"Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping." --Virginia Woolf A Room of One's Own

The Scourge of Neo-Liberalism

When I go to a conference, I always hope to bring something home with me that will inform my teaching and learning. Such is the case of my recent attendance at the Community Colleges Humanities Association conference. I'm not sure how this concept of neo-liberalism is going to do that. I suspect it may do more to inform my discussions about the direction of the department, division and college that it will my classroom and teaching, but I think it is a good sort of informing nonetheless, even though what is does more is to support some notions I'd long had, but notions that were often dismissed as out of touch with the mission of higher education.

New England Holocaust Memorial

Being that I'm in Boston for the first time, I figured I should do some of the typical tourist stuff. I ate dinner in the North End at a great Italian place, Lucia Ristorante, a funky space where I was seated at a table, sort of, with another couple. There was plenty of room, but while they weren't going to give me a table to myself, the service was great and so was the food. The conciege at the hotel sent me to another place, Ristorante Seraceno, but being a single diner, the asshole maitre 'de said "He can wait." And wait I did. While others without reservations were seated, I stood there, but not for long before walking out.

After dinner, I continued walking around downtown and came across the New England Holocaust Memorial. Since I don't know if I can do it justice, I snagged the above photo from their website. I hope they don't mind. Each of the glass towers is etched with prisoner numbers. Again, taken from the site: "The Memorial design features six luminous glass towers, each reaching fifty-four feet high, and each lit internally from top to bottom. Six million numbers ­are etched in the glass. These numbers represent the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and are suggestive of the infamous tattoos the Nazis inflicted on many of the victims." Another interesting number is that six million Poles were killed, not all of them Jews as you might imagine. They were just inferior and in the way I guess. I also learned that on April 19 (my birthday), 1943 (15 years before my birthyear), there was a ghetto up-rising. I don't think it was Warsaw, but it was nice to have something beside Paul Revere's ride, or the day before Hitler's birthday, attached to my own birthday.

The memorial is powerful: you walk through the base of teach tower, reading the inscriptions on the walls. I viewed it at night, much like the picture. Not only are the towers lighted, but steam rises from grates at the base of each tower. Below the grates appear to be rocks and lights from which the steam rises. The lights sparkle as if stars in the sky. At the two entrances are walls with rocks at the top. I don't know the significance, but I picked a rock off the ground and placed it atop the wall with the others.

CC Humanites Association Conference: Pre-conf workshop and plenary session

This, of course, will be of more interest to teachers than others, but who knows. I'm in Cambridge, MA at the Community College Humanities Association annual national conference. I'm the CCHA liaison for Spokane Falls, so I didn't even have to put in for travel money; the college just up and paid. But I've been warned that it's a lot of work when I get home, serving as liaison. No free lunch on this one. It's been en engaging day so far.

I attended a preconference workshop titled "Values in Democracy: A Crucial Conversation" and came away pleased even though it didn't meet my preconceived notions of what it should cover. Not that it mattered, but the four listed presenters didn't make it, so two of their colleagues took over for them. The presentation was based on a conversation held among faculty at Nassau CC in NY. The two women, whose names I didn't get, did a great job in providing an active session. I wanted time to talk more, but just as I was wishing certain folks would talk less, I'm sure others thought the same of me (but I didn't talk that much). So, I guess it was good they kept us busy.

Thomas Sowell, part of the problem

This morning, I awoke, bleary eyed, to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight from Spokane to Seattle and then Boston. Part of my morning joy, though not so joyful today, is reading the editorials in the Spokesman-Review. Today, a column by Thomas Sowell made clear just what is wrong with contemporary American politics, though that wasn't what he wrote about, at least not in the same way I see it. In his column, Sowell calls Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter a "wimp" because he has the audacity to actually cooperate with Democrats on his committee. This column paints Sowell as an ideologue, if nothing else.

When technology sucks

My computer has been giving me fits lately. For some reason, the wireless gets very slow at home, barely over 100k download speeds when I should be getting 3+mb. But that's solved by simply plugging into the router directly. What really got me steamed happened last night. I went to close out an article I'm writing for a local outdoor publication, Out There Monthly. The pay sucks and my wife crabs at me when I write for so little money, but I do it anyway, since I am a writer after all. It's really more about writing for publication, keeping sorta sharp in my skills, than it is about money. I'm just a hack anyway. At a nickel a word, I don't even think I meet by the Samuel Johnson criteria, where no man but a blockhead writes but for money. A nickel a word is so little money, that Johnson, along with my wife, might think me a blockhead (I wrote "bloghead" three times before I got it right there. LOL).

Weekend in Seattle (and more on Critical Mass)

I flew into Seattle around noon yesterday, Saturday, and flew out at noon today. The occasion was to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. I suppose I should be a bit more upbeat about the whole thing, but family gatherings are not my cup of tea. I always come away feeling a bit blue about the whole thing. I rarely see my family, most of whom are about a four-hour drive away and they wouldn't drive over this way simply for a visit if their lives depended upon it. They typically don't call unless they need or want something, usually involving some family obligation and money I don't have, which is how I learned about this anniversary party.

Critical Mass Spokane: Dud

Yesterday was my first, and likely last, Critical Mass Ride, at least for the near future. As a committed cyclist, one who commutes as much as possible and rides, on road and off, for fun as much as possible (just over 3300 miles so far this year on 175 different days) I was excited about the ride to celebrate cycling and to advocate for more bike friendly roads and drivers. What a disappointment.

There were about two-dozen cyclists who gathered for the ride in front of the Riverfront Park carousel. After hanging about for a bit, watching several police officers deal with an staggeringly drunk woman (at 4:30 in the afernoon).

critical mass ride

I'm taking part in my first critical mass ride today. Such rides take place around the world on the fourth Friday of each month to promote cycling in general and the cyclists' right to the road. Spokane riders will be one of several hundred rides around the world. Based on website info, many riders and promoters, but there are no organizers per se (local anarachists are "organizing" today's ride in Spokane), are anti-car. I'm not, maybe because I have the money to drive a decent one. I'll post some pics after the ride.

TYCA Pacific Northwest Conference

This past weekend I attended the annual conference of theTwo Year College English Association of the Pacific Northwest, which is a good thing because I'm on executive committee as the Membership Chair. The highlight of the meeting was Kathleen Blake Yancey as both the keynote speaker and the host of a session where we sat around and chatted about a good many concerns facing English departments, those at two-year schools in particular.

I scribbled a lot of notes, but in no way can I capture the whole of what she had to say. If there is an over-arching theme, I would say it was the notion of ciruclation, which means we have to not just make student writing available to a wider audience, but we have to promote it, much as some folks promote their blogs (not me, not much anyway).

How hard is too hard?

Yesterday a student came to me and told me she was going to drop first year composition because it was too much work, too hard because of the work load. It's too bad because she was a good student, though unhappy with her grades to date. As usual, this sort of comment makes me rethink what I have students do. Part of the reason I think I may ask more of students than some of my colleagues (not meaning to bad mouth any of them) is because, having started my post-secondary education in a community college in the late 1970's, I want to be sure they get a better educational experience, at least with writing, than I did.
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