What's on my mind.

30 January 2008

Tuscaloosa Winter

If you want a quick synopsis of winter where I live and read German, look here.

Even if the blog challenge has been changed to one post a week I'll try and do two, 'cos it gives me a topic to blog auf Deutsch about.:)

Chemicals are EVERYWHERE!!!

I watched a rerun of CSI the other day (when will the mid-season break end?) and at the end the D.A. was thanking Gil and --- for their work and explained that the company that had polluted the lake and groundwater (that ultimately lead to a suicide and a murder) wouldn't be prosecuted because their lawyers would argue that you can't prove that the chemicals in the water were at fault because there are chemicals in everything we touch, eat, drink, even in the air we breathe.

Then last night, I caught part of an interview on Market Place with the author of "Fugitive Denim", in which she said:
It's been said that there are three-quarters of a pound of chemicals used in the production and manufacture of our jeans. A lot of those chemicals are washed off by the time they get to our shelves, but they do have to go somewhere. I think the environmental consequences are far graver.
My first thought was "really? just 3/4 a pound?"; my second was "what is she considering 'chemicals'?" I won't argue the fact that many of the chemical compounds used in the production of clothing have serious environmental consequences*. I will argue the slightly derogatory use of the word 'chemicals' in both examples

Everything you can see, taste, smell and touch is a chemical, many chemicals can't be seen, tasted, or smelled and you might not realize you are touching them (like air molecules). Every thing is a chemical, some are natural, some are man-made, some are good, some bad, some indifferent, but they are all chemicals. Most things you come into daily contact with are not pure substances but a mixture of many chemicals**.

Chemicals should not be a scary word. It is often used to mean man-made, not found in nature, chemical substances. It is understandable that this has occurred and that usage doesn't always piss me off. But sometimes it does. Particularly when someone is trying to scare the public using the word. In the CSI episode the DA is assuming that the lawyers will be successful in arguing that common chemicals in our lives could have caused the problems. They would have used the juror's fear of *CHEMICALS* and feared pervasiveness in our lives to their advantage. Scummy and misleading use of the word but not usually going to set off my I-can-be-a-prick-about-science sensors. Same with the author - she's not misusing the word horribly.

What does set off my bells is when someone says that some cleaning product, food item, whatever doesn't contain chemicals or was produced without chemicals. Without harmful, synthetic, or man-made chemicals is OK. With only natural ingredients is OK. But it is full of chemicals.

Organic farmers can use chemicals - otherwise they couldn't even water their crops. They can also use natural fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. There was a "Dirty Jobs" episode where Mike worked on an organic coffee plantation in Hawaii. They used goats to take care of a lot of the weeds and to produce the raw material for fertilizer.:D

There is no difference in caffeine whether it is from a tea leaf, coffee bean, cola nut, or test tube. This applies to everything. The reason artificial vanilla flavoring doesn't taste like real vanilla extract is not because there is a difference in the vanillin molecules (main constituent of the extract) produced in a factory but because the extract of the vanilla bean contains many trace chemicals that are not in the artificial flavoring. If (and probably when) the complete composition of vanilla extract was known then the artificial would taste the same. You can substitute the artificial flavor/scent of your choice here, the same reasoning applies to most of them. Smells and tastes are produced by complex mixtures of individual chemicals and are difficult to replicate in a lab. There are many things that are too complex to begin to be accurately produce in a lab (like spider silk) but don't worry scientists are working on it.

So in short: Please don't be afraid of all chemicals - water is one of my favorites. Please don't try and live without them - dying of dehydration has got to suck and very few people really want to see you naked. STOP trying to scare people by using the word 'chemical'.

*Just to produce and harvest the cotton for the pants I'm wearing, pesticides, herbicides, and defoliants were used, that doesn't even begin to touch the processing of the raw cotton boles, spinning, dyeing, weaving, sewing, any treatments to improve colorfastness, wrinkle resistance, or the production of man-made fibers and 'hardware' (buttons, zippers, rivets...) used in the jeans. Or all the energy sources used to allow for this production. Something to think about next time you buy clothes.

