More Ypsi Mayoral Fun (and why it might not matter)

I stumbled across a couple of potentially useful links about the upcoming race for mayor in Ypsilanti– that is, if you are a reader even remotely interested in such a thing. Here they are:

I will say this (and this gets back to some of what I posted about before, some of what is in the comments there, etc.): in the end, I’m just not convinced it will make a whole lot of difference who gets elected. Both Pierce and Schreiber bring different strengths and weaknesses to the party, but both of them are going to have a hard go of it because of the large issues/problems of Ypsilanti.

According to a question that was apparently asked at the debate, 25% of Ypsi residents live below the poverty level. That’s a lot, and that’s a group of folks who are basically using a lot of public and tax-supported services without paying a lot of taxes themselves. A lot of the questions/concerns right now are focused on the crappy financial state of the city, an issue where there are no easy solutions. The city itself is built-out, meaning there isn’t a lot of opportunity for more development– short of trying to take on brown field projects, which are never any fun. The city’s biggest land-owner, EMU, doesn’t pay taxes at all. The auto industry (and someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they are the biggest tax payer in Ypsi) is leaking like a sieve and there’s little reason to suggest that’s getting better in the long or mid term. There’s little the school district can do to convince the likes of me that the middle schools and high schools are a good option for my child. Add to all of that the whole area (really, the whole state) is in a slump and pretty soon it seems to me that the choice between two or three different Democrats who are in many (if not most) ways on the same page regarding the key issues is ultimately irrelevant.

Maybe that’s a bad attitude, but there you have it.

Oh, and I don’t want people raising chickens in my neighborhood. That’s stupid. So in that sense, at least according to ypsi~dixit, it sounds like Schreiber and I are on the same page.

Two Post Scripts:

  • At my wife’s request, I made some slight editing to my post. She had a point.
  • Another bad attitude remark: I haven’t seen any poll numbers, but I’ll bet you anything that Steve Pierce is way out in front and is going to win. For better or worse.

FWIW, this person was our neighbor way way back when

I heard this story on NPR just now on the death of Dika Newlin, who was a music teacher at VCU, one of the last (if not the absolute last) students of the composer Arnold Schoenberg, a “punk rocker” in her 70s, and just generally kind of a character (and I mean that in a good way, basically). Interestingly enough, this woman was the “kinda crazy woman” who lived on the first floor of the building where Annette and I shared an apartment when we lived together in Richmond. Small world. Anyway, read more and see pictures here, and RIP, Prof. Newlin. I hardly knew ye.

97 (sort of…)

First off, my apologies to those folks– namely, Bill HD and Bradley– who had posted comments on previous posts that didn’t end up getting posted until now. They were being held up for moderation for some reason, along with all the other “I like your site!!!” spam messages. They are there now, I think.

Second, the heart of the matter here: I got a 9 today playing at Hickory Sticks Golf Course, just 2 behind Steve B. (who wasn’t playing that well today since he’s adjusting to new clubs). The best round of 18 on a “real golf course” I have probably ever had, frankly.

However, in the interest of coming clean and of not getting caught up in some sort of doping scandal, I will confess up-front to my “scoring alterations:”

  • On the first tee, I hit one and had not a clue as to where it went, so I hit another. The general “friendly rule” in the group of folks I play with is you can always hit a second ball of the first tee if you want. So I did.
  • I played a mulligan on number 9 and number 18. Again, in our group, this is a standard practice.

Now, I point these “alterations” out there in large part because my golf colleague, Steve B., who usually beats me by 10 or more strokes, and who today was trailing me by a stroke or two as late as the 14th hole, was grousing a bit about our group’s my fluid standards for score keeping. Never mind Steve B.’s own mulligans, etc.

In any event, it was still a good round for me. Kind of a shame that I’m “peaking” this late in the golf season though….

Ypsilanti Mayoral Race: What Signage (and other things) Tells Me

To be honest, I haven’t been following the issues about the race for mayor of Ypsilanti, and I am not even sure I’ll be voting– I would have to vote absentee since I’ll be out of town, and getting the ballot and all of the rig-a-ma-roll involved in that…..

Anyway, of the two candidates that are really running (there is a third, but Lois Richardson really seems to me to be running a stealth campign at best), I’d probably vote for Paul Schreiber, if for no other reason because he really does seem like a “real” Democrat. I mean, just look at this guy:

Paul Schreiber

Casual, earth tone, open collar shirt with a sports jacket thrown on as an after-thought, proudly bald. That’s a liberal.

