Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Day 35 -- Jogger's Progress

Five miles today. My progress so far:

Starting PlaceRockefeller Plaza, NY
Ending PlaceI-76 PA, mp 290

Goal for March: 100 miles. I think I can do it. I've got a couple more weekdays to work with in March, and if it starts to get warm, I can even run on weekends. The only thing that might throw me off is Spring Break.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler dies at 58

What terribly sad news. One of my absolute favorite writers, Octavia Butler, has died after a fall outside her home. She was a remarkable, original voice. I've read almost all her books multiple times, and I've read Kindred at least four times. My copy is getting old and worn out from loaning it to people with the instruction that they just have to read this. According to the piece in the Post-Intelligencer, this was one of her most popular novels, and has become a "staple" of college and high school courses. I never knew that. I never knew anyone but me (and the friends I've foisted it on) had ever read it. I'm glad, because it's a novel that deserves to be read.

If you are not familiar with Butler's work, I highly recommend it. Start with Kindred. Or Wild Seed. Or Parable of the Sower. Or Dawn. Or, well, with lots of stuff.

I'm terribly sad to think that she won't be producing any more of these uncommon books. The world is a sadder place for it, I think.

Via Hugo Schwyzer

Things were always getting worse

I haven't really been reading anything consistently lately. I've just been grazing, because I haven't found the time to get into a good book. So the other day I picked up a copy of Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?, which just happened to be laying on my shelf. This is her first book, published in 1991, and it is full of her peculiar brand of political humor, almost entirely aimed at targets no longer on the scene.

It's really strange to look back on the Reagan and Bush I years, and realize that a whole hell of a lot of the things we were complaining about then, we are still complaining about now. I wasn't a big fan of Reagan, but I wasn't as politically aware then as I am now. I've had the feeling lately that this last six years have been the political low point of U.S. history, but now I'm not so sure.

Ivins even says that.
Things are not getting worse; things have always been this bad. Nothing is more consoling than the long perspective of history. It will perk you up no end to go back and read the works of progressives past. You will learn therein that things back then were also terrible, and what's more, they were always getting worse. This is most inspiring.

So maybe she's right. Perhaps in years to come, we'll look back at the W presidency and say, "Gosh, we sure did have it good back then."

Day 34 -- Reading

Today, I ran 5.3 miles, taking me past the exit for Reading. I was surprised to find a Japanese pagoda in Reading, Pennsylvania. I was even more surprised to find out that it wasn't built by a Japanese. It was built in 1908 by Reading quarry owner William Abbot Witman, Sr., apparently because he liked the look. The story of the Pennsylvania Pagoda is on RoadsideAmerica.com.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Best Analogy Award goes to....

StyleyGeek, for her memorable performance in Warning: too much early morning can be hazardous to your analogies.

Could you pass 8th grade math?

I couldn't resist this one. I expect a report from all my readers. (All both of them.)

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Another Lost Weekend

I have got to cut down somehow. It seems like I spent all weekend grading, and I'm still not done! I got the stats exams graded, and the Linear Algebra quizzes. I cheated on the LA homework, and just gave everyone points for doing it. I can do that as long as I don't do it too often, or they quit trying to make sense. I got the latest round of Modern Algebra homework done, but I still have two weeks worth of rewrites to do. And they have more to hand in tomorrow! AAAAAAAAAGH!

I am rethinking the rewrite system in Modern Algebra. It seemed like a good idea, and I think it's helping the good students, but the bad students are abusing the system. They aren't even trying the first time, figuring they can always do it over, and maybe I'll give them some help. Perhaps I'm going to start having diminishing grades. So many points for getting it right on the first try, fewer for getting it right on the second, even fewer on the third, and after that, forget it.

We did slip out to the hospital to see the new baby. She's as cute as a bug's ear, and only slightly bigger. It was fun, and I was mad that I had to say, "OK, kiddo, let's go. I've got grading waiting for me at home."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I thought I was done being woken up in the middle of the night by a woman in labor

Our friends James and Rebecca had a baby this morning. They called us at 4:30 so that Mrs. Jogger could come over and stay with their pre-existing kid, Daniel.

