Friday, March 29, 2013

Reaching Out

Here's me being satirical on someone else's blog:

The blog is part of a larger project concerned with Adjunct employment at colleges and universities across the country.  It's called the Adjunct Project and would be a good thing not just for adjuncts to read, but for anyone in college or sending a kid to college.  Did you know, for example, the majority (like over 75%) of instructors at colleges are NOT full time and that adjuncts make a fraction (like, about a third) of what full time employees make?  Yet tuition costs go up yearly.  Things that make you go hmmmmm.....

Anyway, thanks Josh for accepting my satire.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Do the Cooking

I do the cooking around here.  I'm talking evening meals and not lunch or breakfast.  We're one of those weird families that try to eat a meal together every day.  That was a conscious decision my wife and I made early on.  Me cooking wasn't the plan; it was just one of those things that happens in a marriage.  You know how it goes.

Those early years, that multiple-megaton blast of responsibility no newlywed is ready for, the heft and pull of the yoke, the schedule scratching along like a Richter-scale needle in a 1970s earthquake movie.  I found myself home in the afternoons with the time, so I cooked.  We shared the duty for a while.  I think the tipping point was the day I came home to a chicken in a pot, boiling on the stove.  That's what we had, boiled chicken; the moment of discovery, right there…  Bless her heart, she tried.
I don't mind.  Most days I enjoy it.  Cooking, done right, takes the worried mind to another place.  It's an escape.  That, and every time I burn or cut or mangle some of my flesh, I garner further evidence.  "Look there," I say to whichever daughter silly enough to enter the kitchen at such times.  "I bled for you again!  Now go clean the cat box!"
I remember this one concoction from the early days - rice and whatever, with onions and hot-pepper powder, smothered in a bar-b-q sauce, baked at 375 until it looked ready.  It was better than it sounds.  The meals were simple then, unassuming, starchy, and cheap (funny how we're pulling back in that direction- good thing there's no inflation or we'd be in some real trouble).
Time moved on and so did my skills.  I got skills now.  Don't believe me? Come over for dinner.  About three Thanksgivings ago I did the meal - eighteen people and some change.  Spaghetti for fourteen teens, with salad, sides, and deserts?  No prob.  Intimate for two?  How about lobster bisque, sautéed thin-cut pork chops with lightly glazed onion and caper glaze, followed by a crème brule' with just a hint of lemon?  Don't like lemon?  I do chocolate too.  Oh how I love my butane kitchen torch!  Just let me know a day in advance, I'll fix you something good.
A personal favorite is an early-summer Cajun deal:  a shrimp-sausage jambalaya (has to have a deep-brown roux base or it's not jambalaya), hush-puppies, fruit bowl to cut the heat, and various other oddments that holler at me from the cookbook, with homemade heath-espresso ice cream for dessert.  I can lose myself if the meal is involved enough.  The kitchen is hot, the water's boiling, I've lost the skin on one of my fingers, and have little red marks on my arms from the grease.  In that moment I am Hephaestus at the forge, and all is well in the world.  Machinery, blades, steam, and open flame - what's not to like?
Mom was my first teacher.  She didn't know it, but I was paying attention.  I saw her use a recipe maybe a dozen times.  Otherwise, she knew what she was doing.  Others have helped along the way.  There have been classes by people educated about such things.  I learned some good tricks from them and was introduced to new recipes.  And, as usual, the best teacher is experience - always is.
It's not all glorious.  Some days at the grocery store I know exactly what I want.  Dinner plans come to me as in a vision.  I can almost smell the end-result, and so I slide the silver cart through the tides of old women and other grizzled home-cooks to the ingredient locations, led by the memorized floor-plans that shine like a magic map.
Sometimes it isn't easy.  I'm managing three other palates on a regular basis.  Me?  I'll eat whatever.  But the audience is a different matter.  I have two pickies and a one not-so-picky to contend with.  And they're picky over different things.  Nor do I claim to bat a thousand.  No one does.  I sometimes only manage to make edible dinners - they just don't taste like much but at least I tried.
Many days the magic is not there.  I stand beneath the piped-music, staring at the red-wall of for-sale snack crackers, without a clue.  Annoyed people move around me.  On these days I gather necessities first.  Dog-food, detergents, tampons (yes, I'm that confident in my masculinity), maybe a new round of toothbrushes because that's the kind of guy I am.  I draw on my experiences, cast about the refrigerated ether, and gather what I may.  But, by golly, dinner is made.
This is my parable of the writer.  Learn as you go.  No one starts out truly knowing what they are doing.  Some days, inspiration shines like a new Kroger card.  Some days, it's just a putty-colored tub of crap.  You know it and so does everyone else at the table.  At least the dogs are always thankful.  But you keep going, day after day.  The new writer learns.  There's a world to explore.  And if it sucks the first time, make it again just to be sure.
After a while, a level of confidence arrives.  I think that's when the fears and the recipes stop being as important as they once were.  You try new combinations, go less by exact measurement and more by what feels right (or maybe smells).  Then, if you feel like sharing, you know other people are going to like it too.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Commodious Accommodation

Dear Suzy;
As my work group’s designated Value Added College Adjunct Nomenclature Trainer, I feel you will have the knowledge and expertise to help with the following question.
My question is, “How I may do my part to help make sure the students are having a successful and hygienic restroom experience?”
I realize the majority of the students do just fine.  But, every day, there is some splashing on the rims, floors, and walls adjacent to the toilets and urinals.  Some just can’t seem to hit the spot, if you know what I mean.  What can I do to help these young men have a better chance of reaching their goals?
Carl Everguy
Adjunct Restroom Hygiene Facilitator


