Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in the rearview mirror

Last new year I posted 2007 in photos, and I've decided to do the same for 2008.
January:
Trees, some dead
February:
Chair
March:
Signs of Times
April:
End of the semester
May:
Flower
June:
Ampitheater
July:
Stepping carefully
August:
See no, hear no, speak no ...
September:
Me
October:
Memorial Cross
November:
LPO higher ed crew
December:
Sculpture

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to all (who celebrate it, at least) and to all a good night!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Weekend hikes


Nice day
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
This weekend I did two hikes.

On Saturday we went to Brady Mountain, a 7.9-mile segment of the Cumberland Trail. My mental image of "a mountain" is conical, but Brady Mountain is more like a snake; the hike follows along a long top ridge. The trail had recently been reblazed, and the trail was easy to follow - which had apparently not been the case previously. I didn't find it to be as scenic as some parts of the CT, although it had some charms. There are two airplane wrecks on the side of the mountain; we didn't see them because halfway through it started to rain and we hustled. Those would be worth hunting for. There aren't any real viewpoints, making winter or early spring the best time to do it. Otherwise, the trees would be too thick to see the valleys on either side of the ridge.

Sunday I led a hike at Edgar Evins State Park, also 7.9 miles. We did 9, though, because I mistakenly repeated a loop. I have to work on this leading thing! Some hikes I know really well, and others you can't get lost on because there are no intersections and they are well-marked. When I'm by myself or just with friends, I tend to be a lot more cautious about looking for signs and not being afraid to pull out my map. But when I lead a hike that I know only moderately well, I tend to get overconfident. And the group tends to assume I know what I'm doing, so they're not on the lookout until it's too late. However, we got back on track and completed the hike. Although the day was cold it was sunny, and we had some really nice views of Center Hill Lake - like this photo here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Now I have a headache

I am reading a report written by the Smith Consultancy. It was managed by Kindof University Association, which contracted it out to Smith. However, it was commissioned by the quasi-governmental Governments & Universities Council. Which in turn was funded by the government.

My head hurts. Surely there is a middleman that could have been cut out somewhere.

(All names are fictional, duh, to protect the bureaucratic.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Progress

Today I defended my dissertation proposal, and it was mostly a success. I have to make some revisions before they will sign the documents, which isn't unusual, but the revisions don't involve substantial changes to data collection or methods - they're more about organization and theory. And I don't have to schedule another meeting. So, hooray.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Job outlook

A friend asked me the other day if I couldn't get a job here in Nashville, and I said, "Well, not unless I want to work at Starbucks." Which wasn't really very funny, because it's tough to get hired anywhere at the moment, and I don't have experience as a barista.

All of you know the economy is tough. It's tough in higher ed too. At least two jobs I applied for canceled their job searches because of hiring freezes. I saw a posting for a faculty job at a public university here in Tennessee (not one I qualify for), and it bore the note "contingent upon state funding." Well, you can pretty much write that one off: Tennessee colleges are getting cuts in appropriations of over 20%.

But more specifically in Nashville, that means we can count out TSU, and Vandy doesn't hire its own grads as faculty. That's all the programs that have higher ed programs around here. And Vandy has a staff hiring freeze, so it's unlikely I could get a postdoc or a staff position. Quite a few of our grads have gone on to work at the state board of higher education or the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in the past, but those agencies are already frozen and are facing cuts.

Then envision this across not just Nashville, but the entire country ...

I'm not trying to elicit sympathy. I have another year of funding guaranteed, so I won't be out on the streets. Most people aren't so fortunate, even many students on the job market. It's just that the kind of job I thought I'd get used to be narrow because the kind of job I wanted was rare. Now the kind of job I think I'll get is narrow because jobs are rare.

Links about education, food, and loneliness

"Blue-skies research driven by curiosity can have a far greater social and economic impact than research carried out with a specific commercial application in mind."

Not lonely in the big city.

Pretty art. Man, I'm hungry.

Could you get into a grammar school? (This is the British kind. For Americans, it means "elementary school." Across the Atlantic, it means "private classical high school.")
 
Tenure or unions: Pick one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tacky nonprofit advertising

The following sorts of ads are as old as professional fundraising itself, and like horror villains, never rest quietly in their graves. They're tacky, sure, but they also invite backlash and are often ineffective.
  1. The scare tactic. "Give to to us or these cute children/animals/women will get it." It's one thing to quote scary-but-already true factoids, but another to tell us that this charity is the only thing standing between society and a free handbasket ride to hell.
  2. The suicide note. "Without your support, our nonprofit will have to close its doors." While technically true of all nonprofits not supported primarily by grants, contracts, or fees, this tactic emphasizes the urgency of their claim - people will be laid off tomorrow!!! And so what? Despite popular opinion to the contrary, "nonprofit" is not supposed to be a synonym for "poor management." Put the organization out of its misery and it's likely a more stable one will fill that niche.
  3. The voyeuristic gaze. "Look at these poor children/people of color/bearded ladies." We used to call this a freak show back in the day. It's different from number 1 because it shows actual problems, not theoretical ones. It's voyeuristic because it shows only the before picture. One hopes the organization is spending money to ameliorate the world's problems, not just to photograph them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chickadees

The view from my office in my apartment is of the fence between our building and the house next door. It's not really an inspiring view, except that the fence attracts a lot of birds. Some of them I know and some I don't - I'm not a birder. But I don't like not knowing, even if I have no desire to take up ornithology in a general way. Often when I read books from 100 or 200 years ago, the writers describe nature with a specificity lost on many of today's readers. How many of us know wildflowers, for example? So when I try to describe what I've seen in nature, it comes out as, "There were purple flowers. And yellow ones." Conversely, many of these older descriptions don't conjure up quite what they are intended to, but they at least sound poetic.

Today I was watching some little gray birds, and with the help of Google image search I figured out they were Carolina chickadees. At least now I know one thing I didn't this morning.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday season

I'm busy with dissertation stuff (and holiday festivity), so apologies for the sparseness of posting.

Last night I went to a holiday party at my adviser's house. He cooked up New Orleans-style food, and his wife (a professional pastry chef) made desserts. The food was really, really excellent.

Today I did a short hike at Shelby Park.

Various other activities have involved eating, working on my dissertation, studying, yoga, and more eating.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Short winter hike


Hills
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I hiked the Warner Woods trail at Percy Warner today. The Warner parks don't have overlooks or waterfalls or any dramatis personae, so it's hard to take interesting photos of the landscape. But in the winter, you can really see the shape of the land.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Roller skating


IMG_1790
Originally uploaded by laurenmichellebeck
I've got nothing particular to post about (want to hear about this cold that is waxing and waning?), so here's a picture of one of last weekend's adventures ... roller skating! It's been a really, really, really long time since I last tried it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Update

Yesterday morning I went to a special Thanksgiving yoga practice consisting of 108 sun salutations. I wasn't sure I could make it through, even with the breaks we were promised every 27 salutations; after all, after 10 at the beginning of an ashtanga practice, I'm already tired. To my surprise I made it through the whole thing, without having to modify the salutations, but even more surprising is where I am sore. I figured my arms would hurt from chaturanga (it's like a push-up), but instead it's my hamstrings that are suffering.

I spent the rest of the day eating, hanging out, and watching Four Christmases. (More amusing than I expected.)

The other big news here is that Wednesday I turned in a chapter of my dissertation to my writing group.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twin Arches hike


Bluffs
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
On Sunday we did a hike at Big South Fork National Park. This park, which straddles the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, is beautiful but not highly visited. It is honeycombed with trails and is a great place to get away from the crowds you can find at some national parks. Our hike started with the Twin Arches and took us southwest to the Middle Creek trailhead. There are a lot of impressive sandstone formations. Sadly, there is also a lot of pine beetle damage.

Mullens Cove

On Saturday we hiked the Mullens Cove loop, which is 10.2 miles in Franklin State Forest. The trail is not new but is now part of the Cumberland Trail. The highlight of the trip is this overlook, called Snooper's Rock.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Popular majors

Article: Division I athletes cluster in certain majors.

