Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A fit of Peaks

Nu, after a yummy dinner of Ho Chi Minh (fried rice with soy sausage), Otis and I decided to head down the block to Peaks, the new dessert place so recently praised by Lon and Jules. The idea was to get a cuppa and a little custard to go with, and to do some laptopping.

Well, the coffee was good (it's Lighthouse, a local micro-roaster). Otis's chocolate custard was good (although I would have foregone the Snickers topping). But my vanilla custard was meh at best and weird at worst; I only ate a few bites, the part that had chocolate syrup on it (which was for the better, anyway). And worst of all, the wireless internet wasn't working, and whatever the staff did after we told them didn't help.

So, even though I took a picture there, no snaps of Peaks until they straighten up and fly right!

The Post I Had Actually Planned to Write

Spring break, as in something is breaking off or breaking away and something else is gushing in to fill the crack.

This epigram was appended, apropos of nothing in particular, to an email I received from a colleague a few days ago. Well, spring has started, at least officially; the equinox was Friday. And the break is also here, I guess, since I went into campus today and finished off all my grading of papers and posting of grades for winter quarter. So now I'm just waiting for the gushing in to begin.

It's past time to wash up and start fresh. The change to daylight time and the lengthening of the daytime light have removed most excuses for winter indolence; if the weather would just cooperate a little bit more, we might even have some actual incentives to activity. And Urd knows I could stand to move around a lot more than I have been lately. I don't know if there will be a B2K this season, but I plan on making a regular bike commute, at least, although I hope to do more than that.

I also need to get in gear metaphorically as well as literally. I've got notes and outlines and lists and all sorts of stuff laying about wanting attention; maybe my new schedule (and a new attitude) will let me make a little more consistent progress on those fronts. Dammit, you'd think they were nasty chores instead of things devoutly to be wished, so little have I had to do with them lately.

The biggest gusher I am hoping for involves my professional stuff rather than the personal. I wonder if, in the next five days, I can completely revise my English 101 syllabus to counter the lack of relevancy I have begun to sense ever since seeing this little video last week:

I know my stock in trade comprises critical thinking and effective communication, and I maintain my faith in the value of those qualities, but somehow I can't help but think that the packages that I currently use to contain these commodities seem at best quaint and at worst immaterial to my students' lives. And part of me wonders if that isn't in fact the case.

Well, there's no time like the present, and no better week than Spring Break, for new beginnings. As I say to my students, let's have at it.


Scotty said...

You know, I've been reading your blog for years now, and I've been wondering one thing.

What does Nu mean?

lowcoolant said...

Scotty - it's the periodic symbol for Nutella, a delicious spreadable substance mined from the Earth's crust.

Walaka said...

As delightful as lc's explanation is, it's actually a Yiddish placeholder word, equivalent to some English uses of "so" or "well." (Remember how Ronald Reagan began almost every sentence with "well"?) I picked it up from a philosophy teacher in college.

And everybody knows Nutella is not mined - it's the fermented sap of the nutella vine.

Scotty said...

All I know is that in Paris, elementary school kids actually have to pledge allegience to Nutella. Seriously.

John said...

If you are teaching kids how to think critically, read for content, and write concisely and clearly... I don't think you have to worry about the information revolution making your schtick obsolete. Those seem like pretty transferable skills.

Walaka said...

The skills are certainly transferable - and valuable - but the medium makes a difference. For example, there's research to show that we don't read a screen the same way we do a page - how do I teach reading for content with students who resist the very notion of a book? How do you make the essay as a genre relevant to students used to FB updates and blog entries? These are the sort of aspects of the process that I think need attention and modification. I need to transfer those skills into new containers.

Scotty said...

That is a great point, Walaka, and as I'm sure you're aware, just the fact that you're asking those questions demonstrates that you aren't far off. I just read a quote yesterday about program evaluation that said:

"Society needs less to be told what it is doing wrong than to be shown what it is really doing."

--Lester Ward, 1918