Sunday, March 27, 2005

more thoughts

every fantasy world has its great fantasy weapon.

the wheel of time has callandor, a flawed sa angreal that only a man can wield. the image of rand sword-fighting the dark one in the sky fascinates me.

middle earth has the one ring. the idea of the rings of power, all of them, ruled by the one ring is unique and powerful.

my all-time favorite fantasy weapon, of course, is the star wars light sabre. despite everyone's dislike of episode i, the end-of-movie light sabre battle between quai-gon jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and darth maul was, in my opinion, a visually stunning display of coreography and design. i thought that lucas had a chance, in episode ii, to put together a light sabre battle of similarly (or more) stunning proportion, with the duel between anakin skywalker and count dooku, especially the segment where anakin fought with two sabres. lucas blew the opportunity, but the fact remains that the weapon is a fantastic piece of work, and can make great theatre.

the tomes of trolomia needs such a weapon. and it needs to be a weapon, not just a spell or a power.

the magical powers are cool, of course, but the weapons rock.

another complaint

i fired off another complaint to doctor bigwig about bad instructor. last monday, the 21st, bad instructor said she'd be caught up by wednesday; wednesday has come and gone with no end to her tardiness in sight. so we'll see. i'm going on with the big project that's worth a quarter of the grade, hoping she doesn't reject it when she finally gets around to doing it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

state of dumbfuckistan

i live in dumbfuckistan. in case you didn't know, that's the big "state" at the bottom of the map where shrub comes from.

the dumbfuckistan legislature meets for 140 days every two years in a flurry of special-interst pork barreling, partisan supidity (remember two years ago when the democrats shut down the session not once but twice by leaving town?), and totally insane shit that just boggles the mind sometimes (like repealing the motorcycle helmet law).

for the following links, use bugmenot to find a username and password that will get you in without their stupid registration shit.

dumbfuckistan has the highest rate of capital punishment of any state, and is either first or second behind everybody in the world except perhaps china. one of the reasons is obviously that texas has no "life without parole" option for juries.

in texas capital cases, "life" means a minimum of 40 years, or the jury can select death. guess which one they pick?

some folks think we should have a life without parole option. some prosecutors don't think so. given the poor record texas has with executions generally, i'd think any option to reduce the number we have would be welcome. instead, some folks want to put in an express lane.

insurance companies have been putting the screws on consumers since 2001 when they faced a couple of losing years. some insurers pulled out of the market completely.

they seem to have reversed that trend, paying out just 35% of premiums in claims. yet insurance premiums remain at record highs (in my case, amounting to over $100/mo), and insurance companies insist that they need to continue rating based on consumer credit reports (notoriously inaccurate anyway), which, in effect, discriminates in housing against both the economically disadvantaged and people who've been victims of identity theft.

house bill 1212 is a parental notification law that is really stupid. it raises the bar for a judicial bypass to "substantial" physical harm -- that is, it's okay to beat the shit out of her just a little. it also makes public the judges who handle judicial bypass claims and what their decisions are, making them marked men. and it makes it a criminal offence to "coerce" a minor into having an abortion.

in news of the texas legislature wierd, breastfeeding nazis want to prohibit health-care providers from giving away baby formula.

it will be legal for texas schoolchildren to bring cupcakes to school for birthday parties. i wasn't aware there was a cupcake crisis.

a bill is pending that would outlaw suggestive cheerleading. then what fun would it be to watch the goody-too-shoes bitches?

people wonder why i live here.

sometimes, so do i.

school district fun

texas school districts are exciting.

the wilmer hutchins isd is being shut down and taken over by the state education agency.

you can read the full story here.

the reason for the takeover seems to be that at least 22 employees cheated on state elementary achievement exams.

and the superintendant has been indicted for obstruction, for destroying documents he knew were under subpoena.

and the superintendant has been indicted again for falsification of attendance records which are used in texas to determine funding (possibly to his personal benefit).

and the state has tried to remove the superintendant, but the board refused three times to fire him months after the first indictment.

and there seems to be some trouble with employees getting paid.

and there's this whistleblower retaliation thing going on.

of course this is a small minority school district. but in fort worth we had a construction scheme complete with shoddy workmanship, overbilling, and kickbacks that have landed people in the clink, where the head of the district also didn't get fired. he was allowed to retire (although he personally wasn't indicted).

makes ya really confident in our schools, no?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

thanks

thanks to kyle for permission to use some of his photography. the photographs are copyright 2005 kyle hearn, all rights reserved. and they're watermarked so don't bother trying to rip them off.

