Monday, April 28, 2008

An Idea for Reducing Fuel & Energy Consumption

I'm wondering what kind of effect government tax credits for a four-day work week might have on reducing fuel consumption. If people worked from 8-7 M-Th, with an hour for lunch, wouldn't we essentially cut our commute fuel consumption by 20% (assuming M-F commuting)?

It would take a sea change amongst business leaders to switch to a permanent three-day weekend, but I'm guessing that it would improve morale, air quality, fuel pricing, and efficiency if it were implemented on a mass scale in our large cities. I think the federal government could encourage this via tax credits/cuts to employers who are willing to give it a try for two years. What do yall think?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

His Name Is My Name Too

Whenever I have to register at a website that I don't really care about, and that promises not to sell my information to third parties, I use the same name. I get a good laugh when I get junk mail like this one (note the name):





I guess they don't use middle names.

Judas Priest

http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Top_News/2008/04/27/was_woman_raped_on_telephone/5602/

Thursday, April 24, 2008

We All Write Schlock from Time to Time

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Timonthy Egan has a blog entry

http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/23/faith-of-our-fathers/index.html?ex=1366776000&en=f773a604300acc77&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

that really shows how sometimes people write poorly. I'm not commenting on his writing style, by writing poorly, I mean that his thought investment, adjective choice, and tone reveal a patently-obvious bias towards all religion, especially anyone who believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Mr. Egan, Fawn Brodie is hardly an objective choice to cite as your primary source about the LDS faith. Also, "magic glasses" lends a tone of complete disrespect for other peoples' beliefs; they are not "magic;" they were not "glasses" either. It's that smarmy pedantic tone that rubs. Certainly it's one thing to disagree, but I feel you mock us sir, a sorely inconsiderate act certainly not worthy of the pages, be they cyber or printed, of the once-hallowed New York Times.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Estrogenical Treachery

So, we're having a girl. I wanted a boy (his name would've been Jonas Timothy Williams), but a coup among my sperm murdered all the Ys allowing only XX couplings. Now Marley has to get bunkbeds.

I am so happy we bought the house we did, and I am thrilled to have another girl; a healthy child is my only wish.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New =w= Single

Okay, a new Weezer single is up at www.weezer.com

Check it out; it loads automatically. I think I like it; it kinda reminds me and Tim of the Blue album.

Check the lyrics out here.

I have to agree about the Oakley shades....I've always hated them.

Overheard in Sunday School



So, we were discussing Revelations 7:1 in Sunday School the other day,


"After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree."


and the hand of an elderly gentleman goes up. He usually lags about fifteen minutes behind the conversation and is what some people might consider, well, goofy. The teacher calls on him, and he pauses, measuring his words, before blurting out, in a thick Pee Dee accent,


"The Earth ain't got four corners; it's round!"


The teacher, biting her bottom lip hard to not laugh and embarass the man, said, "You're absolutely right; it is round. John uses it to mean the four quadrants, or the entire, earth."
I had to get up and leave so I could let it out without making him feel bad. Good times.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Like the Corners of My Mind

We were going through some boxes today when I stumbled upon this classic image. Call this one my birthday present for Jackie. I remember taking this, like it was yesterday:



Mindy, we were all 14 once.

Juventud, divino tesoro
Ya te vas para no volver
Cuando quiero llorar, no lloro
Y a veces lloro sin querer

--Rubén Darío

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Old Film that Tim and I Wrote



Back in 2005, Tim and I wrote this film. He directed and produced it. It's inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's story "La intrusa" or "The Interloper." The Brownlees did a good job for it being their first acting gig.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Good Breeding



Thanks to Aunt Erin for the awesome photographs!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Helpless Helpless Helpless Hopeless

That's how it feels sometimes in America to me these days. After twelve years of college, the title of doctor, a job teaching, and doing all I can, I feel hopeless about my economic situation. I've cut back as much as I can. Moving somewhere else for a higher paying job won't work, because housing, even with the mega-slump we're in, is much more expensive everywhere else I could get work. My wife chooses to stay home, because we believe that's better for the children. But, the economy today essentially forces both spouses to work. Staying home with the kids is a luxury. I work hard; I teach extra classes; I scrounge; I make money on the side; we've cut back our spending to nothing, and yet, the millstone of personal debt (via student loans) keeps dragging us under.

