Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Saturday away

We spent the strangest day in Pocatello today. The mini-van had to have some recall work done, and there is, of course, no KIA dealership in Twin Falls. So... off to Pocatello we go. We've actually been putting this off for awhile because gas prices have been so high.  A trip to Poky at $4.09/gallon adds up to something like $50. At $1.45 it's more like $18. Quite the difference.

Anyway, we decided we'd take the family and make a day of it. The dealership estimated it would take 3 or 4 hours, so we thought we'd hang out at the mall, get a bite to eat, see a movie, and be done. It turns out that that is exactly what we did, but we didn't count on the temperature being in the teens (and well below that with the wind chill) with drifting snow. With no car (it's in the shop, recall), we're afoot with a two year old and a four year old (in a stroller really), not to mention the 7, 10, and 12 year olds. Who knew a four-wheel drive stroller would actually be a good idea on a day like today. The walk from Wal-Mart to the theaters, which would be a 1-minute drive, literally, took a good 15 minutes and we were walking directly into a biting wind. The babies were howling by the time we got 100 feet. Needless to say, they were fit to be tied by the time we reached the theater. 

On the bright side, however, the movie we saw was pretty good. I didn't have high hopes for Bolt, but it wasn't half bad. The 3D glasses were actually comfortable and the 3D effect was quite good. The movie was clever, funny, and had a reasonably entertaining story. I even forgot, from time to time, that John Travolta was giving the main character his voice. 

Mark Walton, who has done some voice work in a couple of other animated films (Chicken Little and Home on the Range), gave voice to the hamster character. Funny stuff. I hadn't paid attention to him before, but he's a Utah boy, apparently. Born in Salt Lake, schooled at USU, which is a whisker better than being a zoobie. Well done, Mark.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finals Week

What are you doing this week?

I have a tradition of sorts that I indulge in during finals week. While I’m sitting there, as students labor over the instrument of paper torture that I’ve devised for them, I read. I don’t read just anything, though. I read the headiest, densest, most theoretical stuff I can find that I think will inform my teaching for the upcoming term. Actually, that’s only partly true. I do read theoretical stuff (and really enjoy it), but I also read selections from texts that I am or may be using in the future term. I read ideas from other instructors teaching in the same discipline in similar ways (or in radically different ways, occasionally) to shake up my teaching and to try to stay fresh. I read across genres and try to bring together seemingly disparate things, looking for the amazing and exciting convergences that make our discipline so much fun.

I’ve also been working, this week, on the ways in which technology works in the teaching (and learning) of writing. It’s not a new field, by any stretch, but it is continually reinventing itself. Take, for example, Michael Wesh’s fascinating work on the anthropology of YouTube. That may not look like writing studies at first blush, but the literacy implications make it a very useful “way in” to what computers and the web are doing to us as readers and writers.

I know students are reading (cramming?) for exams. I know my colleagues are reading papers and exams (and I’m reading those, too, of course). What are you reading? What is engaging your attention these days?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another tag from Peetie

8 favorite TV Shows (in no particular order because my tastes and preferences change)
1. ER
2. M*A*S*H
3. LIFE (I like it too, Peetie)
4. Lost (when it's not in the 18 months between seasons)
5. Music and the Spoken Word (which looks fabulous in HD)
6. Spongebob 
7. Hogan's Heroes
8. Wings 

8 things I did yesterday
1. washed dishes
2. a little Christmas shopping with the little kids
3. graded 999 essays (it felt like)
4. tried to clip the dog's nails (I have the scratches to prove it)
5. worked on my talk for Sunday
6. found out my talk for Sunday has been preempted by a bishopric change in that ward
7. washed dishes again (am I not a good husband?)
8. pulled out a hang nail which made it MUCH worse

8 favorite restaurants
1. Cheesecake Factory
2. P.F. Chang's (try the lettuce wraps and the mongolian beef!)
3. Peking (say it with me, now, Mark - "General Tso's Chicken")
4. La Fiesta (on Blue Lakes in Twin - try the shrimp fajitas)
5. anyplace that doesn't have a "play land"
6. see #5
7. see #6
8. see #7

8 things on my wish list
1. Nikon D90 (or D300 or D700 or, for the very wealthy and generous among my readers, the D3)
2. The Jack Ryan movies on Blu-ray
3. a bigger house (for Keri's sake)
4. a king-size bed (I stole this one from Peetie, too, but it's a good one!)
5. more patience with my kids
6. a boat (just kidding-- what would I do with a boat unless I also had an SUV and a place to park both)
7. a trip away with Keri
8. a trip to someplace fun with the kids (Disney or national park or Grandma's house-- any of the above will do)

Tag, you're it
1. Clint Carter
2. Mandi Womack
3. Kayla Ehnat
4. Mark Brown

Peetie's tag

Peetie tagged me (indirectly, I guess-- I saw this on her blog). Go to your pictures folder. Post the third picture in the third folder.

I cheated though, because the third picture in the third folder was of the RSJHS 7th Grade Girlds Basketball team. None of you care to see that, I wager.

Jake put this together for a school project about his family. It even shows Lilly, the pill dog.
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"Grading Avoidance"

One of my former posts-- actually a draft of a post that I never posted because my blog (not this one) had a hiccup and my draft dissappeared-- was a very funny, very insightful commentary on the kinds of things that teachers to do avoid grading. I really doubt that I can pull off a repeat performance, but I did notice today that a number of my colleagues and friends are posting little bloggy things which mention the fact that papers await. And they do-- they wait, patiently but insistently. 

Instead of grading, I:
  • got a haircut,
  • cleaned my office,
  • spent 15 minutes lamenting college politics and policy changes with colleagues,
  • organized "collected works" folders for students whose OA papers received NP (not proficient) marks from readers,
  • composed a informational document about NULC (the National Undergraduate Literature Conference) to recruit students' literary criticism and creative works for said conference,
  • read 15-20 posts on WPA-L about wierd things that happen on campuses (including teeth mailings and a persistent spitter).
Before I get to the grading I plan to:
  • write an overdue letter of recommendation for a student,
  • review and make suggestions on a "statement of purpose" for another student,
  • write a final exam for my 101 students,
  • get a bite to eat (finally).
In fact, I think I'll go eat now. 

What are you doing to avoid work today?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday diary

So, while all you nut jobs were up at 3AM to be at Penney's for the insane 4AM opening, I was snoozing blissfully in my bed. Then, after you wrestled that little old lady from Murtaugh to the ground for those mother-of-pearl earrings for your grandmother, and as you made your way groggily to Best Buy for their 5AM opening, I turned the pillow over for that delicious coolness and went back to sleep. 

When you were elbowing some 300 lb dude who slept in the parking lot to get his PS3 with 3 games and a Blu-Ray movie and some crazy soccer mom was blocking the Wii aisle so her husband could load ALL the Wiis from the entire store into their basket, I heard one of the kids stirring, but since they were quiet in using the toidy, I was able to lay back down and slumber some more.

As you swerved through two intersections to avoid people talking to each other on their cell phones coordinating the Fred Meyer attack for socks, and as you inched your way forward in the longest line in Target history to buy those scooters, I was thinking about getting up-- but deciding "no, I think I'll 'snooze it' for a few more minutes.... or an hour."

I'm up now, but I'm still in my PJs. I just peeled an orange for Cole, shared it with Cate and Cam, made myself a turkey sandwich (on one of those still-soft rolls), and browsed online to find that Wii game on sale on Amazon for less than Wal-Mart's "doorbuster" price. 