The baby's name is Sarah Grace, which I think is just beautiful. Mother and baby are doing fine. Daniel (who is 3.5) is excited. We haven't gotten to see the baby, yet, but we'll try to slip out some time today or tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Day 33 -- Service Plaza

Five miles today brought me past the Peter J. Camiel Service Plaza. It seems to be very nice. It has Sbarro, Roy Rogers, Starbucks, and...Cinnabon. Good thing I'm not really there, or I would have blown my diet.

After six miles yesterday, my legs were tired this morning from the get-go. I just took it slow and steady, which was pretty much the way I took the whole day.

P.S. I cheated. The Cinnabon image above is actually from a mall outside Toronto.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Day 32 -- Plugging Along

I went six miles today. I felt much better after six today than I did after four yesterday. Don't know why.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Day 31 -- Hopewell Furnace

Only 4 miles today. I meant to do 5, but I just pooped out. I thought about walking a couple of laps and then running the last mile, but I was kind of in a hurry. I might make it up tomorrow, but even if I don't, it's a damn sight better than I did last Wednesday, when I slept in.

Four miles was enough to get me to the exit for Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. According to the National Park Service, this is one of the finest examples of a rural American 19th century iron plantation. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster's mansion, and auxiliary structures. Hopewell Furnace was founded in 1771 by Ironmaster Mark Bird. The furnace operated until 1883.

Primarily an area that is significant for its cultural resources, Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the List of Classified Structures, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is surrounded by French Creek State Park which preserves the lands the furnace utilized for its natural resources.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More on Algebra

In this post, I suggested that there might be a good argument for not requiring algebra for high school graduation. Mahablog has proven me right.

She and some of her commenters talk about their experiences as people who just can't do math. Whether that's a full-fledged learning disability, or simply a matter of bad instruction at some level, it's clear (and I've always known) that there are people like that, many of whom are highly successful at all levels of all sorts of jobs. I would be the last person to argue that algebra is the one true dividing line between intelligent people and the lowly masses. Surely, there are people who are better off getting a high school degree without algebra than not getting one at all.

Which, of course, raises the whole question of our "one size fits most" educational system. There is nothing -- nothing -- in any high school course or curriculum that I can point to and say "That particular thing is indispensible." Any single thing could reasonably be left out, and the student could have a sound education, the basis for outstanding success in their chosen field. But, once we start leaving out, where do we stop? There have to be some requirements.

I certainly don't propose to answer this question. Ideally, everyone would be internally motivated at all levels of learning, and they would learn what they wanted when they wanted or needed it, and no one would have to impose any requirements at all. Here in the real world, it doesn't work that way. We need to decide what we are going to require, and hopefully we will be able to articulate the reasons for that requirement.

I also agree that whatever we require, we have an obligation to teach it well, and that there are an awful lot of bad math teachers out there. Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of bad teachers of all subjects. Could a great teacher (not naming any names, but you are welcome to speculate on who I have in mind) have helped Maha and turned her into a brilliant mathematician, or even just into someone who can do percents? I don't know.

Maha suggests that Richard Cohen has his tongue in his cheek when he wrote the original article. If that's the case, I apologize for misconstruing him. In my defense, I'll say that it's a long way from "Perhaps some people can get by without algebra" to "You'll never need algebra."

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Some random thoughts from today's Stats exam...

  • I am having a hell of a time getting the names in one section. Not all of them, just one group of women. I have three Emilys, two Ambers, and two Amandas. Those names just feel too similar to me. If it were three Emilys, two Tiffanys and two Brookes, it would be a lot easier on my old brain. (Did I mention that there is also one Ashley in that section?)
  • I have a separate cover sheet and an exam sheet. I staple them all together at the end, but in case I run out of staples (or forget my stapler entirely), each has a blank at the top for their name, helfully labelled "Name:" I had four separate students ask if I wanted them to put their name on it, thereby disproving the old adage that there are no stupid questions. I am at a loss for an answer that is not too smart ass.
  • One student, on her way out, said, "Thank you." Excuse me? "Thank you" for what? For giving an exam? For giving one that wasn't too hard? Until proven otherwise, I'm assuming that she meant "Thank you for being such a fantastic teacher."
  • I handed back a paper today. It's fairly unusual to have a paper in a math class, so on the day I assigned it, I gave out a full page handout explaining the assignment, and I took some time to talk about why I assigned it, and what I expected. The next class day, I went in and talked about it a second time, clarifying some of the things that people had asked about. It was due the next class day, and I asked them to hand it in. As I gave the papers back, I asked one student why he hadn't done it. His reply: "I didn't know about it." And no, he hasn't missed a day. I checked.

