August 25, 2005
It's nearing fall now, and the time for pie-making to begin. I'm honestly not a big fan of pie--most of the time I would rather not have dessert than have pie. Seriously. There's a few exceptions (the most obvious being pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time) and one of those is peach pie in the llate summer time.
Before I get into the topic of peach pie, though, I just want to say that my history with pie goes way back. When I was in elementary school, I was a latch-key kid (except I didn't actually have a key because our house was never locked). When I got home, there wasn't much to do, but I noticed early on that the apple tree in our back yard was dropping apples and I wanted to figure out something to do with them. My dad taught me to make a simple pie crust (it was something like a half a cup flour, a quarter cup crisco, and a quarter cup of water), and soon I was making apple pie. These days, my dad and I both cheat and buy the already made pie crust, and I certainly don't know how to follow a recipe when it comes to pie. I wouldn't want to.
Much later in life, I discovered peaches as a pie-making fruit. I'm somehow always attracted to their sudden appearance in stores--I guess that unlike most other fruits peaches are truly seasonal and that's exciting. I always buy more peaches than I can eat, and not many people around my house share my interest in these fuzzy fruits, so it's best to turn them into pie. After all, peaches aren't a procrastinator's fruit. Apples last forever, it seems sometimes. But, peaches are different. They start to go bad once you put them in those plastic produce bags. They get moldy and rotten and bug-ridden.
So it goes that tonight I was working on my syllabus for this coming semester when I felt like eating a peach. Except that I discovered that one of the most beautiful peaches among the group had a big moldy crown on top. Time for pie. In the same rhythmic motions of my childhood, I got out the crust and laid it gently and carefully in the pan. I cut up the peaches, washing them carefully first, of course, and placing them in the pan. I discovered that some peaches I bought more recently were actually not very good at all; not moldy, just tough and fibrous so I threw them away. Since I didn't have very many peaches in the bottom of my pan, I decided to make a custard. A little of this and a bit of that along with some eggs...and now the pie is in the oven. In a little while the pie will be done, and it will be all I can do to hold back from eating a piece while it's still hot, even though I know custard pies are never really good until they've cooled down.
Although my family won't eat the peaches fresh, they'll undoubtably eat a few slices of pie. Soon it will be gone, and the empty pie pan will be just one more sign that apple pie time is just around the corner.
August 16, 2005
It's about time for a new mascot!
Here's what I don't understand: why is the idea of an unchanging mascot/logo/etc so important?
Last week, the NCAA made a very clever ruling. They said that teams playing in NCAA championship games cannot bring mascots that are offensive, nor can their players (or cheerleaders for that matter) wear uniforms that bear offensive logos or images of mascots. Here's the listing of teams the ruling applies to:
Alcorn State University (Braves) Central Michigan University (Chippewas) Catawba College (Indians) Florida State University (Seminoles) Midwestern State University (Indians) University of Utah (Utes) Indiana University-Pennsylvania (Indians) Carthage College (Redmen) Bradley University (Braves) Arkansas State University (Indians) Chowan College (Braves) University of Illinois-Champaign (Illini) University of Louisiana-Monroe (Indians) McMurry University (Indians) Mississippi College (Choctaws) Newberry College (Indians) University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux) Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Savages)
Beyond being a person interested in all things related to higher education, I have some investment in this issue. I attended the University of North Dakota for my undergraduate degree. I cheered for a few championship hockey teams in my time there--not to mention cheering against the gophers (but we'll save that for another time). I never really liked the fact that the UND mascot is a likeness of a Native American head. While I was in residence in Grand Forks, Central High School changed their mascot from the Redskins to the Bulldogs. And, a movement to change the UND mascot/logo began.
Into the fray stepped Ralph Engelstad, the then-owner of the Imperial Palace Casino in Las Vegas and underwriter of much of UND's hockey success. He was extremely outspoken against a name change until his death a few years ago. In fact, he threatened to stop work on the new arena he was financially supporting if the name was ever changed. Sadly, money talks.
There are certainly some interesting arguments made in support of the Sioux name, mascot, and logo. In an open letter to the NCAA, UND President Kupchella points out that there are really two separate Sioux tribes in North Dakota, and that while one tribe is outspoken against the name/logo/mascot, the other tribe has been supportive as long as the university maintains a commitment to education for North Dakota's Native American youth. Other people point out that the Sioux name/logo/mascot raises the importance of tribal tradition for the state of North Dakota.
Yeah, well, as someone born and raised in North Dakota, and now living on the outside, I think the Sioux logo does a lot to create a misunderstanding of North Dakota. I think it perpetuates the misconception that (sadly, many folks believe) that people live in tipis and still live a rugged existance of more than 100 years ago. The further insistence on using the Sioux name/logo also demonstrates to the rest of the world that North Dakotans ARE slow to change, unwilling to be respectful of other people's feelings on a global scale.
