The art of being wrong

December 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone.

In a spectacularly lazy move, I’m going to just link you to the guest post I wrote for Tori Nelson’s blog The Ramblings, as part of her Tiny Spark Series.

My post, “The art of being wrong” was featured today, which you can read here:
http://torinelson.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/tiny-spark-series-the-art-of-being-wrong/.

I would personally be grateful to you if you read and left a little comment. And I think you would be grateful to yourself if you poked around a bit in Tori’s blog…and considered following her. Because she is so hilarious and so worth it. If you like smiling and feeling happy, then you should be a regular reader of Tori’s. Just sayin’.

Have a lovely New Year, readers!

I’ll be back in a week or so with some new material. Maybe even some updates on Melanie! Lord knows I’m a few months behind.

Meanest spam comment ever

October 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

Many times, spam comments are filled with nonsense or utterly indecipherable gibberish. Other times, they are thinly-veiled flattery about just how incredible a writer one is…on a page filled with pictures. Or a contact form.

Today, though, I got a comment from someone advertising a website (obvious in their username) that was particularly mean. This spammer attempted to leave the comment on my post “Bidding Farewell the Roaring Twenties…Hello the…Thrilling Thirties?” You know…my birthday post. According to this spammer:

The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to learn, however I actually thought youd have one thing fascinating to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you would fix in case you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

I mean, what?? So mean. I’m curious what I’m meant to do with this. It’s off-topic (what was there to really “learn” in that post?) and ignores the subject matter in the post itself (I was feeling the baby kick, I had strep throat, and I was feeling more optimistic than ever about turning thirty). Because it’s a fairly mean comment, I am not inclined to visit this person’s website. I am not curious about checking this person out.

Spammers out there: you win more flies with honey than with vinegar.

(Except, I’m not a fly, so….)

I’m Sorry Dad: Happy Father’s Day

June 15, 2011 § 10 Comments

Yesterday, I went to Hallmark to purchase our Father’s Day cards. As I tried to find a humorous card for my father-in-law and a touching card for my father, I came to one conclusion: the humorous cards are lame and the touching ones are pitiful.

Dad, the miles may separate us
And we don’t tell you we appreciate
All you do for us

(open)
But today is your day.
Happy Father’s Day.

Father, you go unappreciated
Every day
We may not tell you
How much you mean to us
But on this day

(open)
We want you to know
We love you
Happy Father’s Day.

They may as well say, “Dear Dad, sorry I’m a shit daughter. Here’s a card. Hope it helps.”

I ultimately gave up on my efforts to find a humorous card for my father-in-law and miraculously located the only two non-apologetic Father’s Day cards and headed to the register miffed.

For Mother’s Day, the racks are awash with “you’re a superhero, Mom” and “you’re the best” and “we wouldn’t know love if we didn’t have you” cards. The trouble I have when choosing a Mother’s Day card is narrowing down all the wonderful choices and choosing the one that feels like it’s talking about my mom.

For Father’s Day? Year after year, we’re offered cards jockeying for the most apologetic, the most shamefaced. I realize that not all of us have an ideal relationship with one or both of our parents, but is it appropriate to approach Dad with our tails tucked between our legs and heads low? I figure that if you recognize your relationship with your father is strained (perhaps because of physical distance or not expressing gratitude), then you can deal with that in person. Don’t put it on a freaking card! How passive-aggressive. How empty. How lame.

For instance, my dad and I have always had a strained relationship. We just have. On my end of things, I’m trying to be more patient when he pushes my buttons, and I’m trying to avoid the temptation to push his. I’m trying to contact him more to let him know about my academic progress.

But those efforts and associated feelings of guilt don’t need to be on a freaking card. It’s an empty gesture. “Hey Dad, I obviously owe you an apology, so I’m going to do it on a card. See you next year.”

This Father’s Day, why don’t we focus on the positive things our fathers have done for us rather than the negative? And if you just don’t have a positive element to focus on, then perhaps it would be best not to say anything at all.

Smells like spam to me

June 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

WordPress.com has a deal with a spam-catching mechanism called Akismet. I think I have a growing crush on Akismet because it catches the craziest crap comments. I technically don’t have to read them–I can just delete them all permanently without giving them a single look, if I wanted.

