Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vanquished! (apparently)

Ms. Flippers reported that she heard the sounds of retreating Raccoons a few nights ago. She could hear them coming over the shed and ran to make noise at them, but they were already retreating across the fence.

I was afraid to believe her, but last night as I sat on the deck, I heard the rustle and patter of tiny (and not so tiny) feet through the bushes and along the fence. Soon the footfalls ceased and there were rustling noises - which were followed soon after by the sounds of rapid retreat. There was skittering along the top of the fence and a great crashing in the bushes.

Long live the Yard Sentinel!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

lesson RElearned

We're going to get philosophical here for a minute - kind of.

I know better (courtesy of the Wall Street Buffoons) than to just type and hit send. I KNOW BETTER. I was speaking of this to The Bearded One just the other day. I should know this better than most because as well as being the offender on occasion, in the long distant past I was, on one memmorable occasion, the offendee. I received, courtesy of someone who "thought I should know what was being said", an email never intended for my eyes.

Yes, it hurt. Yes, it made me very angry. Yes, it permanently altered my relationships with both the original emailer and the forwarder...

So I should know better. But I am human and in a moment of ill considered lunacy, I sent a frustrated (and if you aren't the object of it, funny) email to a colleague - not realizing that it would be forwarded, first to another person, and then to the email's subject...

Now I am in the position of knowing that I owe someone a BIG apology for being heedless, tactless, and less than adult. I also know that I really can't bring up the subject. I am going to have to wait and stew about it until the injured party brings it up. Probably a really just punishment for me as I do guilt so well.

So I hereby resolve - NO EMAIL unless it is purely informational. If it is other than that it will be via phone (after assuring myself that the call is not being recorded) or in person (after making sure that the other person isn't wearing a wire).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Last weekend our "Yard Sentinel" arrived. It is supposed to repel Raccoons with ultrasonic bursts. So far all that it has done is to send our neighbor's dog to the front bedroom and under the bed...as far away from the "Yard Sentinel" as she can get without running away.
We will be adjusting the sensitivity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Yes, I KNOW that if you are a professor you hate "Rate My Professors" .com. Yes, I know that the ratings are subjective and voluntary...yes, I know all of that and I STILL recommend it to students.

They are spending money to get an education and have a right to know what they are getting into.

If your ratings as a teacher are uniformly awful that should tell you something. If they are wildly non-uniform it should tell students something about your style - no-nonsense vs. laid back classroom, etc. If you refuse to let students use their cell phones in class, it tells them something important about how you value education...

What I tell them is look at the teacher's ratings: If it says "Easy, easy, easy" don't take them. If it says "Easy A" don't take them. You will know you are in good hands educationally, when it says things like "Hard but Fair". There will be comments on needing to do the homework. It will say things like "He is amazingly hard but always available to explain something you don't understand". It will say, "This is the hardest class I have ever taken, but I learned so much". It will say, "She is the best teacher I have ever had, but you have to work your butt off".

Use ratings to look for the good teachers who will lay a foundation for future classes and you are using them correctly...
Use them wisely and you will enhance your education and make the best use of your tuition dollars.

Friday, August 19, 2011


As requested by my (only) student worker this week:

You are the student worker who works "long hours down mill for tuppence a day" (to quote Monty Python, I think).

You are Moses, parting the sea so that the water walkers (instructional support)don't get their feet wet. You are giving up your last week of sleeping in, paint ball, laser tag, and computer gaming, to fill hundreds upon hundreds, nay THOUSANDS of plates and tubes of media (bacterial food). You are laying drip tubing in the 95 plus degree greenhouse. You are sweeping the floors because everyone from the facilities department is remodeling classrooms and striping newly resurfaced (last week) parking lots. You are eating nothing but noodles with butter (the cafeteria is not yet open).

And WHY are you the only student worker? Because the others who have been processed and cleared to work are either out of town or otherwise occupied this week. The rest are still in the process of having their paperwork processed or are waiting to add classes so that they have the minimum number of credits to work...

This week you are walking uphill both ways, into the wind, and it is snowing...

Thanks for everything, Stubble!

An Homage to Educators

I am at the end of the first week of the worst two weeks of my year.  The week before and the first week of SCHOOL.

If you want to believe the politicians it is when we sorry assed, lazy boned, parasites drag ourselves out of bed and say, "Ah, now for another year of sponging off the public and delivering nothing of value!"

Here is what really happens (part of it heavily fictionalized - you decide which parts are God's Honest Truth):

You are an elementary teacher, back to your freshly painted classroom.  That classroom was supposed to be painted during your summer break, but due to the vagarities of the purchasing system, the contract wasn't signed until July 15th and your room is in the last wing of the school to be painted.  How every single classroom is in the "last wing to be painted" is completely beyond me, but there it is.  The custodians cannot wax and polish the floors until the painters are finished and they will be doing this, working overtime, over the weekend.  Your locking, rolling, cabinet with all of your school supplies is still in storage and will be moved to your classroom late Sunday night.  Your pupils will be arriving, fresh faced and ready to learn at 8:30 AM on Monday.  Congratulations, you have 1.5 hours to put your classroom together!

You are the high school principal who finds that, due to a software "upgrade" over the summer, the computer did not catch the fact that AP Biology and the (required) Senior Civics course are BOTH scheduled for 6th period.  The entire English department has been scheduled for TWO planning periods, and the Sophomore Class has not been assigned any English at all (hence the TWO planning periods).  And the classrooms in the 600 wing are leaking.