Didya have a good morning? ;-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

a painful waste of time

I've been teaching college since 1999. All told that's 26 semesters (counting quite a few summers). When I review course syllabi with students at the beginning of each term I discuss my plagiarism policies. I tell students that I have yet to teach a semester in which at least one student submits an assignment plagiarized from work done by others. "Maybe this term will be the semester in which no student plagiarizes," I say, hopefully. "Maybe you'll believe me when I say that my plagiarism radar is pretty sensitive," I say, suggestively. "Maybe you won't have to learn that lesson by experience. Maybe you'll take my word for it." 

We've just finished week 13 (of 16) and, without really thinking about it consciously, I was starting to wonder whether I might get through this term without wasting my time and energy on a plagiarism case. Sigh. It's not to be. Not one, but two students chose to submit as their own work written by others. I had the unpleasant task of discussing it with them and making the excruciating decisions about what to do with. Do they fail the course outright, or do they fail the assignment and stay in the course? There is a range of possible consequences for plagiarism--mostly because plagiarism has many colors-- many shades and motives. Most of the time, students don't set out to cheat in this way. Mostly they find themselves pressed for time and make poor choices. 

I only hope that these are learning experiences for them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the archives...

Here's a picture from last year's Draney Camp. Where does it take you?
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A day off... now and then

Veteran's Day is a good day to have off. The students love having any day off so we'll just leave them out of this one. I'm sure they respect the sacrifices of our veterans as much as anyone, but today most of them are either catching up on homework or getting further behind on homework (because they're getting sloshed and won't be in class tomorrow). Maybe.

I spent the day doing a bunch of stuff that I haven't managed to fit in lately. Namely: grading essay exams from the online Brit Lit course, updating scores in Blackboard (99 clicks to do any single thing-- you know how it is), getting a new battery for the minivan (Keri did this one, but I set it all up for her-- called the shop, haggled the price, made the appointment, etc.), getting new tires for the beater (just 2 new tires, mind you-- can't quite spring for 4, and the ones on the back aren't in bad shape), getting a haircut, making children do yesterday's homework, finishing an order for a photography client, taking an order from another client, taking the Snakeriver Council 2009 calendar to the stake so they can finish their 2009 calendar, and etc. (Phew!) I even managed to grade a few essays from the Mythology course. Who knows, I may even get caught up with essay grading by the time the next batch comes in on the 25th.

All of the above is to say that a day "off" once in a while is a good thing. It restores a sort of balance to the system of my life-- allowing me to behave as if there really were 8 days in the week once in a while. And dont' we wish there were 8 days in the week. But only if just 7 of them were scheduled.

How was your Veteran's Day?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Single Daddin' it

Keri is taking a road trip with a friend to see a friend this weekend, so it's just me and five kids. (deep breath)

and we're having fun...

No. . . really. . . it's been fun so far. I worked today so Jake and Josh took care of the kiddos. I was happy to find a clean house and live, happy babes when I got home tonight. They did well. The possiblity of getting paid for babysitting all day probably had nothing to do with it.

I'm sure they got their fair share of TV, Wii, Poptropica, and whatever else they could find while the padres were away (I used to make myself gigantic glasses of chocolate milk when I was home alone, or else I'd make a couple of quarts of lemonade Kool-Aid and drink the whole thing so I wouldn't have to share), but, as I said, the house was pretty clean and there were no scorch marks nor bleeding.

I got out from under a stack of essays today (por fin), and the good news is that I only have about 50 to go. Then, I get another stack on Monday. It's a never-ending story, but that's my job and I find satisfaction and a kind of joy in it-- even the parts that are hard. (Give me a medal . . . I know.)

I'm doing a family portrait session tomorrow for some friends who moved to Boise last year. I hope the weather holds. It's been such a nice, mild fall. Aside from that freak snowstorm a month or so ago, I think it's been one of the warmest falls in quite a while.

I missed my regular temple session this week due to illness. I wonder if I can squeeze in a session tomorrow, early.

BTW, they call this style of blogging, stream of conscientiousness.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Living in the Enderverse

At what point do I call myself a junkie? A few years ago, probably 10 years ago, in fact, Keri's brother introduced me to Orson Scott Card. Actually he introduced me to Card's writing. I have met Card in person since, but that's another story. We were browsing titles in the SF/Fantasy section in Barnes & Noble and David pulled down Ender's Game. I think I'd heard of Card before, but I was, for whatever reason, wary of a Mormon writing SF. Not that I knew anything about SF beyond Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter series (if you even call that SF), mind you. But I was in a snooty time of my life-- looking down on almost everybody from my perch in academe. Whatever.

Anyway, he shoves it into my hands and basically dares me to read it. If you have read Ender's Game you know that I devoured it in one night. Literally, I started reading it that night and kept on reading until 2 or 3AM (or whatever). 

Fast forward 10+ years. I'm teaching American Lit at the college here and I'm casting around for a novel to teach. In browsing my bookshelf and thinking about which genres we'd be covering in the anthology (and therefore where the gaps were) and which books I really enjoyed, I realized that Ender's Game would introduce students (some of them) to SF as a genre possibility and would be a fun read (for some of them, it turns out). We had some real fun teaching Ender's Game, and it made its reappearance in my Am Lit course a couple  more time.

Now, this term, in my Survey of World Mythology course, I'm teaching the third book of that series, Xenocide. As happened in the American Lit course, some students complained about reading it-- not knowing what to expect and being forced outside their comfort zones. It has, nevertheless, been a fun read and a great addition to the course. In fact, I've had very little to do in terms of them seeing how it fits in to the paradigm of the course (cultures in conflict and a Saussure/Barthes myth paradigm). 

Two new books with ties to the Enderverse make their appearance on the literary stage this year. OSC's Intergalactic Medicine Show contains 4 stories in the Enderverse is available now, and Card's novel Ender in Exile will be shipping in about a week. I had ordered the former on Monday, and it happened to arrive yesterday, when I was laid up in bed, so I read all four Ender stories. I'm afraid I won't be much good to anyone for a day or so after Ender in Exile arrives, so I'd better get caught up on grading now. 

In fact, I'd better end this post and get back to work. My point with all of this is simply that whether or not you want to criticize Card for capitalizing on the success of his Ender books, you cannot deny that there is a richness in the broad range of texts available for study. My workstudy student this term had read Ender's Game but none of the rest of the stories. When he saw First Meetings in the Enderverse on my shelf, he asked to borrow it. I thought he'd return it by the end of the semester or so (after all, he's a conscientious student and he has work to do). He brought it back the next day, having read the whole thing in one night.

Look what you've done to us, Mr. Card. Thank you, thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Going paperless

Everybody else is blogging about the election today, I'm sure. I'm not. The kids came home a few days ago with a bug and I got it last night. I've been pretty wiped since just after midnight. Don't pity me-- that's how life is-- but that's why I'm posting to my blog instead of teaching today. I hope I can get some papers graded from the bedroom here, too. With luck, I'll get to that in just a bit. But first...

One of my colleagues at the college came to my office yesterday to talk about the CoRev project Kim and Shelley and I have been using to evaluate student papers for a year plus. Because it is entirely web-based, she was interested in it for sustainability reasons. She'd like to develop an entirely paperless class. In talking about what CoRev can do, what she'd like to do, and what we imagined that others might like to be able to do, we can up with a few ideas about how the whole thing might work. 

