Friday, March 30, 2007

News flashes

U.S. News & World Report's grad school rankings are out, and Peabody moved up to three overall (tied with Harvard) and to #9 in higher ed.

Yesterday I saw my first '08 presidential bumper sticker (for Obama).

iTunes has finally added a feature I have been longing for; if you buy a single, you can go back later and get the album for a little less. (This offer is only good for six months after the purchase of the single, which seems reasonable to me.) iTunes even helps you out by displaying a list of albums you are eligible for.

And also in Apple news, my laptop returned to me today. In celebration, I'm going to stay in and bond with it by watching Lagaan. Just kidding. I mean, about expecting to to bond with it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I knew this would happen eventually

Yesterday was not as productive as I'd hoped.

Yesterday evening I went to The Raft, an annual event where professors from the four departments that teach undergraduates debate about which one gets to ride on the raft in a post-apocalyptic setting. (Presumably, the rest die, although I suspect engineering could just build their own raft.) Prof. Heyneman represented Peabody and did an excellent job, but engineering won. I tell you, we were robbed - they won because they had a louder cheering section. Therefore, dear reader, depending on whom you are, I may put the blame squarely on you for not showing up.

When I got home I dumped my bags and headed out the door to run to Kroger. I had my wallet and keys in hand, but the moment I pulled the door shut behind me, I realized I only had my secondary keys - not my car or, more importantly, house keys. And I was locked out. My cell phone was still inside, too, so I couldn't call the landlord. Luckily my neighbor was home, so she called our landlord. He was out and about so I had to wait two hours. I really appreciate my neighbor letting me stay at her place to wait, since mosquitos had eaten half of my body in the few minutes outside.

By the time I got back inside, though, it was too late for me to write my 3-5 page essay for the soc of higher ed (this week's topic: faculty).

Note to self: Get spare keys.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring is in the air

I haven't posted much about school lately, in part because we all have spring fever. We're experiencing record highs of the low to mid-80s and the flowers are in bloom. Of course, if it's this warm in March, I'm going to die come summer.

For now, back to reading, and not stuff you want to hear about, either.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

My report on Beaman Park


beamantrails

Beaman Park is a new park in Nashville. The land was donated a decade ago, and the park was dedicated in 1999, but only it only opened officially last year. Trails are still being developed, and a nature center is slated to be built.

Not unlike Shelby Park, the park doesn’t have a very good web presence, but whoever is in charge of park development seems to be doing a great job. Everything is clearly named, and the signage is excellent. If you want to see a map, click here.

When you drive in, you are immediately confronted with a fork in the road. One way goes to the Creekside trailhead (which is, guess what, next to the creek). The other goes to the Highland trailhead (which seems to be the park’s highest point). From either one you can access the 2.1 mile Henry Hollow loop trail, which goes down into a hollow where the creek runs. The Highland trailhead provides easier access to the Ridgetop trail (you can guess where this trail goes by now, right?).

The two trails are one leaving the Highland parking lot. If you go counterclockwise, shortly you come to a sign that basically tells you a shortcut to the Ridgtop trail departs from the right. You then come to another sign, where the main trails diverge, the Henry Hollow trail turning left. You are walking along a ridgetop, which has pretty good views this time of year. Then the trail starts to switchback downhill to the creek. You follow the creek for a while, before coming to another sign that announces the Creekside trailhead. From there it's half a mile uphill to the parking lot.

It's a pleasant hike, with not a lot of people - on a nice Friday afternoon there were probably hordes over at Warner Parks. The trail was labeled "moderate" although I would call it "easy." The other trail is the same length, except you have to come back, which doubles it. It's clear that trails are still being developed, so there are likely to be more challenging hikes (if nothing else in length) as time goes on.

Friday, March 23, 2007

All will be well

I got a call from the local Apple store today. Oh, in regards to Lisa's comment the other day - the woman I spoke to gave me the most comprehensive story, but the voicemail a guy left initially said the same thing, albeit less detailed. And apparently the same thing was put on the invoice when it was shipped back to the store. The repair guys in Texas have their story, and they're sticking to it.