What I'd like to know, and what is missing from this article, is, "Do other students with similar academic qualifications end up in the same major?" We know that athletes, at least those in the "big" sports like football and basketball, have lower average SAT scores and GPAs than do their non-varsity peers. At many schools, sorting into majors occurs after students enter - students find they can't succeed in a certain program, or they have to apply for admission to competitive majors. At Vanderbilt, the sorting occurs even earlier; students must apply to the college they wish to study in (i.e., Peabody or Arts & Sciences) - and the students are not the same across colleges. It's easy to switch from a philosophy to a Spanish major, since they're in the same college, but harder to switch from Human and Organizational Development to engineering. It's likely that some clustering is simply due to the the difference in ability, not due to athletics per se.

This doesn't deny that inappropriately firm guidance or cheating don't occur, but clustering itself is not sufficient evidence to prove it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ASHE

Before news about ASHE gets any staler, here's the report I promised.

The first time I went to ASHE, I was excited to go to all kinds of sessions, even stuff outside my interest, just to see what was going on. By my third ASHE last year, I had a pretty good grasp of the kind of work being done, and there were a set of people I looked forward to seeing.

This year the dynamic shifted yet again, because I am on the job market. My anxiety level was heightened as I wanted to make a good impression on search committees and find out the scoop on jobs. Also, I had a series of meetings to go to instead of just sessions.

Hopefully, next year I will have a job and not have to worry so much about trying to impress, but it seems that as times goes on people spend more time in meetings and catching up with friends than they do attending sessions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Return to Stone Door


View from the top
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
We went back to Stone Door on Sunday - not backpacking this time, but day hiking. We started at the ranger station, headed down the Stone Door trail to the Big Creek Gulf trail (heading in the opposite direction from last time), and then back around to the Door via the Big Creek Rim trail. All told it was 9.8 miles. A couple of us stuck around to do the quick .3-mile Laurel Falls loop afterwards.

Naturally, it was fall instead of summer, changing the landscape, but the biggest difference was that there was more water. This photo was taken where Big Creek drops underground into a sinkhole. Last time the creek was dry. We skipped the side trip to Ranger Falls entirely last time, assuming it would be dry, and this time it was roaring nicely.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do Synthroids dream of electric sheep?

The last two nights I have had extremely vivid dreams. Nothing particularly bizarre has happened in them (relative, of course, to dreams, not real life). A little web surfing has revealed that this is something some Synthroid takers experience. As far as side effects go, it's not a problematic one, mind you.

I do promise to blog about ASHE soon, BTW.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bloodwork

The doctors at student health sent me to a specialist for a minor medical issue I've been having. The specialist said, "I think it's a hormone problem. Go to the lab for some tests." So the lab sucked a little blood out of my arm and tested for about eight different hormones, and the results suggested my TSH was slightly high. This is indicative of hypothyroidism, so the specialist sent me back for another round of tests just to be sure.

Meanwhile, I start reading about hypothyroidism online. The trouble with reading about any medical issue is that it's pretty easy to convince yourself you have it, especially when the symptoms are not highly unusual. Fatigue? Trouble losing weight? What Americans don't feel like these are problems? But several of the symptoms were things I had noticed over the past year or two without considering them to be medical problems. My skin has gotten drier; I thought that was just aging. I get cold more easily; I thought that was just getting acclimated to the Southern weather.

But then the second test came back high, too, so I'm being put on Synthroid. Now we get to see what symptoms are really hypothyroidism and what aren't.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

AERA

Exciting news! Our proposal for the annual AERA conference (held in April in San Diego this time around) was accepted.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cloudland Canyon


Group shot
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Here's the group photo from a 6.8-mile hike we did at Cloudland Canyon, in Georgia near the TN/AL border. The leaves were just beginning to hit their stride.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Working and playing

I have a fair amount to do over the weekend, partially because ASHE is next weekend, so there's a PowerPoint to make, dry cleaning to get done, etc. But I also have to prep for my dissertation group, write a report for a grant I'm on, and burrow into Stata for a paper we are revising. (Anyone know how to compare regression models using AIC in Stata?)

But I'm also going hiking both days this weekend - one is a pretty short trip - so I have to be efficient!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

High school music

This mix brings back memories of high school - the good and the bad, but most of all the painfully earnest conviction that what you wear and listen to really, truly says something about the kind of person you are.

Wild Wild West - Escape Club
Think - Information Society
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
Losing My Religion - R.E.M.
Unbelievable - EMF
Right Here, Right Now - Jesus Jones
This is Ponderous - 2nu
The Only Time - Nine Inch Nails
Girlfriend - Matthew Sweet
Dis-Moi, Dis-Moi - Mitsou
Get Ready for This - 2 Unlimited
Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
James Brown is Dead - L.A. Style
Teenage Freakshow - Screeching Weasel
Come Out and Play - Offspring
Moving Like Water - Sky Cries Mary
Ordinary World - Duran Duran

There was other music I listened to a lot in high school, but when I hear it, I don't get transported back (ie, U2). Other songs, some of the really popular ones, certainly act as a time machine ("O.P.P.," anyone?) but they were never music I identified with.

So YOU - yes, you, reading this - tag, you're it. Transport us back to your high school experience.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sewanee Perimeter hike


Memorial Cross
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Yesterday I combined two of my favorite things: higher education and hiking. With a few friends, I hiked the Perimeter Trail around the University of the South. It's a 20-mile hike, and we reached it via a .3-mile access trail.

This was the longest hike any of us had done to date. One reason we were all willing was that the campus has lots of fire roads and other trails, allowing us to cut it short if we were pooped. Supposedly it was reasonably flat, although according to my altimeter, we gained about 200 feet per mile.

The hike was full of variety, much more interesting than the 18-mile hike from a few weeks ago. The scenery kept our attention (especially when we walked past Crust Pizza!). The distance took its toll, though. I was dying before we were halfway done. But by the end I actually felt better.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Day three

Success!

Don't worry, I'm not going to keep posting this forever. Three days is a good start, I figure, enough to be the start of a habit.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jobs

University of Southern Mississippi: Assistant/Associate Professor in Higher Education Administration

Michigan State University: Open-rank tenure-stream position specializing in "teaching and learning, outcomes assessment in postsecondary education, international and comparative higher education, student affairs administration, and technology as it relates to teaching and learning in postsecondary education."

Two days down

Hooray for productivity.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Day One, Year One

Yesterday I attended a dissertation writing workshop run by Robert Lucas. The focus of the workshop was on getting writing done, not the format it should be in or what a dissertation is. His biggest recommendation was one that, if you've read any advice on the topic at all, you've heard before - write every day. (You can write six days a week, he said, for at least half an hour a day.) I guess I was finally ready to hear it because this morning I got up, went straight to my computer, set my iPhone for a half-hour timer, and went to work. This was incorporating another of his suggestions - set aside a specific area to do dissertation work. I've been sitting in my living room a lot, so my desk has now been reclaimed as dissertation space.

The dilemma I will face in a day or two is that at this point I'm not ready to write the dissertation every day. There is too much in the way of data collection, etc. between now and then. I could use the time for other dissertation tasks, such as taking notes, but his system is really one for becoming a productive academic writer overall, not just writing the dissertation. (Writing can include revising, brainstorming, drawing diagrams, what have you, but it's about output, not input.) Besides, writing is something I can do well first thing in the morning - surprisingly, given that I am not a morning person. So my plan is to move on to work on one of the articles that's "in progress" on my CV after this chunk is done.

One day hardly constitutes a victory over sloth, but I'm pretty sure that if I hadn't started today, the chance of there being a day two would be exponentially lower.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jobs

University of Louisville: Open-rank position in higher education.

Anathem

I read Neal Stephenson's new book, Anathem, this weekend. I used to be a really big fan, although his trilogy bored me senseless. (Even being the completeness freak that I am, I haven't yet managed to muster up any enthusiasm for starting the third installment.) Over his career his books have become increasingly didactic: at times, reading him is like reading Ayn Rand or Upton Sinclair. Of course, instead of being clobbered over the head about social systems, the reader is clobbered over the head with the intersection of philosophy and science. This tendency was evident as far back as Snow Crash, but it has grown. Most of the difference in weight between Zodiac and Anathem is in pages of technical explanations, not rising and falling action. I chose Zodiac deliberately, because both books feature a first-person narrator; other books are long in part due to following around a phalanx of characters.