**For example, one of the reasons green tea's (dried tea leaves) health benefits has been studied so much is that it has a simpler chemical make-up than black tea (fermented dried tea leaves), making it easier to determine which chemicals are doing what. Black tea has many of the same chemicals it is just much harder to figure out how much of what is in there. Coffee, too, probably.

Give yourself a gold star in science today if you've read all the way through my ramblings.

28 January 2008

Science Porn

This just popped up in my Reader:

It's a Cowpea Mosaic Virus. Isn't it cool?!?!

Also, I really like the tag. I think I'll start using it. (Bonus, my rating will go up.)

Update: No apparently mentioning 'porn' three times isn't enough to get you a PG-13 rating, even if there is a picture in one of those posts.


We humans like to be able to relate something unfamiliar to something more familiar. When a huge piece of the ice shelf in Antarctica breaks loose it might be described as being the size of Rhodes Island. There can be a danger in doing this since if one looks at a map the Ocean State looks really small, possibly leading one to think that the piece of ice is small - it's not the size of New Jersey even!?. Or, Germany may be described as being about as large as New Mexico or Montana, which is true for area but it has a population more like New Mexico, Montana, California, Texas and New York combined.

In this vein I'd like to give a shout out to Sarah for having now lost a Honey and Q-tip.(At least that much, and probably an Irish, too. I don't know how much my cats weigh and I'm not sure exactly how much Honey weighs.)

She's had some help. But I'm still impressed. I mean WOW, the weight of my dog and two cats! Or 1.25 of my little sister. Or a crap load of cans of Crisco. WOW.

I can't motivate myself enough to lose one cat much less the two-two and a half I should.

(I'm not sure how it would have happened but I think I have lost a puppy or so.)

Oh, in somewhat related news - I've started letting Q-tip and Irish in for short periods of time. Q-tip runs upstairs and curls up on the day bed; Honey forgets she's in the house. Irish was very vocal when I let her in and Honey wouldn't leave her alone. Last night when honey went out after dinner I let Irish in and loved on her. I had to wash my face and neck afterwards but she got to be loved for a little while.

25 January 2008

A Question or Two

How horrible a person will I be if I cash the check from the insurance company and don't get the dent fixed?

I will use some of the money to get the brake booster cylinder fixed/replaced. I might use it to get the AC fixed, too, if there's enough left over.

Also, will I be kicked out of the blog challenge if I don't like any of this week's topics?

I started to think about the classic books and kid's TV/book questions but just don't really want to write either.

23 January 2008


Why bother? Does it get any better? Can I just go home now?

22 January 2008

So there!

I did four out of five blog challenge posts this week (more than almost of the others, as far as I can tell) so I don't feel bad that I haven't discussed why Christmas is my favorite holiday.

21 January 2008

Mountain Girl

If you asked me at work where I'd rather be and I'd say anywhere, but I'm home right now so I really don't know where I'd rather be. If I had to be somewhere else, I would probably choose the mountains. I like the beach; I like winter beaches possibly more than summer ones. I like the desert; I feel in love with geology out west. But if I had to choose one place to go it would be the mountains. Any mountains.

I like being in the water. I love swimming in "living waters" (I love that image, living waters, too.). I much prefer the beach or a river or lake over the pool. Years of swim team did not make me love the smell of chlorine. I'm not a huge fan of having sand in every crevice from being at the beach (even man-made lake beaches). I love swimming up stream. Or floating around in the pool beneath a water fall and having the waterfall pound on my back (if it isn't too high!).

I like the stillness of the woods. And wondering what might be over the that shoulder or around the bend in the stream. I like listening for critters and maybe seeing them. (Deer don't know how many legs a horse is suppose to have;) Also I'm less likely to get sunburned after a day in the mountains than a day on the beach.

All things being equal, I'm a mountain girl. Even the little things that pass for mountains in Alabama.

20 January 2008

What would I do if...Wait it SNOWED!