The guy who called today (the same guy I talked to initally) asked what they told me, and said that what was on the slip was totally wrong. The LCD screen spots were completely normal and should be covered, as of course should be the trackpad, and he was going to send it back to Apple to have them fix it. Yay! He apologized that it would be shipped out again, but I don't care about that - I didn't figure repairmen would show up at my house in the middle of the night and fix it while I slept. I'm just glad it'll be fixed.

So all's well that ends well, and also it is way better to deal with actual people you've seen face to face than customer service voices on the phone.

Secrets of Shelby Park

I live very near Shelby Park, which is actually a complex of several parks. It encompasses two golf courses, baseball fields, greenways, duck pond, dog park, and community center. There is no overall map of the park, and city maps show it as an undifferentiated green blob, without even the roads that run through it. It took me a long time to realize I could walk to an entrance (without just stepping onto the golf course and getting whacked in the head with an errant ball).

The greenway has a map available, but it only shows some of the greenway. There are some mowed paths that even have names but do not appear on the map; they are only shown on the large signs at either end of the greenway - nothing you can carry with you - and they aren't marked at intersections. There are other trails, such as the short nature trail, that don't appear on any maps.

All this makes discovering the park feel like a real adventure. One of the trails I never knew about until recently makes a half-circle around the dog park and community center, with a very short side path. There are several follies in the park (for lack of a better term), and two of them are on this trail. I have no idea when or why they were built.

The first is a man-made grotto, which appears at one end of the trail. It could use some restoration.


grotto2

The trail wanders through a small wood, with occasional peeks through the trees at the duck pond down below. At the other end of the trail, a short side trail leads to a cute shelter. The shelter is right next to one of the large entrance roads, and when driving by the trail is not visible; I had previously wondered why the shelter was there, when there was seemingly no access to it.


hut2

If you wish to see this trail for yourself, the easiest way to get there is to take Shelby Street east until it reaches 21st.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's quiet ... too quiet

Nothing much here ... it sucks not having my laptop, but I have been able to check one out from the library, which I appreciate. It's not the same as having my own; for one thing, I can't print from it. I'm waiting for my laptop to come back from Apple so I can talk to the local store about it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Time to switch?

I am incredibly angry at Apple right now.

Last Christmas I purchased a refurbished iBook through the online store. My previous iBook had been off to be repaired too many times (three new motherboards), and being without my computer that much was a real pain. It was a G3, which had known motherboard problems, so I replaced it with a G4. After my experience with the G3, naturally I purchased AppleCare, their extended warranty plan. While the repairs were a pain, Apple always fixed them promptly.

When my trackpad stopped working recently, I took it in to the Apple store. The gentleman at the Genius Bar said the trackpad could be repaired in-house, but the whitish patches on the screen ought to be repaired, and they couldn't do that at the store. So it was shipped off to Apple. Now the spots had been there forever (or, that is, since I had bought it), and they didn't bother me much, but I figured if it ought to be repaired, well, OK.

Today Apple called me and said that the screen problems were not normal wear and tear; to have them fixed would cost $700. I didn't care, I said; just leave the screen alone and fix the trackpad. Nope, they said - "Apple doesn't do partial repairs." They won't fix anything at all unless I pay them to fix the screen.

If Apple is willing to sell a computer with a screen in that condition, I don't see why they aren't willing to repair around it. My AppleCare warranty is now completely useless. I have left a message for the original gentleman at the store to hear what he suggests. However, I am most assuredly not paying Apple a single penny for a repair I do not want or need.

I have used Macs since 1984. Every one of the four computers I have bought has been an Apple. I have paid the premium cost because I not only prefer the interface, but because Apple has generally demonstrated the same loyalty and consideration towards its customers that Apple fans have felt for it. However, it's like a work-for-life agreement between corporation and employee; once the company breaks it, my loyalty is gone.

If Apple won't either fix the screen or just leave it alone and fix the trackpad, I will pay a third party to repair it, because I don't have the funds at this time for a new computer. But that will be the last Apple product I ever buy.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not again

Why do people tell me I look like Bridget Fonda? ... OK, OK, I suppose there is an obvious answer to that question, but please tell me that it's not true. Bridget Fonda is unattractive and being compared to her is not a compliment.

Passing is possible

Friday morning I went to Y's dissertation defense. She passed quite satisfactorily, so from now on I suppose we must call her Dr. Y.