Header photo location:
N37 28.563 W112 14.438
10-February 2005 10:49:05
9116 feet

Thursday, March 17, 2005

upgrade to 1.5

wordpress 1.5 is actually pretty nice. most importantly to me, it handles themes. that means i can skin the site pretty easily. with some tweaking i can even make it randomly choose a skin. i don't plan on doing that.

but the other thing themes allow me to do is customize and control the layout and design of the site much more easily, and with less dependence on remembering which files i hacked when i upgrade. now that themes are self-contained, i can even transport the theme easily across multiple sites.

the short version is that i really like it. over the coming days you'll see me making some visual changes. But even the default theme (what you see now) is at least reasonable. the only change i've made so far is that i've added the css tag to cause everything to be forced to lowercase.

i've also added my rings and whatnot to the sidebar. that took a hack, but it's pretty straightforward to do in the new system.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

upgrade

i'm upgrading to wordpress 1.5. things will look terrible for a while. thanks for your patience.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

xa-speakers

i have lots of drive space laying around, and i'm reasonably technically competent with things automated. so once a week i mirror xa-speakers. so if by some chance you'd like a copy of some of their stuff without having to download from them, let me know. i can fish out stuff pretty easily.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

defects of character

cecily mentioned that we talk a lot about "defects of character" in aa. and she offered her understanding of what a defect of character is.

and i used to be like her, and believe what she wrote. i don't anymore, although i see that she might be on the road to the understanding i now have.

a defect of character is anything that stands between me and being of service to god or to another person.

i'll give you an example. everybody has sex problems (and they're usually sort of interesting to hear about), but at times i let my sexuality run away with me, and it causes me no end of grief.

when i'm locked in a sex fantasy while on the phone with someone i sponsor, and i'm too busy thinking about what i'd rather be doing to pay attention to his question or issue, that's a big problem. i can not be of service at moments like that. (yes, it's happened.)

on the flipside, when my sex problems help me to listen to another person's troubles with more love and less moral judgement, they are a tremendous asset. i understand some of what can drive people to do monumentally stupid things (we won't talk about deliberately getting the married woman pregnant ...), and that helps me be a concerned, honest friend who shares my experience without the harsh judgement of "you moron, why didn't you wrap your willie?" (that is a comment i got sharing about it in a meeting.)

the challenge is to learn how to either give up enough control that aa's suggested program of recovery can actually work on the moments when these things are a problem, or to control them myself (much more difficult).

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

the proposal

the english course i bitched about in the last post is a composition course. the big project for the semester is a how-to manual of some sort, or some kind of technical or procedural manual. examples have included a manual for rebuilding classic corvettes, a payroll manual for a local fire department, or a manual on teddy bear collecting.

i'm going to do a how-to on how to work aa's twelve steps. it should be fun, educational for me since it will force me to dive back into the literature, and sufficiently useless to qualify as a good class project. i may even post the result here when it's done.

the first part of the project is a memo proposing the project. so i wrote one. i addressed it to my (mythical) sponsor, seeking his approval to create this project, outlining its requirements, goals, the need for such a manual, a timeline, its costs, and all that garbage.

as i wrote it, i found myself inappropriately explaining aa jargon terms so the instructor could make sense of them. for example, anyone with a week sober will know what the big book is, but the instructor won't. and sponsoree isn't a normal english word, so it needs to be defined. but as i wrote, i realized that i wouldn't need to define these terms in this way to a member of aa. so i took all that crap out.

and i read it again, and realized again that the teacher wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of a good deal of it, and the part about the cost of the project would totally fly over her head (7th tradition stuff).

so i had to write a memo explaining the memo. the real assignment is three pages long; the memo to the teacher explaining stuff like anonymity and sponsorship is a page and a half. i even requested a waiver of the requirement that the inside cover page contain a full-name byline, citing aa custom in these matters. after all, with a single exception, no conference-approved aa literature carries a byline (the exception being "twelve concepts for world service" by bill w.). i suggested omitting the byline while i privately acknowledge the requirement, doing first name last initial, or using an obvious pseudonym (and "ima hogg" is not a pseudonym: she was the daughter of a rather mean governor of texas). i was thinking about, say, "Ima Lush." do you have another funnier suggestion?

i can't wait till she grades it.

bad instructor! bad!