I suppose that Stephenson has two hopes for readers (assuming I have a theory of mind for the author that is remotely accurate) - that after finishing his book they have a) enjoyed it and b) continue to ponder the arguments about space, time, math, etc. he uses. Being the perverse sort of reader that I am, I don't have much interest in (b). I am much more interested in the monastic communities that are central to the book, and in particular, in their long existence.

I do mean long - several thousand years. Over the time, they have changed significantly without losing their central purpose: the preservation and creation of knowledge. Civilizations have risen and fallen; population centers have moved with climate change.

Compare that with what we have in our presumably non-fictional world. Universities are some of the oldest institutions extant today; Bologna is coming up on its first millennium. A few madrasahs are older than that. The Catholic Church is even older at nearly two millennia. The Catholic Church is an interesting case. It wasn't founded with the explicit mandate to last 2000 years but simply survived. Contrast this with the government's attempt to keep radioactive waste buried for at least 10,000 years at at Yucca Mountain. Stephenson touches on the issue of storing radioactive material in Anathem, by the way, and I can't help but think that his solution - which involves people actually having the care of it - is a better on than burying it really deep, slapping some "stay away" signs on the site, and hoping geology and climate change don't destabilize it.

But how would you go about deliberately building an institution that could last for perpetuity - let's say as long as the planet lasts, or for as long as humanity lives on it? In modern America the first instinct would be no doubt to start amassing an endowment. But no monetary investment is going to be stable over these time periods. Precious metals and that sort of thing might be safer. Those are prone to pillaging, however. Another alternative would be to run as self-sufficiently as possible so as not to depend on any one economy.

One would want multiple sites, not only in case the local community brings out the pitchforks, but because of climate change, plate tectonics, what have you. Presumably individual branches would perish but the larger enterprise would roll on. That, however, brings up the difficulty of keeping sites in some sort of contact. It would naturally grow sporadic in dangerous or primitive times.

The institution would need to be able to cope with times of high and low technology. It might need to be irreligious to avoid holy wars, not to mention the waning of any particular faith. It would need to survive periodic co-option by governments. It would need to survive scenarios that the wildest sci-fi writers can dream up - massive overpopulation, near extinction, the singularity, nuclear war, alien invasion, etc. They need to survive the extinction of the culture they were founded in.

This last point strikes me as the most difficult. Most organizations on our planet haven't lasted because they were built to serve a particular civilization. That is true of today's organizations as well (the Catholic Church doesn't make much sense without Christianity), but globalization has meant that civilizations can expand their influence. Local crisis can't wipe out the Church the way it can Oxford.

The organization would necessarily change with the times - from magesterial to congregational authority, from wealth to austerity, from openness to insularity. Continuity would have to come from its purpose, and very few purposes can remain relevant over millennia. Even religious, alas, may not. Preservation of knowledge (Stephenson's rationale) may be subject to periods of primitivism.

This is all entirely speculative, naturally. Maybe the Catholic Church will survive until the earth is consumed by the sun. As the longest-lived organization, it's the likeliest candidate we have, and I realize its authority has remained centralized, it has never been insular, and it has always combined wealth and austerity. This is one of those untestable social science hypotheses - we can't know what form works best until we have millennia more data, and even then we can't know that some counterfactual would have worked better. That's one reason people write science fiction.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jobs

Benedictine College: Faculty, EdD Program in Higher Education and Organizational Change.

CSU Fresno: Assistant/Associate Professor, Post-Secondary and Community College Education.

Morehead State: Assistant/Associate Professor of Adult and Higher Education,

Stanford University: Open-rank, tenure-track position. "The Stanford University School of Education (SUSE) and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) seek nominations and applications for a joint appointment in the broad area of international post-secondary education."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend update

Even though I stayed home this weekend, I didn't chain myself down to my desk. Friday night I taught. I'd had to thoroughly revamp my lecture, in part because the instructor had changed the syllabus, and in part because an exercise I'd used in the past was too time-consuming to keep. Saturday night I went out for a peep's birthday. We went to PM, where apparently we go for the burgers in spite of it being pan-Asian cuisine. (And after trying the pad thai, which was so flavorless, I have to say - get the burger.) Sunday I went on a hike to Beaman Park. For some reason there were clouds of gnats everywhere. They buzzed in your ears, and I kept my sunglasses on just to keep them out of my eyes. While they don't bite, they were certainly unpleasant.

And - of course - I worked on this dissertation outline.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And the fashion spreads were lame, too

The latest issue of Vogue has a couple of letters to the editor complaining because a special issue on "diversity" could only find three African American models to profile. This issue itself, apparently not being devoted to diversity, is lily-white. (The non-white women profiled are not in the fashion biz; they are pianists or campaign managers or Michelle Obama.) I think Vogue must be the last place in America an actress of central European origins could be described as "exotic."

But high fashion isn't keeping up with the masses. I noticed the ads in the magazine were more diverse, particularly the more low-brow they were. There were no ads in this particular issue for Benetton or other companies that deliberately market diversity*, but advertisements for department stores and other more affordable shops featured more African-American women than the rest of the issue combined. Ignoring for the moment that, as one letter writer mentioned, diversity is more than just black/white, there are African-American women in ads for The Gap, YSL, Dillard's, Movado, DSW, Lord & Taylor, Vogue TV, Revlon, Jennifer Hudson's new album, and House of Design. With a few exceptions, these are stores that translate fashion for the masses, not high fashion itself. On the other hand, the only model in a fashion spread who could be described as black is a seamstress in a crowd of a dozen other seamstresses. (Not African-American - it's a French shoot.)

I'll leave conclusion-drawing as an exercise for the reader, except for one point: Vogue itself can hardly claim it's at the mercy of the supply of models. If Anna Wintour insisted on more ethnically diverse supermodels, the talent scouts would find them. The magazine has too much leverage in the industry to simply wring its hands with any credibility.

* Possible exception - The Gap.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Area Woman's Weekend Ruined By Dissertation

I've had a little hitch in my dissertation progress, particularly frustrating because resolution of it was beyond my control. My chair was finally available to talk about it today, so I jumped at the chance. (Doing so actually meant missing a doctor's appointment - but it was a minor check-up on my ankle, not cardiac surgery.) Even luckier, my adviser wandered in halfway through. The upshot of the meeting was that I need to write up a particular document by early next week.

"What are you doing this weekend?" my chair asked asked.

"Well, I was going to go out of town."

My adviser piped up: "Stay here and get this done."

"I can - although my friend might be disappointed," I said.

"Is she in graduate school?"

"No."

"Then never mind her."

It was a joke - at least the part about my friends. Not the part about staying home this weekend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Jobs

Rutgers: Tenure-track assistant professor "to lead the development of a new master’s degree program in College Student Affairs for fall 2009, and to contribute more generally to teaching and curricular development in higher education."

Georgia Southern: Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership. Note: Requires "at least two years of administrative experience in education."

Motivation deficit

My motivation (and hence my productivity) has been wavering lately; I'll get one good productive day in, only to slack off the next. So I'm really trying to get back in the saddle again. I wanted yesterday to be productive, although I knew that my three scheduled meetings would get in the way of it. What I hadn't predicted was the downpour that soaked me from head to toe. Guess one should always check the forecast, but it was sunny when I left the house. I ended up having to change and deal with the blisters that were forming from wearing wet socks. (I already had a few from hiking this weekend; now my feet are a FEMA-level disaster.) Luckily my yoga clothes were with me; of course, I looked as if I was going to pop into downward facing dog at any moment.

However, I managed to get a reasonable amount done. The trick is to keep this up for multiple days in a row.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Taming the Savage Gulf


Enjoying the view
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
It was all my idea, so the praise (or more likely blame) falls to me: I thought hiking 18 miles would be a great idea.

Well, we survived it. I have a few blisters and a bee sting to show for it, plus some pretty pictures of overlooks. The highlight of the trip was the Great Bee Hunt.