Just last week I talked to one of the web guys on campus about working with CoRev at CSI. The current install resides at ISU, which is okay, but it would be better overall if we had our own install and had the ability to tweak the rubric and improve the functionality. Even though it isn't exactly what Keith, Steve, and the rest may have intended, I would really like to be able to use CoRev to mark up papers for my individual students (rather than having to recruit three other instructors to be readers). I can score a paper in CoRev about twice as fast (if not faster) than in Word (which I do using track changes and the elaborate macros I inherited from Keith and have been tweaking and adding to since). Our web guy agreed that it looks doable to get an install going here and to tweak CoRev in the ways I'd like to. Good news.

The upshot of my conversation with my colleague yesterday is that it may be feasible to develop a suite of tools for paperless evals of and feedback on student work. Going paperless is a laudable goal, of course, but there are other reasons to be doing the kinds of things CoRev and the other proposed tools will allow us to do.

More on this soon, I hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Only on Halloween (?)

I'm heading somewhere on Halloween and this guy pulls up to me at the light. He looks over at me and gives me the wierdest look. I whip out the 'ole phone and snap one. He looks at me again and grins.

Sweet bike.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's your favorite book?

Because I teaching writing and literature (aka “English” (wink, wink)) people sometimes (often) ask me what my favorite book is. For the first few years people were asking me that question I would rack my brain and try to decide which of the hundreds of books I’ve read is my top pick. I’m not sure, but I don’t think I gave the same answer twice. In fact, over time the answer to that question morphed into, “It depends."  I would do that maddening teacherly thing and say, "It depends..." (and wait for dramatic effect)  "... on what I’m reading at the moment.” My “favorite” book is very often one that I’m enjoying at the moment. Quite a bit of the enjoyment I get from reading comes from discovering new stuff—new authors, new genres, new approaches, new ideas, new worlds—so whatever I’m reading right now tends to be top(ish) of the list. My mythology class has just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, for example, so I have just made my way through it twice in the last 6 weeks (once to prep the course and again to be able to say something about it when we got to it in the class). That makes it one of my current favorites. You should read it. Soon. It’s worth your time.

I have other favorites, of course. There are books that I re-read periodically because I like them so much. They’re like a comfortable pair of shoes or slice of Grandma’s caramel cake with a glass of cold milk. They’re familiar territory with known pleasures. I re-read Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead from time to time. I’ve come back to Angle of Repose or The Sparrow more than once. The Robe was an annual summer read for quite a while. (Can you name the authors? Without the help of Google? (That, by the way, is another annoying teacherly thing... asking what you know about MY area of expertise.))

When I’m overwhelmed with life, or with student papers, I sometimes take refuge in the recognizable rewards of a story that I already know and love. What do you re-read? Why?

 On a related note, people sometimes (though not as often as I’d like) as me what book or books I might recommend—either for themselves or for their children (I especially like the latter query—there are so many!! good children’s and young adult books out there). Early in my teaching career I would recommend things in a kind of willy-nilly fashion—not taking in to account the reader very much. This practice came back to bite me once or twice. When I was in graduate school, working as a pharmacy technician,  I recommended Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping to a woman that I delivered prescriptions to and she was not too happy after reading it. She said the book was way too strange for her. If I had been a little wiser and a little more observant I would have noticed that she had row upon row of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey books on her shelves. What was I thinking, recommending a book with no horses, and nothing a fan of “westerns” would call action in it? I don’t know. Anyway, I’m a little more careful now. I ask what people have already read and liked before I pop off and recommend Black Like Me or Left Hand of Darkness or even Huckleberry Finn. (Notice, however, that I did recommend the Kingsolver book without asking you, gentle reader(s), what you’ve read and liked. Deal with it. . .  And read the book!)

 My dire warning notwithstanding, what reading would you recommend to a friend? What book or books have so changed your life, or at least your outlook on life, that you want to share them with the world?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Promises to keep...

I guess there's kind of an implied promise in starting a blog. It is that the blogger, the writer, will show up from time to time-- regularly even-- and contribute some bit of knowledge or wit or insight (or, lacking any of those, a few lame excuses) to the world. The satisfaction I derive from reading the few blogs that I do comes from seeing new content-- new posts full of news, interesting information, personal updates-- funny, poignant, useful, frivolous information from my friends.  It doesn't compare to hearing that your stock portfolio is taking it on the chin, but logging in to a friend's blog and seeing the same old post from a week ago is a little disappointing. I've been disappointing my three readers for awhile, I'm afraid.

The thing is, I've been keeping other promises. My family deserves to have me as fully "present" as I can be when I'm at home. In other words, rather than sitting in front of the computer thinking up witty, bloggy things, I should be actively engaged in the dad thing. That's a promise I made explicitly to my wife when we got married. Dad things come before work things. 

Work things have a place, too, though. It turns out that you have to show up at least part of the time to qualify to collect a paycheck. I've been working steadingly (and way too slowly) through mounds of student papers of late. I used to complain about that work as being the hardest, least-liked part of my job, but I've tried to change my tune recently. Because I believe that the feedback I give on student writing is one of the more important teaching moments I spend quite a bit of time on that feedback. In some ways I probably spend too much time (who knows how much students actually read what I write on their papers), and in other ways I probably don't spend enough time (when a student really wants to learn from an experienced reader longer, more involved feedback helps quite a bit), but the time I spend on student writing is also an explicit promise. Read your syllabus... the syllabus states...

Work isn't all about student writing, of course. There are also class sessions to prepare, books to read (hurray!), meetings to attend (grumble), evaluations to write, politicking to ... uh, politick (sigh), etc. I really do like what I do, so I'm not complaining (mostly), but it all takes time. Maybe a blog isn't my thing right now.

Then again, here I am... blogging again. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why I read...

In 1992 I was a half-committed, half-serious pre-med student struggling through organic chemistry and physics. I was clinging to the "dream" of going to medical school and becoming a compassionate and rich doctor.  Though I'd made my share of mistakes in college, I was still working towards that elusive goal.

Then Dad died.

I'm pretty sure I got through that semester on the charity of my instructors. Keri went to class for me and took notes (we were only dating, but she was, even then, a wonderful friend), and I really did try to do the work, but I was very distracted by the events of April 1992. When I went back to school that fall, I really (I mean REALLY) struggled, and my instructors were no longer cutting me any slack. I was in a death spiral, so I got out of school entirely.

When it was time to get back in school a few semesters later, I took what I figured was a "gimme" course called "Great Books." It was a non-majors English course in which we read Odyssey, Jane Eyre, The Bean Trees, and a couple of other books I've forgotten. I realized in that course that I was doing something that #1) I loved, and #2) I was pretty good at. So... I kept doing it.

I don't remember a time when I wasn't a pretty committed and enthusiastic reader. It was, from early in my life, a big part of the way I defined myself-- how I identified myself. Even when I was heavily involved in other things, I was reading widely and deeply (or at least I assumed I was reading deeply-- who knows). 

