Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh Spammer, Where is Thy Sting?

I don't understand spam. Everybody hates it. People spend big money trying to figure out how not to get it. So why bother? I understand that it's a relatively cheap form of advertising. But if the return is zero, it's still too expensive.

I suppose that the return isn't actually zero. For every 100,000 messages they send out, they probably get one hit, and for every 200,000 hits, they make a sale. Which covers their costs.

Still, why go to a lot of trouble to force it down people's throats? Why try to get around their spam filters? If they set up spam filters, they aren't going to buy anything. So leave them alone!

I felt the same way about the National Do Not Call list. The telemarketing companies were against it, but I couldn't see why. The government is compiling a list of people who aren't worth your time. Isn't that great? I wish the government would step in and compile a list of students who aren't going to study, and then we could simply not admit them. But no, the telemarketing companies held out hope that if they could just get through to these people, theirs would be the one offer that the customer decided to pursue.

I bring all this up because my comments have been spammed. I'm set up so that someone comments, I get e-mail. Look through the recent posts, and you'll see that this isn't exactly threatening to bust my inbox. So today I got a comment that said "Looking for information and found it at this great site.. and went on to list a bunch of semi-random words and phrases (ones that I think they expected would be googled fairly often, like "weight loss" and "chicago cub") each with a link. I don't know where the link goes, because I haven't clicked on it.

I thought that I would try to figure out how to erase this blight, but here's the thing: I can't find it. It wasn't added to any of my posts in November. Or October. So they attached it to some post at least two months old. I'm sure they weren't expecting anyone to actually notice it. It's all part of some clever plot to defeat some search engine's algorithm by creating a bunch of phantom links to their site. I'm sure someone out there understands it, but not me.

I still don't get the point. Suppose that this plan works, and their site rises high on the list of sites that Google returns for "chicago cub." So they get people who are trying to find out something about the Cubs, and these people go to their site. Then what happens? They curse and click the back button. Nobody is going to stay and buy something because tricked them into being there. So why do it?

A Message of Hope

I just got a call from my sister. She has had one of her sermons posted on the web site of a world famous magazine. Well, no, not quite. The magazine is something called The Wittenberg Door, a religious satire magazine. I suggested that there may be a reason why it's not up there in circulation with Sports Illustrated. Anyway, I wondered whether or not to link to it, which is a kind of a compromise to my pseudo-anonymity. Then I read it. I'm a totally unbiased observer, of course, and I have to say that it's a damn good piece. But don't take my word for it. Go read it yourself.

Day 235 -- Jogger's Progress

Time7 days, 15 hrs, 14 min

Considering the way that it started out, it wasn't a bad month. It was my lowest mileage since April. Interestingly, I had two fewer days in August, but 15 more miles. Of course, in August it was easier for me to get out running and just run as long as I wanted.

My goal for next month? I'm not sure. I'd like to at least match this month -- 23 days and 110 miles. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Day 234 -- Melcher-Dallas

Here you see the good people of Cherry Creek Acres on their way to pick up a lucky couple to take to the prom in Melcher-Dallas, Iowa. Melcher-Dallas is somewhat west of where I am now, but it's within spitting distance, so I thought it was fair. Also, one of these horses has the same name as one of the Little Joggers, which is a good a reason to post them as any.

I ran 4.4 miles today outside. It looks like that will do it for running outside for a while. We have a horrible sleety slushy cold front coming through, which threatens to turn into snow.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Day 233 -- Knoxville, Iowa

Knoxville, Iowa, is home to the Knoxville Raceway and the Sprint Car Hall of Fame. At some times of the year, there is much ado as Sprint Car fans from all over (all over the state? all over the country? all over the world?) flock to Knoxville to watch people in little cars go around and around and around and around and around and... I, personally, am not much of a race fan, so I've never been. But I hear that it's very nice.

Five miles today. It was raining, so I went indoors. It's now supposed to turn cold, so I may not be out much for the next little while.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jogger v. the Whiny Student

Bear with me; this might be a long post.