Our esteemed Republican Congress decided to "fix" student loan interest at a mind-boggling 6.8%, but with interest rates creeping down, I'm sure I could've saved myself tens of thousands of dollars in interest had I been able to consolidate all of them when the rates used to reset every July 1st. Now, I'm paying a king's ransom every year, for thirty years. And I didn't live high on the hog in grad school. We pinched pennies, we sold stuff on ebay to make ends meet. The loans were to guarantee our housing. Everything else was paid for from our blood, sweat, and tears.

So, we're left with the choice of praying and hoping for the best or having Mickelle go back to work, which brings a whole host of other expenses. Neither of them seems fairly practical.

Our society has changed from not allowing women to work or make as much as a man to forcing married women to work just to make ends meet. It doesn't feel very liberating. However, for single women, especially professionals, I'm sure it's great.

Debt is poison.

Pay a full tithe.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Unconstitutional?

This proposed law in Maine has me concerned:
http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080406/NEWS/804060343/-1/NEWS01

So, if someone is "leering" at children, it's a felony? Leering carries a nebulous definition, and what if, let's say, you're a single man, early 30's, your parents just died, and you find yourself going to the beach or a park, to sit and think. While you're there, to bring a little joy in your life, you stop to watch some children playing. If someone doesn't like how you're "leering" at the kids, you could be charged with a Class C felony? Holy shit! That's just one possible incident, and these kinds of charges can seriously destroy someone's good name and livelihood. I have kids, and if someone is leering at them, the police should tell them to move along, but I cannot conscience convicting someone of a felony for "looking" at my child. What's next? Thought police? We're one step away from becoming England.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Salman Rushdie Lecture at U of South Carolina

So, a special thanks to Professor Janette Turner Hospital for inviting the public to hear world-famous author Salman Rushdie lecture on his masterpiece Midnight's Children on Wednesday night, for free. Rushdie is my favorite living English-language author (Gabriel García Márquez is my favorite) and I considered it a once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch him live. Even though I couldn't get into the actual room to see the lecture (we watched on CCTV in another room), I did go in and catch a glimpse while he was signing books; he looks like you would expect him to.

There was ample security, men with wires in their ears, dressed in dark suits and mistrusting everyone who asked them questions, as they are paid to do. One student asked him this rambling 8AM-MLA-session-farking-endless question about what he felt his role was in dispelling the concept of the Arab world consisting solely of the three "B's" (as she put it): bellydancers, billionaire shieks, and bombers, asking him if he felt a responsibility to putting these stereotypes to rest. He politely dismissed her question by saying "I don't think like that," and "you can't write books that way." She was obviously Arabic and asking that question seemed like she was trying to scold him a little for the Satanic Verses. But, he's not an Arab, and I don't think he would (or should) feel responsible, in any way, for the unholy reaction of the Muslim world in 1989 to his book. Now, I can see why spiritually immature people would react angrily to the kind of insult to their faith found in the novel and yes, I have read every page of it; it's my favorite work in English in el Siglo Veinte; but, that still doesn't mean he should be hunted down and slain for a work of fiction--fiction people!

If I wrote a book that seriously upset, oh let's say, Costa Ricans' beliefs, I then wouldn't feel the need, as an American writer, to try and paint a pretty picture of Costa Rica with my other fiction.

He could have turned the question around on her and asked why the Arab world insists on freaking-out every time someone "insults" Islam, but he had the maturity and decorum to not start anything. I guess when you're as (in)famous as he is, anything you say (against Islam) can, and will, be held against you.

He was also very insightfully critical of the place of his letters in literary history. While Midnight's Children might be a wonderful novel now, while memory of The Emergency in India is still alive in the minds of those who lived it, he wondered whether or not the novel would endure as a literary masterpiece (my words), or whether it would slowly fade away as a historical novel. I found this humble ability to look awry at himself to be superbly insightful, though I think his place in history has been cemented forever by the high-quality of his writing, let alone the irhabist fatwa.