I was going to write about what I would do if I woke up in a foreign country and I couldn't understand anyone and they couldn't understand me.* But OMG, it snowed and stuck! So here are some pictures of my snow. I'd just like to correct the person on NPR who said the residents of the SE affected by the storm were just happy it came on a Saturday - No we're not. If we are going to get a dusting, we want off work!


* The way I've been feeling lately I'd be happy. No chance of opening my mouth and inserting my foot, or bring a conversation to a stop (in a bad way), or make an idiot of myself.

18 January 2008

Morally Ok? Ethically Ok?

To me the difference between morals and ethics is that morals apply to all aspects of life and ethics are more specific. Ethics are often rules that apply to one's profession that may or may not apply outside of it. This can mean that something ethical may not be moral and vice versa.

A lawyer has to behave ethically as defined by the state bar association but he does not have to behave morally. A doctor may do some thing that is morally correct but if it violates the medical board's ethics standards, she may be punished. Some professional organizations, like licensure boards, do require that members be "moral upright" members of society but that's vague and probably difficult to enforce. The ethical standards of a profession are, on the other hand, often spelled out and enforced.

17 January 2008

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

It really is. One thing that makes me happy is coming home every day and having my dog SOOOOO excited to see me. Well, it usually makes me happy, sometimes when I'm grumpy or when she's been bad (or sick) I want her to go away and stop being so cute. It is hard to be mean to her when she's that excited to see me, even if she has pulled dishes out of the sink and broken another mug or spread trash all over the study. I generally find it hard to be mad at her because she's just so happy that I love her and take care of her.

My Kitties

(The adventures of TempCat™ being chronicled over at the Whatever has got me thinking about my cats.)

About 12 years ago my brother and his first wife were living in Fort Payne. While there they acquired two cats (Irish and Q-tip) and a dog. Later they lived at my parent's house while the house I now live in was being built and my SIL's DIL left her cat (Tom) with them when she (with the son and their baby) moved to the Seattle area. While living in their house my SIL continued to collect kittens until they reached a total of, I think, nine. Stubby, one of the subsequent six, was found in the yard one day being attacked by their dog. (Very unusual behavior for Scooter.) She's never been very social, I don't know if that had to do with her introduction to the family or not.

Q-tip and Irish started out as indoor only cats. They perfected their mousing skills in Fort Payne but Q-tip, a very young kitten when taken from her mommy, never did quite grasp the finer points of washing. After moving into the new house they became indoor/outdoor cats like Tom. And all the later additions were indoor/outdoor, too, except one who was rescued from a house where she was getting beaten up on by the other cats. (She got out the door once and never returned.)

My SIL had been depressed and hadn't been keeping up with the housework. My brother can be blind to the need for cleaning. Unrelated to the number of cats in the house or the state of the litter box my brother and SIL got divorced. The cat litter got bad. Then the cats stopped using the litter box. Sometimes they were outside, sometimes not. In an effort to make the house livable again my brother kicked all the cats out. Again, unrelated to the cats, he met someone new, fell in love, and moved in with her.

Meanwhile I was going to graduate school and living with my parents. So I started feeding the cats over there. By now, through cats finding new homes and at least one getting run over there were five cats. My bro tried to move one (Spot or No-Spot, I can't remember, one of the The Squirts) to his new place but less than 24 hours later he was back on our parent's deck looking for supper. The Squirt didn't last long, I'm not sure what happened to him.

When I moved into "my" house, the cats followed me, at least at dinner time. Q-tip and Stubby mostly stay around my house (and are they glad the little dogs are gone.). Irish often spends her day at my parent's lurking around the garage, back door, or front porch because there are lots of small spaces that small critters can hide in. Tom hung around at my parent's house most of the time. He'd never really moved to the new(my) house the first time around.