Day 30 -- Plugging Along

It's a good thing that I committed yesterday to running five times this week. Otherwise, I would have been sorely tempted to take today off. As it was, I made my 5.3 and packed it in.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Day 29 -- Valley Forge

Actually, Valley Forge is the same exit as King of Prussia, but it's 14 miles to the next exit, so what the heck?

Another 5.3 miles today. My minigoal for the week is 5x5: five times, at least five miles each.

Image from Daniel E. Markle's Gallery.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Value of Algebra

Via Pharyngula, a nice little screed against the requiring of high school algebra by Richard Cohen. Cohen's argument is hardly new. I remember reading a similar such column back in the late 80's in a kind of a portable Internet we had back then called a "newspaper". I cut it out and assigned my math majors to write a rebuttal. Pharyngula takes it down nicely, so I probably won't add anything to what he already said, but why should I let that stop me?

I absolutely love this statement from Cohen:
You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it.

It takes a certain measure of hubris to assume that anything that you don't know is inherently worthless. I can think of no end of things that I don't know, but that I'm glad someone does. I can do nothing more mechanically sophisticated than change the windshield wipers on my car, but I'm awfully glad that my mechanic can. I can't drill a tooth, and have no desire to learn, but I don't think I'd tell a high school student that it's a useless skill. I can't perform brain surgery, don't have the courage to be a cop or a fire fighter, and have no interest in accounting, but I think that Mr. Cohen would agree that the people who do these things have a certain benefit to society.

Another gem:
Writing is the highest form of reasoning. This is a fact. Algebra is not. The proof of this, Gabriela, is all the people in my high school who were whizzes at math but did not know a thing about history and could not write a readable English sentence.

I can't quite understand how a person who makes his living at the "highest form of reasoning" can be quite so unclear on what a "fact" is. It could just be me, but that looks an awful lot like an "opinion." And just how does the existence of people who can do algebra but who cannot write well "prove" that writing is somehow more important? If I am reading it right, his reasoning seems to be something like: "Some people can do algebra but can't write. Therefore, writing is harder. Therefore, it's a higher form of reasoning." This is particularly puzzling since Cohen sets himself up as an example of a person who can read and write well but not do algebra. So isn't he equal evidence that math is the "highest form of reasoning"?

I know, I'm a math teacher, and therefore Cohen can dismiss me as a partisan. Unlike him, I haven't the mental capacity or the intestinal fortitude to make a living at the highest form of reasoning, so I have to content myself with torturing students with word problems about people mowing the lawn.

The thing is, I sort of assume that one of the values of educating people is to expose them to new ideas. I sometimes have this argument with members of the faculty at my own University who argue that our math requirement is too stringent. "How would you like it," they say, "if we required your students to take more humanities courses?" My answer is, "Great idea!" I think math majors should learn to write and to speak, and should learn a broad variety of types of knowledge. I no more want them to graduate with exposure to only math and science than I want the English and Art majors to graduate with no such exposure. Cohen's friend Shelly who can't find the Gobi desert appals me just as much as Gabriella, who presumably has intellectual talents, but can't pass algebra.

I think that there is an argument to be made for requiring less math of some students. Here in Wisconsin, our governor has suggested a minimum requirement of three years of math for graduation from high school. Quite frankly, my department has some concerns about this requirement. We certainly don't want it to lead to a dumbing down of the curriculum to reach the poorest students, which thereby sends the best students on to college with even less of the required knowledge. I think that one could argue that it is not in Gabriella's best interest to keep her from graduating from high school based on this requirement. But if there's such an argument to be made, Cohen sure hasn't made it.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Day 28 -- King of Prussia

5.3 miles today brings me close to King of Prussia, another cool name for a city. My Google Image search got me the above picture from Consolidated Rail Corporation. I like trains, so I thought I'd pose in front of this one.