I have blogged about this student before. He's been a pain in the ass all semester, because he's a uniquely irritating combination of outspoken and lazy. He never does any work, but he's quite willing to jump in and say "I don't understand what you are doing." Most student who ask for help that much are at least willing to work in between questions, and most student who do so little work are at least sensible enough to keep quiet about it.

So now we are exchanging e-mails on what his potential grade is. Here is his opening salvo...

I will be in tomorrow morning bright and early at 8am to go over my grade with you, and for us to come up with a plan together of how I can pass this class with a C. It is very, very important to me despite bombing the last exam. I want to finish the year with two 90s or better on the exams.

He didn't come in. I looked at his grades, and determined that two 90's on the remaining exams would bring him up to almost a D. I prepared what I thought was a reasonably level response.

The main thing that you have to do to get your grade up is to start working on the HW. It's too late for you to get a really good grade on that portion of the course, but every little bit helps. I truly believe that doing the HW will help you prepare for the exams. The exam questions aren't taken from the HW, but they cover the same ideas.

A C is a long shot at this point. There's just too much damage. However, if you perform well on the remaining exams, and get your HW and quiz scores up, you might pull off a D.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.

The original response was quite a bit snarkier, including a gripe about not showing up when he said he would. But I toned it down.

He came back with:

so you're telling me if I give it everything i've got and get an A on the final showing I know and understand all the covered material in the class, and get an A on the last exam I will still end up with a D? That just doesn't seem too fair to me because it should ultimately be about learning the material, not about how well you take tests in my opinion. Personally, I'm all for throwing the spreadsheet out, spending hours in the math lab and with you in your office hours learning the material and clearing up the conceptions, and finishing strong, deserving a C.

OK, now I'm starting to get mad. (This is a total lie. I've been mad at this guy for weeks. Now I'm starting to not care that he knows it.) I wrote a lengthy response, which I will resist the urge to quote in full. The two main points are (1) there's a lot of assessment that goes on that isn't covered on the final, and (2) I don't want to make a special exception to my grading scheme for someone who has done so little work. The last paragraph went:

The bottom line is that when the signals are flashing and the whistle is blowing, you can't blame the wreck on the train. You could have -- should have -- seen this coming all semester. I'm sorry that you didn't.

He's still not done. His response:

I guess this doesn't make a lot of sense to me because professors are supposed to want students to pass their classes....

I almost can't type because I can't see through the steam coming out of my ears. Here it is, my fault, because I don't want badly enough for the student to succeed.

My response:

No, professors are supposed to want students to learn the material. Passing and learning are related, but not identical. I do want you to learn this material, and I have serious doubts about your ability to do it well enough in the next month to earn a C.

[I give an explanation of just how deep a hole he is in.]

So it comes down to this: If you work hard and study your ass off, you might pull your average up to 58% or 59%. In that case, I will strongly consider giving you a D, rather than the F that the syllabus assigns. But the only way for you to get a C is for me to make major modifications to the grading scheme, and I'm not going to do that.

I know that your grade is important to you, and I'm not particularly anxious to make you take this course again. But you should start planning for what you are going to do if you earn an F or a D in this course, because those are really the only two serious possibilities.

No doubt he'll come back with even more whining.

So, why am I posting all this? Partly out of a sense of frustration. Partly so that someone will pat me on the back and say, "Poor baby. What a crummy student you have."

I hate to say it, but I really will enjoy giving him an F. That's pretty rare for me. Usually, I feel sorry for students who get F's, rather than anything else. But this guy has just gotten my goat. I just hope he manages to take the course with someone else some time in the future.

technorati tag:

And on the twelfth day, Jogger rested....