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about why I read. There are several reasons I read these days:
  1. It's what I do for a living. When I assign students to read Beowulf or whatever, I have to (get to) read it too. It would be irresponsible for me not to re-read books I'm teaching-- even if I've read them many, many times. So, I read to teach.
  2. Some books are safety. Books like The Bean Trees or Light in August or Speaker for the Dead or Bleak House are familiar territory and their pleasures are well known to me. Like a warm cinnamon roll and a glass of ice-cold milk, a familiar book is feel-good food for the soul. Sometimes I'm reading because it tastes good.
  3. I read to see what's over the next rise. When I was growing up, sometimes Dad would take us on a drive to "parts unknown" to see whatever there was to see around the next bend. That sense of exploration has rooted in me, but more in a literary sense that in a Sunday drive sense. Sometimes I wander through the library in parts of the stacks that I normally don't consider, picking up books and reading first pages. Other times I listen in to hear what others are reading that I haven't read (or haven't even heard of, often). Sometimes I discover things that delight and amaze me.  The Sparrow was one such discovery. The Eyre Affair was another.
  4. Closely related to #1, though different enough, I think, to warrant it's own place on this list is the reading I do to expand my students' minds. Sometimes, as with Beowulf or whatever, I assign works that I'm very familiar with. In other instances, I read to discover something that fills a niche in a course I'm designing. For example, when I was first hired at CSI, the chair of my department assigned me to teach "Survey of World Mythology." Though I had pretty good ideas about "western" mythologies, I had to read to figure out what I should teach from other traditions (eastern, native american, african, etc.). 
  5. I read for self improvement. I read texts that I hope will make be a better man, a better husband, a better father, etc. 
  6. I read to my children. Together we've read Harry Potter (surprise), Lemony Snicket, Fablehaven, and Ender's Game (not to mention Bernstain Bears, Dr. Seuss, Toot & Puddle, etc.)
So, what do you read, and why?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My photo in the local paper

I posted a note on my photography blog a while back about one of my photographs winning first place in the local paper's summer photo contest. It was published this last Sunday (scroll down a bit to see the article entitled "The Moments of Joy").The photo itself is kind of hard to see on the site, so I've included it here too.

Cub Scout Family Pack Meeting

Kinda fun, eh? ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feeling quite a bit better, thanks

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words and warm thoughts sent our way. It was a bit of a tough day when we found that our "miracle" buyers weren't actually so miraculous, but we're rebounding and finding good things to think about. My wife gave me Dove chocolate and my office mate gave me Riesens. What's not to love?

More soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I called the person who came to look at the house last week. It was a short conversation. They're not interested. (sigh) In retrospect (where everything is crystal clear) I could tell that they weren't as enthusiastic when they left as they had been upon arriving. What I wish I knew now is why. Which part of the house turned them off? Was it the one bathroom (in the listing)? the smallish kitchen (there's a picture-- in the listing)? the overall layout (not in the listing, but what can you do)? Perhaps there's not really anything we can change without spending big $$$ that would make a difference to some people.

We did have one potential buyer back in the spring who liked everything. The couple was very eager to have a house that size, in that neighborhood, around the price we were asking. They just couldn't swing the financing. Darn banks are (finally) learning their lesson about lending practices, I guess, and when these folks didn't quite meet the requirements, the bank denied 'em. 

I'm morose. I'm feeling a little sick to my stomach. I'm sad. I'm done for the day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The weekend is HERE!

I spent my blogging energy over at the photography blog today, so head on over there to have a look.

We have an exciting weekend in store for us. I'm off to help Keri and to see if I can get something done around the house before we head off to meetings on Saturday evening and Sunday.

Have a good weekend. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Are you gellin'?

Dr. Morache and I share an office and so we talk, from time to time, about how class went. In other words, when she gets back from class, I sometimes ask, “How did it go?” She asks me the same thing occasionally. It’s a good way to “process” what works and what doesn’t in our teaching techniques. I think we both find it to be an important part of our professional development to vet ideas with one another and try to keep our feet on the ground.

Something we’ve both been discussing lately (and all teachers out there will recognize this concern) is why the same lesson plan and presentation will really fly with one section and really bomb with another. Why is that?

When I was a first year teacher at the University of Utah, I had two sections of English 2010 (which is the same as our 102) back to back three times a week. I prepared one lesson plan for both sections (same class, so it makes sense to not overdo it). The first section was responsive enough. They would discuss the issues and ideas, debate the finer points, develop theses and defend them, etc., but there was never really much energy in it. They showed up, they did the work, and they went home. Okay. Fair enough.

The second section, which met immediately after the first, had a far different dynamic. Rather than just going through the motions, they would really dig in to the issues. They’d debate, but it was with some passion and excitement. They’d develop ideas and defend them, but with vigor and creativity and imagination. They’d get so excited to get their oar in that they’d talk over each other in their haste to be hear. That was occasionally a problem, but that’s the kind of problem that a teacher likes to have.

Of course, one might argue that because I’d covered the material once that the second go-round would be more polished– better presented. That’s probably true to a degree, but I compared my “presentation” from section to section and I didn’t find that much different (argue, if you will, about my subjectivity). To me, my part– the so-called “teaching”– was the same in each section. What caused the different dynamic in each class, then?

Here’s another example: this semester I have two back-to-back sections again. They exhibit different dynamics too, but the order is reversed. That is to say, the earlier section is the class that gels– that gets fired up and bounces ideas off one another and moves the discussion along in a lively and useful way. The later section stays pretty flat most of the time (students from that section, if you are reading this, help me understand the dynamic). In this case, one might argue that the more polished, or at least rehearsed, presentation is failing to elicit the greater response. What’s up with that?

So… bottom line… what makes a class gel? Which are the elements that bring students together to create a lively, productive class atmosphere? What have you observed? What have you done? What works, and what doesn’t?


(BTW, this useful, exciting “dynamic” can be present in online classes as well, but takes on a little different form. We can discuss that in another post.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Housing market roller coaster

I started this little blog (I mean when I started doing it regularly) after we'd had our house on the market for a few months, so it kind of never really came up before. In other words, it was old news-- I was tired of worrying about it-- things kind of tanked after we put our house out there (in fact, we joke about causing the mortgage crisis-- the week we put our house up for sale was about the first time I started hearing about people's worries)-- etc. So, I never blogged about it. 

About 4 or 5 weeks ago we decided to take a breather from having it on the market. It'd been 6 weeks or something since the last time anyone looked at it. We'd gotten one or two really (REALLY) low-ball offers and we were sick of the whole thing. I told our agent that we would not be renewing the listing agreement. He was okay with that. In fact, he'd just completed a compartive market analysis that said the value of our house was down some anyway. Yikes!

Here's the funny thing... WAY back when we first listed it, I put it on and paid the "list it until it sells" fee rather than going month to month. So, even though we don't have an active MLS listing, you can still find our house "on the market." And... you know where this is going, don't you?... somebody called about the house today. They want to look at it tomorrow. Double yikes!

What do we do now? We want to sell it, but are we ready to buy something else? We thought we were, but now we're kind of past that and hunkering down to wait until next year. What if they make a reasonable offer? Then we'd actually have to figure out what comes next. Triple yikes!

Well... WAY back when... we put this whole think in the Lord's hands. I trust that he is still in charge, if we let him be. We'll try that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A new stake in Twin Falls

Okay, some of my readers may not care too much about this, but for us Mormons in the area, a new *stake is kind of a big deal. As much as anything, it means we'll bump into new people at stake-level meetings, and we'll miss bumping into some old friends who will be in the new stake.

Here's how it shakes out (for those, formerly from Twin Falls, who might care):

Twin Falls Stake
11th (formerly in the Kimberly stake)
15th (also from Kimberly stake)
College 1st
Blue Lake Branch

Twin Falls South Stake (the new one)
17th (all formerly in the Twin Falls Stake)
other wards from TF West stake (don't remember exactly which ones)

TF West
same old wards, minus the ones moving to the South Stake

same wards, minus 11th and 15th (but keeping the 19th ward, which is actually in Twin Falls)

Besides redrawing boundary lines to accommodate these changes, it also means releasing quite a few folks from stake callings. Fully half of the Twin Falls stake high council will be in the new stake, and one member of the stake presidency. Every auxiliary leader except YM (i.e. YW, Primary, RS) will be released to go to the new stake. No ward boundaries are changing, so no changes in bishoprics, etc., but lots of folks getting moved around and adjusting to new things.