Weather in Pennsylvania is nice -- 45 degrees and clear. In Wisconsin, it's cold as hell.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Day 27 -- Plymouth Meeting

Six miles today. I was tryinig to make up for lost time yesterday, but of course I'm still behind. I'm near the exit for Plymouth Meeting, PA, which I thought sounded like a cool place. I dropped in on the Plymouth Meeting Historical Society.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Teaching Carnival

The Sixth Teaching Carnival is up at Science and Politics, and I made the cut. In the last month, I've tagged three or four posts for the Teaching Carnival, hoping that maybe one would make the cut, but Bora seems to have included all of them. This means that either his standards are pretty low, or all four of those posts were brilliant and insightful. I'll let you decide which.

For those of you new to JogAmericaBlog, welcome. Click on "About My Journey" over at the right for the "theme" of this blog, such as it is. If I have any readers of an academic bent who don't know about the Teaching Carnival, check it out. I haven't clicked through all the links, yet, but I see some of my daily reads on there, and I'm looking forward to finding some new gems.

Oh, and the class whose terrible homework inspired this post? They had an exam on Monday, and did really well. Perhaps I don't need to be executed.

Some nuts are nuttier than others

Having declared myself an exercise nut yesterday, I took today off. Mrs. Jogger and I were up late last night talking (Honest!) and I just couldn't get out of bed this morning. I may end up regretting that, because they are promising us a boatload of snow tonight, so I might get snowed in tomorrow. I wonder if it's snowing in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Deadeye Dick

I'm sorry, but I don't understand why the left is crowing over Dick Cheney's hunting accident. Yes, it's mildly funny. I snorted when I read the headline. But there are so many other good things to be mad at this administration for. This just isn't worth worrying about.

I've seen someone whom I otherwise respect suggest that it is an impeachable offense. I've seen lists of hunting rules that he must have broken. I've seen people parsing the reports to figure out what he's covering up. Lots of people seem to think there was some kind of deep, mysterious conspiracy about how long it took to break the news.

It reminds me uncomfortably of how the right treated (and still treat) the Clintons. "They killed Vince Foster!" "They cheated to make money at Whitewater!" "They knocked over a convenience store!"

Cheney had a hunting accident. Forget it. He already has.

Dr. Crazy's Exercise Craze

Dr. Crazy has a post over on Reassigned Time about her exercise and diet. She is doing well, and I'm happy for her.

I have my own perspective on the subject. I've been overweight forever -- since at least middle school, if not before -- and of course I've been up and down. I think my highest measured weight was about 260, when I was in grad school. I got it down to 210, but then slowly crept back up. In January, 2005, I was at 240. I am now experiencing the longest sustained weight loss of my life. I'm down to 186, with basically no upturns in over a year. For me, losing weight has been really, really easy, and really, really hard.

It's been easy, because I haven't had to do any crazy low-carb, high-protein, two-shakes-a-day, half-a-grapefruit-for supper diet. I eat regular food, just less of it. We had lasagna last night. I just finished a small bowl of ice cream. Yes, I've cut down on the greasy stuff, and pumped up the fruits, veggies, and whole grains. But I just eat a balanced, low-calorie diet, and I exercise. (OK, I have become kind of an exercise nut, but there are plenty of ways to get exercise without running from New York to Philadelphia.)

It's been hard because I have to do it every damn day. It's not like, say, finishing my dissertation, where I worked really, really hard, and when I was done, I was done. I didn't have to do it any more. But, like an alcoholic, I am always recovering, and never recovered. I log my calories every day. (I have missed three days so far this year.) I need constant support from my buddies, on-line and off. I know that if I relax and stop thinking about it, I can be back up to 240 just like that.

So to everyone trying to lose weight, good luck. To everyone who has lost some weight and kept it off, I salute you.

Day 26 -- A Quick Four

I ran a quick four miles today. Actually, I ran a really quick two -- 15:20 -- followed by a moderately slow one, followed by a really slow one. But I finished four miles in 31:20 overall, which isn't too shabby.

I figure that I'm still in the greater Philly area, if not actually in Philadelphia, so it's not too late for a generic skyline shot. I don't think this is the right angle. I'm west of the city, and I think this is from the east. And I might be standing in the water. Oh, well.

Photo source.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Winter Games

Mrs. Jogger and I are dutifully watching the Winter Olympics. I have decided that the bulk of the games fall into one of two categories.