But sometimes I do read them because they’re just too funny. Here’s the latest. And what’s really brilliant about this spammy comment is that “feels” real:

“This ought to have taken a long time for you to compose, want I was as committed as you might be!I’ve discovered your weblog to become really informative. As somebody new to blogging, I am going to a variety of internet sites to learn about a lot more about blogging in common and just how I can monetize my weblog. I will have to bookmark your site so I can visit it from time to time.”

Two things. 1. This was posted on my “Need a Password” page. Really? It should have taken a long time for me to compose a quick-off about how to request passwords? Fishy…. 2. The name used to sign in for the comment is associated with a website advertising workout machines with a page titled “workout machine for tops.” Now, folks, you have to understand that my mind is constantly on sex (it’s the nature of my dissertation). When I see the word “tops” in any context outside of shopping, I immediately think “the man on top.” I’m sure this webpage isn’t aimed only for the tops, but I’m not about to click on that link to find out. Surely it means “torsos” or something to the same effect.

I love Akismet for catching crap like this. If anyone is forced to scan the comments, I’d rather it be me than an unwitting visitor to my blog. And worse, can you imagine what you might be exposed to if you clicked a link out of curiosity? Thank you, Akismet. In this case, censorship wins the day.

Sweetness and Light

June 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

There have been moments in my life when I’ve been described as “sweet.” Sometimes those descriptions were condescending. Sometimes they were genuine. There have been a plethora of moments in my life when I’ve been described as stubborn, bull-headed, temperamental. In those moments “sweet” lies beneath the surface of consciousness.

And I’ll own up to it. I am stubborn and bull-headed and temperamental. I have a spark in me that, once ignited, can turn my life into a conflagration.

But sometimes I am also sweet.

And Leonore over at “As a Linguisthas rewarded my sometimes good behavior with the Sweetness Award:

Sweet!

I am required to reveal seven facts about myself and then pass the award on to an unspecified number of other worthy sweet bloggers.

I’ll reveal the seven facts now, but I’ll pass the award on tomorrow. Or maybe Thursday. One day this week, it’ll move on.

1. Before I started dating Robert, I had never been to Colorado. Man, what a world I was missing! We love it out in Colorado and have had the opportunity to visit once a year since we started dating. Last year was the first year that we didn’t go. And, I’ll tell you, I totally missed it.
2. I have this habit of really disliking a new product before developing an obsession with it. Case in point: any Apple product. DVDs. Laptops. Hybrid cars. At this point, I think it’s fairly accurate to assume that if I vehemently dislike something (and can’t come up with a good reason why), then you can bet I’ll turn around in a few months and suddenly start focusing all my efforts on obtaining it.
3. I would rather watch television on the couch than do just about anything else in the world. That’s probably going to change in the future, but for now, it’s the top of my list. (I’m telling myself that it has everything to do with my senioritis toward my dissertation and nothing at all to do with my incredible laziness. Riiiight.)
4. Robert is the only person who has ever successfully calmed me down during take-off and landing. To my mind, flying would be fine if it weren’t for the taking off and landing. The first time we flew together, Robert told me about the time he was in Belgium and bought the world’s best chocolate. He described the chocolate for the entire time it took us to reach altitude and level off. When we landed, I had him tell me the story again. Robert and chocolate. What more does a girl need in this world?
5. I hate keeping secrets from people. When the silence is mostly self-imposed, it’s the hardest secret for me to keep. But when my friends ask me to keep secrets for them, clamming up is no problem. It’s a strange double-standard, I realize, but the bottom line is this: ask me to keep your secrets, but don’t expect me to keep my own.
6. I sometimes fantasize about having children who are able to quote Shakespeare. Back in ancient China, it was common practice to require children not only to recite classic poetry at banquets but to actually compose their own poetry on the spot! This was for boys and girls. Why not incorporate some of that in modern America, hm? 😉 Seriously, though, I do feel a little bit sorry for our future children…they’re not going to be able to escape the Shakespeare thing.
7. Robert just turned 28 yesterday, and we’re as happy as we’ve ever been. I never imagined that my life would look like this at the age of 29, nearly 30. I’m an incredibly lucky girl.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the announcement of the next recipients for the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. 🙂

Unexcused absence

June 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

Well, my faithful daily readers, you must have noticed a dearth in updates Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There’s a reason:

I purposefully took three unexcused absences from my blog this weekend.