Tom was a troubled kitty. He'd been abandoned by his first owner. Then he settled in with my bro and SIL only to have them move, but only a few hundred yards. And then my SIL left. He just wanted love but didn't know how to accept it. (He'd rub his chin on your hand and then all of a sudden bite you.) He lived in my parent's attic for several months before my Dad chased him out and sealed up the hole. He take to disappearing for several months. Tom would show back up for supper on night skinny and sickly, hang around for a week or two and put back on weight, then disappear again. About a year ago he disappeared before he'd put any weight back on. I don't know for sure but he was about 15 years old.

In addition to Q-tip, Irish, and Stubby I've feed a few stray cats (not the kind that play rock-a-billy) who would hang around for a while then move on, up to 10 raccoons at one time (left over pet food and a water dish makes for a raccoon all-you-can-eat buffet), several possums (did they ever get the short end of the pretty stick!), and some birds.

My three cats have to live outside for now. I'm allergic and, even though I think I'd be ok as long as I kept them off my pillows, I'm nervous about letting them in again. Besides, this way there's no litter box. I feed them every night and they scare the small rodents away. It's a wonderful arrangement, I think. They all seem quite happy and healthy. And I feel bad when it's cold out and I leave them out. They are pretty and sweet and lovable and sometimes very silly. So, while I wouldn't get another cat (except as a stray who stays) I'm glad I have them.

p.s.- pictures can be found in just about any post with the "kitties" tag.

15 January 2008

I can has Heat?

No water dripping on my desk? A ceiling tile?

(I can't remember if I've mentioned this but while I don't work for the University my office is on campus in a university building.) Back last March the water stain on this one ceiling tile changed noticeably and I had some ceiling-tile dust on my desk. So I called the guy here who deals with UA maintenance. Two guys showed up later in the day, barely listened to me, went up in the ceiling and said (paraphrasing) 'oh, this valve is leaking. We'll close it for now, order a replacement, and be back in a week or two.' About a month later our go-between forwards me an email request from UA maintenance to take a survey about the service. I carefully fill it out and in the 200 word comment space I give a pared down explanation that my work order is NOT finished. No one ever shows up to replace the valve.

All summer we freeze, but that isn't so odd; our building has powerful AC and it is often cold in the summer. Then it starts getting cool and we still freeze. Many of the UA buildings are on a campus wide steam heat and they have certain requirements for turning on the heat (One being the forecast 24 hour average temperature for 3 days must be below 45 to turn on the steam; there is some discretion allowed.). The University managed to make it the entire fall semester without turning on the steam. Only thing is, my building isn't on steam heat. We were freezing, particularly when it warmer outside. Finally I ran into someone waiting for the elevator and I asked her if it was cold upstairs and she said no. They hadn't had any problems. The heat was on in the building but on my hall we were not benefiting form it.

I find a thermometer (it has to be below 68°F before the is a "problem") and it was, iirc, 55°. Our go-between guy calls the UA people. They send someone right over (it was the Friday before the university closed for Christmas). He comes in my office, goes up in the ceiling and says 'someone closed your steam valve. Wonder when that was?' I ask if it could have anything to do with the leak I had had. Answer yes. This building, according to this guy, has the chillers and heat always going and they balance each other out. So the reason we froze all summer, fall, and early winter was because on my hallway there was no heat to warm the cold air coming from the chillers. He opened the valve and put a tray under it to catch the water and said that would do until after New Year's. And that he'd order a replacement valve. Haven't seen anyone yet.

This morning I went to get my eyes checked and got to work about 10. This is what I saw when I opened my office door.

Good thing I haven't kept anything important on that part of the desk all year. I emailed our guy again. He contacts the AC shop and they say they'll send someone over to fix all our problems. (yeah right, they've had ac/heat problems on this hall since they moved in here in 1994.) No one showed up before lunch.

This is what greeted me after lunch.

The metal tray fell down a little while later while I was talking to someone who was just inside the door. We've had our stress test for the week. Now I'm just waiting for the maintenance guy. Guess I should pick up the tile pieces.

Update, 2:28: Dude is in my office with a ladder. Apologized for forgetting to come back after holidays (he'd even written himself a note and forgot). Something might get done!