Dear Carl;
I commend your concern for our at-risk students and appreciate your forthright and ‘take responsibility’ proactivity regarding the issue.  As you know, changing generations mean changing priorities and different norms of behavior from the past.  I appreciate your willingness to go the extra mile for the young people who simply experience life differently than the ‘old pedagogical order’.  It is important for us to change so that they do not have to.  Without your attitude, many might fall between the cracks.  And at the end of the day, filling cracks is what is important.
My Six-Sigma research team reinforces your initial diagnosis.  A majority of students know about and successfully utilize restroom equipment every day.  It is, however, a sad commentary on our culture that some just assume everyone will respond similarly when confronted with what may be an unfamiliar experience.  As you know, our students represent a vast diversity of economic, learning, sexual, and ethno-orientations.  I don’t have to tell you how the Anglo-centric stances of the past may not be suitable for everyone.   A few suggestions are in order.
First, your task-group of RHFs may want to post instructional signs above the toilets and urinals.  I would use graphics with a limited amount of text to account for those who are reading-challenged.  Focus on recommended ranges, stances, and other proper techniques.
Another option might be to install wider urine acceptance units to help facilitate the spectrum of aiming diversities.  If you choose to pursue this option you need to fill out the following state-mandated forms:  porcelain_enlargement_request.doc, RHF_work_load_enlargement.doc, business_case_funding.doc, workplace_at_risk.doc, ethno_facili_blab.doc, and OSHA_form_184_restrooms_a12_99x.doc.
Finally, our sister college in Connecticut is implementing a new program in the form of Diversity Restroom Facilitators.  This adjunct work-enhancement opportunity enables the volunteers adopting the new work-load to be eligible for a .025% increase in their pay, bringing their rate of compensation up to nearly 27.8% of their full-time counterparts.  The dif personnel, as they are referred to, assist the students in achieving their unique goals.  This can be in the form of personal coaching or, as necessity dictates, the holding of the gender-specific waste water discharge appendage, at least for the initial stages of the program, until they can learn to do it for themselves.
I hope you and your fellow RHFers give serious consideration to the last option, as I am very excited about the possibilities.
Again, I so very much appreciate your desire to help our college meet the unique challenges presented by the student body.  After all, isn’t that what the college experience is all about?
Suzy Busibodi
V.A.C.A.N.T. Committee Representative

Friday, March 8, 2013

Solipsism - We're There

My students don’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is.  This is painful for me because I cut my literary teeth on Mad Magazine.

For solace, I make them do a web search and cite their source, along with a list of other things they should be familiar with.  There are reasons for this exercise.  First, it helps them understand the need to cite their sources.  It’s also a good way to build a ‘Works Cited’ page according to MLA standards, and, finally, it illustrates ‘seek and destroy research’ (not to be confused with other types of research).  That sound good, doesn’t it?

Secretly, it’s just me keeping Alfred E. Neuman out there, lurking, in their brains.

On Saturday I went to Wal-Mart.  A man my age should know better, but I needed beans and I needed a ream of paper.  Ergo, says I, where can I go to buy both things while making one stop?  Thus, cogito ergo Wal-Mart.

I fight my way through the angry cart riders, the fussy shelf re-stockers (why they restock shelves on Saturday afternoon I know not), the screaming children, and the mothers desperately ignoring the screaming children; some stereotypes are born of reasoned observations.

I find the beans.  Been there, done that – neural pathway in place.  Then I navigate to the electronics and look for printer paper.  Not finding any, I ask one of the friendly workers, “Do you sell reams of paper.”  She gives me a look.  I think she thought I said something vulgar.  We stare at one another a moment and she dashes around a corner, without a word.  And I’m like, “Ok…”

But all is not lost because in a moment she returns with a manager.  He says, “What did you ask her for?”

And I ask, “Where are your reams of paper?”

He too gives me a look, though his is born of confusion.  But eureka, like Diogenes, I find an honest man!  Diogenes was the guy who noted that since we have two ears and one tongue, we should listen twice as much as we speak.  He asks, “What’s that?”

I answer, “Typing paper,” to which he points me in the right direction, and I am on my way, pondering the unique situation of finding two people in a row, one older than myself and one younger, neither of whom knows what a ream of paper is.

Now, can’t fault someone for what they don’t know.  That’s just ignorance and I’m as ignorant as the next fella.  I know about my interests, nothing more and quite a bit less.  Say, if I were interested in famous U-Boat captains or extinct forms of algae, by golly, I’d learn about it.

But what can be faulted is a lack of interest in just about anything.  This is about frame of reference.  My mistake was, I assumed everybody knows what a ream of paper is.  Lesson learned: don’t talk about reams when assuming (there’s an off-color joke in there somewhere).

And my students who do not know who Alfred E. Newman is also do not know who the mayor of their hometown is.  Some of them do not know who Joe Biden is.  As I age I struggle for relevant references.  When I talk about iambic pentameter’s presence in some of Eminem’s lyrics, little lights sometimes flicker.  And sometimes, they don’t know who Eminem is.

We’ve got to ask ourselves what are we interested in?  And what are we doing about it?  For example, if people are not interested in the fact that the President of the United States wants to use drones to target and kill United States citizens without a trial, who do we have to blame when such powers are granted to him?  It’s little things like that keeping me up at night.

What happened to that little kid (and we were all that little kid) who asks how and why about four dozen times a day?  Ever notice how little kids want to know everything?  And then, they pop out of the public school system and don’t have interests in anything?  It’s like a meat-grinder for our innate curiosity.  Where does it go?