Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

L&O:CI Joke

I am no fan of the Law & Order spin-offs, but I do love the way writers for every L&O series make literary jokes. I can't recall which writer's name was used in the original series (as the name of a false charity) and was the first to make me smile, but today Sunshine chose to pass the time before Lost by watching Criminal Intent.

The criminal mastermind, played by everybody's favorite Cousin Larry (it's a rerun, so I am not spoiling anything,really), identifies another person involved in the plot as having studied in Hartford, CT. The character was an insurance executive. What makes this so much fun? His name is Wally Stevens. Whoda thunk it, huh?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Classroom From The Freeway

Adjunct work is a rite of passage for many faculty. We spend years as freeway flyers, often zipping from campus to campus on different days and at different times of day, proving ourselves as part-timers before landing a coveted full-time position. While this is a source of frustration for many, I have come to recognize it as a source of inspiration as well.

We freeway flyers often find ourselves adjusting not only to varied schedules but varied requirements, even when teaching courses that meet the same transfer requirements in the same states. This adds to the stress and confusion as different schools ask us to teach the same material in different ways, sometimes insisting upon specific texts or unusual exam schedules. What, through all of that, can we say is good? Variety.

One reason schools look for that adjunct experience—perhaps only surpassed in some regards by Klingon Pain Sticks—when hiring full-time faculty is, of course, that that experience demonstrates that schools are willing, when afforded a wide variety of qualified adjuncts, to continue providing teaching assignments to candidates. After all, what employer doesn't like to see steady employment on a candidate's application? And there is more.

By teaching at a variety of schools, we freeway flyers see different ways of doing things. Indeed, we often find the weaknesses and blind spots of one school and fill them in with techniques from other schools. This is not to say that full-time faculty are myopic, incapable of finding new pedagogical techniques. They do, after all, bring their own sets of adjunct experiences. What freeway flyers bring to the table, however, is the current state of what's "out there" on other campuses. Necessity puts us in close contact with the tools that build one part of school X and a different part of school Y. We can see from on high, even as we inhabit the low posts where we work.

This realization, however, is not enough. We need to put that information into action. Lesson plans and pedagogical techniques are not national secrets, and departments should not treat them as such. Yes, lesson plans can be protected under copyright laws and sold for profit, but that, if we are being honest about education, is not the best use of such material. We adjuncts need to take from X and give to Y as we take from Y and give to X. We adjuncts need to beat down the doors of department and division chairs (my experiences have allowed me to knock politely) and throw radical ideas into the ring for discussion. We adjuncts need to see what is all around us and share it with those who are not in a position to visit other schools as our positions require.

Likewise, full-time faculty need to listen. My experiences have been fantastic in that I have always found open doors and receptive ears where I have worked (and still work), but those who may find a less receptive audience must strive to be heard so they may share their experiences. Isn't this much like what some parents say happens as their children discover the world? The children, because they are still building the experiences that will shape their lives, teach the parents. We adjuncts can do that, even as we learn from our full-time colleagues, and we should. Always.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Can We Face The Truth?

I have seen my share of crazy ideas, and the Internet has, of course, accelerated the rate at which those ideas pop into my awareness, but this one may just be too far out there. Then again, maybe not. If you ever say the Travolta/Cage vehicle Face/Off, you've seen faces switched on two men. While John Woo did a fine job hiring the effects team to do the faceless Cage, there is little else to recommend the plot. Now, however, a doctor in Cleveland is going to attempt the first ever face transplant.

Yep, there is indeed a valid medical reason for all this. The patient will be someone horribly disfigured by some fire or dog attack, someone willing to accept having the skin of a cadaver stretched over his or her face in place of extensive scar tissue. Yes, folks, we have reached that frontier. Sadly, it won't be as easy as in the Hollywood version. Thankfully, it shouldn't even approximate the level of changes.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I Really Do Have Things To Say

I just have been saying a lot of them over at my other blog.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Rice-a-Roni Jingle Singer Dies

Edith Pilaf, a minor Bay Area singer not to be confused with the significantly more talented and famous Edith Piaf, died yesterday in her Novato apartment. Pilaf, hired by the Golden Grain Macaroni Company to sing the original Rice-a-Roni jingle for 1958 radio and television advertisements, suffered a coronary brought on by a combination of arterial plaque and high blood pressure.

This is a sad footnote to the advertising industry. Apparently, Pilaf opted for a lifetime supply of Golden Grain's signature product in lieu of significant monetary compensation, but her talent was never able to take her far in the entertainment world. With no residuals, she subsisted on Rice-a-Roni and crackers for the bulk of her life, preferring, as she once told her sister (who was also her manager), to stick it out in singing despite a lack of steady work. The results were tragic, and the 66-year-old woman paid dearly over the years for her relatively uniform diet.

Recent calls to extend contracts and payments to jazz musicians taken advatage of through the 1960s have now been extended to include those whose talents help sell billions of dollars of products annually. Producers are, as we might expect, loath to comply, however, and we can expect more such stories in the future. John Gilchrist, the original "Mikey" from the 1971 Life cereal commercial, is said to be living off of breakfast staples and Skippy peanut butter. Luckily, Gilchrist is able to survive because of the compensation provided for his participation in Pepto Bismol commercials. It is a sad that such tales exist, and I am appalled by the general state of advertising.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Strange Hope

OK, so the title is, once more, a little off. I'll explain.

A couple nights ago I was grabbing some food at a local fast-food chain, and there was no one there in line (it was 2 a.m., for cryin' out loud). I commented to the guy with the headset, and he explained that he loved the shift because he gets to go to school in the mornings.

My food took a while, so the man showed me a picture of his wife and daughter (both lovely, by the way, and his daughter turns four next week). He also told me that he doesn't need to work because he stays rent-free in an apartment building his mother owns. But he does work. Hmm. He has always seemed bright and on top of things when I have driven through for my food, and I expect he does well in his courses, but why, when he doesn't need the money, should he work? Why not just plow through school and get the degree (his wife is a student, too)?

He said he works so that his daughter can see that he's not just a bum. He wants to get his education, have the ability to buy things his wife and daughter want, and show his daughter that work has value beyond a paycheck. Sometimes I agree with Sunshine when she says this is not a great world, and having children may be cruel to those children, but then I find hope in the strangest of places and at the oddest of times.

The world's going to be OK. Whatever one person with a bomb or an airplane can do, a night manager at Jack-in-the-Box, working with his wife and daughter, can undo. And then some.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Poppin' The Tournament Cherry

A couple hours ago my fiend Britt and I returned from her first venture into competition bridge. While we finished dead last, we were playing in an open game, which means that there was no upper limit on the skill and experience of our opponents. We managed to get 35.08% of the maximum match points, and given that the only way to get 100% is to beat every partnership playing the same hands, it was quite the performance. She made some beginner errors, but that is not to say that my bidding and play were perfect—far from it. With some more practice, she'll be doing even better.

The fin for me, however, was in showing her the room before we started. Even at a small tournament, a room filled with card tables can be daunting for a first-time player. Britt stopped cold and broke into a sweat. I rather wish I had had my camera there to capture the moment. Now, though, she will be prepared for such events, and she is unlikely to find herself swimming with the sharks again anytime soon. It's up from this point, which is the real benefit of being dead last.