When we were stopped for lunch, two men came through and chatted. Reportedly, there were yellowjacket nests on the trail the way we were going. They hadn't gone that way themselves, though. As the admitted bee weenie, I would have turned around, but my co-leader held firm. We had barely gotten started when we ran into a small group who had encountered the little buggers and had stings to show for it. Tension was running high among my fellow weenies, when one of the hikers pulled out his handy woodcraft. If we walked slowly and gently, he said, with some space between us, we shouldn't stir them up.

So after a few of us covered every inch of skin we could, we crawled forward. It was a funny sight; we looked like refugee mimes hunting wabbits. Remarkably, only our hardy woodcrafter got stung, and the yellowjackets did not chase us.

My sting? It occurred earlier in the hike, when without warning I felt a sharp pain in my butt. Rather unfair, you know, for it not to give me a chance to panic.

More photos at Darrell's page.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tsali weekend


Amazing view
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
This past weekend I went on a weekend trip to Tsali, NC organized by Team Green. The group rented five cabins for four days. The area is a mecca for kayakers and mountain bikers, but I ended up just hiking.

On Friday we did a short hike along the Appalachian Trail up to Wesser Bald. At the top of the bald is a fire tower with magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. The photo here was taken on the tower. That evening, our fine chef made individual pizzas. (No, we didn't hire a chef; one of our cabin mates loves to cook and is really good at it.)

On Saturday we took on a more challenging hike. At this point I should back up and explain how little sleep I was running on. Our cabin had 17 people staying in it, and somehow it became the party cabin. Thursday night I was never able to fall asleep at all, and Friday night I only managed three hours. So come Saturday, I really had no business tackling a hike that gained 3000 feet over five miles. But no way was I going to be left behind. We planned to hike up the Bartram Trail, which connects to the AT. Once reaching the AT, the idea is to walk another half mile or so to Cheoah Bald.

The trail started off with some confusion, as there were quite a few side trails, but eventually we found the right path and started plowing straight uphill. I thought I was going to die. (And I'll admit it, I was the slow one on this trip.) Eventually the incline moderated as the trail followed Ledbetter Creek, which had many small cascades and moss-covered boudlers. After we crossed an ATV road, the trail once again went relentlessly up. It didn't stop until we reached the bald, where we found ourselves in a mist with no view. Going down, of course, was faster, although not easier for everyone - I'm lucky that my knees are good. By the end, we were thrilled to have completed what we called "Satan's run."

We planned to do a little paddling on Sunday, but no one felt motivated enough to make time for it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What students like

A news story caught my eye the other day about student preferences for online versus in-person class lectures. Interesting, I suppose, but it leaves me wondering, "So what?"

What students like has no business driving what institutions provide. I don't mean to suggest that student preferences can or should be entirely ignored; to quote Derek Bok in Beyond the Ivory Tower, "Students do not have much power to initiate policy directly. Nevertheless, they do exert considerable influence on policy - not so much by collective action but by their ability not to attend institutions they do not like and to force changes in curriculum and teaching methods by the slow, silent pressure of apathy and disapproval."

However, students are not customers but clients, which is a crucial distinction. Customers buy whatever they want, and sellers rush to provide it. Clients, on the other hand, may request things that are bad for them, but the service provider has a professional obligation not to provide it. Consider attorneys: They ought not break the law if that's the only way to get their clients off. Nevertheless, having contractually obligated to provide services, they ought to follow through to the best of their abilities. That's why one hires an attorney; he or she is supposed to know better than I do what the situation calls for. Attorneys that don't have a hard time finding clients.

Education professionals similarly owe their students what they have contracted to provide, which may vary by institution. (Perhaps it is training in how to do a certain job; perhaps it is to build character while teaching a variety of cognitive skills.) What drives the choice of teaching technologies should be "what works," not what students enjoy. Student enjoyment only delimits the choices - to those that don't cause students to drop out or fail to enroll in the first place. Student enjoyment may also have a place where technological choices are equally effective. In between these two extremes, questions of convenience and taste are beside the point.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jobs

Florida State University: Assistant or Associate Professor of Higher Education

Harvard University: Open rank, open specialty.

Bridge buiding


Bridge
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I spent the weekend with a group of volunteers helping to build a bridge on the Cumberland Trail. The 70-foot bridge spans Possum Creek and will make crossing the creek possible during wetter seasons.

We spent most of the first day carrying fiberglass boards in from an access point. This was done in relay teams, with two people carrying a board for roughly one-tenth of a mile to the next team. On the second day, some folks assembled crosspieces that hold the railings, others blazed trail, and my group loaded bridge parts on a zip line down the gorge.

We got a lot of work done and actually came out ahead of schedule, which was terrific.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Getting to who

As an undergraduate, I didn't place any importance on the fact of who wrote the book or article we were reading, except in a few kinds of courses. I was an English major, and in our literature courses the relevance of the author seemed self-apparent. The only other class where I can remember paying attention to this was a philosophy course, and my reasoning was probably similar: This is a course where you read the big works of important (mostly dead) people.

Why not in the rest of my courses? Because they were "just textbooks." In some cases, this was in fact true, but to my undergraduate mind a scholarly book about the development of the Gatling gun was in the same category as the heavy, glossy, intro to physical anthropology text.

This way of thinking makes perfect sense up until college. In high school, everything you are assigned to read is in a textbook, except in some English classes. The author of a textbook disappears behind "objective facts"; it's the job of a textbook author to pass on received wisdom, not make novel arguments. One geometry textbook differs from another in its pedagogical approaches, not in the theorems within.

In graduate school in the social sciences,* authors are radically important, except in the case of some quantitative methodology texts such as introductory stats. Almost everything you read is a scholarly argument for looking at things in a particular way, not a rehash of the known. Once you have a firm grounding in your field, the author's name will usually tell you more than the work's title does.

By the time you get to be a faculty member, the centrality of the author seems self-evident. As an undergraduate you'll see glimpses of this, when Professor Smith says to read chapter 5 in Jones. And the students are slightly baffled by this, thinking, "Why can't he just call it the green book? Or 'American History Since the Civil War'?" Because the author's name is seen as irrelevant - yes, less important than the color of the book!

This is one of the disconnects between the faculty way of thinking and the student way of thinking that seems to affect almost all students, not just the underprepared ones. (After all, that's how we think in ordinary life, too - referring to "that article in Harper's", not to "the latest Malcolm Gladwell piece.") It is a disconnect I've never seen addressed. No one explains to undergraduates the difference between a textbook and other kinds of (modern, non-fiction) texts used in the classroom. No one tells them why authors matter. It's simply assumed. Then when students go on to graduate studies, they struggle to learn this lesson by osmosis, leading to a great deal of frustration on everyone's part.

* Certainly in the humanities too, minus the statistics books. I'll leave it up to the scientists to say how it is in their fields.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fall Creek Falls adventure

A confession: I have posted absolutely misleading pictures with this entry. These photos are serene and majestic, not to mention absolutely unlike the experience of this trip.

We planned to hike a series of short hikes around Fall Creek Falls, which is supposed to be one of the nicest state parks in Tennessee. Our day started with the Cable Trail, a steep descent down rocks to the bottom of the creek. As the name suggests, there is a steel cable to hold onto. The view at the bottom is of Cane Falls, pictured here. Of course, what goes down must come up, and the trip up is a bit more strenuous. Most of us had made it up when a large snake slithered across the path - I didn't see it but those who did guessed it was poisonous because of its triangular head.

We next headed out on the wooded PawPaw Trail. Its biggest claim to fame is a series of overlooks, although the one we ventured out to was too overgrown for views. I was loitering at the back of the group. About halfway in to the hike, we heard screams from the front. All we could clearly make out were "bees" and "run." Those at the front ran forward, and we at the back stopped. "I'm not going on," I announced. Wimpy? You bet. (Mind you, I wasn't planning to ruin anyone else's fun - I was ready to head back myself.) Lauren and Kay reassured me that we'd be fine when they suddenly changed their tune. The flying menaces were actually chasing us down the trail and we ran for several hundred yards before we were free. It seems there was a yellowjacket nest right in the trail, and the thumping of our boots had provoked them to attack. We did turn back and eventually met up with the rest of our group; many people were stung multiple times.