I read Midnight's Children in 1999, and I still remember it. It's one of those books that you can read and re-read. I'll probably get back to it in the next couple of years. I'm grateful to our Dean for paying for the van and gas so we could take some students, to Professor Turner Hospital for organizing the lecture series, and to the University of South Carolina for hosting the event. I will never forget that night.

Link: An excellent newspaper article by Professor Claudia Smith Brinson of Columbia College.
Link: A really good interview with Rushdie about Islam
Link: One of my old post about why he deserves the Nobel Prize, but will never get it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Classy



Thanks to Tim for telling me about this.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Good news for me!

I got a phone message today that let me know that I've been accepted into the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Howard University (Washington D.C.) on the Literature of Equatorial Guinea.

This is an exciting thing for me because it brings a large stipend, it fills a massive hole in my knowledge of Spanish-language literature, it will allow me to network with other professors who share my same interests, and I get to be in D.C. on the 4th of July.

Now, I need to find a place to stay for three of the weeks. I wonder if my cousin Robbie would let me crash with him....hmmmmmm.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

CNN is clueless

So, according to this hack reporting job by CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/06/texas.ranch/index.html

the followers of Warren Jeffs are "a rogue branch of the Mormon Church."

This would be like calling Baptists a rogue branch of the Catholic Church.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not, nor has ever been, part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If I started a church and called it "The Fundamentalist Roman Catholic Church" would that make me a rogue branch of the Catholic Church? No, it would not. CNN knows better than this crap.

Mormons are not polygamists. That is all.

UPDATE 8:24 PM EDT

So, CNN has taken down the offending remarks, and they even linked to this post, complete with the headline "CNN is clueless." They have more backbone than I suspected. I thank them for righting the wrong, but I maintain, that it ever got published shows a lack of editorial oversight.

SCOLT SCFLTA 2008 Conference Myrtle Beach Review

So, I've been in Myrtle Beach since Wednesday night for the Southern Conference on Language Teaching's (SCOLT) joint conference with the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers' Association (SCFLTA). It was held at the Springmaid Resort Hotel at 3200 S. Ocean Blvd. Here is my review of the conference.

The Accommodations:

1) First and foremost, I didn't have internet access in my hotel room. This is 2008, for a business conference, that is unacceptable. The hotel was probably built in the late 70's to early 80's. My room opened to the outside air; the registration desk was in a remote building without ample parking to suit everyone trying to check-in or check-out; the buffet was overpriced, uninspired, and bland; the conference center didn't have sufficient elevators; the conference center was not sufficiently large enough to hold everyone wanting to attend sessions; the chairs weren't padded and terribly uncomfortable; there is no lounge space to relax and converse with colleagues; the indoor pool is dirty, mildewed, rusting, and has no poolside furniture; the housekeeping staff was rude and intrusive, especially when we had arranged a late check-out and they kept hounding us to get out (even before normal check-out times); apparently "they're on their way" means the cribs and pillows are located 35 mins away from my room; the beds were harder than the floor (not exaggerating....much); in case you can't tell, I did not care for the place and I won't go back.

The Workshops:

I paid to attend a workshop on Thursday morning called
"Reclaim precious time—Use free technology for oral assessment"
by Ms. Patricia Early and Dr. Peter Swanson, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

In their presentation they taught about and how to use some powerful technology that can enhance language instruction (for free), like Audacity (free audio recorder and editor), Rubistar (a gigantor database of other people's rubrics), and some other stuff. Especially in the case of Audacity, their workshop was worse every penny. That software is incredibly powerful, allowing me to record my voice, have the students listen to it, and then simultaneously record their own while listening to mine. This will allow me to repeatedly check their pronunciation progress throughout the semester, without having the affective filters of an oral exam influencing their preformance. It also saves time and most importantly, because it's free, not having a language lab at Coker doesn't matter; they can do this at home or in the library lab. A language lab is an enormous expense, and this program effectively ends that need for us (in our present configuration). If I had only gone to this workshop, it would've been worth it.