March 11, 2005

Dr. soandso bigwig
Tarrant County College (whichever Campus)
Office: wherever
yeah that address
city state zip whatever

Re: English course-section, synonym number

Dear Dr. bigwig

This letter is directed to you in your capacity as whichever campus English Department Chair. You should consider it my formal complaint about a whichever Campus English instructor.

Ms. bad instructor’s performance with respect to her Internet-delivered English 2311 Technical Writing course for the Spring 2005 term is unacceptable.

Issues presented in this letter include grievances of several students who have elected to join this complaint by acknowledging their participation through the attached e-mail acknowledgments of their agreement and participation herein. Each class member listed as a co-signer has reviewed this complaint and affirmatively indicated his or her concurrence in this complaint.

Background
Since classes began on January 18, ms. instructor has consistently demonstrated a lack of engagement in the class. Repeated attempts by students to contact her have met with inadequate or no response. Ms. instructor has, on several occasions, promised via e-mail to stop “neglecting� this class, but failed to initiate any positive action or remedy thereafter. To date, four assignment due dates have passed. Now in the 8th week of class and at mid-term, we have received neither meaningful feedback nor any grades for assignment submissions.

The factors of my disappointment with Ms. instructor's performance are outlined below.

1. Delay of Assignments
Ms. instructor has been inconsistent in timely informing students of assignments:
• Assignment 1 was posted on Saturday, January 22, a full five days into the term.
• Assignment 2 was posted on Monday, January 31.
• Assignment 3 was posted on Thursday, February 10.
• Assignment 4 was posted on Thursday, February 17.
• Assignment 5 was posted on Friday, March 4. It is worth nothing that Assignment 5 is due Saturday, March 12, but Assignment 6 has not been posted.

According to her syllabus, assignments should be posted weekly. Her “Assignments� page on the Distance Learning website indicates students are required to complete 16 separate assignments. We are now nearing the end of the 8th week of class, meaning either that we are at least three weeks behind Ms. instructor's syllabus and/or eleven assignments (fully two-thirds of the course requirements) will be required during the last half of the course.

My concern with this issue is that Ms. instructor will attempt to “double up� on assignments, compensating for her lack of attention by increasing the workload on her students. Many students take Internet classes because their schedules are restricted and they must carefully schedule schoolwork to fit their busy lives. A “double up� approach forces these students into an untenable situation that could have been avoided if the instructor had properly handled the class.

2. Lack of Posted Grades or Notification of Grades
Ms. instructor's syllabus indicates that grades should be posted to the “eclassinfo.com� website, and that students’ student ID numbers should be used as login and password information.

When visiting this website, a student is presented with a section labeled “WebGrade Reports,� but the only report available is “600Fall2004.� When I attempted to log into this report consistent with Ms. instructor's instructions (using both my Social Security number and my TCC Colleague ID), the system reports an error, “Either your login id or password is incorrect. Please try again�. This indicates that Ms. instructor has not set up her grading system for her Spring 2005 sections. The only grade available to students at this writing is the automatically-graded “Online Orientation Quiz,� and, if completed, a series of short-answer questions that are automatically graded as an F until the instructor manually updates the grade (the short answer questions were not yet due as of this writing).

Ms. instructor's failure to report grades makes it difficult for students to gauge their mastery of the required material. Without reasonable feedback from the instructor, students risk repeating mistakes from one assignment to another. Each repetition makes re-learning more difficult, seriously degrades the utility of the course, and ultimately affects final grades. In addition, Ms. instructor's failure to inform us of our grades has made it impossible for students to drop the course in time to qualify for even a partial refund or, later, to decide to drop the course for a W in lieu of an F.