Some people might not know that the logo in question is only the "sports" logo. It looks like this:
The "other" logo that appears on letterhead (and on the university's official website--which, by the way, the sports logo generally does not) is the "Flame to Name" logo, which looks like this:
Nonetheless, the university feels compelled to continue on with the Sioux logo for sporting events.
Some people might not know that the sports logo was designed by an Ojibwe student. This is a detail that President Kupchella likes to point out. Does one student saying the image is acceptable make it right?
Some people might not know that UND does not have an official mascot, per se. Yes, they have the image of a Native American head on the uniforms of their sports teams, but there's no actual mascot. President Kupchella likes to point this detail out in his protests against the NCAA. Whether or not there's an underpaid student stuffed into a hot, stinky costume doesn't take away the image of the mascot on the uniforms. The mascot may be unofficial, but it's there in the consciousness of all who watch a UND hockey game. I've been there.
Some people might not know that there are plenty of people out there who want the name/logo/mascot to be changed. Some of these people are Native Americans; some are not. Out of respect for those who feel discomforted by the name--let's change the name! It's only a name, after all! Calling UND's team something else (might I suggest a few: the Fire, Flamers, Praire Dogs, Oilers, or Flickertails) will not change UND's illustrious sports history. A name change, will, however, allow us all to move on and simply enjoy the sports without the negative cloud of unfortunate bullying that comes both with the name/logo/mascot as well as the university and its supporters stubborn unwillingness to change.
Some people might not know that before UND had the Fighting Sioux, they had the Flickertails. The name/logo/mascot has been changed before. It's time to change it again.
August 12, 2005
Friday Dog Blogging
If it's good enough for cats, its definitely good enough for dogs, I say!
Here are Java and Sappho:
Java's the pomeranian, and a bit of a nuisance. He barks a lot--I think he's got a lot of stories to tell--and he likes to steal Jurgen's food whenever he gets the chance, which is often. Java had his own wilderness experience--four days alone in the high desert of central Oregon--and he's never fully recovered from that. He can't see or hear too well, and sometimes he barks when someone moves suddenly or when he thinks he hears something outside. Java's cuddly, though, and his biggest attribute is that he always stays up with me, no matter how late I'm working on a project. He prances when he goes for walks and he loves the attention he gets from people.
Sappho's part Schipperke and part poodle and truly a wonderful dog. We got her in Manville, ND from a woman named Georgia Mae Kinney. I'm not sure if Georgia is still alive, but if she is, she's probably still raising schipperke/poodle pups to sell for $25. Sappho's been with us on our many adventures the last 12 years, and she's not slowing down much, although we all slowed down a bit when Jurgen came along. Sappho's not much fun to take on a walk--she's independent and headstrong and likes to pull (just like her mama!).
August 11, 2005
Summer is almost over! Links to keep you busy until then.
It seems that just a few short weeks ago I was whining about how hot it is all the time, and frankly, how much I detest summer in the cities. The heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes! Well, frankly, we've had a bit of heat and humidity, but thanks to the dry summer, few mosquitoes until just recently.
Today, I attended the annual CEHD State Fair Orientation. Yup, that's right--I'll be doing my time volunteering at the state fair later this month. Stop on by the College of Education and Human Development booth in the lovely U of M building. Check out our bright new orange t-shirts that commemorate the college's centennial. (Why orange? Be sure to ask when you come see us, because I honestly have no clue.) Ask us how the restructuring is going. And, be sure to get your ruler.
Well, one thing's for sure: if I'm gearing up for the state fair, summer's coming to an end. In the meantime, here are some fun things to waste your precious time with.
Google Earth: Google's "3-D interface to the planet." True, it requires a fast connection, and true, the images aren't in real time (just taken sometime in the past three years) but guarenteed to keep you fascinated for hours.
Is Ann B. Davis, TV's Alice from the Brady Bunch, still alive, you wonder? Check out Dead or Alive, where you can find out she, and countless other celebrities, are still with us or pushing up daisies.
If you've had enough of Kitten War, try playing Rock, Paper, Scissors online. Don't worry if you don't win--you can always improve your technique by reading The Official Rock Paper Scissors Strategy Guide. Who knows? You might give up grad school to join the professional RPS Leagues!
You could listen to the Llama Song. Need I say more?
Learn a little about one of my true obsessions: origami. I probably have more square sheets of paper than one person should be allowed to have! When time permits--and it often doesn't these days--I love to see what I can make out of a single sheet of paper.
