Tuesday, March 27, 2007

School on the Move

It's one thing to be a university on the edge; it's quite another thing to be a school up in the air. Driving out in the country I spotted this schoolhouse, the Farmington Township school in Lake County, SD, that was up on blocks, ready to be moved from the site it's been for decades. Thing is, I think this school is where my grandmother, Mary Kehrwald (before she was married), was a teacher. So says my aunt and my mom. It hasn't been a school for a long time, but it did serve many years as the township hall, and the old records are just as much in the air as the school itself is. No indications on where it's going. I hope it finds a good home.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Les Perelman vs. the SAT Essay

Speaking at the Conference of College Composition and Communication Conference in New York City last Friday, Les Perelman of MIT showed how he coached at least one student on how to get a high score on the new essay portion of the SAT exam. He did it, he says, with the fundamental assumption that "The essay is a completely artificial and unnatural piece of writing.” Using a recognizable quotation from history, regardless of whether it's relevant, and including words like "plethora" and "myriad" go far in improving a score, he says. Perelman provided examples of student writing that show little regard for historical accuracy but use language and phrasing that seeks to impress readers at the surface level. Writing teachers, he says, need to work to get the exam changed.

You can read a complete article on the address, "Fooling the College Board," by Scott Jaschik, on the Inside Higher Ed website.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Days of Spring, Changing Habits

At 7:00 p.m. today, my colleague JL said, spring arrived, and he with his green tie was ready to greet it. "Today's the day that Sister Mel Eesa would change her habit," I said in reply. "That sounds like a great first line for a short story," he said. It does to me, in part, because that nun was a force to be reckoned with in the first real teaching job that I had, a good force.

Sister Mel Eesa Ryczek, who taught American Literature and other courses at St. Mary of the Plains College (and before that at the high school it had been before), retired, and I was her replacement. 1985. She continued there as alumni director and knew virtually every student who attended SMPC and remembered them long after. She never missed a day of school and never complained, yet her sharp tongue and rigorous lessons, oral and written, could sting and linger, for students and young colleagues alike. She passed her books and her lessons on to me, and I would invite her in for particular aspects of courses I taught. She kept her hand in. She watched us young people and cared about the school. One day she checked herself into the hospital and never came out again, a long life brought to an end by cancer.

Sister Mel Eesa marked the changes of the season with a change of habit, going from the black cloth of winter one day to white the next, to keep it until fall came on. If you'd missed the date of spring on your calendar, you knew when short and stocky Sister Mel Eesa came floating down the Hennessey hallway with her white gown rising and falling. So, twice a year, when the seasons change, that black habit and that white habit change places, but the face is the same one.

Harley's New Nightster

Yes, I took a short break from commenting on motorcycles, but I've just got to note that Harley's new Nightster model looks pretty cool--retro style. Check it out here at Cycleworld.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sweet Days in Beadle Hall

We in Beadle Hall were blessed with the best fudge on the planet the past couple of days, courtesy of Christina's Confections, a new sweets supplier in Madison. It didn't take long for the fudge to disappear, and much commentary flew about the smoothness and tastiness of the treat, with hints of cinnamon and coffee apparent. Great stuff! One colleague mentioned that it was the best fudge he'd ever had, and, in his words, "didn't make me feel like my teeth were going to fall out." What better compliment! A range of other items, such as chocolate pie and short bread, are also available. Yum!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dangerous Poetry

Who says poetry doesn't matter? A recent article in The Gainesville Sun describes how a teacher got suspended for teaching a poem with a bad word (or words) in it, and then drawing students' attention to the word by writing it on the board! Oh my. A parent objected. The teacher is now suspended, with pay. Let's hope that substitute teacher avoids dangerous poetry and sticks with grammar lessons and uses the board for diagramming sentences. Pull out those dusty copies of Silas Marner! Turn to page one. You, in the first row, read: "In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses . . ."
The teacher might now have more time for editing great poems to make them more palatable to the overly sensitive. On the other hand, if Melody Irizzary, the teacher suspended, has a motorcycle, she's got more time to ride it. The weather in Florida should be good for riding . . . Let's hope some parent doesn't object.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Connie to the Rescue

Coming back from a week in Maui is such a drag. How can you compete with sun and sand, whales cavorting in the deep blue sea, a Mustang convertible ready to drop its top for you at the flick of a switch? You could drink, take drugs, chase wild women, or realize it was just a vacation and you should get back to real life. Or, you could try trading in your trusty Honda Magna (see previous posts) for a beautiful Kawasaki Concours, 1997 style. What?!!, you say, you only got the Magna in June last year, for goodness sakes! Ah, but look at the road-worthiness! No more "out of gas" scares every 80 miles. No more burning blue jeans!
The Honda cranked up fine after winter in the barn, ran like a top all the way down to Powersports Inc. in Sioux Falls, and seemed to be happy to be getting a chance at a more appreciative owner. Traveling across Wyoming, for gosh sakes, with a three-gallon gas tank. Whattayathinkin?! It'll be happier cruising the streets of Sioux Falls, lookin' good in red.
But green is my color now. The Connie (or Conk, to some) is dark, but in good light you can see that green glow. I pulled the bags for now, including the quick-release helmet trunk on the back, but they'll all come in handy on the open road. And that nice fairing will keep my legs dry and warm unless Katrina's sister finds her way into the wild west.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Busy Day/Lazy Day--Maui Style

