Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dealing With It

Made the mistake of starting to listen to a Radio West podcast on minimalism while I was cleaning the house this morning. When I realized it was making me grumpy because our house is TOO BIG and TOO FULL of stuff, I turned it off.

Finished listening to it tonight, sitting in my clean, organized living room. Which is full of a crazy number of chachkies, like jars full of rocks and shells from adventures we've had and things built out of Lego. But I love the people I share space with and I love the memories we've made together, so, in between breakdowns about it, I will deal with it.

PS: If you listen the podcast, caller Shelley from Springville is a good friend of mine. She's not kidding when she says she has four children under the age of five.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Modernism, Postmodernism, Now What?

A week ago Thursday, I went to a faculty meeting that included a presentation by one of "writing study's leading composition theorists" who talked about "pedagogy for a postcomposition world." That's how he and his talk were pitched. Scintillating, eh? Actually, he was an interesting guy and it was a useful presentation.

During the Q&A portion, someone asked him what his thoughts were on letting students use cell phones in the classroom. After saying that he thinks it's up to college age students to police themselves when it comes to paying attention in class (is being distracted by checking text messages really any different than studying notes for different class?), he said that today, it makes total sense for a student to use a phone to snap shots of lecture slides instead of writing it all down by hand. As an added bonus, it enables them to pay more attention to what the instructor is saying.

Exactly a week later, I was hosting a talk on modernist writer Ernest Hemingway at our library and wanted to remember the titles of four short stories the presenter recommended. Pulled out my phone and boom. Got it all and didn't miss a word he said. Like the fact that he only included Old Man and the Sea on the reading list because it seemed he should, not because he enjoyed it. Because he didn't. Which is good to know. Or is at least entertaining coming from a guy who likes Hemingway so much that he literally has a Hemingway quote tattooed on his forearm (which is how I came to invite him to speak). But not a quote from Old Man and the Sea.

I love picking up a hot tip and using it straightaway. Makes me feel like I'm keeping up with the times.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Today was comma day in class. Always thrilling for everyone involved, I'm sure. I started off easy with commas in dates and places, and the examples I used were sentences that describe Jack being born on May 17, 1999, in Provo, Utah, and Roger being born on 17 May 1963 in Provo, Utah.

I told my students it's a true story, and one of them asked, "Were they delivered by the same doctor?"

LOL, no. But Jack was actually delivered by the very doctor I had gone to several years previously in an attempt to figure out why I wasn't getting pregnant. The fertility gods move in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I don't think I will ever quite get used to working in an environment where I regularly encounter people that I read about in the news. It can be especially disconcerting to know them as students in my class, then see their faces plastered on my screen.

That said, I always appreciate being reminded that they are all three-dimensional human beings, not one-dimensional headlines.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Brain Dump

Spent much of the day neck deep in my students' research projects, grading annotated bibliographies and holding consultations. Maybe if I list all the topics here, I can clear my mind for a while and think about something else.

  • Main stream medical establishment acceptance of chiropractics
  • Controlling emotions for peak athletic performance
  • Encouraging responsible gun ownership without compromising second amendment rights
  • Concealed weapons permits
  • Ban on assault weapons
  • (Yes, I have a record three students writing about guns)
  • Brain death and life support
  • Requiring U.S. students to study languages other than English
  • Stem cell research
  • Ayn Rand's theories of Egoism and Objectivism
  • Influence of media on self-perception, particularly in men
  • K-12 teacher tenure
  • Child rearing by same-sex parents
  • Censorship of books in schools
  • Parental rights and the role of the state in protecting the rights of children
  • Title IX and college sports
  • Influence of video games
  • Steroids and baseball
  • Arranged marriages 
  • Art as a viable career choice
  • Free tuition for higher education

There. My brain is empty until their next assignment is due.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Broken Stones

Criminal justice debt drags people further away from reintegration with civil society. A person's life can spiral out of their control when interest, late fees, revocation of a driver's license and ineligibility for public assistance, mean that unpaid criminal justice debt snowballs. You can't get blood from a stone but if you try, you can break the stone. ("Debtors' Prison for Failure to Pay for Your Own Trial")
In the past few years I've met many broken stones.

I've been surprised to learn how many inmates at the county jail are there for failure to pay fines and how many of them have lost their jobs due to incarceration for failure to pay fines. I was also surprised to learn that people who are serving sentences for misdemeanor charges are required to pay to stay. If they have no resources, they can be thousands of dollars in debt to the community when they are released.

Besides saving taxpayer money, the thinking behind our local pay-to-stay program is that it will encourage people to stop committing crimes. I get that, and it may be true for some. But based on my experience, I suspect it is a predominantly counterproductive idea, and I was glad to read in the news yesterday that it could be on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

Sure inmates are in a bind because of their own choices. I do believe we all need to face the consequences when we screw up. But most of them are already paying for their choices in a multitude of ways. And they will be paying for their choices long after they've served their sentences. If we want them to choose a legitimate path, it doesn't make sense to me to marginalize them even more by pushing them further into debt. It also wouldn't surprise me if the pay-to-stay program actually ends up costing taxpayers more money than it brings in because it can keep people revolving in and out of jail longer.

What does make sense--from both a public safety standpoint (politically feasible) and a humanitarian standpoint (which seems to be less politically feasible these days)--is to do what we can to draw people in from the margins of society.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not So Sure Anymore

One time my Grandma Jan, who was a good hearted woman but not known for her tact, announced to my husband that he looked more like Winston Churchill ever time she saw him.

We were like, "What?!"

Then in the past couple of weeks, the following two pictures came my way, one in my email inbox and the other on my Facebook feed. I don't know what to think now.