Here's something that may be a bit hard for some folks to swallow. We haven't even dedicated the new stake center adjacent to the temple and folks who thought it would be "their" stake center have to (get to) go back to the Maurice St. building. That old building still has plenty of life left in it, but it is awkward and a bit of a pain sometimes. I think its accurate to say that people have a love/hate relationship with that building.

Posted by Picasa

The various sessions of stake conference to work out the details of the change will be held in the new building and then folks in the South stake are moving back to Maurice St. They'll get a new building eventually, but not in the next several years, I'd bet. They don't have land in that part of the valley yet, as far as I know (which ain't much, really).

Anyway, what does it matter? Beyond who we get to see at stake conference or whatever, it means that opportunities for growth and service in the Magic Valley expand. Each of the stakes has 8-9 units in it, but the potential for growth still exists-- particularly in the South and West stakes and the Kimberly stake (the Twin Falls stake is kind of land-locked).

The change also means a new stake president, which means a general officer from the church will preside at the stake conference and select that president. Because most church administration at the local level comes from stake presidents, members of the church view them in fairly high regard. Speaking rather personally, stake presidents set the tone for church service and administration, and give direction to what many lay members do from day to day and week to week. Without endowing them with too much supernatural power, I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that they speak for God in this part of the vineyard. That's pretty cool and pretty important.

The dedication of the temple was just one of many moving experiences of the summer. I anticipate that the creation of a new stake will be another-- particularly if we go in to it looking for the hand of God in what is done.

On a related note-- related to spirituality, anyway-- I've been rereading Marilynne Robinson's Gilead so I can read the companion novel that was just released, Home. The first takes the form of letters from an aged father to his very young son and takes place in Gilead, Iowa (a fictional place). It touches, in part, on the father's relationship with a dear friend and that friend's wayward son. The second takes up the same time period, but from the POV of the dear friend. I read the first 3-4 chapters of Home before realizing that I didn't remember enough of Gilead to recognize their points of intersection (and finding such textual common ground is one of my favorite parts of reading), so I'm back to Gilead today. I hope to finish it in the next day or so, so I can read Home and then be worth something to my classes again. In the meantime, I'm WAY distracted by having something delicious to read.

The protagonists of Gilead and Home are both preachers and I have enjoyed their examinations of spiritual matters. Perhaps I'll post about some of them soon.

*"stake" is roughly equivalent to diocesis, whereas "ward" is roughly equivalent to parrish.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fun party pad

This past summer I took the boys to Sunrise park most weekdays for the free lunch. It was a good budget stretcher, and the kids ran off a few of those popsicles they'd eaten every day all summer long.

I ran in to Mark and Sharyl Wasden there a few times and they let me in on a fun Twin Falls secret. They have a party place with those cool inflatable bounce houses. It's called Hop 2 It and it's just down the street from the movie theaters near Kimberly Road.

In exchange for some family photos (which they haven't called to have me do yet-- come on Mark, we're waiting on you), they let us have Caitlin's 4th birthday party there. That was a blast!

The kids got to bounce around and generally be crazy for a couple of hours and then we had ice cream and cake. Mark and Sharyl provided drinks and utensils, and even provided a cute T-shirt for the birthday girl. We invited practically the entire 1st ward primary. I think there must have been 40 kids there. Everyone had a great time.

Check it out, and if you're having a birthday or some other party soon, go there. You won't be disappointed.

O Brother, Where art thou?

If you study mythology at all, you have to deal with Odyssey at some point. Odysseus' story is one of central texts, perhaps THE central text, in the mythological canon. It's the prototype--nay, the archetype--for every other important story. The tropes are central and enduring.

Hero is at home-- all is well. Something causes the hero to leave home. Hero has an extended journey--out in the world. Hero deals with monsters, seductresses, magical talismans, important and meddling supernatural forces, heaven, hell, etc. Hero makes her way back home, but with a significant difference. S/he is changed and brings salvation or rescue or enlightenment to those who are at home. Or, as Kurt Vonnegut put it, (wo)man gets self into a hole, (wo)man gets self out. (Which version do you like here?)

So... we're reading Odyssey in the survey of mythology course. Students are having fun with it, exploring what makes Odysseus tick, why Penelope would wait for him, what Athena gets out of helping him, why Telemachus is so uptight about his dad, why Poseidon can't leave Odysseus alone, etc. I asked them a few days ago to think about where Odyssey's influence is seen in other stories, etc. They came up with a few, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Wishbone, and so on.

The one I like most, however, they didn't get right off-- O Brother, Where Art Thou? by the Coen brothers. So, I popped it in the DVD player and we watched about the first half of it. They loved it. Of course, many of my readers (both of you) will say, "Yes, O Brother... is an obvious choice for having some fun with Odyssey." I still get a kick out of watching my students watch that movie. It is a fun discovery for most of them.

I think, however, that the Coens should have left out the "credit" to Homer at the beginning of the movie. What purpose does that serve besides pointing out how clever Ethan and Joel are? Anyone who knows very much about Odyssey will get the references anyway, and Homer doesn't get a single penny from the Coens for using his story.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The wheels go 'round, but the elevator-- she don't go all de way...

I really should come up with a new gig. Not a new job-- I really do like what I do quite a lot. What I mean is, I should find some new and exciting way "in" to my courses besides Saussure and Barthes. I've made way too much hay (or is that "hey") from the linguistic sign + "mythology" thing, AND I get one section mixed up with another. I spent a good part of my 102 class today finding out that 1) I had covered the basic linguistics stuff with them last time, but 2) I had NOT covered Barthes yet and they had no clue what I was talking about. It's kind of pathetic that I can't remember from one class session to the next what I've covered. I even have "notes" from the lesson plan before suggesting what I needed to cover next. And it's not that I can't read my handwriting or whatever. It's just that I'm absent-minded. In my defense, however, it has been 5 days since the last class session (with Labor Day intervening). So there... (sigh).

On a more positive note, our discussion (in 102) of the Diane Arbus photograph went quite well. The students' responses to it suggested that they got the linguistics/Barthes stuff and were (for the moment, anyway) reading the image at a pretty sophisticated level. It'll stick for some of them. For others we'll have to go over it again. That's okay, though. Repetition is the way to go around here. Repetition is the way to go around here... ;-)

I re-subscribed to a couple of listservs that I had put on "hold" for the summer-- TechRhet and WPA-L. WPA-L is the one I read to keep in touch with the direction the field is moving generally. TechRhet is the one I read to find out about new toys. The newest toy is Google's browser (aka Chrome). Scott McCloud (author of _Understanding Comics_, which I use in my 102) wrote the comix introduction for the release. Nifty (and very "new" media, from a certain point of view). Lots of good ideas here, but I see that someone has already found an exploit. I wonder how soon after yesterday's afternoon launch the first patch will be released.