Yesterday and today are a picture of contrasting ways to approach a vacation. Yesterday was a day of driving, hiking, and taking pictures, and today involved going to the beach (which wasn't just hopping out of the car, by the way). Yesterday we got up early and drove the Hana Highway down past Hana, around the east side of the island into some lightly traveled sections where two cars have to slide over and creep past one another, each one with a wheel on the road and a wheel in the ditch. We saw lava tubes, waterfalls, a black sand beach, rough coastline and sweeping beaches, whales jumping, beautiful plants and flowers, dozens of Mustang convertibles just like ours, some hippie eco-friendly merchants, Elvis's biggest fan, the best banana bread ever, a million twists and turns, and a roadblock on a bridge that spoiled our plans to circumnavigate the island and come up the west side. Hence, we had to turn around and see it all again. We stopped in Pa'ai and enjoyed some seafood, and managed to get back before "Lost."
Today we went for a jog, walked to Ka'anapali Beach and relaxed in the sun. The walk there and back again was punctuated by many a jumping whale. Then it was a homemade lunch and a nap (for me) and now we're getting ready for an evening in Lahaina, our last night in Hawaii. Aloha!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Chapter 235, In Which Our Hero Enjoys a Luau

Monday and Tuesday were busy days, with the high point (for me) being the Old Lahaina Luau Monday night. It's considered the most traditional here and the least tacky, and it lived up to its reputation, even though one Native Hawaiian at our table claimed the coconut halves you see here came from Polynesia. Some postcards of early Hawaiian luaus confirms the coconuts didn't appear a century ago; dancers seem to have done fine without them.
You might note that the flowers attached to the hips on these dancers are blurrier than the rest, and you'd be right. The hip action going on here defied what you might have learned in your anatomy class. If you could see all the photos you'd see similar dancing from the men, though theirs is more aggressive.
Now, that's not all we did, but that's all for the hero today.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chapter 234: In Which Our Hero Falls into a Snow Pit

When we last saw our hero, he was taunting the world with an image of an island beach, yet unknown to him a the time, fate would have other episodes in store before his Hawaiian departure. With his island vacation less than a day away, our intrepid hero decided to take advantage of the building snowpack and dust off his cross-country skis. When he arrived at Lake Herman State Park, however, he found that his little two-wheel drive Ranger wouldn't make it through the unplowed entrance. Undeterred, he parked the vehicle and strapped on his skis for the first time in years, heading out over the wind-whipped snow drifts toward the relative shelter of trees half a mile away. Never one to follow convention, our hero sought the shortest route to the trees, over the field of cattails and snow. This decision proved to be fateful. As he glided high over the wetlands, his skis nicked the tops of the cattail stems, the shelter of trees coming ever closer. Yet suddenly, the lightly packed snow in the cattail field gave way, depositing the surprised skier into a snow pit with only his head visible. Our hero could see the road only yards away, the shelter of the trees within a minute's walk, yet there he stood in a snow pit surrounded by snow and cattails.
Never one to give up, however, our hero struggled to pull his skis up, widened the hole, and released the latch holding each ski. Once he had them off, he calmly used them as supports on the ever-collapsing snow surrounding him, and eventually once again was perched on the surface of the six-foot snow drift. Carefully crawling along the surface of the snow, our hero wisely used his skis to keep himself from once again falling through, and soon emerged at the side of the road, with never a car passing to note his embarrassment.
Only barely into the ski session he had planned for himself, our hero assessed the situation, dusted himself off, and put his skis back on. Soon he was in the trees, the wind now reduced to swaying the treetops, and he blazed a trail through the park just as he had planned. Squirrels and deer, pheasants and rabbits, none of them spoke of the narrow escape of our hero as he glided through the park, then back again, then finally taking a shortcut once again across the lake, returning to the park entrance weary and satisfied, ready for the beach.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Where I'm Coming From

Here's where we're coming from:

And here's where we're going:Any questions?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Weather Made Me Do It!

Our fearless leader Dr. Knowlton made the call today and closed school at 11:00 for today and tomorrow with blizzard warnings closing in. In effect, spring break now starts in one hour!

You can hear the warning read to by an American or British man OR woman's voice you if you check out the very cool Oddcast Talking Avatar. Let her give you this stern warning: PLEASE USE EXTREME CAUTION IF YOU ARE CHOOSING TO HIT THE FREAKING ROAD! And then do what she says.