Update 4:02: Dude just left. He adjusted the set point on the thermostat for our hall to 73.5. Apparently no matter what the thermostat looked like it was set for it would only go to 71. He'll be back in the morning (left ladder, to be sure) so he can climb up there and get a better look at the valve that is leaking. It doesn't have any identifying info visible, so he'll have to figure out what to order for a replacement.

Update 1/16: They left just before lunch, we have a new valve and excellent heat. Now I just need a new ceiling tile and my carpet to dry.:)

11 January 2008

Yea, Nay

I am optimistic that my post titles will improve in the near future. I am pessimistic that the content of my posts will improve.

The Bass

I was going to write about a book that was recommended to me and I hated or something I'm optimistic and/or pessimistic about (Portrait of a Lady and life, respectively) and I might this weekend but the sexiness of the bass has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks, so I thought I'd give you my thoughts on this.

On December 22 Herbie Hancock was on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me to play "Not My Job". If you've ever listened, you know they do a fairly long interview/introduction of their guests. Apparently they've been doing an survey of all the musicians asking them what they consider the sexiest instrument. Branford Marsalis choose the saxophone; Weird Al Yankovic choose the accordion. Herbie Hancock said the guitar but in his case it wasn't the guitar but the piano because he can "play sexy piano". I'm not about to argue about Herbie Hancock's piano playing. One of the panelists asked if Herbie if anyone ever said the bass was sexy; the answer was no and one or the other said that even bassists don't think it's sexy. I disagree, at least in the case of the upright bass. (Why the electric bass would be less sexy than the guitar, I'm not sure.) Later he said a sexy instrument for a woman is the cello. I think you can use your imaginations as to why that would be; he may have meant it half jokingly.

The cello is held between one's knees and rests against the breastbone. Until one is playing far up the finger board, one's body is not held terribly close to the instrument. My grandmother was glad when I moved to the playing the bass because to play the cello I had to sit in such a unladylike manner. Cellos are lovely instruments with a lovely sound (low squeaking potential for new players!); I like cello music. In the hands of the average player the cello is often limited in the emotions it depicts. Despite the obvious, I contend that the cello is not a particularly sexy instrument.

The bass on the other hand is. First off, playing position - the bass is held against the chest with one leg slightly behind and one to the side. (There are variations in playing styles so this may not apply equally to everyone.) There is, typically, more instrument/body contact with the bass than with the cello. The bass is moved in and out from the body and turned during playing to allow better access to the strings. The left arm (fingering hand) often comes around almost to hug the instrument as one moves up the finger board. The cello is held, the bass is embraced. Secondly there is the sound of the bass versus the cello. Basses routinely sing and growl, sometimes at the same time. The range of emotion, the passion, that can be elicited from the bass, even from a mediocre player like me, is vast. Thirdly the upright bass is played in orchestras, jazz bands, and bluegrass; the electric bass is played in country and rock and roll, further proof of it's versatility. An instrument that can depict a wide range of emotions in a wide range of musical styles that is embraced by the player is very sexy.

(I may be a bit biased since I was a much better bassist than I ever was a cellist.)

09 January 2008

Favortie Subject

Science, definitely. What more is there to say? Unless you read German than you can learn a little bit more.

08 January 2008


I was blessed with a number of good teachers but my absolute favorite, the one I wanted to be like, was Rick Wormeli (6 grade, Elementary school). He was just made of teaching awesome.

He had so much energy and creativity. I wish I could (have been) be a teacher like that. He was not only good at actually presenting the material but also great at keeping our interest. Well, mine anyway, I liked school, but I don't remember lots of discipline problems that would suggest bored students. Where to start?

At the beginning of the year he had us all lay down on the floor and lead us through a relaxation technique. Then he basically started with the Big Bang and drew, with his words, the universe up to the point where our history studies would start (Ancient Greece, I think). It was pretty cool.