Speed events. These are nice and clean. Whoever gets to the bottom of the hill (or around the oval) first wins. The problem is, they don't all go at once. So the only way to tell who's winning is to watch the little timer in the corner. Other than that, the visuals are all the same. Honestly, if you showed me the worst luge run of the night, with a little timer showing the guy beating the leading time, I'd never know it. They all look the same to me.

Judged events. These are interesting. People do different things. This pair does a graceful routine; that one does something more up tempo. Included in this are a lot of the new sports: snowboarding and moguls and freestyle skiing. The problem is, I don't know how to judge them. So I have to wait for the judges to tell me whether the routine was any good.

A couple of events don't fit into either category. Hockey, of course, but I don't like watching hockey that much. And short track speed skating. I know, it's a speed event, but everyone who is competing in one heat is on the ice at once. You can tell who's ahead. And they have to jockey for position. I remember an event four years ago where there were four people in the final race. Three of them were duking it out, and the fourth guy was cruising well behind. One guy in the lead slipped and took out the other two, and all of a sudden the schlub is an Olympic Gold medalist. Now that's drama!

Day 25 -- Philadelphia Chickens

Five miles today, and that was a stretch. I was pretty run down by the end. I'm already on I-76, which I'll be on for almost 290 miles, right into Pittsburgh.

Before I left the area, I wanted to put in a plug for one of my favorite children's CDs, Philadelphia Chickens, by Sandra Boynton. This is a wonderful collection of singing cows, lonely dinosaurs, far away cookies, and pets named Bob. I defy you to listen to it without laughing out loud.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

We Interrupt this Blog for a Short Exercise in Self-Flagellation

I am the worst teacher in the history of higher education. I should be fired, if not executed. My assets should be confiscated and distributed evenly among those students so unfortunate as to have had me in class. I should stand up in front of the class and say nothing but wrong things. Then at least when my students got the wrong things wrong, there would be a chance they were right. I suck.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dean Dad on Constructive Failure

Constructive failure results from the rare blend of careful planning, a willingness to take risks, and the universe’s sense of humor. In my teaching days, I used to fail constructively in the classroom all the time. I’d spend weeks preparing a really nifty role-play or simulation, only to have it fall flat in class. It was annoying, but I wasn’t wrong to try it....

Truth be told, many of the most successful teaching moments I had were refinements of earlier failures. The breakthroughs required the failures.

As usual, Dean Dad is insightful and wise. I wish all deans were like him.

Day 24 -- Philadelphia Freedom

I made it! Today I'm in Philadelphia, and I stopped to see the Liberty Bell It's nice to see a real piece of American History.

While I was in Philly, I decided to take in a Sixers game. Man, that AI can play.

It will be a day or two while I run my way out of the area. I might try to find one or two more good photo ops.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An Ego is a Terrible Thing

I am a fair amateur photographer (as you can see from the terrific photos in this blog) and, thanks to a family member who is really into cameras, I have some pretty nice equipment. I enjoy taking pictures, and I like to help out, so I take them for people when I get the chance. I'm the one who takes pictures of the new faculty to put up in our department, for instance. My photos are on several web sites, including all over our church's web site.

So last night, the church youth group called me up and asked me to take photos of the couples at the Sweetheart's Dinner this weekend. I've done that in the past, and I was pleased with the results. But it's kind of short notice, and I've learned never to say "Yes" right away, because I get myself into too much trouble doing that. So I said, "Let me think it over and talk to Mrs. Jogger, and I'll get back to you." And I went about what I was doing, sort of convincing myself that I was too busy, and the notice was too short, and I'm sorry, but I'll just have to let them down easy.

So a half hour later, they called me up and said, "Never mind, we found someone else to do it." So of course I'm going, "What's the matter? I'm not good enough for you?"

Math Colloquium and Career Paths

I am organizing our Math Colloquium this year. Every other week (or so) we have a speaker give a talk of general interest to the math community. Much of the faculty usually attends, and quite a few upper level students.

Today was the first Colloquium of the semester, and we had a special guest. Someone from the graduate program in Electrical Engineering at Marquette University called us up and asked for an invitation. Actually, there were two people. One gave a short speil on why you should go to graduate school, in particular to Marquette, and in double particular in Electrical Engineering. Then the other gave a talk on his research.