I skipped running this morning. I was working on a streak of 11 days in a row. But I rolled out of bed, took a personal inventory, and rolled the heck back into bed. Oh, well.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Day 232 -- Lake Red Rock

I finally ran the eight miler that I've been promising myself for three weeks. It felt pretty good. I was tired, but not exhausted. Eight miles carried me across Red Rock Dam, south of Pella. This is actually a photo of two of the Little Joggers taken a Lake Red Rock a year or so ago. I don't think it's quite that cold out there today, which is just as well, if I'm going to be standing around in shorts.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Day 231 -- Grandma Jogger's House

Three miles today took me just about exactly to Grandma Jogger's house. Actually, I think I got there, stopped to rake a few leaves and clean out the gutters, and ran back to the corner of Elm and Broadway. Can't dilly-dally. I'm on my way down to Kansas City to visit Tracie.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Day 230 -- Pella, Iowa

Five miles today brings me to Pella, Iowa, the closest thing that I have to a home town. I lived in various places growing up, but I went to high school and college here in Pella, and Grandma Jogger still lives here. I'm coming in from the south east, and she lives in the north west, so I still have almost three miles to run to get to her house. In fact, I haven't passed either of the landmarks pictured here, but I only know that because this is my home town. I'm quite sure that I never come within miles of some of the photo ops that I post from other town that I don't know so well.

Above, the chapel at my Alma Mater. Mrs. Jogger and I were married in this building, almost 20 years ago. (I don't know why the photo is crooked. Try tilting your head a little.) Below, the Molengracht, a sort of faux-Old World shopping district in downtown Pella. Pella is a town of Dutch heritage, and is quite proud of this fact. This is the largest windmill in North America. It's by no means the only windmill in Pella. There are lots of windmills, Dutch fronts, and, every spring, a Tulip Festival.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Day 229 -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the U.S. Happy Fourth Thursday in November to everyone else.

I slept in this morning. I wasn't planning to run at all. But by midmorning, I started to notice how nice it was out. Sunny and 44 degrees. By 11:00 I had the itch to run, and so I scratched it. I ran three miles. I didn't even time myself, but I guarantee you that it wasn't very fast. But it was nice to get out and get some exercise.

Grandma Jogger and her housemate arrived for a visit around noon. We had a relatively light lunch, and we'll be pigging out on turkey this evening. Then I'll feel guilty, and I'll have to run again tomorrow! If I run far enough tomorrow, I can get to Pella before they get home. Then I suppose that I could rake leaves or something to surprise them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Day 228 -- Oskaloosa

I'm a little past Oskaloosa, actually, somewhere out by Leighton, but I didn't want to leave the area without visiting William Penn University. This college I definitely knew was here. There was a big rivalry between Penn and my alma mater, since they are so close together. During the time I was there, the rivalry was dulled by the fact that we were so much better than they were in most sports, but not entirely gone. I don't know what the balance of power is now. In any case, this is me standing on the construction site of the new student activity center. Should I be wearing a hard hat?

I ran intervals today -- 200 m fast, 200 m slow, 200 m fast, etc. I think I'll probably take tomorrow off from running. Somehow, without really having planned it, I have run eight days in a row, ever since I got up from my deathbed last week.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Sixth Grade

Tonight we went to a choir concert at the Middle School. The first Little Jogger is in the choir this year. It was a pretty good concert. They did a lot of good songs, like "Amazing Grace," and "500 Miles," and "Puff the Magic Dragon." (They did Bowdlerize Puff, leaving out the verse where Jackie Paper grows up and Puff sadly slinks into his cave.) I enjoyed it, anyway.

We were there early, watching the kids running around and laughing and nudging each other, and I noticed that the first Little Jogger kind of kept to herself. She's comfortable enough with her friends, but she clearly isn't the kind of kid who just knows everyone and works a room. I got to thinking that it was just about sixth grade that I began to morph into a real geek. Up until then, I was just a kid, but sixth grade is when the cool kids start to sort themselves out, and I wasn't one. I don't recall that I enjoyed it much. I hope that the first Little Jogger won't have it quite as rough as I did. But I know that she's going to have to live her own life, and that I won't be able to protect her.

The D-List

As seen at Addy N.'s blog:

D-List Blogger

There is no F-list. Nowhere to go but up, I guess.