One day when it had snowed and no one else was going out for recess (yes, we had recess in the 6th grade), he took us out and we played follow the leader. We were trying to make as few footsteps in the snow as possible, but Mr. Wormeli is about 6'3" so it was hard. At one point he was taking these big leapy-steps, where his footprints were probably 6 feet apart. Behind him there's a line of twenty or so kids trying to jump off one foot and land on one foot who are a foot to foot and a half shorter.

He separated a few of us out who were very good at math and made us the Mach I group. We went through the text book in one semester. The second semester we were Mach II and moved into an 8th grade book (he couldn't find a 7th grade one); the rest of the class became Mach I. Kids who weren't good at math got extra help but were never singled out. One day, the 3 or 4 of us got to go out and measure the flag pole and some other tall things in the school yard using the length of the shadows.

He was Cupid, at least a few years, and delivered the Valentine's candy or cards or whatever it was. (It was a fund raiser for someone, like carnations in high school.) I remember my 3rd grade year, in particular. He wore pink tights and a diaper like thing, wings if I remember correctly, and carriered a toy bow and arrow. My 3rd grade teacher was short (I was as tall as Ms. Aleanza, I was 8.) and he gave her a peck on the cheek. It was quite scandalous.

He read to us. He read "Flowers for Algernon" to us and several others. He did voices. With the help of the teacher intern and, maybe, the reading specialist at our school Rick had us pick two of three books to read and we "studied" them in groups. For "Tuck Everlasting" we decorated t-shirts to show important things from the story. (Along with more traditional book report type activities.) I also read a book about a girl and her brother who run away to an art museum. Rick took several of us to one of the art museums after we finished the book.

He killed the meal worms that we were suppose to do something with for science. (Left them in the box forever) He let me set up an experiment in the classroom on dissolution of limestone by acidic water.

I'll stop rambling on about 6th grade now. Suffice it to say that Rick was the only Elementary teacher I ever went back to talk to. I wish I could thank him now.

Oh, wait one last thing - I was sworn to secrecy in 6th grade but since he doesn't appear to be teaching anymore I think it is safe to let his secret identity be known. Mr. Wormeli was RIF-man.

First Movie

Well, like Honu-Girl the first movie I saw in the theater was Star Wars, except, being a couple years younger, I saw The Empire Strikes Back. We were visiting my grandparents and PawPaw took Pat and me to see a matinée.

Pat was really excited as I recall; I think one of our older brothers had taken him to see Star Wars and he was excited to see the sequel. I think I was just generally excited because I was going to a movie.

07 January 2008

Old Stuff

I own a fair number antiques but I don't know how old any of them actually are. My parent's used to buy a lot of furniture at estate sales and thrift stores, so I've "inherited" a lot of old stuff. I used to be able to say I had the bass which is from the mid-1800s but that's back at Mom's house now. The piano is from the '60s, I think. But I haven't owned any of those very long and most were given to me by my parents (anything to get it out of their garage), so I don't think I'll count them. The thing I have owned the longest is, I think, my stereo receiver.

I got the receiver and a dual tape-deck when I was 10 or 12, I think. I got a CD player a couple of years later for Christmas. (Pat was suppose to build me some nice speakers that year, too; The speakers, et al. are probably in a box in my parent's garage. I'm still waiting.) The tape-deck died a few years ago. A tape got stuck in the recording side and then the non-recording side stopped working. About that time I got one of the converter things to plug into your portable CD player and put the tape in the car tape deck, so I didn't need to make tapes of anything anymore. I finally tossed it. The receiver works great. Twice a weld came loose and I lost the left channel. First time I knew someone who found the problem and fixed it for free; the second time I got it fixed at a local repair shop. I bet they thought I was crazy or maybe impressed at my antique audio equipment. (They think that's old they should see one pair of speakers I have.)

In terms of old stuff I use a lot. My bed is an antique brass bed and it gets used every night (and all day by my dog). The desk my computer sits on is also antique but with some bits replaced. My stereo system is 30 (speakers) to 17 (CD player) years old.

Hey, my T.V. is at least 8 years old, does that make it antique?

F = 0?