After a whirlwind week of intense proofing, editing, and revising, Robert and I went to my parents’ home to celebrate his real birthday (today! :D). At first, I had every intention of blogging those days. “The people will want to know my thoughts, surely,” I convinced myself on the two-and-a-half-hour drive on Friday afternoon. But after we settled in, I pulled out my laptop to finish making those last-minute revisions that I had previously run out of time to do (there’s a reason, but I can’t go into it right now–maybe later). I also e-mailed copies to my committee members of the introduction, chapter one, and chapter two. This week will be devoted to drafting chapter four and starting revisions on chapter three. For some reason, I feel like I’m way behind. Anyway. Just as I was hitting “send” on the e-mail to my committee, my mom and dad made it home (the former from work, the latter from a haircut). After that moment, I just wanted to be back in my parents’ home, relaxing and with as few responsibilities as possible.

So, I played blog hookie.

I figured you’d understand.

I accepted the Post-a-Day challenge because I wanted to make sure that I was composing something every single day. And I will still live up to that. As of now, I am four days down from being able to say that I wrote every single day of the year. But, to be perfectly honest, there have been (and surely will be in the future) days when I wrote multiple entries so that I could take a couple of days off; I merely set those posts to automatically publish on particular days. Even though my blog appeared to be participating in the Post-a-Day challenge (there was a post for each day, you know), I myself was still writing when I felt like it and not writing when I didn’t feel like it.

I am not giving up on this project, however. It has served a purpose and keeps me motivated.

I will still claim that I am a member of the Post-a-Day challenge, and I will not feel even one single trace of Catholic guilt over that.

In the meantime, you, my faithful readers, may be in for a load of boring posts. Life is about to go into hyperdrive for ol’ A.Hab. as she races toward graduate school deadlines in order to graduate on August 6th. If you don’t want to read boring posts, you have two options. The first, of course, is not to read them. 😉 The second, and certainly my preferred option if I were given a preference in the matter, is that you will consider making a post request at “Help A.Hab. Win the Post-A-Day Challenge!” Think of me as improv funny man Ryan Stiles and yourselves as the Whose Line audience. Shout out the scene you’d like to see A.Hab. perform for you, and she will do her best to delight! 🙂

In the meantime: let’s all wish Robert a super-duper HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

What do you want to read?

May 15, 2011 § 8 Comments

Last week I announced that I had made some changes to the blog. One of those changes was adding a new page where you, my incredibly brilliant and fun readers, can submit ideas for topics. (Just visit this page here: Help A.Hab. Win the Post-A-Day Challenge.)

I’m starting to lose my steam. I want to do this challenge not just for the sake of doing the challenge, but also so that I can be constantly writing. Doing these posts every day helps me to stay active in my writing exercises and keep me from only writing in Academese on a fairly esoteric subject.

So, seriously, help a girl out, will ya? 😉 Any topic will do, really. And it can be as simple as a single word. I’m sure I can spin a topic off a single word. I’m pretty good at that sort of thing. 😉

But today I’m just sort of creatively dried-up. We’ve had a relaxing day; so relaxing, in fact, that I very nearly forgot to write anything today. And, in my book, that’s actually a pretty good day!

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

May 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Yesterday, during my lunch break, I made a few minor changes to the blog format. You may have noticed. I’d expect, though, that you didn’t. In case you didn’t, allow me to invite you to join me on a virtual “walking” tour of the new and (I think) improved A.Hab.’s View.

If you’ve been around a while, you might recall that I’ve undergone a slight name change since beginning this-here blog:
New Year, New Name?
Announcing new blog name!

I’ve undergone another.

In the interest of cutting out prepositional phrases and restoring concision, I have shortened my blog name to “A.Hab.’s View.” It’s sassy, short, and sweet. I like it. Just like a new summer haircut! 🙂

And in a random moment of just screwing around with my custom menu (there to your left), I realized that it was a great deal more customizable than I ever thought before! So, I organized it a bit more, which you can see here:

The Soy-Free Lifestyle and Girls' Night Recipe pages have been moved under the "About" header.

In the interest of cultivating a more interactive community, I created a page where you can bestow upon me any ideas for blog posts that you’d like to see covered here on A.Hab.’s View.

