Archive for February, 2009

Florida Trail - Hickory Hammock Segment

First, a disclaimer…I did not take any of these photos, but have linked to the websites they came from.

My friends here in Florida and I did a six-mile hike along a beautiful segment of the Florida trail today. I thought I’d bring you along, virtually, of course. We hiked with a group of folks from the local trail association, all were pleasant company.

On the way back, we stopped briefly at Lake Okeechobee, just to have a look-see. The most interesting bird I saw there was the common moorhen. Probably not so unusual down here, but if they are common in Michigan, well, I guess I’ve just not been very observant.

Lake Okeechobee

Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

I was thinking about the notion of starting this little break even as the season of Lent is beginning. It may be that God is inviting me to fast from negativity rather than candy…and being out in nature goes a long way towards clearing the mind of some the difficult stuff of the past few weeks.

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Friends, first, let me wish those of you who observe it a blessed Lenten season. May you be open to the graces God wants so very much to shower on you!

And now, since I’m feeling the crunch of time very acutely (can I fast from work for Lent?), let me at least offer you a brief excerpt from (and link to) Sr. Joan Chittister’s Feb. 3 commentary on the signing of the new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, also known as the “Lilly Ledbetter” law. The sad history of injustice for Ledbetter brings to mind Jesus’s admonition to the Scribes and Pharisees not to use the law to lay impossible burdens on people. Enjoy…

From where I stand, it seems clear to me why Barack Obama wanted this particular bill to be the first piece of legislation to launch his new presidency. After all, who else, besides descendants of people who had been forced into slavery and out of the social mainstream really knows the effects of legal discrimination. Who else is brave enough to admit that slavery will not really be over until women have all the rights of men — as blacks for years sought those of whites.

God, women and stealing | National Catholic Reporter

So…let me warn you that it may not be until after the weekend that you’ll see another blog entry. I’m leaving for Florida today and have a lot of prep and grading to do before I meet my students online on Friday. Be well!

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So it seems my students and I are back to working together rather than at cross-purposes. Are things perfect? Dream on…today I completely messed up a proof of the maximum value theorem live in class…that’s what I get for winging it. (Though to give myself a bit of a break, the reason I didn’t have a look at the proof before class is that I spent my whole prep time in lab helping some students with LaTeX, even skipping lunch. And I fixed my proof in a video clip that I posted to the course web site after class.)

Anyway, the hostile tone appears to be gone, at least for the moment. I believe some interventions I had both with individuals and the group as a whole raised some awareness of unhelpful dynamics, and has resulted in a more positive climate for learning. In fact, I know of one student who figured out for himself what was going on and made a commitment to stop participating in drama created by others.

So while it has been far from pleasant getting to this point, my hope is that we’ve all learned something valuable. I’m really glad I was careful not to give in to the temptation to respond to incivility with my own incivility, that I was not provoked into abandoning my commitment to professional, nonviolent communication.

It’s nice to be loving teaching again, after a couple of very difficult weeks.

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Analog to digital

I know they delayed the date for the transition from analog broadcast TV to digital, but I couldn’t help getting a few giggles out of this video clip. Note that there are plenty of younger technophobes out there, so you may know of people this reminds you of.I do need a laugh, and hope this brings a smile to your face.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Analog to digital“, posted with vodpod

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The “doctor” is in

First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

How do I share my struggles with my ministry of teaching in a public forum in a way that is respectful of a subset of my students who from my perspective, seem to have chosen to struggle against rather than with me? This past week has been very a difficult one for me professionally. I guess the positive way of looking at it is that my willingness to stay in the struggle and continue to try to model for (and expect from) my future colleagues the kind of respectful, professional discourse that is expected in the workplace is evidence that I care very deeply about and take very seriously my obligations to them.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I often use allegory, sometimes in playful ways, to clarify, illuminate, get a novel perspective on an issue. So I thought I’d share the one I came up with in response to this group of students who claim that the reason they do not come to me for help during my office hours is that I assume that they should know more than they do, and that they think coming to me for help would end in them feeling insignificant and unintelligent. (Keep in mind that the author of the post speaking as a spokesperson for this group has never actually tried coming for help with a problem….) It’s not as playful as some of my other allegories, but I think it’s fairly accurate, and others of you who are educators might be able to relate…

When you come to me for help, I expect that you have at least attempted the problem, and that you have some work written down so that I can see where the problem is. Would you go to a doctor and not tell her what your symptoms are, expecting her to make you well with no data other than you telling her you feel sick? Please help me to help you by trying to identify what has you stuck. If I appear to assume you know more than you do, it’s because you are not telling me what you do and don’t understand.

Let me end by saying that I believe things will turn around. When the tone of our online forum began to deteriorate despite my best efforts to keep the conversations from poisoning the learning environment for all of the students, I wisely enlisted the intervention of my department chair. On Friday we had some one-on-one conversations with a couple of students we think could make a difference with their peers in turning things around. I’m cautiously optimistic that those conversations will have the desired result and don’t simply become more fuel on the fire.

It is interesting to note that there is another subset of students who have no clue that any of this is going on, as they have not been following the discussion forum.

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I’ve been noticing for several weeks now that the post that has been getting the most hits on this site is the one I wrote last June about the Furry Convention in Pittsburgh. I can’t for the life of me figure out why that somewhat frivolous post has generated so much traffic on this blog. Anyone care to offer an explanation? Real or fake…we can just have fun with this one…


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Apostolic Visitation…hmmm

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has recently announced an Apostolic Visitation “in order to look into the quality of the life” of women religious in the United States.

A news release from the official website, http://www.apostolicvisitation.org, states:

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has begun an Apostolic Visitation or comprehensive study of institutes of women religious in the United States.

The action was initiated by the Congregation’s prefect, Slovenian Cardinal Franc Rodé, C.M. The decree, issued December 22, 2008, indicated the Visitation is being undertaken ―in order to look into the quality of the life of the members of these religious institutes.

It will be interesting to see the approach taken, as the perception of “quality of life” may take on different meanings for different participants and different observers.

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