I've got Stop Homework in my Google Reader and there was a link in the post today to this article about why teachers shouldn't give a zero for an F in the 100 point system. And I have to say, ummmm, you missed the point a bit.

The authors agree that a 0 for an F in a typical 4-point GPA scale makes sense and I agree. But then they say that because it is ten points from A to B, B to C, and C to D in the 10 point/100 point scale often used in schools*, that it should be 10 points from D to F. The reason being that A is to B as 90 is to 80. I disagree.

The 4-point GPA scale is an attempt at a proportional scale. The 100 point scale isn't. I've always understood that the idea behind the 100 point scale is the "grade" represents the percentage of the information the student learned. If you answer 90% of the questions right on a test than you get a "90" and and "A"; if you earn 85% of the points, you get an "85" and a "B". (There is debate about whether mastering 70-79% of the material is truly "average" and deserving of a "C" but that's another question all together.) If you master only 50% of the information on a test then you are, or have been, considered failing with respect to that material. So is correctly answering 40%, or 22.5%, or 5% of the questions. It is very possible to earn less than 50% of the points on a given assignment.

There are problems with this system. A very low grade on one test can make it harder to pull one's grade up with later test scores (20, 70, and 90 give an average of 60, while 50, 70, and 90 give an average of 70) but if the goal is for the final grade to somehow represent the amount of information learned (particularly versus the amount instructed) than the 20 shouldn't become a 50 to maintain the proportionality of the letter grades. There is also a problem when an assignment is given a letter grade and not a numerical grade; in that case 100, 90, 80,70, 60, 50, and 0 may be the only appropriate numerical grades. 100 would be for an assignment that far exceeds standards, 90 exceeds, etc. with the 50 for the assignments that completely fail to meet standards and a 0 for failure to do a the assignment. I don't have much problem giving zeros for failure to do an assignment.

When I taught, as best I can recall, never gave a zero except in the case of no assignment turned in or cheating. If a student attempted to do an in class or homework assignment (and by "attempted" I mean they turned something in that had more than just their name on it) than that student got some points.) With one class I would vary the grading from simply a completion grade, number correct, and half-and-half on classwork/homework assignments to actually get them to do the work rather than just write down random things and turn it in. (They didn't care about their grades as long as they didn't, at report card time, get an "F". Very frustrating.) With the other classes their classwork/homework grades were based on the number of correct answers. I gave partial credit. I worked hard to get my kids points but sometimes there just weren't any to be had.

The long and short of it is, IMHO, the GPA scale and the 100 point scale are trying to measure or represent two different things. One is reasonably proportional the other a percentage.

A little on my grading philosophy: I used a modified "point pot" system in that each classwork/homework assignment, test, lab, and quiz was assigned a point value, usually one or two points per question except labs which were 10 or 20 points each. I calculated averages for each category (classwork, tests, quizzes, labs) by dividing points earned by points possible, and then used those averages to calculate their grade by weighting tests and classwork equally (30% each) and quizzes and labs equally (20% each). If a student had a passing test or classwork grade they would not get an F, even if mathematically that was the grade calculated. I believe that if a kid tries, (i.e. does the classwork) he shouldn't get a failing grade and if a kid knows the material whether he does any classwork/homework at all, he should not get a failing grade. I might not have given the student exactly the same grade as the classwork or test grade but he was guaranteed not to fail (i.e. 90% test, 10% classwork, 90% quiz, 10% lab scores might get a 85/B instead of a 51. Never happened, so, moot point.) I also tried to make sure my tests were fair and while I usually didn't do a rigorous item analysis (hard to do with only 12 students, max, per subject) I did throw out questions and/or give points back for bad questions.

*Just a little aside- The school district I grew up in had a "hard" grading scale. 100-94 A/4, 93-90 B+/3.5, 90-84 B/3,...,63 and below F. When I moved to Alabama my two C+s became Bs and my numerous B+s became As, and did that ever help my GPA. But to this day a 63 is failing to me.