Now, compare that with Steve Pierce.

Steve Pierce

Pressed white dress shirt with striped tie, tight to the somewhat chubby neck, slicked down hair, well-thought jacket. That’s a conservative.

Actually, that’s been the scuttle-butt in this whole election, that in a town where it is simply impossible for a Republican to win the race, Steve Pierce became a Democrat. I don’t know if that is or isn’t the case, and I also don’t want to turn away late joiners of the the Dems. Better late than never, right?

But I have to say that there are some signs– literally– that Pierce isn’t really quite all that much of a Democrat’s Democrat. For starters, there’s the sign (a picture I took on a walk with Sophie):

Pierce for Mayor?

That American flag with the bold, ALL CAPS, sans-serif font is practically a copy of the BUSH-CHENEY bumper sticker/sign campaign.

But besides that, I’m a little suspcious of where these signs are showing up. Around town, it seems like every rental property has a PIERCE sign, and every single family home has a Schreiber sign. And in my neighborhood, the one house where I can count on “conservative values” being on display (eg, they have various flags flying, yellow ribbons, and NRA sticker on the front door, etc.) has like four or five PIERCE signs.

So, I don’t know. I’ve heard good things about Pierce and I don’t want to make him guilty by association. But….

12 Weeks vs. 7.5 Weeks: the conclusion (?)

I’m almost at the end of my online version of English 328— in fact, I think I finished up grading everything before revisions last night– and thus at the end of my 12 week “experiment.” As loyal readers will recall from this post and also from this post, I worked out a deal where I have taught a class that would normally last 7.5 weeks for 12 weeks instead. My reasoning for this originally was that I just didn’t see how students could possibly complete this online class in just 7.5 weeks. It’s hard enough to teach this class in a face to face setting for the short 7.5 week semester, despite the fact that we meet face-to-face six hours each week; I just didn’t see how it would work online.

Well, here at the end of this 12 week experiement, finally, and my sense is that I won’t be doing this again.

Now, the 12 week term has been kind of nice in that it has progressed at a much more leisurely pace than the 7.5 week term, obviously. I have also had a couple of students who tell me that there is no way that they could have done the class in a 7.5 week term.

But the negatives with this 12 week arrangement have been significant. First off and most important for me, the longer term did not help student retention; it might have even hurt it. I started the term the first week in May with 20 students, and it looks like 9 will finish. What makes the situation worse is that most of these students are just MIA, mainly because they didn’t drop the class in time since it’s considered a spring class (see below). I’ve had face-to-face versions of this class where I have had a lot of students drop and/or disappear, but over 50% is pretty extreme. And what’s interesting is that when I taught this class online during the regular school year, I had only a few drops or disappearances– 1 or 2 in the fall, 1 or 2 in the winter term– which to me means I can’t just blame the fact that the class was online.

Anyway, while I appreciate the fact that a couple of my current students said the 12 week term helped them, it seems unlikely to me that I would have had even more students drop/disappear if the term was 7.5 weeks long. In fact, if students knew up front that the semester was going to be short and thus they were going to really have to bust out and plan to be online a couple hours a day to keep up with the work, then maybe the retention might have actually been higher.

The second problem has been about the logistics of all this. Technincally, because “the system” at EMU is not really equipped to do something so out of the box as having a more or less customized semester (what big institution could do this, really?), my class has been a “spring term” class. This has had some kind of unexpected results. For example, the deadline to drop the class was very early in the term because the deadline was the same as for a 7.5 week class. This, I am sure, hurt some students who realized they were in way over their heads too late to get out of the class without penalty. The same deadline problems loomed for students who wanted to withdraw. Financial aid for the class was pegged to the spring term, which I think caused a few problems. The question of “load” for students was a problem because the class counted as a spring term class and not a summer term class, which screwed up students who, mostly for financial aid reasons, wanted to take a full load for the spring and the summer. The grading software/computer system can’t deal with the odd term, so I have to go through some rig-a-ma-roll to sort that out. And so forth.

Third, and maybe this is obvious, teaching for 12 weeks instead of 7.5 weeks has meant that I have had less “time off” than I would have otherwise. Like I said, the 12 week thing did make for a more leisurely pace, which has allowed me to teach and also take some family trips, play a fair amount of golf, etc. But while the 7.5 week term would have meant I would have been super-duper busy in May and June, it also would have meant that I would have been totally done a month ago.

Anyway, live and learn. Now I’ve got to go and start reading stuff about being a WPA….