Scott McCloud's intro of Google Chrome

I'm running Chrome now and find it pretty speedy. One annoying thing (kind of) is that the context menu does not (yet) have a "refresh" command. For Blackboard users, the only way to reload a content page within the Blackboard frame is the context menu (aka the right-click menu). Firefox even has a context menu specific to the frame in which you click.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Slaving away

Okay. I've been slaving away on a holiday. So far today I have:

  1. posted (finally) the second part of my online lit students' "getting to know you exercise"
  2. responded to their introductory posts (something personal for each student, don't you know)
  3. finalized Task #3 for my 101 students
  4. begun a draft of Task #4
  5. thought seriously about how much of Odyssey I have to read tonight to stay up with my mythology students (yikes). Never mind that I've read it before. They expect me to read right along with them.
  6. downloaded "A Connected Life: A look a mobile strategies for schools, colleges, and universities" from, of all places, the folks at Blackberry. (BTW, when filling out their "form" to get access to the above, I noticed that in the field for department, they don't offer any academic fields except engineering and the like, and under "job description" professor isn't listed either. What? They don't think anyone except engineers will use mobile devices in teaching? Hmmm.)
Now it's time to run over to the fair and pick up my premiums. I won a blue and two red ribbons in photography. Hurray! I'll get maybe $4. That's okay, though.

After that, a BBQ and water party with Arringtons. It's pretty chilly in Twin Falls today. Is it too cold to swim? We'll see.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alive and Kicking...

...but kind of just barely.

This week has been okay. Good students (as far as I can tell). No real emergencies. Some promising ideas coming out of mythology and my comp classes. Online lit is still a pain. No, I mean "online lit is still developing and... and..." (sigh).

I got news that my request for a new laptop has been funded (hurray!), but I can't get a 17" screen (sniff).

I gotta run. Keri is waiting for me to go to the fair. More soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

"On this day of joy and gladness..."

Those are the first words of the song we sang to open the cornerstone ceremony at the Twin Falls temple dedication today. It was, truly, a day of joy and gladness. A long-awaited day which fully lived up to our expectations.

I hardly dare try to describe yesterday and today for fear that I'll simply lapse into journal-speak and generic superlatives. In fact, the most important impact that this day has had on me and on my family cannot really be described at all; we have tasted salt--spiritually speaking.

Perhaps it will suffice to say that we have been amply compensated for the trials and worries of the summer. I'm sure many of my readers will be familiar with the witness that comes after the trial of one's faith. We had that witness today.

We were triply privileged:

Keri and I attended the YCC at the Filer fairgrounds last evening and saw Jacob and 3200 other youths from the Magic Valley perform "Living Water." It was a spectacle and an inspiration (generic superlatives, I know). Perhaps some pictures will better show what I mean. I hope that it has a lasting impact on Jacob and the other youth.

I was privileged to sing in the cornerstone choir this morning. Keri and the older boys (Jake, Josh, & Cam) were able to be there as well and saw the prophet conduct that ceremony. The boys were among those President Monson referred to when he said,

"I have never seen more boys so close together, evenly matched, on one rail," said President Monson, looking at a group of a half-dozen boys sitting on a nearby cement retaining wall. (Deseret News article)

The local paper, the Times-News made mention of the boys too:

"As an estimated 700 Mormons and others waited for Monson to emerge from the temple for the outside, public portion of the dedication, children gathered near the steps of the platform where the leader spoke.

"Most waited quietly, fidgeting a bit in the hot summer heat, and a few boys curbed their impatience with rounds of rock-paper-scissors."

Our boys were the ones playing rock-paper-scissors.

Finally, Keri and I and the oldest boys (Jake and Josh) were in the temple for the 11:30 dedicatory session. After the session, which was moving and inspirational in its own way, the boys had a close, personal encounter with President Monson. He stopped and spoke to them and patted their heads as he exited the temple. I hope they will not soon forget being close to the man that we consider a prophet of God.

Because today is my birthday I have joked with friends that I appreciated President Monson arranging a temple dedication to celebrate. In truth, I can hardly express my appreciation to God for allowing me to celebrate the things I believe in such high style and with such deeply felt conviction. I shall not soon forget this birthday. It is truly one to remember.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Any CSS geniuses out there?

I used to think I was a "go to" guy where computers are concerned. For most of the last 20 years (yikes, has it been that long), I've been able to figure out most of what I've wanted to do with DOS, Windows, html, and even a little database programming. You hang in there long enough (and look at enough examples of what other people have done) and you usually get it-- or get it good enough to accomplish what you set out to.

I guess I need to "hang in there" longer with CSS because I'm not getting it. Anyone out there willing to answer my inane, obtuse questions?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to School

Well... I went back to work yesterday after the first summer off in quite a few years. It was a good summer, and in some ways I'm sad that it's over, but overall I'm glad to be back at work. As I have said so many times, I really do love what I do for a living.

The kids will go back next week, so Keri has then by herself for a few days. She's a wonderful mom-- taking care of 5 kids with differing needs and making differing demands on her every minute. I love her for it.

I've got course web sites to build and a reading schedule to work out for the mythology course. I guess I'd better get to it.

[On a related note (kind of), I went to a store today and the cashier, who knows me from other settings, said, “I’m in your mythology class.” I said, “Great.” She said, “What are we reading first?” I said, “Odyssey.” “The whole thing?!” she said.

I sighed, just a little.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

10 things I love about the end of summer

  1. That butterfly feeling you get when school is about to start. New faces, new friends, new opportunities– not to mention new pens/pencils/notebooks/etc.
  2. Cooler weather. I love summer, but I get a bit tired of being hot, sweaty, dehydrated, and of dragging the hose around the yard to keep things green(ish). Sleeping with the windows open is a breath of fresh air (sorry, bad pun, I know).
  3. Draney Camp. This is the annual family reunion of my brothers and sisters. We camp together for three days and my brothers and I welt each other with paintballs on the second day. Actually, we didn’t get to go this year, for various reasons, but I still love the tradition. (The brothers are probably welting each other as I write this.)
  4. Fall colors. I know we’re not there yet, but the reds and yellows and oranges of turning aspens are just around the corner.
  5. Sending kids back to school. Is this a cruel one? Most kids (mine included, mostly) are dreading August 25th, but Keri and I are looking forward to the end of “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.”
  6. Garden-fresh produce. I delivered some pictures to one of my clients the other day and he dragged me (okay, not dragged– I was willing) out in to his garden and gave me: potatoes, carrots, onions (two kinds), garlic, cilantro, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, and some of the most delicious cucumbers I have ever eaten. Local vine-ripened tomatoes put those cardboard things you get in the supermarket to shame.
  7. Crisp mornings.
  8. The Olympics. Okay… this isn’t one we get to do every summer, but this year we do. Who isn’t at least a little bit excited by the amazing things that Michael Phelps is doing. All the amazing athletics are just plain fun to watch.
  9. Planning fall classes. This one is probably too closely tied to #1 to qualify as a separate item, but one of my favorite parts of my job is imagining the ways that my students and I can work together towards something good and right and meaningful.
  10. Knowing that I don’t have to stop reading when I go back to work. I’ve spent the summer reading all kinds of things– professional articles, SF stories, mythology, graphic novels, British literature, and even some philosophy. My job allows me (in fact, requires me) to continue to read broadly and deeply. What other kinds of job would a bibliophile want?

So.. what do you love about summer (or its end)? Post your reply as a comment on this posting.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Clark Draney, Simpsonized

So this is me, Simpsonized. Kind of looks like an English professor, don't you think?

The question is, if they were to give my persona a spot on The Simpsons who would do the voice?

Monday, August 11, 2008

a second Dark Knight

Keri and I escaped the house for a little while the other night and saw The Dark Knight for a second time. The first time we saw it the experience was a little . . . annoying. That first time there were some 200 people in the theater... and 215 cell phones--every one of which was on and blazing away. The theater inexplicably had a freakin' INTERMISSION halfway through the movie. It was also quite hot in the theater--too many bodies hopped up on energy drinks (how do they smuggle those immense cans in to the theater?) and not enough A/C.