3. Lack of Email Response
According to Ms. instructor's syllabus, “All Internet faculty have committed to reading and responding to e-mail messages at least five days per week, typically within twenty-four hours.�

Students have consistently complained that the few email responses received from Ms. instructor have been significantly delayed. Several students have experienced delays of a week or more in receiving responses from Ms. instructor, and some have sent inquiries on several occasions with no response forthcoming. Since email is our primary method of communication with our instructor, and because feedback is so important to student success in a writing class, Ms. instructor's failure to respond in a timely manner directly impacts the ability of a student to succeed in this class.

4. Previous Experience
More than one student has indicated that these issues are not unique to this semester.

male student, a student in the Spring 2005 section of Technical Writing, has said that he took Ms. instructor's Summer I 2004 section, and failed the course. Mr. student's failure to look in the correct place for assignments, thereby failing to complete them correctly, was exacerbated by Ms. instructor's failure to respond to his first-week inquiry until the last (5th) week of the term.

female student, a student in the Spring 2005 section, relates a second-hand account of a student in Ms. instructor's Fall 2004 Internet section who saw her assignments lost and mis-graded, and had to pursue Ms. instructor past the end of the semester to get her grade.

5. In-Person Meeting
In her online orientation, Ms. instructor invited her distance learning students to attend her Wednesday evening (5:30-8:20 p.m.) classroom section of Technical Writing. We withheld this complaint until we could meet personally with Ms. instructor, and three of us did so, as a group, on March 9. Our discussions with Ms. instructor have not been fruitful, leading some of us to bring this complaint.

At this meeting, Ms. instructor did acknowledge and apologize for her poor handling of the class. She indicated that she is teaching 21 hours this semester, and said that she would be using the break to catch up in grading. She also indicated that she would be dropping some assignments from the schedule.

While there, one student asked Ms. instructor to look at an assignment in progress. The student was dismayed with how harshly she felt Ms. instructor graded the assignment, and while the grade Ms. instructor gave was not recorded as final, it impressed upon both me and her how little we’re familiar with what Ms. instructor is looking for in these assignments.

In discussions with her classroom section of Technical Writing, we also discovered that they also have not received any feedback. While they’re in a slightly better position with respect to expectations because they see Ms. instructor each week, I found it instructive that this situation exists in multiple classes. I had hoped that the distance learning section was being neglected because it’s easier to overlook or put off email than it is to put off a student sitting in front of you, and learning that her classroom section is in a similar position was distressing.

While I understand that Ms. instructor may have had some medical issues earlier in the semester, and while I realize that she may feel overwhelmed with her workload, the entire situation raises a red flag in my mind.

In fairness, Ms. instructor did send a very contrite email to the entire class as I sat in her classroom on Wednesday evening, a copy of which is attached. However, given her class load, and the fact that other classes are in similar situations (meaning that the break will not be one of catching up mostly on email and distance learning work), I am not inspired to confidence that, even is Ms. instructor catches up and starts anew on March 21, she will remain caught up through the end of the term.

Other Students
It is worth noting that this complaint arose through a cooperative effort on the part of a number of students, some who have chosen to sign this complaint, and some who have not. A number of students who declined to offer a concurring signature expressed a fear of retaliation; even some students who did agree to sign expressed that fear.

It is also worth noting that while I have taken the lead in drafting and presenting this complaint, I did not initiate the discussion that led to its creation.

Conclusion
All of these deficiencies in Ms. instructor's handling of the class lead to an untenable situation for her students:
• We must proceed through the class unable to effectively schedule our work load, making up for Ms. instructor's lack of organization through our own efforts.
• We must proceed through the class without effective guidance, not knowing if our assignments are satisfactorily complete or not.
• We must proceed through the class without adequate ability to evaluate whether or not we should drop the class, and when.
• We must proceed through the class with unresolved questions about course content, expectations, grades, and/or other non-technical issues.
• We must proceed through class unable to effectively plan for on-campus interactions. The list of assignments indicates the possibility of on-campus assignments in Weeks 9 and 15, and the syllabus mentions four trips to campus. Distance learning students require reasonable notice for such scheduling so that they can make arrangements to attend. I need not remind you that students often take courses through distance learning because they can not conveniently come to campus.
• Many students require this course to graduate or transfer, and are now in their final semester of study. Unable to evaluate our progress or correct mistakes, we risk unwarranted failure or poor performance in a core course that could prevent our graduation or successful transfer.
• Some students feel that invoking our right to express our concerns to school officials may provoke retaliation in the form of harsher grading or outright assignment of poor grades, leading them to be more willing to suffer through a course that can’t be completed with a reasonable expectation of success than to exercise their right to seek redress.