I admit, I was a little nervous. It wasn't clear to me that he was going to have anything to say that was of interest to math majors. But it was really very interesting. He made a good case that someone with a strong background in math would be interested in his field. Once or twice, I caught him saying something like, "Of course, you know that..." and I didn't know it, and I doubted that any of the students knew it. But it was a good talk, and I know at least one student was interested.

I admit, I got caught up myself. I found myself thinking about how exciting it would be to be young and to still be able to make decisions about where to go and what to learn. When I was that age, I was a terrible purist, eschewing any math that had any application at all. But now I realize how interesting these applications can be. Of course, my brain has entirely fossilized, so I can't actually learn anything new, now.

Day 23 -- Camden

I ran 5.3 more miles today. It felt good. I'm still on the New Jersey side, as far as I can tell. I won't get into Pennsylvania until tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Modern Algebra

No progress today. I slept in, and I'm glad I did. I don't feel too bad, but I'm exhausted, and I don't think I would have made it if I had run.

I'm teaching Modern Algebra this semester, which is an upper level course. It's a very difficult course, that even the best students take seriously, and that the worst students dread. It's fun to teach -- I get to do lots of stuff that I can't do in other classes -- but it's a lot of work. Part of the work is that the students come in all the time.

In general, I like working with students. I often complain when students don't come into my office enough. But man, I've had a steady stream of Modern Algebra students through my office. I counted today, and of 23 students, 18 have been in my office at least once, and ten were in today. That really sucks up your time.

I'm not really complaining. It is fun. And it beats heck out of the alternative, which is never having students come in, and then watching them go down in flames on the tests. So I'll count my blessings.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Day 22 -- Off the Turnpike

I finally left the New Jersey Turnpike today. I don't think I'm quite to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, yet, but I couldn't resist. If I didn't run across it today, I'll do it tomorrow. That is, if I don't sleep in tomorrow. I have picked up a little cold from the little Joggers, and I think tomorrow might be a good day for a break. Running in the morning actually picks me up, but by the end of the day I'm pooped.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Day 21 -- Super Bowl Musings

Made 5.3 miles this morning, positioning me to exit the NJ Turnpike tomorrow. I'm only a couple of miles short of the exit.

Not much to write about the journey today, so I will add a few more random musings about the Super Bowl. Not that anyone asked my opinion or anything.

  • I was disappointed with the way it ended. Less than a minute on the clock and down by two scores, you've got to take a shot at the end zone. Brett Favre would have. Yeah, he would probably have thrown and interception and ended the game right there, but at least he would have gone down swinging. Before the game, Hasselbeck talked about a quarterback having to have a "gunslinger mentality," but when the game was on the line, he went down with his six-shooter still in his holster.
  • A lot of people are talking about the poor officiating, but I really didn't see it. There was the one questionable call on Hasselbeck for blocking low. But the Roethlisberger touchdown was a reasonable call. They replayed it a billion times, and it was really, really close. The official on the field made the best call he could, and there was no evidence on the replay that he was wrong. Touchdown. And Darrell Jackson pushing off of Chris Hope? You gotta call that. Jackson's arm was extended and his hand was on Hope, creating separation. That's a foul. The replay showed it wasn't a hard shove, but that's not what the rule says.
  • I think Hines Ward was not the MVP. It was hard to pick an MVP. No one really stood out as making a lot of big plays. Really the MVP should have gone to a defensive player, because the defense won the game. If you have to give it to an offensive player, how about Willie Parker? He set a Super Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage, and that score changed the momentum permanently from a tight game to Seattle playing catch-up.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Sunday Steeler Blogging

Well, that was a fun game. I was rooting for the Steelers, but just barely. My Dad, Grandpa Jogger, was a big Steelers fan. He grew up in the Ohio River valley, and rooted for the Steelers and the Pirates. My first memories of pro football are of watching the Steelers win the Super Bowl in the 70's.

I have nothing against the Seahawks. Some Packers fans are still mad at Mike Holmgren for leaving, but I don't blame him. He did what he had to do. I still respect him as a coach, and I like the Seahawks in general. They seem like a well-balanced, hard-playing team.

The 11-year-old little Jogger and her 10-year-old friend were much amused by Mick Jagger prancing around the stage at halftime. The Stones are a little before my time, and I admit I was never much of a fan. It was fun to see them through the kids' eyes. "Who are these old guys, and what do they think they are doing?"