A lunch break settled us all down, and then we set out for Fall Creek Falls. The trail goes over a wobbly suspension bridge before coming to some overlooks. This photo shows Fall Creek Falls from one of them. We then took another steep trail downhill - not quite as steep, but actually more elevation change - to the bottom of the falls. The return trip mostly retraced our steps until the end, when we went by the Cascades. This is small waterfall where the water stairsteps down into a series of pools. Several of us took the opportunity to slide down the last cascade and generally frolic in the pools. It was a great way to finish off the hike.

If you want to see photos of bees, snakes, shenanigans, and general frolicking, you'll have to visit my Flickr site, Dave's Flickr site, or the event page.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Car resolution

The dealership called me yesterday afternoon to tell me my car was ready. The serpentine belt had not fallen off at all, but I was out of refrigerant, which had caused the air conditioning to turn off. They weren't certain why the car had died; it started up fine for them - maybe something about the compressor. Moreover, they couldn't find the leak. (And a leak it had to be - my oil had been changed 1000 miles ago and all fluids topped off.)

I got on the freeway to drive home, and after about a mile the air conditioning quit. At the next exit I pulled off and called the dealership. They told me to come back. I didn't feel like stalling out on the freeway, so I took back roads. Under the hood the engine was making a rattling noise. Then at the last traffic light, my brakes stopped working. The emergency brake worked, but the car stalled and wouldn't start. I rolled it around the corner and called the dealership again. A manager and a tech came out, and after about 20 tries it started and barely made it back. (I chose to walk.)

So now I was out of coolant, but again they said they couldn't find the cause of the leak. This time the theory was water in my gas tank - the gas light had just come on. I went to the gas station across the street (prices having gone up 30 cents from when I first came in to pick up the vehicle) to fill up. Not exactly feeling secure, I moved my car forward a few feet after fueling. The car was leaving a trail, much like a slug.

I took it back to the dealer, even though they were closing. They were suspicious it was nothing - some coolant had spilled when they refilled it, and they thought it was just the spill dripping. Still, the manager grabbed a master tech who was on his way out to look. After just a few minutes, using no tool more advanced than a flashlight, he figured it out.

A clamp on a hose had broken. When the car was cool, after sitting for a while, nothing happened. But after driving a while pressure would build up and the fluid would leak. All they had to do was replace the clamp.

And why didn't the first two mechanics to look at it notice this?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Unexpected adventures

This afternoon I went to a talk given by the dean of Michigan's College of Ed. I planned to go to a new yoga class at my gym afterwards, not realizing how long the talk was supposed to do. Then a friend sent me a message saying a group was going to Climb Nashville, and would I like to join them? Well, sure. So I drove home to change.

On the way home my a/c suddenly shut off. Uh-oh, I thought. Last time this happened a my drive belt had fallen off, my car stopped dead at a traffic light, and then had to be towed. But this time my car continued to drive just fine. So I decided to head out to the climbing gym.

Halfway there I get a call telling me the gym is closing early tonight, so they're going for a walk instead. I change course and head for the new meeting spot. As I'm sitting at a light by campus, take one guess what happened. Right, my car died. Luckily, once traffic cleared I was able to coast in to a parking lot. A cop helped push me a little farther in.

My friends agreed to come meet me, and I called a Kia to arrange a tow truck. My roadside service had expired, as had my warranty, so I had to pay for it. Meanwhile, a couple of people from my department wandered by and stopped to see if all was well. My friends show up, and then the company Kia had arranged called. At this point it becomes clear they are not a tow company; they thought I needed a jump. (I'm not sure what part of "push 1 if you need a tow truck" followed by me pushing 1 was unclear.) I call Kia back and have to wait an hour for the truck to show. Thankfully my friends waited and gave me a ride home.

Tomorrow, I find out how much the repairs will cost.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Break time

Out of the last four days, I went to tough yoga classes on three. (The other, I went on a 6-mile hike.) My body is begging for mercy at this point. I was going to drag myself to class at the gym tonight, because it was probably going to be that teacher's last class before she moved back to LA, but it was canceled. My body appreciates that!

Now I can stay home and work in a comfy chair.

Jobs

Appalachian State: Assistant/Associate Professor.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dissertating

I see I haven't yet posted on what my new dissertation topic is. So, in a nutshell, the dissertation will be on the effectiveness of boards of trustees at private colleges and universities.

Friday, September 5, 2008

woot

I just found out that I had a journal submission accepted. It's both exciting and anticlimactic, since the result wasn't a surprise - it had been through two revisions but fairly superficial ones. (Example: change % to per cent.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When boards abdicate

One story that's been making news the last few weeks is the community college president who was fired for kegging it up with students. The board knew about the incident but didn't fire him until a photo of him made the rounds of the internet; the photo in question shows him pouring a keg of beer into a female student's mouth. You can see the photo along with a thoughtful blog post here.

There's a lot that's appalling about this case - since I'm studying boards, the board's blind eye comes to mind, but let's not forget the president himself. What really caught my attention, though, was a quote from a board member about letting the president's "personal life" remain personal.

Personal life? When you're a college president interacting with your students, you're on the job. That's not your personal life.

That means that while in some cases drinking with students might be OK, the president should have no expectation of privacy. (Those cases? The school allows alcohol. The students are of age. Drinking is being modeled responsibly - this does not include pony keg chugging.) And the board should recognize this.

Judging from other information, though, this was a board that long ago became a closed system existing to protect the president, abdicating its responsibility to lead the institution, which includes assessing and monitoring the CEO.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Conference woes

Conference travel can be a real pain. When choosing a site, conference planners have to balance ease of travel against hotel prices (among other things), and neither result is very satisfactory. AERA is always in mega cities - it has to be because of its size; the conference sessions are spread out over half a dozen hotels. And there are always lots of flights in and out of places like New York, San Diego, etc. ASHE, on the other hand, tends to be in more affordable places, but flights are scarcer.

I'm trying to book my flights now for ASHE and not finding anything satisfactory. My presentation is at 1 the first day (not a primo slot), so I need to be there by then. I can take my chances by flying direct on Southwest that morning and arriving at 10:20, if all goes well. Or I can play it safe and go in the night before. My travel money will extend to cover that.

It's the way home that is more difficult. The last session ends around 6, but the last Southwest flight is at 4:30. I'd just skip the last couple of sessions, except there is one at 3 that I really want to, nay, need to attend. (I'm on the job market, so I have to be Visible.) No one else flies direct. But the layover is nothing compared to the cost - over $500 is the cheapest round-trip that leaves in the evening. That my travel money will not extend to.

Not everyone at ASHE is coming from Nashville, of course, but I suspect many attendees are having these sorts of issues. Jacksonville isn't a major business or travel market. Last year's site, Louisville, was similar.

My final option is to fly Southwest but to fly in a day early and leave a day late. My travel funds won't quite cover it, although the extra is small enough for me to swallow.

ETA: I found a solution that is somewhat cheaper and allows me to depart after the last session. I just have to fly Jacksonville to Detroit to South Bend to Cincy to Nashville, arriving 13 hours after I depart. Now that's a winning solution.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Stones River Battlefield hike


Cannons
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I decided to go for a hike today at Stones River National Battlefield. I picked it rather randomly - perhaps in my subconscious it is associated with three-day weekends. It wasn't a great hike.

You can see a map here. The hike starts at the upper left corner of the trail and heads down and right, around the outside of the auto loop. It then crosses the road and wanders around inside the loop before crossing back over again. Somehow I got lost on the inside portion and ended up going around in a big circle, adding a couple of miles to the hike.

The book wasn't much help, in part because it was outdated - I don't have the latest edition. Apparently the trail used to be called the Five Mile Trail, but the park service materials currently don't use that name. (Well, that was a dumb name for a 3.6 mile-long trail.) The map also wasn't very good, not showing side trails and major landmarks. In any case, at one point I was supposed to come to "an open trail bordered by a split rail fence" with the visitor center across the fence. Instead, I came across a different open field with an intersection, which means that either an important detail was left out of the description or that things had changed much. My left turn I made then was the mistake that led to my wrong loop. But coming around the second time, I still couldn't see where I was supposed to go. I found the field, but not how to get to it.