Anyway, we tucked the kiddies in to bed, told Jake (our 12 year old) that we had the cell phone, and snuck off to Burley to try out the stadium theater. On the way over I kept thinking that it was crazy to drive all the way to Burley to see a movie we've already seen. Happily, I was wrong.

The theater is nicer than any of the theaters in Twin Falls. Stadium seating, nicer seats (with cup holders and movable arm rests), really magnificent sound, etc. The price was right, too-- a couple of bucks less than the plain jane theaters in Twin. Even the concessions were less expensive. A combo-- popcorn, drink, and candy-- was less than a drink and popcorn here at home, and they were refillable (not the candy, I guess ;-) ). If we were to car pool with another couple, it'd turn out to be a wash on $$. In other words, I think we may make the trip more often.

Anyway, I was glad to see the movie in a more comfortable setting-- without the inexcusable intermission.It's been reviewed to death by those much more qualified than me, but I found it powerful and symbolic and one that I can probably rewatch a few times. The stuff about anarchy and chaos is quite thought-provoking. Sounds a bit familiar, in fact.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Too bad summer's almost over

I guess I'm still pretty much a kid at heart (actually, I'm sure of it). On Christmas morning you'll likely find me on the floor with the kids, helping them put together whatever cool thing Santa brought along. Such floor time is, in fact, one of the definitions of a Christmas well spent, if you ask me. Legos are the quintessential "put it together" toy.

So, I stumbled across this video of a guy who designed and built a computer case out of Legos. If I had a couple more weeks of summer and a couple hundred bucks laying around, I think it'd be cool to tackle this little project. Props Luke Anderson.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tip of the Day - Clark Draney Photography

Tips of the Day so far:

1. Rule of Thirds
2. Aperture (in two parts)
3. Shutter Speed

More to come. Stay tuned.

3200 kids and a rodeo arena

That's what it takes to do a 14 stake rehearsal for the YCC (Youth Cultural Celebration).

As you may have heard, President Monson is (probably) coming to Twin Falls for this temple dedication thing. The night before, as has become the tradition (soon to be doctrine?), the youth of our temple district will WOW him with a celebration of what it means to live and love and learn the gospel in Idaho. President Ward (of our stake presidency) asked me to drop over and take a few pictures (I took 350+) to commemorate tonight's rehearsal.

I can't imagine having the responsibility for pulling off such a thing. 14 freaking stakes! FOURTEEN! It was, at times, a genuine madhouse.

There was also plenty of standing around, waiting our turn to use the "stage" while some other thing was being resolved. Amazingly, no one lost their temper, and the kids stayed pretty focused and gave a pretty good showing. There are a few rough edges yet, but it's coming along. The final number promises to be quite a thrill, with all the kids on "stage" at the same time, with flags galore.

I keep saying "stage," because it is, in fact, a rodeo arena. I guess they're planning to put in some wooden flooring and a bunch of donated sod, but tonight it was all dust (cough). My camera will never be the same.

After the rehearsal there was a concert for the kids. Rich Crowley arranged for a member of MoTab (who was, in a former life, a member of a European boy band) to play. It was a bit of raucous fun. By the time they got around to that the light was gone, so I didn't really get any good pictures of that.

The MoTab guy (Alex Boye) prodded the kids in the right direction. He made a nice comparison between the Book of Mormon and cell phones, and he asked the guys to go on missions and the girls to promise to 1) not date losers, and 2) marry an RM.

Jacob and I skipped out of there just as they began the final number (RUDE, I know), and saved ourselves 45 minutes getting out of the packed parking lot.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Whose temple is it?

This image is the wallpaper for my computer desktop right now. I like this picture because it represents something that I didn't even realize I was feeling until I took the picture.

The closest you could get to the temple during its construction was to drive by on Eastland Drive or to stand outside the fence. That's understandable, of course. The contractors don't need a bunch of silly, curious civilians mucking up the site. The net effect, however, has been to leave me (at least) feeling like the temple wasn't yet mine.

When I stood on the spot where I took that photograph I realized that I was taking ownership of the temple. It was becoming my temple-- the one where I will worship and draw close to God. Standing on that spot, where I couldn't stand before, looking at the beautiful landscaping and the inspiring architecture, I realized how much I am looking forward to using this temple as I have never quite used a temple before--regularly, often, with devotion and dedication.

Now it remains for me to live up to that idea.

Free Lunch

I know that those free lunches at the park aren't really free. After all, we pay for them through various kinds of taxes. But since taking advantage of them doesn't add to our monthly budget (we're already paying those taxes), it sure seems nice to run over to the park and sit in a shady spot while the kids eat PB&J and drink chocolate milk. Then, after they've taken a token swipe at the healthy stuff in that sack, they run around for 30 or 40 minutes, and Jacob & I play catch. All in all, not a bad way to start the afternoon.

It's also kind of fun to see who shows up from the ward. Some days it's a regular 1st ward reunion. Plenty of dads show up, too. Some, like Ron Withers and Mark Wasden, are off for the summer like I am. Others, like Matt Thompson and Paul Arrington, show up on their lunch hour break. It's a good gig.

And... don't tell anyone... ;-) if the kids don't eat all their sliced cucumbers or diced pineapple, I get a little snack too. Strictly their leavings, of course, but a nice little budget booster there too.

Tip of the Day

Trying to make my blogs informative if not interesting or witty, I've posted a "tip of the day" over on my photography blog.

Read it, link to it, comment on it, disagree with it, prove it wrong. Just get over there and look at it.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Avoiding work

I'm pretty sure that I could really keep an excellent blog (in terms of posting every day) if I used the excuse of avoiding some other thing I don't want to be doing to get to the blogging. You know what I mean?

Here I sit, in my office at the college, staring at a stack of papers 564 sheets high. That stack is the manuscript of a textbook that I agreed to review for a national publisher. The review was due last Thursday. I've read most of the manuscript (scanned, skimmed, read chunks in detail, whatever), and what I have left to do is write the review. What am I doing instead? Updating my blog, of course.

To be fair, the manuscript is really to blame. I'm rereading part of chapter 7 which has ideas for students about how to create and use a blog as an academic writing aid. One of the items on that list is "keep it current," so naturally I thought of how inconsistently I've been posting here (though I've been doing better of late, I think).

Another item on the list is "be informative." That begs the question of what I might post that is informative. Let's see... what do I know anything about....

How about photography? What do you want to know about photography? Everybody is a digital photographer these days. Even if you don't own a stand-alone digital camera, your phone likely has a camera built in. So how do you use it?

In fact, maybe that'd be a good survey. How do you use the camera on your phone? How is that use different that how you use your dedicated digital camera (if you have one)?

Keri and I saw a cute bookcase the other day, and she said "Dad could build that. Take a picture so we can ask him to built it." So I snapped a picture.

I saw the most outrageously dressed woman in Fred Meyer a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't resist the impulse to take her picture (on the sly, of course).

When we visited the Twin Falls temple grounds recently the sunset cast such a beautiful glow across the sky that I wished for my camera. I had my phone, so I made do with that. Not a picture I could print or anything, but good enough to post here (see my July 14 post).

So... while I get back to work on that review, tell me how you use your phone/camera/MP3 player/whatever?

Friday, August 1, 2008

temple dedication

The title of this post is all lower case because I'm not talking about the event coming up in 23 days (which happens to be my birthday-- did I tell you?) where Pres. Monson (presumably) will dedicate the temple for ordinance work. No, I mean the dedication that individual saints have shown in working at the various kinds of jobs there are to do for the open house.