Day 227 -- University Park

University Park, just east of Oskaloosa, Iowa, is home to Vennard College. I can't seem to find the size of this school, but I can tell you that it's small. I went to high school and college twenty miles from here, and I've never even heard of the place! I never would have claimed to have known every little college in Iowa (there are tons of 'em) but I would have thought that I knew every one in Mahaska County. Just shows that you can always learn something, even about your own neighborhood.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Day 226 -- Givin, Iowa

This is some sort of old general store in Givin, Iowa. I don't have a lot of details about it. The Team Mahaska web site has a very thorough photo gallery, but not a lot of captions or anything. (If you're curious about the name, I am now running through Mahaska County, the next county over from where Grandma Jogger lives.)

Three brisk miles this morning, plus weights. I was indoors at the track. I'm going to have to run outside on the weekend, so I'm pampering myself these next three days.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Day 225 -- Eddyville

Greetings from Eddyville, Iowa. According to the Team Mahasaka web site, "With a population of 1064, Eddyville is proud of their good school system." 'Nuf said.

Five miles today, bright and early. It was cold, but not windy, so I was OK.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Day 224 -- Dudley, Iowa

I'm passing somewhere north of Dudley, Iowa, today. I couldn't find any good photos of the Dudley area, but I did find a cute photo of a cat named Dudley that was adopted through the Iowa County Humane Society. That is, of course, Iowa County Wisconsin. So this cat ain't anywhere near where I am on my jogging map. (I was about to say it ain't anywhere near me, but actually, it is. The Iowa County Humane Society is in Dodgeville, just a stone's throw away from where I'm sitting as I type.)

Four miles today, and, if I can make it, I'm shooting for five tomorrow. Then I'll declare myself officially back from my illness, and I'll start in on my regular routine (such as it is) on Monday.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Day 223 -- Chillicothe, Iowa

Chillicothe, Iowa, home of the gravesite of Curtis King, the oldest person to serve in the civil war. The man was 80. Holy Cow! "Mama, can we go visit Grandpa?" "Now, son, you know that he's off fightin' Johnny Reb."

Three miles today, a bit faster than yesterday. I'm coming back.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Day 222 -- Back to Work

I noticed that it was Day 222, and I decided to do a little tribute to Room 222, a show which I am definitely not old enough to remember. Then I realized that only a few days ago I was posing with Radar O'Reilly. Maybe the theme of this blog will switch from posing in front of various landmarks as I move across to the country to posing with various old TV characters. Next week: Gunsmoke.

I did run the two miles that I promised myself today. I decided also that I was going to hold my speed down, so that I was running neither far nor fast. Then I got out on the track and determined that it wasn't going to take any special effort to keep my speed down. If I was moving any slower, I'd have been going backwards. That's OK, though. Tomorrow, I'll go a little farther and a little faster, and pretty soon I'll be back to "normal."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Death Flu Update: It must have been something we ate

On Sunday, we went over to a friend's house to watch the Packers/Vikings game. They served a very nice meal, and we grazed all afternoon. By Tuesday, 10 of the 12 people at the party were sick to their stomachs. The only two who escaped were the baby, who didn't eat any solid food, and the oldest and youngest Little Jogger. I don't know if she skipped something the rest of us ate, or if she just has guts of steel. She did like on Ukranian food for the first ten years of her life.

Anyway, it's mostly out of our systems, now. I feel bad for my friend, who feels terrible about the whole thing. I would tease him about it being just what you'd expect from a Vikings fan, but I don't think that he's in a mood to get teased.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to running, but I think that I'll start out slow and work my way up. Two miles tomorrow. That's my goal.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Martian Death Flu

The Jogger family is deep in the grip of the Martian Death Flu. It started suddenly last night, when the first Little Jogger got Mrs. Jogger out of bed to help clean up a mess. But the time I got out of bed at about 2:00, the littlest Little Jogger and Mrs. J herself were both throwing up. I don't think the medium Little Jogger ever actually threw up, but he had an upset stomach and a headache, so he stayed home from school. I never threw up, either, so I bravely took myself to school first thing, and then thought better of it and slunk back home.

