Life in Omaha (in Scottsdale)

daily existence away from chicago

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Terminal Tours

Terminal Tours

Monday, October 25, 2004

How I waste time

Everyday, every damn day, I say I'm not going to do the innane. And every day, I do it. I blame the adreneline crash from teaching. With a 9:00am class, I rarely get to campus early enought to do anything but unpack, put the lunch in the fridge, grab the right books and folders, quickly review what I planned for the day, and sprint upstairs before the clock chimes sound. Then fifty minutes of stand-up and I come back down to the office, spent.

It's always, "just a quick check of the email, just pop over to a couple of good blog site, some web pages" and then back to work. I can't think after I teach. I'm whipped for at least a half-hour or so, especially if, like last night, I stayed up late reading or grading. Last night was a final sprint to finish Gravity's Rainbow--just 'cause. The students will still have a week left, but I need to be ahead, and now I don't have to plan for that for the rest of the week. But I'm paying for it today. Tired, and sluggish after I put everything into my daily performance with a two drink minimum.

3:30 as I write. That's my 30 minute limit (and then some, if you figure I got back to my office at 2:55). I need to draft my rationale for cutting some gen ed programs for the meeting I chair tomorrow morning. Eliminate the grading and the bureacracy and this would be a pretty sweet career choice, even accounting for the meager salary.

Ciela in Leaves

Ciela in Leaves

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A perfect world | The San Diego Union-Tribune

My latest review for the San Diego Union Tribune.
A perfect world

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Hitchcock Nature Center, Oct 10th

Roll 35 - 26

The beauty of eastern Nebraska and western Iowa (where this shot was taken) takes many people by surprise. I know when Judy and I were considering moving out here, I assumed Nebraska would be a drier, flatter, more expansive version of the northern Indiana farmland I see driving from Chicago to Louisville. Endless rows of corn and soybeans. And there are places like that, but they are out further west. In and around Omaha, the Missouri River cuts through a remarkably beautiful landscape. These photos were taken at a nature preserve about 20 minutes from our house. The stunning vistas across the Loess Hills (loess being a land form of large hills formed from glacial deposits and then carved by water and rain).

Hitchcock Nature Center, Oct 10th

Roll 35 - 20

Supermodel

Roll 35 - 18

Preview picture from Ciela's photo session. She was great, but man that giraffe was a diva.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Ballpark Estimate

Do you want to find out just how *&#!'d you are for retirement purposes? Take The Ballpark Estimate challenge. Even being generous in my estimations of my current savings, I think I have to stop eating now in order to retire at 80.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Orion > Terry Tempest Williams > Open Space of Democracy Tour

Many of you, I'm sure, read that Terry Tempest Williams was disinvited from Florida Gulf Coast University. The University's President feared a the school could be financially and/or politically damaged were Williams to make remarks critical of President Bush. The Board of Trustees--all but one appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush-- voted 11-1 to support the decision. One might also note that President Merwin contributed $2000 to President Bush's campaign, that the larger Florida Board of Trustees are appointed by Jeb Bush and the majority of major donors to FGCU are supporters of the Bush brothers.

Merwin is of course correct in that were Williams to speak critically of either Bush, the University would be at risk. This, perhaps, is the most damning thing Merwin could say about the Republican sector of Florida--that they would penalize open dissent in a public university. This strikes me as the nadir of democracy in America. When universities begin limiting the free exchange of ideas out of either a well-founded fear of political repercussions (taking Merwin at his word), or from highly Machiavellian crushing of any and all dissent.

Either way, Merwin should not be a University President. Either he is in collusion with the Republican power brokers and is ethically compromised, or he feels he must sacrifice the very foundations of higher education to ensure that it remains. In which case, he simply is not a president of a university, but the CEO of ... what? A profit making corporation? The education wing of the Republican party? The spineless toady of Jeb Bush?

Perhaps Merwin would have more credibility if he didn't allow, of all people, Dick Cheney to speak on campus this coming Thursday. Dick flippin' Cheney! The FGCU fiasco looks more and more like a microcosm of American today. Sacrifice anything, even the most sacred tenets of democracy in order to secure power.Orion > Terry Tempest Williams > Open Space of Democracy Tour

Monday, October 11, 2004

The devil made him do it | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Just a taste of my current working life.The devil made him do it | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Life in Omaha: The Language Police, redux

Those of you who give a dang might want to check out the commentary on this posting from earlier this week. Life in Omaha: The Language Police. I seem to be in a dialogue with either multiple anonomytes or one person who seems particularly annoyed at my stance.