The Park Service wasn't helpful either. The online map differs from the one I picked up at the ranger office (after the hike, alas). Both fail to show a lot of side trails. (The regulations forbid you to hike non-official trails, but since the trails aren't marked, how are you supposed to know which way is official?) Moreover, the trails were blazed only in some section and never had name signs.

Once I got back on track the hike got rather sucky. There ceased to be a trail in most places, with the route consisting of crossing over open fields and mown strips by the road. If I'd just had the Park Service map, I'd have thought I was in the wrong place and looked for a real trail; it was only the guidebook that let me know I wasn't lost yet again.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Excitement of all kinds

On Friday, one of my friends from Indy stopped for lunch on her way through town. It was great to catch up - I haven't seen her in three years. Then, afterwards, I went to the Apple store and bought an iPhone. I love it so far. Every feature is so intuitive; you don't need a manual of any kind. And while the alpha keys look so much tinier than my fingers, typing is remarkably accurate. Hooray!

The mall is a dangerous place because there are all of these stores there. Expensive stores. I went in to the new Burberry store and wanted to buy half of what I saw, especially this skirt I loved. I mean, loved. Wanted to marry. Someone will have to call George Clooney and tell him that he has been replaced. But at $295, the skirt is only barely more obtainable than George. Alas. (And honestly - I'm a "poor graduate student" now, but even as a well-compensated faculty member, I won't be THAT well compensated.)

But I have an iPhone!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Your local library

So, apparently faculty have changing views of their campus libraries.

Since some of you probably can't access the article, here's the salient point: "However, it also confirms that researchers increasingly find what they need through Google Scholar and other online resources, a trend the report's authors anticipate will accelerate as more and more knowledge goes digital. ... But only 48 percent of economists and 50 percent of scientists value libraries as gateways."

There is something wrong with this view. Google Scholar allows you to find articles, but - and this is a very important but - not to see most of said articles unless one is connected through an institution that has paid for access to those sources. So when I hop on to Google Scholar to find articles on lemur femurs, it's the VU library that gets me there. And I'm very aware of this because after many of the results it shows "findit@VU." The physical library may not be a gateway, but the virtual library is.

Are other scholars really too thick to notice this, as the piece seems to suggest? Or are they simply not relying on articles? Some scholars may be taking the easy route. I know students who won't bother to use anything that is on microfiche. From reading dissertations, I know a lot of them don't bother to scan other dissertations first. But many economists increasingly publish working papers online themselves long before they appear in journals. They may, quite validly, be sidestepping the library. Yet I don't think that you can completely bypass the library in any field.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Resolution


Trees
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I couldn't figure out why I was so tired this morning. I'd slept well last night. Then I realized, "Oh yeah, I hiked 13 miles Sunday." That'll do it.

I tell you this as an excuse to post this nice, soothing lake photo from my hike, instead of the photo I was going to post. The a/c repairman came out today. He didn't find anything under the house, and the ducts were intact. But inside my a/c unit he found a dead possum. Click here if you don't have a weak stomach.

Now the source is gone, but when I got home tonight and tried to turn on the air for the first time, I noticed it was completely off - as in, it doesn't even show the temperature. (I can still tell you what it is - mid-80s and about 3000% humidity.) So, problem removed, but I'm not actually better off yet.

Jobs

Ohio University: Assistant/Associate Professor of Higher Education teaching in the areas of "organizational theory, leadership and change; community colleges; higher education finance and economics; and/or diversity and social justice."

University of Wisconsin: Assistant Professor in sociology of education.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Undead

I had tentatively planned to go on a caving trip this weekend. However, as the weekend approached, unpleasantness pre-empted my weekend.

It started Wednesday night with an unpleasant smell. So I took out the trash. Aired the place out. Thursday morning it wasn't any better, so I scrubbed the place. Then I realized that the odor intensified whenever I turned on the a/c. It smelled like something rotting.

I called my landlord. Flies were started to buzz around. He didn't get anyone out to my place until Saturday, and it wasn't really this guy's job to crawl around under my house. He said the vents appeared covered from the outside, but when I turned on the air he smelled it right away. So my landlord said he'd have the a/c guy call me.

He still hasn't called. And today, I discovered fleas. I had seen a couple but not really noticed them between everything else - for one thing I've been spending little time at home. (It's hot, and it smells. Home sweet home.) I called my landlord with another, more frantic, message, and I bought a flea bomb, which is currently fumigating my place. Meanwhile, I'm staying at a friend's, because my place wasn't really habitable even before I spewed poison into the air.

(Fleas do transmit the bubonic plague, right?)


It hasn't been the best weekend ever.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Buying books

Even though I am technically done with classes, I am auditing one course this fall. It requires seven books, one of which I already own. Another I ordered the other day from an Amazon z-shop at a great price.

This left five books to order today, so I got all organized and comparison price shopped. When looking at used books, I took the lowest price at an acceptable quality. The total cost, including shipping, for the books came out to:
Amazon: $183
Amazon z-shops: $158
Half.com: $166
Campus bookstore: $208
Powell's: $250

You would expect the used books to be the cheapest, with Amazon a little more and the campus bookstore the most. But what's going on with Powell's? Their prices are higher than the campus bookstore!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend backpacking trip


Crossing
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I've been intending to get more into backpacking, and this past weekend I finally took the plunge. I and three other women from the hiking group went to the Stone Door area of the South Cumberland Recreation Area for a two-day trip.

My backpack weighed around 30 pounds. A good pack redistributes the weight, and mine did. My shoulders and back don't feel at all sore or tired. That doesn't mean that the weight doesn't have an impact. My legs are tired from carrying the burden, and we couldn't cover as much ground as we could have without the weight. In fact, we probably could have done the entire two days as a one-day trip.

(This was one of the reasons I hadn't taken the plunge. Why backpack to what you can hike to anyway? Well, because you have to start somewhere in order to work up to more.)

The trip was a lot of fun - particularly the sense of accomplishment at the end of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Natural lessons

I finally completed a task I had been putting off for too long. I was procrastinating because the task sounded tedious, long, and annoying. Then I finally did it, and it was quick and painless. Lesson: The mental agony I spent reminding myself, "You gotta do that" probably took more time altogether than actually doing it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jobs

University of Iowa: Assistant Professor, specialization open but seeking someone quantitative rather than qualitative.

How hard is it?

Almost all hiking guides rate the difficulty of the hikes they describe. Frequently this is done on a scale like "easy - moderate - strenuous," where the criteria for the rating are not entirely clear. Some books, for example, will rate a long, flat hike as moderate or strenuous, because it's a lot of miles, but others won't, because walking on flat ground is pretty easy.

I think there needs to be a better system, so I propose a three-part scale. It has the obvious disadvantage of being complicated.

Part 1: The hike length. This is just the distance in miles (or kilometers, if you prefer). Users can judge for themselves whether 5 miles is easy or challenging for them. Guides already include this, of course; I simply propose that it not influence the other two parts.

Part 2: The total elevation gain. Basically, how hilly is the hike? This measure isn't perfect, as it obscures how the elevation is distributed. It's one thing to walk up a hill and then back down, but another to walk down into a valley than back up.

Part 3: The technical difficulty of the terrain. Here we have to get back into categories. At one end you have trails that are wheelchair-accessible. At the other, you have trails that require climbing ladders, holding on to cables, or crossing fast streams. Maybe like this: very easy = wheelchair accessible; easy = mostly smooth terrain; moderate = rock hopping, poorly maintained trails; difficult = cables, unbridged streams, etc.

I was thinking about this on Saturday, when we got into a discussion of how Virgin Falls compares to North Chickamauga. They're the same distance (4 miles). Virgin Falls has almost twice the elevation gain. North Chick has more tricky terrain. The trouble is, when we casually converse about this stuff, there are a lot of other factors influencing our judgments. When we did North Chick it was hot, and that was no doubt one reason I felt so tired. It's also hard to compare hikes when you did them at different levels of fitness. (Would I be as tired now if I did Bearwaller Gap as I was in the spring? Would I just be less tired because now I wouldn't get lost?)