Sure, I have an ulterior motive, too...it will help me complete the Post-A-Day Challenge...but I swear it's mostly for your sake. Well...it's mutually beneficial. Okay, okay, it's mostly for me. 😉

And, finally, I updated the password request page so that it’s a great deal more streamlined and a lot less work for you, my curious readers! 🙂

Sit back, relax, and just fill out a form next time you want a password!

For all of you worried about my productivity, I assure you these changes took no time whatsoever. They were literally accomplished within my thirty-minute lunch break yesterday. (And, for the record, Chapter Three is sitting at a neat 20 pages right now. I should be able to wrap it up today. Fingers crossed.)

So, go exploring! Let me know what you think. 🙂

Evidence of a failed assignment

April 20, 2011 § 12 Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I had my annual review. And I subsequently blogged about it. Twice.

Yesterday, I completed my students’ blog grades for the semester and had Excel do all the math for me. I utilized my Average and Sum formulas, and these are the results.

Spring 2010: I think I have a different concept of "failure"....

Clearly my students failed to remember their blogs, three days a week (including Sunday nights).

Obviously they failed to complete the assignment in a satisfactory manner.

I had a horrible idea that wasted not only my students’ time but mine as well.

See?

And, in case you were curious, these are the results from the previous semesters.

Summer 2010: the pilot class

Fall 2010: section 1

Fall 2010: section 2

Blogs and Writing Pedagogy: what I should have said

April 7, 2011 § 22 Comments

“I just don’t see the blogs accomplishing your pedagogy like you think they do.”

I sit there, blinking. Crap. My jaw clenches. Don’t you cry, Amanda. Not now. Not in your annual review. I am so miserable in my job, and I’m positive he can tell. Despite my best efforts to prepare a portfolio that might suggest otherwise, I’m sure he can tell that I have been miserable for quite some time. But I’m afraid. If I tell him the truth, what consequences could I stand to risk? Might I be strung up? Would this follow me my entire life? If a potential employer asks him about my teaching experience, will I be ruined? Buck up. Seriously. Stop. Just don’t say anything. If you talk, you’ll definitely cry. Just don’t say anything.

“According to your students, they had trouble remembering to do the blogs. And it looks like they’re not worth much, only 10% of the overall grade, so doing them doesn’t really affect their overall grade.”

“Actually,” I cut in, my voice breaking. “They’re part of the 10% daily grade, which also includes quizzes.”

“Right, I saw that on your policy statement. That’s redundant. Daily quizzes and three blogs a week.”

“They’re not daily quizzes,” I try to explain. The tears are starting to rise up. Can he tell? “I give the quizzes randomly, but on average there are ten quizzes in a semester.”

“Okay, so my point is that the blogs don’t count for much, and if they’re sharing that 10% of the daily grade with a few quizzes, then they count for even less. Do you see how that gives the students little incentive to want to even do them in the first place?”

It takes a conscious effort to nod. Don’t say anything or else you’ll start crying. Shit, why are you such a baby? You’ve never been like this before in an annual review! Can’t you take criticism at all??

“Why did you come up with the blog assignment at all?”

The question surprises me. Catches me off-guard. It shouldn’t because I’ve been asked it before. Except…this is different. I think when I’ve been asked this question, it’s usually been phrased with the word how. This feels immediately judgmental. He has already made up his mind. He’s looking for a reason to change his mind. I won’t give it to him. I can’t give it to him. Not without crying.

“I-I guess I just…” I swallow. “To me, they’re like critical reading responses except the students have the opportunity to read each other’s responses and then respond to them as well. I wanted to keep the conversation going, I guess. I just….”

“Okay, but I’m not sure that it does that for you. The students remarked about how they often forgot to even do the blogs in the first place. I would recommend either eliminating the blogs entirely, reducing the number of blogs they should do in a week, or eliminate quizzes. Actually, I think I would recommend reducing the number of blogs in a week and eliminate the quizzes.”

I’m back to blinking. I really like the blogs. My students had seemed to really like the blogs. My mind is reeling. They forgot to do the blogs? But…according to my grade book, most of my students did most, if not all, of the blogs…. I have more students with perfect blog grades than students with failing blog grades. I don’t understand why they would claim that they didn’t remember to do them…. That’s not true….