04 January 2008

Guilty Pleasures

Since I can't come up with 101 things about me that I'd want the world to know I guess I'll have to write about guilty pleasures. I'll try and make this less rambling and make more sense than my what makes me sad post.

Reading and sleeping: Like all day in bed reading and sleeping, not showering until 3 in the afternoon, kind of reading and sleeping. I also take long showers, even when I try and rush. So it can be 4 or 5 o'clock before I'm presentable on a Saturday or Sunday. But I can usually only do this one day of the weekend, I just can't sleep that late on Sunday if I slept half of Saturday.

Food: When I'm feeling particularly crappy I'll get a bag of Doritos and a tub of Dean's French Onion dip for supper. I try and get the small tub that way I don't eat quite as much; the low-fat stuff is awful. I buy a lot of convenience foods and junk food. I like veggies and fruit but they go bad. Cooking takes energy. Mac 'n Cheese I can throw in the microwave and eat in 20 minutes.

Self pity: The biggest one of all. It isn't so much that I enjoy feeling sorry for myself, it's more that I'm used to it and sometimes I just want to feel something. So I'll watch a romantic comedy and cry because I don't have script writers on my side; or watch the news and cry because how can I feel bad when I've had it so easy... (Kinds' makes me want Doritos and French onion dip for lunch.)

03 January 2008

Some pictures

I keep thinking of a post topic and then forgetting it again. So here are some pictures from recently.

My kitties have become quite the home bodies since they got chicken for Christmas. Canned food never got this response.

Irish is never home during the day. She hangs out at my parent's house where, presumably, the hunting is better. But here she is between Stubby and Q-Tip hoping for food in the middle of the day.

It's been cold.

Christmas at Matt's.
Christmas at Matt's

02 January 2008

Favorite meal

Corn meal. Definitely corn. You can't eat meal worms. Or lupper* (or is it sunch?), particularly Thanksgiving dinner which is, at my home, around luppertime.

Or Doritos and Dean's brand French onion dip. Oh wait, that's a guilty pleasure, different post.

*when the main meal of the day( i.e. "dinner") falls mid-afternoon instead of mid-day or evening.


My friend Honu-Girl invited me to join this blogging challenge thingy where we pick three out of four topics to write about each week. So here goes - Something that makes me sad.

This morning of Morning Edition, they were continuing their series of talking to people along I-10 about the election. One woman in Sorona, TX was saying that immigration was an important issue for her because it is so hard for Americans to get on welfare or food stamps, and she knows because she's been on welfare in the past. While I don't doubt that when she had to jump through a fair number of hoops to get aid its not because of illegal immigrants. (Or for that matter legal immigrants either.) I am sorry that this woman has hit rough patches in her life and had to deal with the frustrations and, sometimes, humiliations of getting public assistance. It saddens me to know that she thinks the difficulties in getting that aid were do to immigrants. And because it was her personal experience it will be much harder to convince her otherwise.

It is an unfortunate part of human nature that we often put extra weight on personal experience over the experience of others or measurable facts. It is understandable but unfortunate. For example, I avoided red velvet cake for years because a friend of my grandmother's made one for her birthday one time and it was awful (rancid butter was the best explanation we could come up with). Now I'm not a fan of cream cheese icing, which is traditional on a RVC, but that's never stopped my from eating carrot cake, so I can't really use that as an excuse. I was just afraid to try it again. Then I found out it was basically devil's food cake with red food coloring added and decided it was probably worth a second try. I knew the bad taste of that cake had nothing to do with the type of cake but rather a bad ingredient but I still avoided red velvet cakes. I'm an intelligent well-educated science-y person but I could still rationalize it away. How can I expect someone who is possibly less educated or less used to thinking in terms of dry facts and numbers to ignore personal experience? Particularly when we are dealing with something as complicated as immigration (or taxes, oil independence, climate change, the Economy,...).

Every four years I hear people talk about "the issues" and which candidates they prefer and listen to journalist talk about how different groups of people vote. And I wonder why do people not vote in their own best interest? And my answer is always single-issue voters (i.e. nut-sos) and lack of understanding.