Only the oldest and newest Little Jogger seems to be unaffected by it. It must be that strong Ukrainian genetics.

Needless to say, I didn't run today, and don't plan to run tomorrow. If I am still alive on Thursday, I'll consider it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 221 -- Still More Ottumwa

The Ottumwa, Iowa, web site is thoughtful enough to provide you this image to be a desktop wallpaper. Lord knows, everyone wants an Ottumwa desktop. Alas, it's only 800 x 600, and my screen resolution is higher than that. (By the time Blogger has resized it, who knows what size this is going to be. But if you want the original 800 x 600 image, it's here.)

I ran three miles today, and lifted weights.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


The student who managed to be clueless on the assignment that he had almost two weeks to work on managed to find a solution to his problem. He cheated. Unfortunately, he copied from someone who had made a response that was so spectacularly bad that it was memorable. And of course, once I put the two papers together, the overlap was striking. So now I have to give them each a zero and file the appropriate paperwork. I hate doing that, but I hate even more not doing it.

technorati tag:

Day 220 -- More Ottumwa

One can't visit Ottumwa without metioning Radar O'Reilly, the erstwhile clerk of M*A*S*H 40077. The character of Radar appears in the novel M*A*S*H, and is from Ottumwa. Gary Burghoff is from Connecticutt, and as far as I know, never went near Ottumwa, but is forever destined to be associated with it.

I ran six miles this morning. After a rough week, I didn't want to push myself too hard. So my goal this week is the same as my goal for last week: run every day Monday through Friday, and run 8 miles on the weekend. I didn't make it last week, but perhaps this week, I will.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Accent? I don't have no stinkin' accent!

As seen at Dr. Crazy's.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Yes, I do call carbonated beverages "pop."

In which I vent a little about student work ethic

The last couple of semesters, I've been using a two-class-day timetable for my homework. So if I talk about Section 20 on Monday, the homework is turned in Friday. The idea, of course, is that all the students will work on it Monday and Tuesday, and if there are any problems, we can talk about them in class Wednesday, and they still have time to finish the problems and hand them in on Friday. In execution, of course, not every student quite keeps on schedule.

In Discrete Math this semester, I am trying something a little different with the proofs. The homework that involves writing proofs, they write up once (in two days), I grade it and make comments, and then they type it up formally for more credit (in another two days.) The idea being that I want to instill in them the notion that a good proof should be well-written, and that that usually takes more than one attempt.

So, with the proofs that I collected today, the problems were originally assigned on Monday, October 30. Some students did have some questions about them, so we talked about them in class on Wednesday, November 1. I collected them on Friday, graded them over the weekend, and returned them with instructions to type them up and hand them in on Friday, today.

So, last night when I got e-mail from a student -- a particularly loud-mouthed student, who is always complaining about how darn hard this material is -- saying, basically, "I don't understand this homework at all. Can you give me a little hint," all I could say was "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

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Day 219 -- Ottumwa

I'm not quite to Ottumwa, but there's not much in the area, and I've got several good Ottumwa places I can visit. This is Ottumwa High School, where I have actually been, once in my life. There was a regional speech contest there when I was in High School. As I recall, I got 2's (on a scale of 1 to 3) on both my speeches, which at the time was a disappointment, but now, a mere 25 years later, I'm completely over it.

I didn't run yesterday. My left knee has been giving me a little trouble, and then all of a sudden on Wednesday, my right knee started acting up. So I took yesterday off, which I think was a good idea. Both knees are better today, if not completely normal. I'm afraid I'm going to have to see a physical therapist if they don't settle down.