At the Movies: Monster House (in “Real D”)

I should be getting ready for bed, but I’m “keyed up” after finishing some school work and I wanted to posta little something about the movie Monster House, which I saw with Will on Monday. Annette had seen this with Will last Friday or Saturday or so and she spoke highly of it, but I was a little bit dubious. For one thing, I just sorta figured another kid movie; for another, Will (okay, and me too) wanted to see the 3-D version– or, as it is apparently called, “Real D.” For another, I was kind of tired and, I dunno, looking more forward to nap or maybe a beer than a movie.

Well, I gotta tell ya: go see this thing if you get a chance, and for God’s sake, go see it in the “Real D” if you can. I’m not interested in writing a summary of the flick, especially when there’s one right here. But a couple of thoughts:

  • Without a doubt, this is a movie filled with surprises pretty much from beginning to end. When I saw the trailer, I thought that this would be a pretty predictable and simple flick. Not so, not so at all.
  • This is not a movie for little (less than about 7 or so) kids. There’s some scary shit in this flick– not King Kong scary, but people getting eaten and stuff scary.
  • I was amazed at how cool the 3-D stuff was. This isn’t the whole red/green über-cheesy technology of old. It’s some kind of digital thing (though it does require glasses) that, in this movie at least, was mostly subtle but also employed during some exciting chase kinds of scenes quite effectively. So, unlike the segments on SCTV that featured a 3-D House of Beef or the last 3-D movie I saw– one of the Spy Kids movies, I think– this one was part of the story, looked great, and didn’t give me a headache.
  • And again, this is a reason to see a movie in the theater. I think they should all be 3-D. Oh, right, Real D.

Convergence (of sorts)

As some of my friends (both academic and not) have had to endure from me lately, I feel like I have been going through a mini mid-life crisis– an academic mid-life crisis, that is. I’m not likely to dump my wife for a twenty-something girlfriend and a convertable. But I have been in a bit of quandry as to what to do next. The short version goes like this:

  • Option A: I have thought (off and on for the last six months) about starting a book-length project in which I would analyze various “writerly” issues of blogging and blogging culture. I don’t know exactly what this book would be, but I do know it wouldn’t be a “how to” book, I’m not that interested in categorizing genres of blogs (e.g., “this is what an academic blog looks like,” “this is what a feminist blog looks like,” “this is a political blog,” yadda-yadda-yadda), and it probably wouldn’t have much to do with teaching, either– well, at least not directly to do with teaching in a fy comp kind of way. What I imagine(d) would be a book that looks into issues like audience, motives for writing, reasons why writers stop keeping a blog, issues of identity, etc. My thoughts have been/are that I would do all this through a series of case studies of some blogs and interviews with the writers of those blogs, along with a smattering of various writing/rhetoric theories (I’m particularly partial to thinking about this through the lens of “rhetorical situation.”)
    • Advantages: A “hot” topic, it’s probably something that would be interesting to a lot of other readers, might have appeal beyond the comp/rhet community.
    • Disadvantages: There are probably about a dozen similar projects underway and/or about to come out (this sounds like someone’s dissertation if you ask me); by the time such a book would actually come out, we’ll probably be on to something beyond the blog (and even if we aren’t, it will still be “dated” as soon as it’s published); working with human subjects/interviews can be kind of a pain in the butt.
  • Option B: I have also off and on thought about a book-length project that would examine the history of writing technologies before the computer. The purpose of this would be two-fold: first, I want to argue that writing pedagogy has always been heavily influenced by available writing/teaching technologies. It’s just that the computer is a more visible, obvious, and intrusive technology. Second, we can learn a whole lot about why contemporary technologies do and don’t “work” to teach writing by looking at what has or hasn’t worked in the past, something that folks in the computers and writing field hasn’t done much.
    • Advantages: I have already done a lot of research and scholarship on this (an essay on chalkboards, conference presentations, etc.), it’s kind of fun research because much of it involves hunting around in weird parts of the library, it’s not likely to be a project that goes out of date in a few years, and it’s research that won’t require me to go through the rig-a-ma-roll of human subjects review.
    • Disadvantages: Even with what I’ve already done, I still have a lot more work to do, the research on this is difficut, I’m not sure I have the training and/or “street cred” to do this kind of history, and I’m not sure anyone else (other than me) is really interested in this stuff.

