "What about Z committee; that one never meets any more; less work," another person piped up. Everyone laughed for each comment. "What about the Committee to Decide the Fate of the Dead Historic Tree?" asked yet another person. "That is temporary, small, short-term, and a good task to get one's feet wet." We immediately became side-tracked by trees and it turned out that the decision has pretty much been made (and they rejected out of hand both my suggestion to replace it with a coffee bar and a taco truck (I got votes from first, sarcastic colleague though) and I believe it is going to be part of an art contest with the students. Alas, no carnitas for us.)

Finally we got back on topic. "Didn't the nomination period for at large reps just close? That would be a good starting committee, and would mean she didn't have to write reports."

So I am putting my name in for that committee, and worrying and wondering about how many other committees I have to be on and when I will learn what those requirements are. Any advice is appreciated!  I know that starting next year I have to help do class observations of the adjuncts; we have a lot of them. Sigh. Guilt. Awkward. That will be fun. Not.

Stay tuned and watch me dither about while planning my book orders for fall, and hear about the other part of my job I was hired for but have not actually begun yet, the Special Project In Training. Except for the minor part where I am not trained licensed or experienced with SPIT in any way. This should be --- interesting. Possibly in that slow-motion car wreck sort of way.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What IS this ridiculousness?

I have spent far too long looking at shower curtains online. And any amount of time looking that does not result in a purchase and getting the damn business over with is too much.

Now I remember why I have had my shower curtain for about 10 years: every time I clean the bathroom and I think to myself, "Self, that shower curtain is on its last legs, what with the hem fraying and the pulling away from the grommets and the bits in the middle that are wearing away." And then I go look around and discover that my motherfucking options are nasty offgassing vinyl curtains or fabric curtains* with a stupid fiddly liner and you end up getting water all around anyway and having to hand bleach the fucking liner out in the yard. Seriously? Argh! Then I stop thinking about it until another grommet has started to pull free from my curtain.

See, my current shower curtain is ripstop nylon sailcloth, bought at Macy's or somewhere when nautical themes were in, and it is fabric but still completely waterproof. And machine washable, so I can just toss it in the wash regularly. I thought about trying to reproduce it on my own last time and even looked up the fabric to see if it would be at the fabric store, but between having to learn to grommet things and the colors only coming in hunter green and black, I gave up and didn't think about it any more.

Maybe I should just give it up and buy a stupid liner. Argh. Hotels have shower curtains without liners these days; why aren't there any of these for sale in nice colors and patterns?

I was mildly interested in this and in this; these are roughly my style. Of course, I have snazzy black-and-white chevron towels from Target that I don't need to replace yet, but I could just clash.

I also offer you this and you should go look at it.




Did you go look at it? OMFG there is an entire set! You could cover your entire damn bathroom in it and if people asked me if you were crazy, I could say, "does a bear shit in the woods?"

*Don't get me started on the damn RUFFLE shower curtains! Who needs a shower curtain that looks like the little girl underwear you put on the kids in tap class?

Friday, April 4, 2014

A "find" while bathroom shopping

I am spending my evening relaxing with wine and doing some online window shopping ---- my drab bathroom is completely undecorated and I'd love to add some color. Alas, the trend right now is for everything to be drab and "sophisticated" spa-style, so all the toothbrush holders and trash bins are blah and neutral or metal.

Maybe etsy will have colorful stuff, I think. And then I think, I wonder if I could replace my shower curtain on that site?

While looking about over there, I found this.

I don't know what to say.