We therefore ask that you immediately take whatever necessary steps are required to rectify this situation, so that we can proceed through the course with confidence that we are earning the grades we receive, can properly evaluate our progress, and can make intelligent planning decisions.

Thank you,



me

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

i can't help but laugh

after my horrible day yesterday, in which i'll admit i wasn't the best of employees, i've been terminated from my student employment gig. all of $6/hr gone. (but that's okay, they didn't manage to cut my last paycheck besides.) i've been instructed to seek "reassignment" through financial aid. we'll see what that means.

as if i care at this point.

it does, however, give me the opportunity to be more focused about finishing my paralegal studies course.

Monday, March 7, 2005

it's been a bad day

i left work half way through the day without bothering to let anyone know. just packed my shit and left. i'm not sure i can take it anymore.

i've long had trouble with stupid people. today i tutored a woman who is in a remedial math class, the second of a sequence of three.

the stuff we worked in is fundamental to success in later courses. but to say that this woman has some skill deficiencies that are hindering her success would be something of an understatement. she commonly says that 3x3=6, and that 9x3=12. she also doesn't consistently remember that a negative times a negative is a positive, or that a positive times a negative is a negative. these things are so fundamental to the practice of later mathematics that failure to master rules for signs and basic multiplation tables is a guarantee of failure.

the other issue remains my computer and related gadgetry. i got another tongue-lashing today about using my computer on the network, and listening to my ipod (playing harry potter book 1, which is a required book for one of my courses). the basic reason behind not being permitted to use the computer on the network, as near as i can determine, is "because i said so." i can go into the library, but not where i spend most of my day. when i challenged my direct supervisor about it, her response was more of the same.

i don't think i can take much more of this shit. i'm paid $6 an hour, and i'm treated like it. Essentially not permitted to think, couped up in a room that gets so noisy in the afternoons that real study isn't possible, i basically can't do anything entertaining that would actually entertain me while i wait. and for most of the things i do on a computer, connecting it to the network is a requirement. at times when i have no students, i'm both unable to study and unable to do anything else.

as i write this i'm expecting a "where the fuck are you" phone call any time now. i'm not excited about getting it, and i doubt i'll even bother to answer.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

another year

i had planned on writing out my story for the blog, but since i posted that mp3 of me telling my story, i decided to skip it.

still, today makes 11 years of continuous sobriety.

and nobody is more surprised than me.

Friday, March 4, 2005

ian's meeting

so we had the ard (admission, review, dismissal) meeting for ian today at the local school district.

the short version: they want to do a 5 day a week class for him because he has "moderate to severe speech impairment." a number of the other issues they identified, such as a lack of bathroom training or failure to follow two-step directions, can be traced to the speech: he can't tell us he needs to potty, and he doesn't understand the directions. they rated his various developmental issues at between 20 and 28 months; he'll be 3 years old later this month.

the long version:

the 5 day a week class will not work for us at least through this school year. his two day a week preschool requires that we pay for the class time even if we don't keep him in the school. besides that, it's from 07:45 to 10:45. jesus h. christ. i believe that god didn't mean for people to get up before the crack of noon; a class that early is a crime against humanity. [i can just imagine the google hits that will generate.]

sue asked what the options for summer are; if he'll regress they'll do a summer placement for him. but eligibility is determined by the regression, so if he doesn't go this year they won't take him during the summer. doing 2 or 3 days a week is an unknown.

also, the class he'll go to (really hot teacher with gigantic tits -- it's a good thing she teaches in an elementary school cuz the middle school kids would spend all their time staring and drooling) is a good 20 minute drive from our house. there will be a new one opening up just a few blocks from our house in september; it's possible that they will be offering the services he needs at that school, which means a much better transportation situation.