If none of these suggestions keep you distracted from the heat of summer, you could always plan your trip to the Minnesota State Fair. Where else can you get over 200 food items on a stick?! It's a sure fire sign that summer's almost over. Look for me there--I'll be in the bright orange t-shirt.
August 9, 2005
The Culture of Secrecy
Awhile back, SITBB wrote about the academic culture of secrecy (reference Leonard Cassuto's article in the Chronicle). In Cassuto's article, he asserts that academe is by far too secretive, one measure of which is that students generally aren't allowed to see their letters of recommendation. Cassuto asserts (as emphasized by SITBB):
...We all have to look more closely at the workings of our secret society. We need to do so for the sake not just of those at the bottom of that society, but for all of us who depend on the integrity of the system. As institutions that serve the public, colleges need transparency. The university works at its most basic level by propagating and exchanging information -- in public. Its internal workings should be no different. The truth will sometimes sting,but it cools down in the open air...
In response to Cassuto, SITBB asks, "Do you agree with his assessments about the positive outcomes that would follow from academics' "living in the sunshine"? Have you ever declined to sign the waiver to gain access to your letters of recomendations?"
In response to the first question, I'm honestly not sure. I think too many academics (faculty and students alike) have very fragile egos--I think it's too easy for many of us to be hurt by the one not so seemingly positive comment made about us, and somehow miss all of the other glowing things included in the exact same letter.
On the other hand, as someone who recently became a doctoral candidate (in case I needed to remind you), I think there's a whole lot of what goes on in academe that is secret (or at least tacit, to put it nicely) and designed more for the purposes of initiation than anything else. I don't think much of the process of grad school is transparent, in spite of graduate coordinators and doctoral seminar instructors' attempts otherwise. I'm not sure how anyone could have fully prepared me to feel so grilled when I was sitting alone in the room with my committee members, fielding yet another question about my stakeholders and trying desperately to turn all of my own tacit understanding of my topic into explicit, well-communicated phrases. I'd like to believe that when I'm sitting on the other side of the table, I'll be a little gentler in my question asking. But, I can't help but wonder if dissertations are like childbirth and soon the pain will be long since forgotten. I, too, may strike fear in the hearts of a few doctoral students in my day. But, I do hope that if that's the case, I will have done everything I could to remember what it was like to be in that nervous space in the first place. I hope I'll do what I can to demystify the process, rather than keeping in it the shroud of mystery it currently seems to be in.
In response to SITBB's second question about not signing the waiver on letters of recommendation, here's what I posted to her blog:
As a naïve undergrad, I once asked a prof of a class I had recently taken but not felt passionately about to write a letter for me, and he said, "Sure, I'll write a letter for you. Let me see, I'm happy to say that your work was definitely above average, although not at the top of the class, and that while you missed class 2-3 times this semester, you were always paying attention when you were there." Obviously I learned a lot from that experience because I sure didn't get into grad school because of him!
Since that time, I have briefly considered what would happen if I, just once, didn't sign the waiver, but have also never not signed. For me, the consequence of not signing seems to unknown, and in most cases, the stakes seemed too great.
In my teaching now, I often get students asking me for letters, especially because there are scholarships for students in our program. I usually tell students directly if I know I'm not going to write at least an above average letter. When I give them copies, it's always after they've submitted their applications, although maybe now I'll question that.
Since I posted my response, I have been thinking about letters of recommendation and the purposes they serve. I think I tend to be something of an idealist because for the most part, I think that as an instructor, I am shouldn't be functioning as a gatekeeper for my students. When I have multiple students ask for scholarship letters (and there is, of course, a limit to the number of scholarships available), I try to write about the strengths of each student individually and let the scholarship committee decide. (Note: in the last round of scholarship applications, all of the students I wrote letters for won scholarships.) On the other hand, though, I know that some people who write letters do think that the letters should serve as a gatekeeping function, and they write their letters with that purpose in mind. Ideally, everyone would get a stellar letter from their recommenders, but we all know that this isn't always the case. Perhaps Cassuto is right--if letters were not so secretive, maybe the process would be different.
Interestingly, though, one of my biggest accomplishments as a writer of recommendations has been to write in support of a student applying to a prestigious fellowship program. She was successful in winning the fellowship. However, I'm not sure she would want to see her letter because in it, I talked about her growth over two semesters in class with me. In fact, I say that she wasn't a very good student when she first came to the U, but over time, became one of the best, and one worthy of a fellowship, no doubt.(Of course, it was the potential for growth this discrepancy illustrated that made the letter so successful.) This goes back to my point about fragile egos--that student may not be able to read the good stuff amidst the initial areas of weakness I write about. Of course, it's possible that this student doesn't have a fragile ego and would appreciate my letter for its nuance. Then again, she's never asked to see the letter, either.