The problem with a three-part scale is that it's not really satisfying. I think it's human nature to distill it down to one rating. So I suppose one could make a composite index, but then it wouldn't ring true for everybody. Someone who does a lot of short, steep hikes and someone who does a lot of long, flat hikes probably wouldn't find trail X to be equally difficult.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Virgin Falls hike


Behind the curtain
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
This was my second hike to Virgin Falls. Last spring, when we first went, was the beginning of a drought, and the hike was drier than usual. This time, however, it was even drier because of the time of year - the falls are simply wetter in spring than August. (In spring, I'd never want to do what is shown in this picture - walk back around behind the falls.)

The trip was fun, but I won't recap the details here, since the hike hasn't really changed from last time. The big excitement was that this time, a few of us went down to look at Lower Sheep Cave. Then one hiker dropped his camera, stirring up some bees. We booked it back up the hill but were all stung. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have said I wasn't capable of running up a slope that steep, but being chased by angry bees will do it.

We also poked around in Upper Sheer Cave and Virgin Falls Cave. Since the group wasn't comprised of cavers, we didn't do any sort of thorough exploration.

The best part was that we got lucky on the weather. It had been in the high 90s, but on Friday it dropped down to the mid 80s with lower humidity. So much nicer for hiking!

Friday, August 8, 2008

New pet peeve

I've seen this several places recently, and the newspaper today was the last straw. People of the English-speaking world, "illusive" does not mean the same thing as "elusive."

Elusive means something is hard to capture or find. Think of nature documentaries where the narrator says, "Ah, a rare sighting of the elusive red-throated grottlenose titmouse." Illusive means illusory, not real; "The titmouse proved to be illusive, being merely a holographic marvel designed by my archenemy."

In today's final straw, the newspaper reported that cougars are menacing the tony town-within-a-city of Belle Meade (it's where Nashville's celebrities actually live). The headline said that solutions were illusive, suggesting the mayor had tried several that failed. This led me to wonder if the town leaders were gullible or if the cougars were particularly hard to eradicate. Instead, the article revealed they had not yet come up with any solutions to try.

That's animal cougars, by the way, not the new slang cougars. (Which is a horribly misogynistic term that needs to go away.) Or at least I assume, given that shooting them had been discussed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Safe drinking

I went to REI today to buy a water filter. We're going backpacking next weekend and had said I would bring one. (It's one of those items that everyone in the group doesn't need to own, not like socks.) I had decided on the MSR Hyperflow. It was Backpacker's "best buy" filter in their 2008 gear guide, and for what looked like good reason; it weighs less than most other filters, and it's supposed to be fast and durable.

Turns out REI doesn't sell it in their Nashville store, and online ordering wouldn't get it here in time. I was surprised at first that they didn't have it in stock, but maybe its slightly high price turned off local buyers. The Nashville store is pretty small, although they are expanding - at this very minute in fact. Rather than settle for another filter, or trot over to Cumberland Transit to see if they had it (I have a store credit with REI I wanted to use), I ended up going with the "other" choice in safe water, Potable Aqua tablets.

They're iodine, and iodine water is yucky. However, they have a version that comes with a second pill to neutralize the taste. We'll see if that works: I want to taste water, not mask it with Kool-aid or Crystal Lite. The other drawback is it takes 30 minutes to make water safe. The upside is that it doesn't require maintenance, unlike a filter. It's also much cheaper ($10), so if I hate it, I can throw it out or give it away. I don't think I'll be a fan, but trying it won't hurt.

By the way, if you read REI's customer reviews for water filters, you'll never buy any of them. Each one seems to be split between "this RAWKS" and "this product doesn't work." I seriously don't see how any one product, let alone an entire category of them, can have such differing reviews. With iodine, now, some people like it and some don't, but it's solely because of the taste. No one argues over whether iodine works or how easy it is to use.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Washington, DC


Fala
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C. I won't bore you with the details (it would be a laundry list of memorials and museums), but it was to have the opportunity to catch up with several old friends who are in the area. The reason behind the trip was the wedding of one of my fellow students, and the event itself was very nice.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Looking for tips

I'm going to be in DC and I'll have one day all to myself. The next day I'll be doing some sort of touristy stuff with a friend. Last time I was in DC, we did the "walk around the mall" thing and visited the Smithsonian museum of arts and industry.

So there are a lot of places left that I haven't seen. In fact, the choices are rather overwhelming. Anyone have suggestions for what the must-see attractions are? Or for attractions that are a little unusual and not quite overrun with people? (I'll be getting around by Metro and on foot.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Honey Creek hike


Stepping carefully
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Yesterday I went on a trip with the hiking group to Honey Creek in Big South Fork.

The day started off in a hurry - for the second morning in a row, my alarm didn't go off. I woke up naturally at 6:16 with an ETD of 6:30. There was no time for a shower; there was barely time to brush my teeth. Smartly, I had packed the night before, so I just had to throw together a sandwich before dashing out the door.

I discovered at that point that it had been raining in the night, and although it wasn't precipitating at the moment it didn't look to be over. I wondered if the hike might be canceled. Surprisingly, almost everyone showed up and no one wanted to back out.

Honey Creek has a reputation as one of the nicest hikes in the area. You probably can't tell that from my photos, because the weather made it very difficult to get good shots. The flash reflected against the humid air and took pictures of the mist and nothing else, while I couldn't hold the camera still enough with the flash off. I took 72 pictures. After deleting the ones that were blurry or nothing but mist, I was left with 39. Many of those just weren't good photos, and I only posted 18. My shots from the overlook came out quite nicely, but this is the rare hike where the journey is as nice as the destination. There were waterfalls, caves, rhododendrons, creeks, ladders, scenic views, enormous boulders, towering cliffs, and rivers. What more do you want?

I can't give you the usual stats for distance, etc. The National Park Service-provided map said it was just shy of six miles. A fellow hiker GPSed it at 8 miles. An outdoors website that uses GPS data said it was 4.61 with elevation gain of around 2,700 feet. My watch said the gain was less than 1,300. So it's a mystery. However, the terrain made for very slow going, as there were a lot of slippery rocks and roots; it took the full five hours suggested by the NPS.

Not to mention that there is a lot of stopping just to look around and admire!


P.S. Also check out Kelly's pictures. For one, they prove I was actually there, and for another, he includes video.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vegetables are taking over


Another light soup
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
I made cabbage soup today for lunch. Now I have seven servings of cabbage soup in the freezer, and they won't be going anywhere fast - I have enough fresh vegetables to eat. That includes two more heads of cabbage. I am not making 16 more servings of cabbage soup because then there will be no room at all in my freezer for anything else. Also, I am not making sauerkraut. Ideas? I need ones that use cabbage in bulk - no rolling things in cabbage leaves.

Tonight for dinner: succotash. On tomorrow's cooking agenda: zucchini bread, except it'll be yellow squash bread. Maybe I'll try the zucchini-banana bread recipe I found. Maybe I'll cook some kale.

Testing Google Maps walking directions

Google Maps has added walking directions. It's a great idea, but it definitely deserves their "beta" designation.

To test it, I asked it for directions from somewhere vaguely near my house to Shelby Park, and it came up with six possible locations for the latter. You can see the result for the location I chose here. Google Maps and Mapquest are both very sketchy about the park. For example, Google shows the nature center in the wrong place. You can drag endpoints, but if I was actually looking for directions, presumably I wouldn't know the location was wrong. Moreover, you can only drag it to what Google recognizes as a street, not to where the center actually is. The map doesn't show all the park roads, including a major entrance off where Lillian dead-ends into the park and the parking lot for the nature center.