You are the community college instructor, receiving frantic emails from students:  The school bookstore does not yet have their text books;  they are still on order from the publisher (who to be perfectly fair, did not receive the book orders until the end of June and has only printed 5000 Biology texts when 7000 are actually needed - STOP THE PRESSES and RE-PRIORITIZE!).  There are also the students who will be absent on the first day of class:  Their grandmother's funeral is on the other side of the country;  their return from deployment has been delayed; they are in the hospital and awaiting test results; Please, Please, Please DO NOT RELEASE THEIR SEAT IN THE CLASS!  If they are not in class on day one they will be dropped and you will then fill their seat from the waitlist. Day one dawns, registered students are dropped, ecstatic waitlisters are added and only then do you find that your email has now been changed from first letter first name/last name to first letter first name/last name/last two digits of the first year of hire by the college so none of the student requests got through.

You are a long suffering Division Dean at the local community college; while dealing with budget cuts, and parking shortages (CONSTRUCTION! - see elementary school example above) discovers, courtesy of the harried Department Chairs that several part time faculty members are not available to teach on the first day of classes.  Their fingerprints and/or transcripts have not yet arrived at Human Resources, plus several other part time faculty members have JUST recieved contract offers from other schools and will not be available.  Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are the academic administrative assistant who has been calling prospective instructors to see if they are still available - because of the aforementioned holes in the classroom instructor ranks. Most of them have moved out of state, or are already contracted elsewhere. Cancelling classes is not an option.

You are Instructional Support Personnel, who are supposed to have "everything ready to go", but the instructor informs you that as textbooks are not available, you will have to get publisher's permission and photocopy the first 5 chapters of the text for 300 of the 600 enrolled students, or substitute the week 6 lab exercise for the week 1 exercise. The fact that the week 6 supplies have not been ordered (they have a FRESH DATE!), and cannot be received in time, is but a small inconvenience - you can walk on water! You will be ready to go on day one! And you are.

You are a student, also in a tizzy.  You need THAT ONE CLASS to transfer and it was waitlisted on the second day of registration.  You have already been accepted by the University contingent of the completion of THAT ONE CLASS.  You are lining up at the door of the instructor's office, from where you will be sent to the dean's office, from where you will stride purposefully to the VP Instruction's office - seeking both an explanation of HOW THIS HAPPENED as well as an override admission to the already full class.  If you do not get the class, not only is your University admission in jeopardy, but you will be dropped from your parent's medical insurance because you will not be a full time student!

And in the final analysis, it is you, the student (and your parents) that we do this for.  We exist to give you the knowledge and skills that you will need to step out of our semi-isolated and semi-insulated world into the "real world" where you, if we have done our jobs correctly, will continue to learn and grow and ultimately be successful - and send your own children back into the system in their turn.

Happy Fall Semester to all of you!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Signs and Portents

"You can't stay at Ms. Flippers house.  There are boys there.  I'm coming to get you NOW!"

Let me start by saying that we have acquired a daughter, Ms. Flippers.   Along with that daughter, we have acquired her friends.  One of those friends spent part of the weekend with us.

Now, just like Stubble, this daughter is all grown up, as are her friends.  Who are very nice and polite and a great addition to our home and I say that without any sarcasm at all.

At about 10 PM on Friday night I was awakened (yes, we go to bed early; even on weekends) by sounds of voices in our driveway and the accompanying glow of the motion sensor lights...
Being a Mom, of COURSE I went to investigate:

"Why are you out here?"  It is Stubble and my second son from across the street.  They are sitting in the middle of the driveway watching the street.

"We're waiting for (nameless).  He is coming to get "daughter's friend"." they reply.

"Um, nobody is leaving this house.  Get back inside,"  I state in my best MOM voice.  They comply and we enter the house to find daughter's friend in tears, packing a bag.

"He won't let me stay!" she sobs.  "He doesn't trust me when there are boys in the house."

Well, these boys are my son and my second son of another mother.  They live here. (the second son on weekends).

"Nameless is going to take me home." she sobs.

I am more than concerned now.  "He isn't taking you anywhere.  Your parents know you are here and here you stay." I state.

At this point I wake The Bearded One saying, "Bearded One, get dressed - we are about to have trouble."

"Huh?  What?" was the sleepy answer.  But when confronted with the fact that a boyfriend was coming to "retrieve" his "property" he is up like a shot.

By this time Nameless and his drunken father are back on the cell phone.  They are in the neighborhood and demanding directions to our house.

The Bearded One takes the cell phone and intervenes,  "We are not giving you directions.  She stays here."

Then the threats begin.  They will break The Bearded One's neck.  They mean business.  This is all on speaker phone now.

I call 911 and report the situation.  The police arrive.  Two squad cars with very concerned law officers who are taking the situation very seriously indeed.

We spend an eventful hour giving a police report, drying tears, and calling the young lady's parents.

They are also taking the situation very seriously indeed.

The police recommend restraining orders against both the son and the father.

Domestic violence threatens more than just young children and wives.  It begins with the girlfriend at the very beginning of a relationship.  You have to be alert to both the dangers and the clues.

I had a friend from High School.  One of my "besties".  She ignored the signs, married the guy, and left only when the violence began to involve their children.

There is NOTHING romantic about this kind of controlling behavoir.  The possesiveness and threats will only escallate and we need to teach our children to recognise the warnings and get the hell out before it is too late.