I next went to the session called: "Advocacy for World Languages" by
Lynn Fulton-Archer, Richmond Drive Elementary School, Rock Hill, SC. This session was useful but not all that interesting. It was mostly intended for primary and secondary education professionals, but I did get a couple of good ideas from it, namely, lobbying our Congressman to get a Coker College interstate sign.

On Friday, I went to "Language Rock - Music for the French and Spanish Classroom" by
Cindy Tracy, World of Reading, Ltd., Atlanta, GA; an Exhibitor’s Session. After about ten minutes I got up and left. The music was horrible, and involved TPR (Total Physical Response) models of what can only be called imperative calisthenics. There is no-way-in-hell college students would do these exercises, let alone think that rap music in Spanish by Spanish teachers was cool or relevant or authentic. I'd have better luck doing "head-shoulders-knees-and-toes" with them. Patently ridiculous.

Unlike Thursday, Friday saw the arrival, en masse, of all the public school teachers whose principals wouldn't let them attend both days. The sessions were over-crowded with too few chairs and not enough room between. When I tried to go into "Me va de cine" by Nines Barbosa, Embassy of Spain-Education Office, people were seated on the ground outside.

After lunch I made it to "Digital Story Telling Using Microsoft’s Free Photo Story®" by
Michel Couet, Lexington High School, Lexington, SC. His presentation was really good and showed me about the Microsoft program, which I will most likely use in my Spanish classes from now on. This is the second of the two sessions that made the expenditure and trip worth it.

Next found me in "Intercultural Learning: Preparing Students for Study Abroad" by
Lara Ducate, Lara Lomicka, Nina Moreno, from the University of South Carolina. Their presentation gave me an idea for a class at Coker on Intercultural Communication and Study Abroad that we could teach to freshmen/sophomores to try and get them to go. A useful clinic it was.

Saturday morning I went to "Digital Storytelling in the Foreign Language Classroom" by Sophie Adamson from Elon University. Her presentation also dealt with using Microsoft Photo Story, but it was as thorough as the one by Michel Couet. She merely showed us student examples instead of explaining how she used the program in her teaching methods, which was what most interested me. She didn't do a bad job, and had I not been to the other one, it wouldn't have mattered, but it clearly wasn't as informative.

I went into a couple of other sessions, but didn't stay through the end. One was about how to get outside the classroom, and I was already doing all the stuff she talked about, so it didn't really give me much new to think about. The other one was the SCAATSP, and since I didn't have a ticket for coffee and doughnuts, I wasn't welcomed, so I left--which is odd since no one ever sent me an invitation.

The Exhibitors & My Final Opinion:

The exhibitors were clearly not there for me, they were there for kids and kids' teachers. The SCOLT conference isn't for college professors, it's geared primarily towards high school educators. There were no sessions specifically for professors. For the money, I would recommend attending the SCOLT conference only when it's near you, and then going to the ACTFL conference every year, or maybe every other year. I plan to go this year because it's in Orlando, and my family can piggyback along, but I won't go every year, because the professional development money I get isn't sufficient to go to a professional conference on language instruction AND one where I can present some literature research for peer-review. I teach language because that's what is required of me and I'm good at it. I teach literature because I love it.

So, in case anyone from SCOLT reads this:

I liked the workshops, the timing of it being AFTER Easter, and the number of sessions possible.

I did not like the facilities, the accommodations, the conference space, the lack of space, the lack of a lounge (not talking about a bar), the lack of exhibitors for my level of teaching, and the lack of SCOLT/SCFLTA seeking me out as a new language teacher. I only became aware of the conference because of a colleague. Also, in 2008, for a business conference, not having internet access in my hotel room was unacceptable. The conference was a success, but it could've been much much better.

Fifteen Years Ago Today

I arrived in Costa Rica fifteen years ago today, scared and excited. It's been a long time. That day changed my life forever.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My babes are coming home

Mommy, Marley, Jack, the twins......ahhh life will be good in two hours.