The biggest drawback is that Google Maps still relies on roads only. It's smart enough to know you can walk on one-way streets, but it doesn't know anything about non-motorized paths. There is a trail from the dog park (not shown, but it's where Lillian dead-ends) that runs into the park. The greenway isn't shown, nor is the new pedestrian bridge across the river to the Stones River greenway. The upshot is that the path it show me is more direct than it driving path it shows, but it's still not the fastest way to get there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July to-do list

  • Finish state governance changes report by Friday
  • Renew AERA membership
  • Submit research proposal to AERA
  • Revise and resubmit journal article
  • Revise co-authored article so we can send it out to a journal
  • Revise lit review and send to advisor
  • Write up cycle 2 of teaching certificate
  • Cook some of my CSA vegetables
  • See a man about a horse
  • Continue to work on dissertation

Sunday, July 20, 2008

North Chickamauga hike


Nice view
Originally uploaded by TheTurducken
Yesterday we hiked the North Chickamauga trail near Chattanooga. It was formerly owned by Bowater, a paper company that developed some of its land into "pocket wildernesses," before Bowater donated it to the state to make up part of the Cumberland Trail.

The trail starts off at the level of North Chickamauga Creek and heads very steeply up. Then the elevation moderates, and the trail rolls gently up and down for a bit, while scenic bluffs line the right side of the trail. A ladder climbs up the bluffs and the trail truly levels off on an old mining road. Then there is another ladder, going back down, and the trail loses all the elevation it gained to get back down to the creek and a swimming hole. The trail continues on .5 miles further to a campsite, but we stopped at the swimming hole.

For some reason we found this trip to be more difficult than anticipated. My guidebook and an old map say that the trail is 3.9 miles to the campsite; the sign at the trailhead says it's 4.5. The guidebook also says it gains about 700 feet of elevation one way, while my altimeter said it was over 900. But none of these figures make it more difficult than the Walls of Jericho hike of a few weeks ago, yet it felt much harder. Perhaps it's because the elevation gain is concentrated in two very steep climbs. (I should say three of the four of us found it difficult; the college athlete/summertime trail worker had no difficulty at all.)

It didn't help that there were a lot of yellow jackets out. Aimee was stung three times and Joe twice. They really seemed drawn to Aimee, and Joe was stung when he was near her.

Despite this, it was a beautiful hike. It probably would be beautiful in every season. Now in the summer, it's lush and the swimming hole is very refreshing. In fall the colors would be out, and in winter, with the leaves gone, the views would be amazing. I'm sure there are wildflowers in spring, and the waterfalls would also be much more impressive.

If you want more pictures, you can see Joe's here, and mine by clicking on the photo at left.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Today, you can learn something new

I have my laptop back - far earlier than I was anticipating it. In celebration, I offer you a random history of higher education tidbit. It's a bit of academic history that seems to never have received its share of scholarly attention. Seriously, this would be prime material for a historian in this field, but alas I am not one.

Remember the good old days when women went to "finishing school"? I was wondering about finishing schools, specifically, whatever happened to them? You never hear them mentioned by name. Did they close? Turn into "real" colleges? I finally got curious enough to do some searching around.

Wikipedia tells us that American finishing schools were primarily on the East Coast and included the Seven Sisters. There's one more reason not to trust Wikipedia: Finishing schools were distinguished in part by not offering baccalaureate degrees, or by offering no degrees at all, while the Seven Sisters were pioneers in offering education to women equal to that of men. But I couldn't find any article willing to name names, at least for American institutions; there were and are finishing schools in Europe. Finally I found a 1924 article from the American Journal of Sociology comparing marriage rates for Vassar grads to those of finishing and preparatory school grads. It named the five comparison schools:
  • Lasell Seminary for Young Women: Now a co-ed baccalaureate-granting institution, but it didn't become one until the 1980s. It didn't even offer associates degrees until the 1940s. Its degrees are vocationally oriented.
  • Brearley School: Sounded familiar. This would have qualified as a prep school rather than a finishing school; today it is still an elite private school for girls.
  • Ossining School: Can't find anything on it, which suggests it is now closed. Presumably it was in Ossining, New York.
  • Bennett School: Transformed from a two-year to a four-year school and became a victim of the 1970s. (During this decade a lot of private colleges closed. In fact, the policy wonks were worried it was the end of private higher ed.)
  • Dana Hall: This name I knew because children's author Cynthia Voigt graduated from there. It remains an elite boarding school for girls.


The upshot of this is that only Lasell and Bennett were actually finishing schools - although we can't tell about Ossining.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Job posting

Morgan State University, open rank with specialization in student affairs. (Morgan State is a public HBCU in Baltimore.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Qualitative research pays less

See the post here. (Note that this is extrapolated from assumptions, not based on something like a salary survey.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Well, I have a couple of deep, insightful type of posts half written that won't get posted for a while. Last week ended up being a little crazy. Then yesterday afternoon, my iBook's screen died. I have to take it in Monday - the days when you could get a walk-up Genius Bar appointment are long gone. (I don't understand why they don't do triage, or allow someone to pay extra for an immediate visit. For a lot of us not having a computer almost stops our work in its tracks - it's not like when I needed to have a key replaced a couple of weeks ago, or even like an iPod breaking.) In any case I am now sadly unplugged once again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Job posting

Penn State: Open Rank, tenure-track faculty position in Higher Education (Specialization open).

Background info: Penn State has the top-ranked program in higher ed. An open-rank, open-specialization search usually means a department is not trying to fill a gap (i.e., their community college guy retired and they want to replace him) but that they're looking for the absolute most promising candidate out there, be it a newbie or a tenured star. Now search committees aren't silly; they know that a newbie can't have the same record as a full professor. They don't stack them up against each other but against the pool of similar people - that is, would this person be in the 99th percentile compared to those with similar time and experience?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Concentration of higher ed, Part II: Proximity doesn't automatically produce synergy

(Before I get to this, Smanda has weighed in with some interesting points in response to the first part about how distance education can affect the location of colleges. Scroll down and check it out.)

I know I promised a post on the benefits of colleges working together, but before I get to that, I have another downer post. Even when colleges are geographically positioned to cooperate, and it's in their best interests, they often don't. Of course, sometimes colleges act against their own interests for stupid reasons, like inertia or pride - but it's not always cupidity or stupidity. There's nothing mysterious about this, no conspiracy, just human nature and its organizational equivalent, red tape. Let me give you a specific example.

My sister is a seminarian. Her institution (we'll call it #1) is fortunate enough to be located in a major urban area, in the same neighborhood as one of the nation's elite universities. Right next door to her seminary is another one of a different denomination (#2), and both belong to a city-wide consortium of seminaries. As you may know, seminaries in general are having financial difficulties these days. Costs are rising, their fundraising is minimal, the mainline churches supporting them don't have much more money because they're shrinking, and the alumni aren't in a position to give much back in the way of donations. Moreover, seminaries tend to be below optimally efficient size, and they can't cross-subsidize programs with lucrative new programs, since they have narrowly defined missions.

Under these circumstances, consortia and cost-sharing agreements are a brilliant idea. The trouble is implementing them.

For example, #1 and #2 share a bookstore. This makes excellent sense. But other efficiencies are limited by church policy. You can't run a student health clinic efficiently at that size institution; the obvious solution would be for #1 to pay the major elite institution for access to its clinic. Unfortunately, the church body doesn't allow this, because not all of its seminaries can do this, and they want them to be "equal." (Of course, they're not truly equal now. The one in a rural Midwestern area obviously has fewer local possibilities for internship-type experiences, for example; the urban seminary charges higher rents.) Mandating equality tends to level down, not up.

But if the problems were just caused by these school's denominational affiliations, it would be a problem peculiar to seminaries, and it's not.

For example, there are savings that could be implemented consortia-wide rather than denomination-wide. Right now every school in the area has its own email system and servers. Surely a joint IT department would be cheaper, and it would solve problems such as a server going down and there not being staff on-call to get it back up! Email is not a mission-central core function, so outsourcing it would not be like outsourcing teaching. IT issues are the sort of problem that plague very small schools of any type, not just seminaries, yet cooperative agreements tend to be out of their financial reach because they are broke. They'd have to spend money now to save it later, but they don't have it now.

They're not far different from grad students. Frequently it would be cheaper for me to buy the economy size, or the one-year yoga package, or the bicycle to save on gas, etc. But I can't get up the cash required for the initial investment, and credit card interest rates would negate the savings. Schools that need cooperation the most are in the same boat.