Things for me haven't gone so well. That afternoon I had to take my laptop in to the Apple store, since on Thursday my trackpad essentially stopped working. It had occasionally been freezing up for a while, but suddenly it was frozen more often than it worked. When I took it in, they also noticed some faint blotches on the screen. I hadn't thought anything about them, but they said it needed to be sent in for a new display, too. (Mind you, my back up hard drive had just recently stopped working - not long after the warranty expired of course! - so I had to buy a new one to back up my data before sending my iBook off to the hospital.)

I'm also experiencing some mild ankle pain and am trying to decide whether I should go see the doctor. Since I've turned 30, it seems like some part or other of my body is giving my grief, but it's generally not serious. My knee really is better, as long as I remember to stretch properly. At the beginning of the semester my left hand was hurting, making it hard to do down dog or even grasp things tightly. I was finally talked into seeing the doctor, although I had to cancel the appointment at the last minute, and it cleared up on its own. I don't want to be a hypochondriac running in every week with some new twinge. So I don't know, is this just one of those things that happen, or is it serious, and how do I know when it is serious?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Single life, part #367

I guess I had too many conversations today about why grad school ruins one's dating prospects. (How many 20- and 30-somethings say, "I've resigned myself to not dating for the next four years" and their conversational partner not only understands but has said the same thing him or herself?)

It's almost depressing enough to turn one to online dating. Now I'm not one of those folks that thinks online dating is just for losers. I've tried it. It just never worked for me. I guess my interest depends on too many factors that can't be determined online. So for me to be reduced to looking at Match.com means I'm having a bum moment.

Anyway, I stopped myself before I did anything stupid, like sign up, but not before I wrote myself an ad.
WHY YOU SHOULD DATE ME

  • I recycle
  • I like puppies
  • I make great cookies
  • I can discuss Weber, Mieville, and Fish
  • I offset my carbon from flying
  • I have really nice blue eyes
  • I'm a Democrat
  • My mom says I'm smart and funny. Would she lie?

WHY YOU SHOULDN'T DATE ME

  • I'm not from Nashville. I like it here, but in two or three years I'm going to get a job. I don't know where, but I'm 99% sure it won't be here
  • I have no free time for a relationship, yet I do expect flowers occasionally
  • I don't actually have a puppy
  • I'm 30 and yet Britney Spears is on my iPod
  • I eat too much meat for vegetarians, too little for carnivores
  • My baby toes are funny looking
  • I don't really want to have kids
  • I have never watched American Idol
  • Despite doing yoga, I have really tight hamstrings
  • Any day now, I may get into population ecology
  • I'm not really into music. Sure, I listen to it, but going to concerts? Meh.
  • Would you like to hear me talk about my dissertation?

Trying to be a good citizen

I just fulfilled my New Year's Resolution.

Now back to printing out several forests' worth of readings. Hey, at least I print double-sided.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday reading

Good news! I went hiking today, and I remembered my boots. If hiking doesn't amuse you, perhaps these links will.

"How come the little brown tree-dwellers have come to be considered as suitable objects for staring at as if they were architectural ruins like Greek temples, or geological oddities like Monument Valley?" Voyeurismo.

College admissions in a nutshell. Don't read all these books; the review is enough to keep you plenty informed for cocktail parties - or for talking to higher ed students.

"'You think this is odd, you shoulda been here last month,' Sal tells me. 'We had a Mad Max party and a Priscilla Queen of the Desert party at the same time'". Finding the "real" Outback.

Now this is how I like to have a good time. "During the hill walk, rectal temperatures were measured continuously." Alright, the article isn't that interesting; I just wanted to put that quote out there.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Never mind those photos

OK, it's 4 o'clock, but now I'm just hungry for dinner.

Whileing away

I'm spending most of the rest of spring break finishing up what I need to before classes start. Last night was a party for Y's birthday. Her defense is coming up in a couple of weeks, so this is an exciting time for her. Several of the guests were PhD or EdD students, so the topic of dissertations kept coming up. No, I don't have a topic yet.

I'm supposed to go over to a friend's tonight, but standing between me and then is a short paper I have to finish. It's not long, but it is 35% of my grade. It's become one of those tasks I procrastinate on for no good reason, until I begin to dread it simply because it reminds me that I have been procrastinating. Here's a deal: If I work on it for the next two hours, I get to go take a walk at 4 and take some pictures in Shelby Park I've been meaning to take.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Frozen Head

I broke the spring break rule and went camping. (Hey, I was gone for less than 36 hours.) My intent was to leave Wednesday morning and return on Friday, but I ended up coming back early.