The big problem with taking a day off is that without my daily shot of endorphins, yesterday was a pretty rough day, particularly in the morning. It didn't help that it was a day of swatting mosquitoes. No big thing to do, but a million little tasks that seemed to multiply even as I got them done. So it was frustrating, but I made it through. Today I ran five miles, and my morning went better.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Importance of Silence

I had a student in my office today. He wasn't one of my regulars. He was pretty confused. My temptation, of course, was to run off at the mouth. "Let's do this example. Let's do that example. Look how easy it is when I do it." But I resisted. He was processing, but he was processing very slowly. So I had to remind myself to just shut up and let him think. It took time. But he got it. I need to remind myself of the importance of silence.

technorati tag:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RfP Wednesday -- Prisoner of Trebekistan

This is a "Reading for Pleasure Wednesday" post that I'll enjoy writing. I've gotten my hands on Prisoner of Trebekistan by Jeopardy! champion and fellow blogger Bob Harris. I had an Amazon gift certificate that I had to use up, that I got from some publisher or someone for filling out a survey or something. So I actually bought a recent book, and Mrs. J got a couple, too.

Prisoner of Trebekistan is laugh out loud funny. Often. I'm just enjoying the hell out of it. The theme, sort of, is how Harris managed to remember all the inane trivia it takes to win on Jeopardy!, and how it felt to do it. But in the meantime, it manages to wander all over the areas of cognitive science, human biology, sociology, and entertainment. In a funny way. Sample sentence: "Believe it or not, your body reacts to stress--virtually any stress--with almost exactly the same biochemical changes it would use to evade a horny ocelot." Now that's literature.

I'm not sure that the memory tips will do me any good. It's all about how to remember useless and unconnected stuff like the Secretaries General of the U.N., or the names of the novels of E.M. Forster. It's great advice, but I don't ever expect to go on Jeopardy!, so I don't know when I'd use it.

In any case, it's good reading. I got it on Monday, and I'm 120 pages into it.

Keeping Wisconsin Safe for Married People -- Somehow

There is much celebration today on some of my favorite blogs. I admit that it's some relief to see things finally swinging the other way. I don't have any illusion that the country is suddenly going to go sane, but perhaps a Democratically controlled house can put a check on some of the most egregious abuses of executive power.

My own celebration is tempered by the fact that Wisconsin, my home state, has enacted a "Marriage Amendment." The amendment provides that "a legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state." Note that this half of the amendment doesn't mention the sexes of the people involved. It's unconstitutional to treat unmarried people as married, no matter what their sexuality. Within six months, we'll be seeing employers dropping benefits for domestic partners, gay and straight. After all, it's the law.

The net gain for married couples in Wisconsin? Zero. Our taxes are not lower. Our jobs are not more secure. Our streets are not safer. And our marriages are for damn sure not any more stable than they ever were, even though that's the language used to sell this bastardized ammendment. "Protecting the institution of marriage." How, exactly?

I know, I'm bitter. I had hoped that Wisconsin would prove itself more rational than that. As it was, the ban was enacted 59% to 41%. It had been predicted to be a lot closer, meaning that a whole lot of people were telling pollsters they were against it but actually voted for it when they got into the voting booth. The vote on the marriage ban in South Dakota was closer than in Wisconsin, for Pete's sake!

Other than that, it's been a good election. That's something I haven't been able to say in a long time.

Day 218 -- Eldon, Iowa

If the house behind me looks familiar, it's because it's the house featured in Grant Wood's American Gothic. I was going to go all out, and give myself a pitchfork and an unmarried daughter (the first Little Jogger, perhaps), but there are so many send-ups of this painting out there, it wouldn't be very original.

I ran an easy four miles today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Day 217 -- Jefferson County

Jefferson County has a very nice trail system, which is still being expanded. It seems to be mostly in and around Fairfield, which means that I'm past it, but what the heck.

I ran six miles this morning, at a decent pace. I'm supposed to run intervals tomorrow, but I suspect that I won't. I'll probably just go for a short jog. I'm still pretty tired, and I need to be in early tomorrow, so a quick workout will do me.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Day 216 -- Bernhart, Iowa

Got this cool image of the Bernhart, Iowa, station for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Company from the John P. Vander Maas Railrodiana Collection at the University of Iowa. I just like the word "railroadiana." It's a neologism, but it's a cool neologism.