the school district will provide transportation, but we will not be putting him on a bus. at this point he's so afraid of new things and loud noise that we think he'd be absolutely terrified of a school bus. we're afraid that he'll think we're throwing him away in something that might eat him.

we don't feel a particular urgency to get him into school before the beginning of the next school year. he's stable, happy, and progressing, albeit slowly. i made that clear and the school people were surprisingly happy with that; i was prepared to hear much wailing and gnashing of teeth over our wanting to sit and consider.

sue didn't go; she was too tired. so i recorded the conversation instead. i won't be posting the mp3. :)

gringotts

enter, stranger, but take heed
of what awaits the sin of greed
for those who take, but do not earn,
must pay most dearly in their turn.
so if you seek beneath our floors
a treasure that was never yours,
thief, you have been warned, beware
of finding more than treasure there.

-- sign in front of gringott's wizard bank
harry potter and the sorcerer's stone (book i)
by j.k. rowling

Thursday, March 3, 2005

baby training

my wife has written a post asking for some assistance. we'd appreciate some answers, so i'm linking from here because i get slightly more traffic than she.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

degree plan

interdisciplinary studies

if i put a * next to it, it's either done or doing this semester.

english (6 hours):
*engl 1301 - expository writing 1
*engl 2311 - technical writing

literature (3 hours):
*engl 2309 - world literature

interdisciplinary study core requirements (6 hours):
ints 2301 - interdisciplinary perspectives
ints 4391 - interdisciplinary capstone

history (6 hours):
*hist 1311 - history of the united states 1
*hist 1312 - history of the united states 2

political science (6 hours):
*pols 2311 - government of the united states
*pols 2312 - government of texas

mathematics (6 hours):
*math 1302 - college algebra
*math 1308 - elementary statistics

science (8 hours):
*geol 1425 - earth systems
*geol 1426 - earth history

fine arts (3 hours):
*art 1301 - art appreciation

social/cultural studies (3 hours):
*econ 2305 - principles of macroeconomics

liberal arts cultural courses (12 hours):
woms 3327 - marital and sexual lifestyles
woms 3366 - sex, gender, and culture
woms 3380 - ethnic and gender in criminal justice
woms 4301 - art and gender

electives (everything else):
woms 2317 - basic concepts of human sexuality
*spch 1301 - fundamentals of speech communications
*cics 14y2 - introduction to computer applicatiosn
*cics 14y3 - introduction to programming
*phil 1304 - moral problems

----

so much for the basic crap. now for the fun stuff.

disciplinary component 1 - history and foundation of the american legal system:
ccjo 4422 - legal aspects of evidence
crcj 4301 - american judicial system
crcj 4310 - advanced legal and technical writing
hist 2314 - history of england ii
hist 3317 - american legal and constitutional history 1
hist 3318 - american legal and constitutional history 2
hist 3320 - us civil liberties

disciplinary component 2 - environmental studies
geog 3355 - environmental history of the united states
geol 2401 - weather and science
geol 2402 - geoscience and genesis
geol 2406 - natural resources
geol 2408 - geology of national parks and monuments
pols 4351 - energy policy and administration

disciplinary component 3 - current legal issues
blaw 3311 - business law 1
ccjo 4330 - american judicial system
crcj 3338 - juvenile justice system
pols 3331 - contemporary issues in civil liberties
pols 3334 - women and us law

the shorthair

the university of texas at arlington has a student newspaper, called the shorthorn. i suppose it's a spinoff of the one at the university of texas at austin, where the mascot is, of course, bevo.

in today's shorthair, below the fold on page 1, the ran a story, "student files suit against man."

the student, krystal buchanan, has filed suit in tarrant county district court against a man, whose identity is being withheld by the shorthair "because criminal charges have not been filed."

it's interesting that they'll release the name of the alleged victim in this case. in a criminal case it's the victim being protected, not the perpitrator. and in a criminal case, the name of the victim is sometimes shielded from public view by the court; in a civil case, that is never the case. the defendant's name is a matter of public record. i'd publish it if the docket were available online.

this seems a strange twist on the "protect the innocent" journalistic ideal, as finley peter dunne is misquoted as writing, to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.