Yesterday morning I drove up to Frozen Head State Park. It's a good park for serious hiking or backpacking - some of the trails are long enough to make the backwoods sites necessary. And some of the trails don't connect to the main entrance - the map shows them as abruptly disappearing at the park border, although I doubt this is the case. I was simply car camping, which limited my options. Then I discovered that I had forgotten my hiking boots. Luckily, I had brought a pair of Columbia sport sandals with me. I've hiked in them before, but generally when it's really hot. I like the ankle support of boots, but these seemed fine.

For the afternoon, I opted to hike up the Old North Mac trail to where it joined with the Panther Branch trail. After a little while, there is a short side trip that leads to Emory Falls. Returning to the trail, and at this point heading all downhill, you eventually come to Panther Branch Falls.


DeBord Falls

This hike is nice because the hardest part is first, when you're fresh, and most of the spectacular scenery is at the end. The only downside is that you don't end up where you start, and you have to hike a mile or so along the road.

Today I got ambitious and decided to hike up to the top of Frozen Head. I headed up the South Old Mac trail this time, then took the .5 mile Lookout trail to the very top.


Fire Tower on top of Frozen Head

The ambition came in when I selected a route down - I elected to go via Chimney Top, which doesn't just go straight back down but detours to the top of Chimney Top Mountain. There is sandstone all along the top, making these neat piles.


Chimneys

Not too long after this photo was taken, about 1/4 mile from the top, the heel strap on my right sandal gave way. There's a reason no one hikes in flip flops, so I had to find a way to repair it. Lacking duck tape, I used a string in my pack that is supposed to be a necklace for a whistle.


Sucky Sandal + String Solution

It wasn't as tight as the original, so going uphill I had to stop every 20 feet or so to jam my foot back in - and I was still 3.4 miles from the end. It would have been longer to turn around, though. This took most of the fun out of hiking, so I didn't even get a photo at the mountain top. Luckily, it was mostly downhill from there, so my foot slid forward into the sandal. Still, it wasn't the most thrilling end to a hike ever.

The reason I planned to stick around for another night was to do a hike in the morning, but I prefer to hike in shoes. ( I had another pair with me - not suitable for hiking.) So I took down my tent and returned to Nashville.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Spring break

A proper doctoral student does not even notice that it is spring break. If you think this is unlikely, or that the link is funny, well, one of our professors told us that he did that himself once.

Students who aren't quite that good are expected to stick around, at least, and work on research and classwork. Small dispensations may be granted to visit family or to have that open-heart surgery you've been postponing. You may under no circumstances travel to Florida or Tahiti. One is allowed to avoid coming in to campus or to admit to sleeping in.

Given this, I do not write to you from a sunny clime - although the sun was out today, it was in the 40s here in Nashville. I have slacked a little bit. Yesterday, I went to the Vandy men's basketball game, tickets courtesy of my advisor, which was good except for the bit where we lost. And today I took a good chunk of time to go to Espey Cave with some grotto folks.

All this, of course, only amounts to "study breaks" between classwork.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Presenting in Baltimore

The conference I just returned from was the Comparative & International Education Society conference in Baltimore. Comparative and international isn't really my field, so there weren't a lot of names there I knew. It was interesting to compare how the conference was run with ASHE, which is another education sub-field conference. CIES has a different proposal submission process (much shorter abstracts and a higher acceptance rate) as well as a wider range of presentation styles.

It was my first conference presentation, and I think it went all right. I made the decision to not use PowerPoint or overheads. My feeling is that unless you have equations, numbers, graphs, or pictures that really benefit from a visual presentation, why bother? PowerPoint tends to distract the audience - they look at it instead of listening to you. They think, "Bullet point three looks interesting - I wish she'd hurry up and get to that." So I did it the old fashioned way, and it was very liberating.

I still don't really like standing up and talking in front of people, but I've realized it could be worse. Last week, the woman who writes the Ms. Mentor column said she spent the first ten years of her teaching career throwing up before class. Yikes.