I ran to the gym, lifted weights, and ran home this morning. I was still pretty sore from my long run yesterday, so I didn't push myself.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Day 215 -- More Fairfield

I ran 12 miles today, so you'd think that I would have moved on to the next town. But I decided that I wasn't quite to Fairfield on Thursday, and I'm a little past it today. And I found this terrific Victorian Mansion outside of Fairfield from a a blog called Colorjoy!

I was kind of hoping that after two days of rest, I would cruise to an easy 12 miles, with lots of leftover strength and energy. Well, no. The first nine or ten miles were OK, but it was pretty rough at the end, and I really had to drag myself that last mile. But I did it! The plan for this week is to run all five weekdays, and cap it off with a relatively short long run -- eight miles or so.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Light Running Week

Well, this is my second day off in a row. The last time I did that was the 9th and 10th of September. I really didn't plan to do that. I had to take the first Little Jogger to school early yesterday, for Swing Choir practice, so I decided to run at noon, when I wouldn't be so rushed. But I neglected to pack socks in my gym bag. I couldn't run without socks, and I didn't think that my dress socks would be padded enough (nor did I really want to run in them and then wear them around all afternoon.) So I took yesterday off. Then Mrs. J went with the first Little Jogger and the girls scouts on a camping trip last night, so I couldn't run this morning, because I was the only grown-up in the house. So I took two days off. I'll have a good long run tomorrow, and get back on track.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Diversity Training

I had another session of diversity training today. There have been a series of all-day workshops this fall, and it was announced with much fanfare this fall that it was mandatory that all employees attend one. Of course, the Faculty Senate got its shorts in a bunch and declared that no one had a right to add mandatory training without consulting appropriate governance structures, specifically the Faculty Senate. So it may or may not have been mandatory. In any case, I went. I have no strong objection to diversity training, other than it usually turns out to be a lot of finger pointing and guilt-wallowing, with a minimal amount of contructive suggestions for improvement.

This one started out OK. They talked about goals, specifically to increase the number of faculty and students of color. They talked about their own backgrounds and qualifications. They talked about some of the issues that have come up on campus, about historical problems of racism, and yes, they talked about the fact that it was mandatory (unless it isn't) and they recognized that we may not be the most willing participants in the world.

And then they let Professor Martyr talk.

I don't like Professor Martyr. I never have. He was part of a panel on diversity during my orientation to my university, and I didn't like him then. Just recently, Dean Dad gave me the proper language to describe him: he's a "victim bully." He uses his status as a minority to club people. If you don't agree with him -- hell, if you aren't 100% behind his particular grievances -- then you are part of the racist structure that keeps him and his people down. He's very much an "us vs. them" kind of guy, and you can't be sort of "us".

An example. During the discussion of why we might not want to be there, one of the Economists spoke up and said that, in his view, it didn't pass a cost/benefit analysis. The possibilty that he, personally, would help attract more students or faculty of color seemed sufficiently remote so as not to balance the cost in time spent away from his current students and his responsibility to them. This seemed like a reasonable position, but Professor Martyr took several opportunities to mock it. He didn't come right out and say it, of course, but he managed to imply that this position was right next door to putting out a sign that said, "No minorities need apply."

Professor Martyr talked for a long time. He made a big point of making sure that we knew that he knew that we weren't up to his standards. Why didn't we attend the seminars that he had arranged? Why didn't we attend activities put on by minority students? Why didn't we want to be there? If it hadn't been mandatory, most of us wouldn't be there, and doesn't that speak volumes about our commitment to diversity on this campus? Didn't we appreciate the opportunity to come here and be berated by him?

Just before I lost it, he was talking about an argument that he hears about the difficulty in hiring minorities. People suggest that it would be easier if we offered more money. The fact is that all the time we have candidates --minorities and non-- who seem like a good fit, but who end up taking another job at a higher salary. So, Professor Martyr said, what does that say about me and the other minorities that are currently here on campus? That we had to settle for this job, because we couldn't get anything better?