In honor of a Steelers victory, I've decided that the next leg of my trip, after the Liberty Bell, will be to Pittsburgh to visit Heinz Field. It's 308 miles, meaning that it will take me some three or four months.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Heavy Grading

Why do I do these things to myself? I have, this weekend, homework to grade in all my classes, plus quizzes in Stats and Modern Algebra. (Not to mention that I have to look at three big thick applications for a teaching award.) The worst is the Modern Algebra homework. This is a heavy proof course, and the students are not good at writing proofs. At the beginning, I want to give them plenty of feedback, so I am reading every word of every proof for every student. Yuck. It is very, very, very, very slow going.

We're also trying to get the house straightened up, because we've got a couple of families coming over tomorrow to watch the Super Bowl. So I admit I'm not in a real good mood.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Day 20 -- Prison Museum

I ran a quick 3 miles this morning. I had to get to school early, because I needed to get some work done, and I expected (and got) a load of students.

I'm pretty close to Mount Holly, so I thought that I should stop in to the Historic Prison Museum. The Burlington County Prison Museum is a National Historic Landmark located in historic Mount Holly. Designed by Robert Mills, one of America 's first native-born and trained architects, the Burlington County Prison was completed in 1811. One of Robert Mills' first designs as an independent architect, the interior vaulted ceilings of poured concrete and brick and stone construction made the building virtually fireproof. In fact, it was so well constructed that it remained in constant use until 1965. Can't beat that with a stick.

I'm pretty firmly in the Philly suburbs at this point. I'm about 20 miles out from the Liberty Bell, so I should get there next week.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Day 19 -- New Jersey Fun Facts

Did you know that New Jersey has the highest population density of any state. There are 1134.4 people per square mile in New Jersey. Rhode Island (1003.2) is the only other state over 1000. Source. This despite the fact that New Jersey doesn't have a single one of the 50 largest U.S. cities. Source. Of course, New Jersey gets a lot of urban sprawl from both New York (number 1) and Philadelphia (number 5). The main thing is that New Jersey, unlike New York State, California, or Texas, doesn't have vast expanses of sparse population.

If Washington, D.C. ever becomes a state, New Jersey slips to a distant second. There are about 9900 people per square mile in D.C. Source.

By the way, I ran 5.3 miles today.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Speaking of Absent Students....

It really bugs me when a student comes to class once and then disappears. I know. Students change their schedule. They change their major. They find out that they have to take PoliSci 143 (Intro to Hypocracy) this semester, because it won't be offered in the fall. But I just can't help thinking, "Boy, that first class must have sucked."

Professors and Students

I know that there are some academic types who read this blog. I'd like your perspective on an issue that's been turning over in my mind. It has to do with how professors deal with students.

My colleague across the hall -- let's call her Dr. J -- will telephone students who have been missing from her class and tell them to get their act in gear. I would never do that. About the closest I've ever come is e-mailing a student who has been missing for a month to remind them about the approaching drop deadline.

Dr. J also asks questions of her students that I would never think to ask. She asks how many hours they work, how they arrange their schedules, how many credits they are carrying. And if she doesn't like the answers, she'll tell them. "I don't think you will be able to pass this course unless you drop some activity." The other day she was telling me about telling a student that he should be taking notes in her class.

All this, for me, comes firmly under the heading of None Of My Business. I honestly wouldn't even notice who is taking notes. I don't worry about people's work schedules or their other courses. I assume that they are old enough to make choices, and if they make poor ones, they will fail. When a student brings it up -- "I've been working 40 hours a week lately and I'm carrying 18 credits, so I couldn't make it you your class." -- I listen sympathetically, but pretty much hold them to my expectations. Too bad, so sad. When you repeat this course, you'll have to make more time for it.

So, what do you think? Am I a hardass? Is Dr. J coddling her students? Or are we just different points along a spectrum of valid approaches to students? Or what?

Day 18 -- February Goal

I ran 5 miles today. I tried neither for extra distance nor for extra speed. It felt good.

I decided on a February goal. I'm going to try to match the 85.1 miles that I ran in January. There are 20 potential running days in February (assuming that it's not going to warm up enough for me to run outside on the weekends, or that if it does, I'm going to pretend not to notice.) If I can average 5 miles a day, I need to run 17 of those days.

I should be able to do that, provided that I stay healthy and not too many kids keep me up on too many nights.