Keri and I worked in the hosting center (the cultural hall of the new stake center) where invitees come after they've completed their tours of the temple. Keri placed cookies on trays, and I filled and filled and filled ice water containers. Before we started, one of the sister who coordinates the hosting volunteers said that we would feel a spirit of unity and love in serving cookies and ice water. I was just a tiny bit doubtful that such simple service could lead to such feelings. But, of course, I was wrong. I think that even the simplest acts of service to others can lead to our feeling closer to that God who created us all-- especially in conjunction with the opening and dedication of His house.

I've posted elsewhere that there is a spirit of missionary work brooding over the Magic Valley during this eventful time. What I think I mean by that is that members of the church, and others, who have been anticipating the opening of the temple have focused their prayers, their faith, and their efforts on making this occasion special and spiritual for themselves, their families, and--importantly--their friends and neighbors. Heavenly Father has heard those prayers and is pouring out a blessing upon the heads of the saints and on his children in all walks.

The temple, with its upwardly-jutting spire, leads us symbolically and literally towards heaven. In this temple, for example, the crowning ordinance room--the sealing room--is located under--within, really--the main spire of the temple. In making ourselves ready for the temple, we focus on the principles and ordinances that we believe are essential to unreserved happiness in this life and salvation in the next.

Anyway, enough theology for a minute. What I started out to post about is the dedication of the volunteers in the open house. After filling ice water for a couple of hours, I served a shift as a tour guide. In going from the stake center to the temple and back again I passed dozens of friends and neighbors--some members of the church and some not--who served as ushers, support staff (who clean up during the day), hosts, hostesses, security people, parking attendants, and missionaries. Every one of them was giving his/her very best effort to making the open house experience on this day peaceful, meaningful, and spirit-filled for the invitees. In every meeting that I attended there were prayers offered asking the Lord to bless those who attend with a portion of His spirit.

I conducted 5 tours through the evening and felt the spirit in each one. In each case I made eye contact with one or two or three members of the tour group and saw that they felt the spirit of the place. I did not have any particularly unusual experiences to speak of, but in each tour I felt as those simple truths were made evident in the minds of those who attended.

What is the spirit of the temple, then? That may be the subject of another post, another day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Scout Camp discoveries

I made a few crucial discoveries while at Camp Bradley this past week. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. No known bug spray repels no-see-ums-- at least not the no-see-ums in Cape Horn, Idaho. I came back with a miniature replica of the constellation Ursa Major on my forearms and a dot-to-dot pattern on my legs that probably ends up spelling out the secret plans for insects to take over the world. In that particular sense (the being-eaten-alive sense), the week was pretty miserable. But we did get some relief from the bugs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday when it rained.
  2. Even a group of distracted, squabbling, firebuggy boys can amount to something. Troop 59 won the Cape Horn award for top troop in the camp. When the staff announced that award, the first words out of Scoutmaster Conder's mouth were either "How did that happen?" or "That must've been an accident!" (or some combination the two, possibly). It was a bit surreal because we hadn't been expecting it. It turns out, however, that just showing up counts a lot. In fact, because we showed up to flag ceremonies morning and night in our uniforms, had a troop yell each time, did our duty in the kitchen one day, and learned a bunch of knots (all seven main knots in 2 minutes or less), our score ended up edging out the other troops. We didn't start out to win, but these small and simple things added up to something. (There's a Sunday School lesson in there somewhere, I'm sure.)
  3. Jon Conder and I have no common sense. We stayed up way too late every night of camp-- talking. In fact, I am very sleepy right now and will be toddling off to bed in a mome..n..t...
  4. Even distracted, frog-obsessed boys can earn merit badges.
  5. Even 2nd-year, macho scouts are freaked out by unexplained noises in the dark.
  6. Camp cots are better than sleeping on the ground, but my Posturepedic loves me and I love it.
  7. I need to invent or learn new word games. All the boys now know "Black Magic," "Trokey Dots," "Snaps," "My Ship Sails," and "Crossed Sticks."
  8. Twelve-year-olds are both more mature and less mature than you might imagine.
  9. Fruit Loops without milk aren't bad, but they aren't that good either.
  10. Camp showers, as primitive as they are, feel pretty good after 3 days of smoke, ash, mosquito repellent, and sulfur hot springs.
I took WAY too many pictures, but you can take a look if you're interested. I culled these down from more than 500 I took.

It was a great week-- bugs, stink, and rain notwithstanding. The boys accomplished a lot. They had some spiritual experiences with Bishop White and President Hansen. They learned to survive without Mom and without Nintendo for a few days. I think I just might go back next year (if I can figure out how to keep the no-see-ums away).

Friday, July 18, 2008

The benefits of camping on the pursuit of scholarly knowledge, OR, Why I won't be blogging next week

Jacob and I will spend next week at Camp Bradley, north of Stanley. I went with him last year and enjoyed the week immensely. It was refreshing, restful, and I actually got some reading for fall classes done. I hope to be able to do the same this year. I’ll take several books from the fall lineup and spend at least part of the time prepping tasks and reading schedules. I’m actually looking forward to that work, which is one of my favorite parts of teaching.

Here’s what I plan to take:

  • Seeing and Writing 3 (I haven’t used this edition before and I need to vet the whole book for possible uses in Engl 101)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (I’m actually reading this one so I can comment on its suitability for David’s class at BYU-Idaho. Not having read it before, perhaps I can see it with fresh eyes and provide some insights for him.)
  • In the Time of the Butterflies (I’ve read this probably 6 or 7 times, but I’m teaching it again this fall after a hiatus of 3 or 4 years, so I need to refresh.)
  • Beowulf (same thing as Butterflies, I’ve read and taught it, but not for a while. Time to reacquaint myself with it. BTW, I’m reading both the famous Seamus Heaney translation that I’ve ordered AND a new translation that has quite a bit of promising ancillary material.)(I saw that the Norton Critical edition of this is the Heaney translation. I may change my book order.)
  • latest issue of CCC (College Composition and Communication) (After all, I need to keep up on what is happening in my field.)
  • Dreamers of the Day and/or Children of God by Mary Doria Russell (these, I’ll admit, are for fun.)

Beyond that, I’m sure I’ll hike some, nap some, overeat some (you can’t believe how much I ate last year– I’m a little ashamed of myself). There will also be the obligatory “bird dogging” (getting boys off to merit badge classes, etc).

I guess I’d better go pack. I may need to buy a bigger book bag.

See you all in a week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Congratulations, Jacob

Take a look at the scoreboard in the background.

Jacob's little league team won their tournament tonight in a squeeker (how do you spell that?), 8-7. It was a close game and they rallied to come from behind and win. Jacob batted in the tying run, putting the team in the position to win. One of the shy, sort of awkward kids scored the winning run! It was a cool win.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heading for Scout Camp

Last year's scout camp with Jacob was the most relaxing week of my summer (though I ate WAY too much). I enjoyed it very, very much. In fact, it was so refreshing and restful, and I have been looking forward to this year so much, I'm afraid this year will be something of a let down. It probably will be in some ways, but hope spring eternal-- I plan to have a good time, and rest and read a bunch.

The only worry I have is that Keri will do too much while I'm gone. It's been 5 weeks since her surgery, but her doctor told her full recovery will take 8 weeks. Hopefully Joshua will be able to help her a bunch while Jake and I are in the mountains.

More pictures

I went to the temple grounds early yesterday to take some sunrise pictures. I shot A LOT! of pictures (over 200) and got a number of nice ones (I think). Richard liked a few of them and put some up in his store. One, in particular, may be popular. A lady bought one while I was standing there showing them to Richard.