Grading Grading Grading

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I tell you, my year is just sailing along--sailing!--now that I have my new T.A.

Grandparents: Part II

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Pictures of the recent visit of the distaff grandparents. This is prior to the Bacchanalian feats of various wursts, tortes, steins and a duck at The Rhinelander. I couldn't imagine an infant eating that much hasenpheffer.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

VP debate

Here are two things worth noting about the VP debate. They certainly aren't of supreme importance, just merely interesting moments I noted.

Dick Cheney was completely boxed in on the gay marriage issue...to such an extent that he had no position to argue and had to bail out. He couldn't
even argue that Edwards was dishonorably or cynically exploiting his
personal family. Well, he could, but Edwards was actually complimenting the Veep. For a brief moment, I felt pity for Cheney, caught in the double
bind. But it quickly faded. You dance with the devil, you deserve to burn.

Then while watching NBC post-debate coverage, Tom Brokaw said, revealingly, that they would, for analysis, turn to...not reporters but a representative
from each party. Now, quite clearly we weren't going to get "analysis"
from--Joe Biden was the democrat and I'm afraid the republican escapes
me--we weren't going to get a critical look at what the two candidates said.
Rather, we were going to get a polished spin declaring each the victor and
restating the same talking points that both candidates tried to cram in
during the 90 minute debate. Useless.

Turning the station, PBS was still conducting commentary from reporters and
then Jim Leher turned to "partisans"--yes, he used that word--to hear what
the parties had to say. The difference between NBC and PBS was that PBS
recognized that their job as journalists was to sift through the accusations
and counter-attacks to find what more closely resembled the truth. NBC
abdicated their responsibility, turning journalism into mere transcription.

Of course, this is old hat as far as current media criticism. Lots of
people have been saying this for years, most notably Eric Alterman in The
Nation. But it's worth consistently repeating until journalism retakes its
position as a reliable, diligent filter. Right now, the fourth estate has
been co-opted. They are being played.

Its for this reason that Jon Stewart's The Daily Show is gaining
considerable cultural importance as a political barometer. Stewart, in the
guise of satire, is one of the few media figures that will pursue a notion
of truth instead of lazily cowering under the blanket of "objectivity."
Ironically, Stewart the comedian better understands that calling a lie a lie
is not partisanship. Its what journalists should be doing.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Language Police

This morning in my American Literature survey course, I briefly digressed to speak a bit about canon formation and why we wouldn't be reading Frederick Douglass in our unit on the American Renaissance. In part, I was pointing out how the Second Great Awakening infused the US with a religious fervor, but that that fervor was very much a protestant one, and one that determined a near universal common culture for the men and women of letters (overstatement, yes, but this is a 200 level course, and, like in politics, nuance falls on barren ground). This digression also included some self-referential flagellation about said decision to axe Douglass. I pleaded the African-American Lit course we offer and the fact that the sophomores had read the Narrative of Douglass for their freshman orientation.

Coincidently, The TLS ran this review of Diane Ravitch's new book The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn . What really struck me was the equalization of work under the noble notion of inclusion. While very much sympathetic to canon revision and widening the spectrum of literature we teach, my idealism grounds itself on the poor, derivative writing by those outside the mainstream--Douglass excepted. No matter how tricky and elusive the nature of "quality" in literature may be, it is necessary to address and argue this notion. Otherwise, literature loses any really power in a culture.

What especially troubles me about the phenomenon Ravitch describes is the watering-down of intellectual engagement with literature. It begins in the textbooks, but by the time these students reach me, they seem ill-equipped to make any value judgements. There's a reason "in my honest/humble opinion" has its own acronym in IM speak. IMHO is the default position for any, ANY discussion of ideas. It deflates any standard, and reduces culture to a series of polka dots. Art, ideas, philosophy...anything needing interpretation is viewed as a monadic point, connected only -- if at all -- by superficial contingencies. The cultural landscape becomes a connect the dots picture with no numbers. Draw your line to any point, make any picture you like.

Friday, October 01, 2004

11D: Work/Family Blog Conference

This is as much a reminder for me as it is a public posting, but there's a 11D: Work/Family Blog Conference next week that looks interesting. While I'm not certain I'll participate, I definitely want to read what some people say. Ciela has certainly altered the way I do work...or more precisely, not do work.

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