Stupid meetings…

From MSNBC (and via Dan’s blog) comes this story, “Meetings make us dumber, study shows.” It’s kind of an interesting story, I guess. Dan makes a point about meetings and writing peer review groups, but my first thought was about the meetings I go to in my life as a happy academic type. Three quick thoughts on all that:

  • One of the things that really surprised me when I first started down the tenure-track was how much of my job didn’t really have much to do with teaching or scholarship. Lots and lots and lots of meetings, and an hour here and an hour there really starts to add up fast.
  • In my role as the Interim WPA and the coordinator of our writing program, I go to even more meetings this year. And if I’ve learned anything about my year in this duel administrative role (and I have certainly learned a lot) it is that I do not want to become a full-time administrator and spend even more time attending meetings.
  • Having said all that, most of the meetings that I go to aren’t really “brain storming” sessions. Mostly, I think most of my meetings are about following procedures and policies, about “governance” of the faculty role in the department, etc., etc. I mean, sure, there is some brainstorming about things, but at most of those meetings, people throw around some ideas and then they go off and think about those ideas for a while, and then they come back to vote on them.

Cool VW Bug Mods/Memories

Here’s a link to a whole bunch of cool looking pictures of some of the weird modifications of Volkswagen Beatles.

This actually brought back memories of my own connection to the VW Bug. My first driving experiences were with a VW Bug, I believe a 1974 “super beetle,” but I can’t remember for sure. This particular beetle had an automatic clutch, which meant that while you had to shift gears, the clutch was built into the stick itself. So, to shift, you just let up on the gas, moved the gear shift, and then put your foot back on the gas.

Imagine my surprise a few years later when I learned how to drive a real stick shift.

This car never worked great. I recall taking a roadtrip when I was in high school to Kansas in this car and, in the course of the trip, something happened and it was no longer possible to get into reverse. We spent the rest of the trip carefully planning where we parked– well, and pushing once in a while.

Anyway, there came a point, I think shortly after this reverse failure, where this automatic clutch mechanism stopped working entirely. So my father, the ever resourceful engineer, rigged up a little toggle switch on the dashboard. This meant to shift any gear, I had to a) take my foot off the gas, b) flip the toggle switch, c) shift, d) flip the toggle switch again, e) put my foot back on the gas.

This got old quickly. Though since the next car was a Chevy Chevette, maybe we should have stuck with this VW mod….

An early report about "Internet"

A blast from the past– the late 1980s or so? I’m not sure. Two curious things about this piece include a reference to an early (well, in Internet terms) censorship case in Canada where some material on an ongoing trial that wasn’t supposed to be released to the public was on Internet, and, more noticeably, that there’s no article here– that is, it’s “Internet” and not “The Internet,” and certainly not “the internet.”

Winter Break 2007 "To Do" List

It’s winter break season here– what everyone else in the universe refers to as “spring break.” Given that it’s February and it’s a slushy/icy mess outside right now, winter break seems a lot more accurate to me.

This year, we’re not visiting relatives in Florida nor are we off to Mexico (the destination of several of my colleagues with their families). We’re hanging out here, where my wife and I both hope to catch up on work while our son is in school and in various after-school activities. As long as there aren’t any snow days.

Here’s some of what’s on my “to do” list this week:

