Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Picture of the Day (Young Thug)

We covered the concept of "doing gender" in my Social Psychology course yesterday. Click here for my summary of the West and Zimmerman article. During our discussion, a student mentioned Young Thug wearing a dress on his latest album cover. I don't know his music and wasn't familiar with the picture to which she referred. She kindly handed me her phone during class to show me the picture. It's a good example of challenging gender norms. I reminded the class of when Kanye West wore a kilt ("effectively a skirt," as GQ refers to it here). My point was that I think celebrities have more room to maneuver than regular people in pushing the boundaries of socially acceptable expressions of masculinity and femininity. Click here for an article about the dress that Young Thug is wearing on his album cover (also the source from where I copied and paste this picture).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Song of the Day - I Feel For You (Chaka Khan)

Having a day? I am. Not the day I imagined, that's for sure. Trying to get my mind right before my 2:30 class. This song will make me feel better. It's great. I hope it works for you too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Value of a Slow Social Interaction

I'm too much in a hurry at work. Do e-mail fast. Quick meeting with student. Review notes for class. Fast bathroom break. Eat fast. Drink coffee fast. There a text, here a text. Clever quips exchanged with colleagues in the hallway.

A nice interaction I had this morning went a different way. In the parking lot I ran into a colleague who I don't see very often. I usually walk and talk with colleagues when we cross paths in the parking lot. In this case, she stopped to talk. We made eye contact as we caught up. We asked about each other's families. We agreed the summer heat was unbearable. We talked a bit more and both said it was nice to see each other. It really was. Life is too busy and stressful to enjoy one sustained interaction after another, but I sure value the ones I get. I feel good about those slower interactions in a way that I don't after the split second ones.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

If Time Permits, Prep Early

I've been teaching college courses for more than 15 years. Sometimes I like prepping for class, other times I let it go and procrastinate. Early in the semester I find myself abiding by good habits. I prep well ahead of time. I'm not rushing my prep, nor am I spending a ton of time on prep. There have been times where I spent a long time preparing content for a class session but the class ended up poorly. How? I think I run into trouble when I spend too much time on content and not enough time thinking about actually teaching the material. If time permits and I have a session prepped long before I actually teach it, then the material is in my head and I can think a lot about how I want to present it. I think about new discussion questions and, frankly speaking, a few new jokes pop into my head that I may or may not end up using.

Time is a precious resource, of course, and not everybody has the same amount of time to dedicate to class preparation. Advisement, research, writing, meetings, OTHER JOBS, children, housework, social lives all take up time. But if time is on your side and you can manage to complete your class prep early, I think it may work in your favor.

On a related note, I think when my class prep is sloppy I tend to go too fast in class. My pacing is off. I talk too fast, don't give students enough time to respond to questions, I don't settle into the class, etc. It's like I'm fighting the clock. But if I finish my prep comfortably ahead of class time then I find my pacing is much better. When I'm settled in the clock is my friend. It seems to move at the right speed, giving me plenty of time to cover the material in a way that doesn't feel hurried.

It's easy for me to say this in September before it's hit the fan. Like I've written before, it's dancing in September and struggling in December. My goal is to stick with the best habits I can for as long as possible this semester.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Before Trump, Palin

Each time Donald Trump says something ridiculous I'm tempted to ask "Who else could say that? Can you imagine if another politician said that?" And then Sarah Palin comes to mind. I wonder if historians will closely link them together. Remember when Palin made a remark about "real America"? It strikes me as the kind of spouting off, ad-lib way of talking that we might expect from Trump.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Immersed in Suburbia

I have been immersed in suburbia for a while now.

It wasn't always this way.

I grew up in a small city. It was a short walk to school, an even shorter walk to the park. In two blocks you could walk to a candy store, a pizzeria, and a place to buy hot dogs and ice cream. It didn't take many more blocks to get to more places.

I don't know if I imagined that I would live in a suburb in my adult life. I can't remember. The thing that strikes me most about suburbia is the vital importance of cars. I spend a lot of my waking moments in my car. This has made satellite radio important to me. At some point it changed from a luxury to necessity. It keeps me company.

If I walk long enough I can make it to a few places--a deli, a convenience store--but the walk is unpleasant and puts you in automobile traffic. Biking is an option too, but this suburb was not built for bicycles. It's all about cars.

I like walks. When I lived in Buffalo in my 20s I loved taking walks on Elmwood Avenue. I have fond memories of lunchtime walks to get a black bean burrito. It would serve as a reward. Write in the morning. Prepare for class. Then stroll for a burrito. Return home. Do more work. A cat nap was often part of the routine. That was life before kids.

Just before kids came along, my wife and I looked and looked for houses. The affordable houses for us were in the suburbs. We lived in suburb #1 in house #1 with one bathroom. Joyfully, kids #1 and #2 became our family. We moved to suburb #2 to a bigger house with 1 and 1/2 bathrooms. I do not take the 1/2 bathroom for granted. It's the only time in my life I have lived in an apartment or house with more than one bathroom.

This is the quietest place I have lived in my life, I often hear myself saying. I miss the noise of the city, sometimes. Suburb #1 was noisy too. Very noisy. But you can hear a pin drop in suburb #2. The kids play with other kids and neighbors wave and say hello. Sometimes the adults convene for beers. In suburb #1 this was not the norm. Only a few of the neighbors were friendly. Here, they are very friendly.

The days of walking for a burrito are long gone. A break now consists of a trip to the grocery store for provisions. There is a park where I like to go for a walk. There are times when only 3-4 people are there. This is in stark contrast to the days of walking in Buffalo's Delaware Park. On any given afternoon, Delaware Park is busy with walkers, bikers, rollerbladers, and basketball players. Where I walk now is maybe one person shooting hoops and a few people walking dogs. One time I saw a small group of women doing yoga.

I wonder if I'm getting used to the quiet. I kind of blend in wherever I am. I do tend to get restless. I imagine living in different places. It's not necessarily that I think the grass is greener elsewhere. It might be the case that I'm not the type to put down roots in a single place for thirty years.

There is something else about this suburb I will say. I've noticed it before but it really struck me today. Today was garbage day. Wherever else I have lived, garbage day usually meant stray garbage in the street after the garbage was removed by trucks and men. Here, it is near spotless. I have a hard time recalling spills or garbage spewed in the streets. Today, after the trucks came through, I drove to the pharmacy. On my way out of the neighborhood I saw one coffee cup. I kid you not, it stood out to me. Hey look, a piece a garbage. This is one clean place.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Men at Work are Underrated. And if You Don't Believe Me, Try This Salsa Recipe.

I was there in the 1980s when Men at Work blew up pop radio with Down Under. It's a fine song. "He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich" is a Hall of Fame lyric. All these years later, I'm pleased when Men at Work sneaks up in my iTunes. Or surprises me at the grocery store, as happened this morning when Overkill enhanced my shopping experience. I'll always dig this song. The video is weird but so what.

As we know, music taste is subjective and all of that. So maybe we disagree about Men at Work. However, we surely agree that we all need good salsa in our lives, whether or not America fulfills its promise to deliver taco trucks on every corner. Is it me or is salsa in a jar unbearable? Here's a five minute salsa fix for you. Use a can of crushed tomatoes and season to taste. Add what you want to make it mild or hot. Refrigerate. That's it. Today I used 28 ounces of chunky crushed tomatoes. I seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, sugar, and added diced mild green chiles. I suppose you could freshen it up with bell peppers or do whatever else makes you happy. Want to be a hero the next time you have company? Give them good salsa. Here it is, friends.

Stick Figure Society (Colin Kaepernick Edition)