He caught me shaking my head at that and singled me out, and I suggested, ungently, that not everything in the whole wide world was meant as a personal affront to him. I used the word "asshole." I am not proud of this. This is not normal behavior for me. But I did.

I did apologize, publicly, after the break. He didn't seem very upset, although I know full well that I'm on his shit list, and I always will be.

I've been trying to decide why I was so upset. Often I can let B.S. like this roll off my back. "There goes Professor Martyr again." But not today. At least not right at that moment.

Part of it is his grating personality. As I say, I took an instant dislike to him six plus years ago, and have never seen any reason to change my mind. Part of it is, I suspect, a guilty suspicion that he's right about me. It's certainly true that I benefit from white privilege. I take for granted things that Professor Martyr has had to fight hard for. Maybe I haven't done enough to help erase racism and sexism and other types of discrimination. The burden shouldn't be on the minority, but on the majority.

That's the galling thing. I agree with this guy. On lots of stuff. I know that racism is still pervasive in our society. Indeed, it's a fundamental part of our society, and if that's changing at all, it's because of people like Professor Martyr who won't let people forget it. I just know that there are lots of people who manage to make that point in a more inclusive way. Indeed, all the other presenters managed to make me feel like I have an opportunity to be part of something good. Professor Martyr just made me feel like I'm already part of something bad.

Day 214 -- Fairfield, Iowa

I couldn't pass Fairfield without visiting the Maharishi University of Management. Once upon a time, this place was Parsons College, but in 1974, it was bought out by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Now it's a college where they teach Transcendental Meditation(tm) and Computer Science. I guess. I don't know much about the program, but they apparently attract enough students to survive.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

RfP Wednesday -- The Parable of the Sower

I've missed two Reading for Pleasure Wednesdays in a row. Not that I haven't read anything, but I haven't really had much time to post, and haven't had anything really great to write about. But I'm going to get back to it.

I'm currently re-reading The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler. I think this is the third time I've read it, but it might be the fourth. Like most of Butler's novels, it is kind of difficult to read. A lot of really bad stuff happens to the main character, and to her friends and family. But, like most of Butler's novels, it carries with it a hint of inspiration. Lauren survivies, in spite of all the terrible things. This is a very strong theme with Butler. Her character's persevere in the fact of truly terrible pain, and somehow grow.

This particular novel is set in the near future (the 2020's), in an America on the decline. Crime is rampant. Most people live in walled communities, and go out only in well-armed, large groups. The economy is stagnant. If people can find work at all, they can barely afford basics. Nobody has money for luxuries like TV's, microwaves, or even phone service. The police and firefighters charge per call, so they are rarely called, even for major emergencies. People regularly disappear, and are just never heard from again.

And that's at the beginning of the novel. It gets worse. It's somewhat comforting to read it, and to realize that things aren't that bad in America. But I have a terrible fear that they may become that bad, perhaps in my lifetime. Perhaps within 20 years.

I'm not sure why I'm reading it again. It isn't my favorite of Butler's novels. But I'm far enough into it now that I can't stop. I'll press ahead, and probably read the sequel, The Parable of the Talents, as well.

Day 213 -- Lockridge, Iowa

On October 28, 2005 (just barely over a year ago) an Amtrak train caught fire around Lockridge, Iowa. I know this, because Erika at The World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Versions of the World's Largest Things was there. It's always nice to visit, although this is a pretty flimsy excuse. Anyway, I'm glad that Erika wasn't hurt, only inconvenienced.

I ran intervals this morning. After a warm up, I ran 400m fast, then 400 m slow, then 400 m fast, etcs. I did 6 rounds of that, and was pleased that I managed to run the 6th just about as fast as I ran the 1st. (No, neither one was exactly World Record pace.) It was a good workout, and I probably burned off about 1% of the calories I've consumed in the form of tiny little candy bars in the last 24 hours.