    Meanwhile, I recently found out that I can apply for promotion to professor this year (meaning that I would be promoted for the 2007-08 school year). I am of course aware that at many institutions, where one has to produce truly distinguishing scholarship in order to get promoted to full professor, it’s very common for faculty members to toil away as an associate professor for decades or longer. For better or worse, promotion at EMU doesn’t work that way. If I were to bust out and write one or two books in the next year or two or three, I would be promoted to professor. If I did what I am doing now or even less (see below), I would be promoted to professor.

    And, as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, my wife Annette Wannamaker has just wrapped up her first and very successful year as an assistant professor here at EMU. She’s happy, I’m happy, and, given the challenge of us both finding academic jobs elsewhere that would work for us as a couple and a family, we’ll probably be at EMU for the rest of our careers.

    So, this opens up another possibility:

  • Option C: Don’t bother with the hassle of writing either of the previously two mentioned books– or anything else I don’t want to write, for that matter. Just blog, read scholarship to keep current in the field (I don’t want to become a completely dead wood professor), concentrate on teaching (which I like plenty), try to find a way to get into some sort of consulting, go to a conference or two a year, write an article once in a while, write fiction and/or poetry, exercise, work on the golf game, become a better cook, take up painting, etc., etc.
    • Advantages: Literally I can pretty much do what I want, I won’t be pointlessly contributing to the mounds of scholarship that already go unread, I can return to some of the “creative writing” sort of work that got me into this buisness nearly 20 years ago, I can have some version of a life.
    • Disadvantages: This sort of freedom often allows me to become so lazy I accomplish pretty much nothing, and a vague sort of guilt, probably the result of the overly zealous pursuit of “THE WORK” so common in academia. In other words, even though I don’t really need to be doing something like a book project, I feel like it’s kind of expected that I’m supposed to be doing a book project.
      Fortunately (or not!), these various courses of action have been more or less decided for me for the next year, and I finally realized this a couple weeks ago (thus the “convergence”): for reasons that are not worth going into, I am going to be the interim writing program administrator for the first year writing program this year while Linda Adler-Kassner is on sabbatical (she’s working on a book, but I hope she does some blogging, too). What this means is that next year, I will be both the “writing program coordinator” (charged with various issues having to do with our undergraduate majors in professional and technical writing, and also with our graduate programs in teaching of writing and professional writing), and the “writing program administrator (running the first year composition program).

      Now, I had been more or less putting off/not thinking too hard about my additional WPA duties in the fall, mainly because I’ve been busy teaching. But as that class wraps up, as I prepare for our trip to Italy and Germany, and as I think about my more than pseduo-administrative duties for the fall term, it has occurred to me that really, the only thing I’m going to be able to do next year is a version of Option C– though I am already imagining an article where I discuss and describe my role as the “accidential WPA.”

      So, like I said, convergence. For the time-being, my future seems decided for me, and that’s an okay thing.

    Beer Watcher II: Bottling (sideways)

    Beer Watcher II: Bottling

    Originally uploaded by steven_d_krause.

    It was bottling day yesterday at Bill HD’s for our latest batch of “hefeweizen” beer. This picture shows Bill (seated) and Steve B running sanitizer through all of the bottles– remember, clean is your friend when bottling beer– but the process for getting the beer in there is the same. Beer comes out of the bucket, which the beer has been transfered into from the carboy (see video below), it’s put into bottles, it’s capped, and we wait.

    I think it’s fair to say that we’re all a bit more nervous about this batch than the last one we made. On first taste, this beer tastes… well… okay, but we hope that it benefits from a bit of bottle aging. At least two weeks. Since we’ll be out of the country in two weeks (and I don’t think it’s worthwhile to take a homebrew with me to Germany), my share of the loot will be even more aged. On the up-side though, there doesn’t appear to be any problems from the previously mentioned “blow-off,” which we thought might contaminate the batch. Our assumption is that if there was some sort of problem, the beer would taste like poo. And while it isn’t a great beer, it isn’t a poo-flavor, either.

    I took some video with my camera, but I also learned a valuable lesson I will apply on our upcoming vacation: if I turn the camera sideways, I end up with sideways video. So, to properly view this footage, please turn your computer and/or monitor 90 degrees counter-clockwise before viewing.

    It’s not particularly exciting footage, either; it’s beer being siphoned through a tube from the carboy to the fermenting bucket (aka “ale pail”), from which we will later bottle. Twenty-two seconds worth, and it’s 6.6 MB. I would have included the other movie I took, but Steve B. and Bill kept making rude gestures. Bastards….