The rest of the review continues in a similar vein. He pulls out the already-written assessment report, crosses out the word “eliminate” and replaces it with “reconsider” so that the final sentence now reads, “reconsider the blog assignments.” I sign the form, representing my agreement to his report. He was going to tell me to eliminate the blogs entirely…. My first out-of-the-box assignment failed. I walk out of his office and quickly get into mine, closing the door, and collecting myself. Don’t cry, not now. One more meeting. Don’t cry. I pull it together after ten minutes, and I am late to my next meeting. But I’m not in tears.

After several days of consideration, I realize now what I should have said. And now that I am beginning to apply for jobs, I realize what I did by not defending myself–if he serves as a reference, then he will deliver the same report he gave during my annual review. If I mention the blog assignment in my application materials (in spite of everything, I am still proud of it), then I now face the risk of the hiring manager asking him, “She mentioned something about blogs. What do you know about that assignment?” And what will he say? I surely can’t know, but I have a good guess.

I should have defended myself. I should have given him something else to say.

The blogs work.

1. Overall quiz grades from semesters without blogs to semesters with blogs have marked improvement. The reason? Students are reading. They have to do the readings in order to write the blogs. And if they did the readings, then they will do well on quizzes. Although I do change questions from time to time on my quizzes, the type of information I’m searching for is pretty consistent from semester to semester. My students’ daily grade average has improved.

2. They are a low-stakes assignment purposefully designed to be low-stakes. If a student forgets to write a blog once or twice, his or her daily average is not ruined. But, completing all blog assignments on time and receiving a perfect score on the blogging assignment by the end of the semester is equal to receiving perfect scores on four quizzes. It is a “gimme” assignment, but it’s supposed to be. Students are not graded on quality or content of the blog, except according to some basic standards (it should be about a specific text assigned that day and it should be analytical). They are not graded on how well they analyze (unlike their papers), but instead they are given an opportunity to practice analysis in a way that will not hurt their overall grade.

3. Class discussions are much more focused on critically analyzing the texts rather than “walking through” the plots. Students will chime in and say, “Yeah! I wrote about that on my blog!” And others will respond to that student in class. The classroom rapport is typically supportive, congenial, and encouraging. Because a student was able to sort of “try out” his or her idea on a personal blog, the idea was given space to develop so that it would be fully-formed by the time s/he brings it up in class. Even when students disagree with one another’s points, the comments are polite, respectful, and explanatory. They learn not only how to make their own points but also how to properly counter-argue against someone else’s points respectfully.

4. Papers and essay questions on exams are generally more analytical than summative. My students have physical evidence that their peers have previous knowledge of the text, so there is little reason to summarize major plot points. Because they’ve had the chance to practice analysis without fear of failure, they are often more confident in the presentation of their arguments. Because of this, I’ve been able to ask more from my students. And, for the most part, they deliver.

5. The blogs reinforce to my students the idea that one cannot be a good reader without writing, and one cannot be a good writer without reading. Although my students may have more writing assignments in a literature course than others may have, my students not only get the point but have it demonstrated to them that reading and writing are inextricable.

6. I use the blogs myself as a guide for class discussions. I usually try to peruse the blogs the day of class (since blogs are due by midnight the day before), and through that perusal I’ll see what they are confused about, what was interesting to them, what they really gravitated toward. And I will tailor class discussion based on their needs–do we need to unpack that theme more? explore that concept? Judging by exams, my students do get more out of these discussions from the blog posts.

I realize now that I should have defended myself and my blogs.

They work.

If I were to teach again, I would absolutely keep the blogs with no changes whatsoever. They would still be worth very little on the overall grade because low-stakes grades work. There would still be three blogs due every week. They would still have the same number of required words due per post.

My writing pedagogy is that through practice (constant, consistent practice), students develop basic communication skills as well as sophisticated analytical skills. Ideas develop best through writing. Texts are explored best through writing. Learning to write properly will inevitably lead to the ability to articulate an intelligent thought eloquently (either in speech or the written word). If my students are to believe that the literature was not composed within a vacuum, then I should demonstrate to them precisely how one composes devoid of a vacuum. And, thanks to the power of the Internet and new social media, blogs are a perfect method to free writing from a vacuum-like experience.

That’s what I should have said.

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