Make listAlways the first item I put on every list I make.
Go through email
Register for Computers and Writing Don’t worry, Jeff– I’m coming, but I just don’t want to spend the big bucks any earlier than I have to.
Clean House
Clean Garage
Clean Dog
Clean computer labs at EMU. Actually, this one got done on Friday. Long-story short: we have had always had problems getting our computer labs cleaned, in part because the janitors can’t get in their for security issues, and in part because no faculty person is in charge of these labs right now. Anyway, after a series of complaints, I said I’d help clean it ourselves, and I persuaded a “crew” that consisted of Steve B., my colleague Christine Tracy, a long-time journalism lecturer (thanks, Arnie!) and even our department head, Laura George. Laura generously invested in a variety of cleaning supplies, including a cheap shop-vac (btw, one of the best tools ever for sucking the dirt and dust out of computers, IMO). Besides dusting, washing, and mopping up the general filth, we also threw away four giant construction-grade plastic bags of junk: software at least six years old still in the box and the shrink-wrap, stacks of manuals for some mystery product (also still in the shrink-wrap), journals and articles a decade old, cables and plus and adapters for mystery bits of equipment, old course packs and student projects, papers folders and posters, and, inexplicably, one pinata.
Work on The Process of Research Writing web site. When my textbook project went belly-up last year, I started to put it up on the web. As happens in life, I got distracted with other things. But now I’m feeling like it’s time for me to put this thing up to bring some closure to this project.
Clean my school office.
Work on the Department Conference coming up the first week in March.
Get English 516 stuff up to date.
Get English 328 stuff up to date.
Sign up English 516 folks for class blog.
Get busy (again) with BAWS project. I really would like to get the survey/Human Subjects Review stuff going before the end of this week.
Go to the gym more.
Wait patiently for delivery people. I ordered a new home computer the other day, a 20 inch iMac along with a second 19 inch monitor. I know, it’s overkill, but it’ll be my overkill. Stay tuned for details.

Hmm, seems ambitious. I guess if I finish half of this, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something….

A pretty good list of PhD programs in Comp/Rhet

This comes from something called the “Doctoral Consortium in Rhetoric and Composition:” A list of “current members,” which basically means a list of places where one can earn a PhD in composition and rhetoric.

I was just talking with a grad student in our program the other day about PhD studies in comp/rhet, so that’s one of the reasons why I’m posting this now. It seems to me though that some of these places aren’t really comp/rhet programs so much as lit or education programs where you can sort of/kind of sell yourself as a comp/rhet scholar. Sort of.

Anyway, one of the things I told this grad student is that if I had to do it all over again, one of the things I would do different is I would have done a lot more research on my options than I did. I mean, I have no complaints: things have worked out well for me and Bowling Green State (where I earned my PhD) was a great program for me. At the same time, I don’t think I did enough research about my options before I started my PhD studies.

Wanna buy some dangerous books?

Check out The Forbidden Library, which is a list of commonly banned books. Something I stumbled by via StumbleUpon, which is a fun way potentially waste time.

Oh, PS (also a “StumbleUpon” find): once you find something you think you want to read, banned or not, why not ask “What should I read next?” for web sites about that book. Kinda cool.

A fine Mardi Gras festival!

We had a lovely Mardi Gras party last night over here. This is a new thing for us, but I can see it becoming a regular thing for us. Mardi Gras has all the elements that both Annette and I enjoy: cheap jewelry, bright colors, masks, quasi-pagan/religious rituals, great music, and fine food and drinks.

There’s a set of photos on my Flickr account; a few highlights:

  • We had Jambalaya and Muffaletta sandwiches and Annette’s mom’s famous stuffed jalapeno peppers and a whole bunch of other stuff. Darn good eats.
  • Oh, I also made a King Cake. Ours had a Chuck E. Cheese coin in it, which I thought was a nice touch. Congrats to Michelle on being named queen of the party for finding the coin!
  • I thought we had a nice sized crowd– about 23 or 25 or so– and a nice mix of folks from work, from the neighborhood, and more or less friends of friends. Oh, and we even had some live music from Gerry and Jim on guitars. They wouldn’t play “Freebird,” though.
  • The kiddies seemed to have fun too, and no one got an eye poked out. Though Will did get hit upside the head with a wooden sword.

In the left behind category of things: we discovered this morning that one party goer left behind the bag of leftover muffaletta sandwiches on the bench by the front door. Imagine the disappointment! Also, someone left behind a scarf that looks like this:
Missing scarf?

And now, it’s time to engage in some lent-like behavior. Back on the diet….