Tuesday, April 17, 2012

from the Edge.org: A Conversation with Mark Pagels

"The interesting thing with Facebook is that, with 500 to 800 million of us connected around the world, it sort of devalues information and devalues knowledge. And this isn't the comment of some reactionary who doesn't like Facebook, but it's rather the comment of someone who realizes that knowledge and new ideas are extraordinarily hard to come by. And as we're more and more connected to each other, there's more and more to copy. We realize the value in copying, and so that's what we do.

"And we seek out that information in cheaper and cheaper ways. We go up on Google, we go up on Facebook, see who's doing what to whom. We go up on Google and find out the answers to things. And what that's telling us is that knowledge and new ideas are cheap. And it's playing into a set of predispositions that we have been selected to have anyway, to be copiers and to be followers. But at no time in history has it been easier to do that than now. And Facebook is encouraging that."

And for another view, here's a blurb that's been going around the web--How to Steal Like an Artist, by author and artist Austin Kleon:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flat Stanley

Some time ago, our grandson Alex sent us a letter asking us to take a creature called Flat Stanley around on a few adventures in Riverside.  Now that the souvenirs and the little book I created have been received by Alex (making him "the most popular boy in second grade," he told me) I can now write about it.  Here are a selection of photos I printed out and made into a book.

 First stop was UCR, and Dave's lab and office.

We dressed him up in a lab coat and showed him around.

Microscopy Room

Then to Dave's stacked-with-papers office.

We showed Flat Stanley where the Citrus Experiment station was first established--right here at UCR.

Back in the car, we buckled him up for a longer drive.  Apparently this is the photo that made Alex's class laugh the most--to see Flat Stanley in a seatbelt.

We drove out to Cabazon where there are concrete dinosaurs, on a large scale.

 That's Dave holding Flat Stanley by the foot of Tyranosaurus Rex, as it was VERY windy out there and we didn't want him to fly away.

All good exhibits include a gift shop, where we picked up a couple of things for Alex.  The letter was quite specific on that score.

Back in Riverside, we showed him Victoria Avenue, with long lines of palm trees on either side of the street.

Then to the Citrus State Park, where there are orange groves.  Riverside's claim to fame is that this is where the first navel orange tree in the US was grown.

 Then we took Flat Stanley to the Mission Inn, an historic hotel of strange and wonderful architecture.

We knew he had to sit in the chair designed for President Taft, who was going to visit the Mission Inn (apparently he was offended and never sat in it after all).  There were already some couples there taking photos of each other.  We stood politely waiting, but when one couple took longer and longer, we asked if we might have a moment to take a photo.  We placed Flat Stanley in the chair and the two couples started laughing.  
"Flat Stanley--they've got a Flat Stanley!"  
As we left we wondered how we were never blessed with knowledge of Flat Stanley before, but were really happy we were now in the loop.

The Chinese Pagoda, a gift from out sister city.

The next day Flat Stanley waited in the car during church, but he did come to choir to sing.

The last place Flat Stanley visited before being folded back up into his envelope and mailed back to Alex, was the school where I teach.  Here's the envelope, tucked into my briefcase.

 I thought they matched nicely.

Flat Stanley was a good student, better than some of the ones in the class!  Here he is, being hosted by Brenda--one of the great students.


The book.  I made it a double-sided, Japanese folding-style book.

Here it is, all tied up, ready to go.

The souvenirs.
Thanks for coming, Flat Stanley!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Exhibit in the Crafton Hills College Library--April 2012

I clipped the Edward Tufte Envisioning Information (thanks, Dad!) to the back of my folded book, from which it takes its inspiration.

Catherine, the librarian, who helped me get it all set up.

View of our library, from the bottom of the hill.

Saturday, April 07, 2012


Teacher's Log. Stardate: Saturday of any semester.

Yesterday was a long day of grading and lesson prep.  Flunked five students on their essays, but being the softie I am, they have a chance for a re-write.  They won't be happy on Monday, that's for sure.  Three others need to drop the class.  I told them they were going to fail, so their answer to that one is to not show up for class, like it's some sort of revenge on the teacher. ("Take that, Professor!")  They don't get that I don't care if they fail honestly, or if they fail by not showing up.  I just wish they'd get themselves over to registration and take care of their business, because I do know how to enter an "F" in the right slot, come Judgment Day.

It was one of those grading days where the first five essays all had problems: didn't include a highlighted copy of their source or they plagiarized the whole essay.  I don't flunk them for plagiarizing, per se, but it triggers that re-write, as obviously they need to. . . um. . . re-write and re-learn how to insert a source, but not the WHOLE source.  Another student regularly hands me a pile of papers, sliding them into my IN folder on the desk.  I always have to assemble his essay packet.  Makes me cranky.  Re-write. 

Another student didn't include any quotes in their essay.  Re-write.  Another student MADE UP THEIR SOURCES.  Yes, they were discussing the Influenza of 1918, and wrote that it affected the infant and elderly population the worst.  Which is wrong, and I know this because by the time I'd read that little tidbit, I had already read six other papers on the same topic, scanning the same Wikipedia article six times, so I knew that it wasn't true. 

Another young woman wrote about the origins of fireworks and it went something like this: the Buddhist priest consulted the ancient scripture and combined the magic ingredients.  It was actually quite well-written, but by that time I'd read three other papers on fireworks and I knew it happened by accident when a Chinese cook accidentally blew up the cookhouse, all while combining those magic ingredients.

Ten students didn't turn in a paper at all.  And that was after I put up on the blog that they needed to start getting their things on time, time to push the Grow-Up Button, time to act like they were in Freshman Comp, to where--if they get their act together--they may actually matriculate.  I didn't really say all that stuff, but I sure thought it.

So, it's just a typical post-grading let-down, where you think you are the worst professor in the world and the students would be better off in one of those canned on-line classes, rather than with someone who actually cares about the students.  And that's why when S. said she had to drop the class because her father was being operated on for a brain tumor and she needed to be with him, you send her back a warm note telling her that she can take any of your classes anytime, anyhow, because she was your top student, and boy, you're going to miss her as well as her well-written papers.  And another 19-year-old student confides that her mother, who is also going to school and has was one of your previous students, expects this young woman to be her nanny and take care of the younger brothers and sisters but isn't she entitled to her own 19-year-old life? and she wants to drop biology and then starts crying and you whip out your tissue pack, which you always carry for occasions like this.

And W. misses class twice (unlike her) and you find out that they brought the grandmother who is 80 and suffering from breast cancer out from a neighboring state to see the younger sister at the cheer competition but the grandmother was slightly sick with a nasty cold, which my student gets, and she doesn't care because even if she has to take a late hit on her essay, she got to be with her grandmother.

That's why I grade and lesson prep and why, on Monday morning, I'll be back in the classroom.

Friday, April 06, 2012

We Leave Our Hearts in San Francisco. . . and head to Berkeley

Tourists have to scavenge for breakfast, and if their path to the Ferry Building takes them right by the Apple Store on the day of the iPad 3 launch, well, you just can't not go in.  Tempting. . .  but we head to find breakfast.

We find a Belgian waffle--the real one, like a gaufre--and wander outside to eat it.

Let's have another one.  We also found an almond scone, also top-notch, and sat down on the bench where Andy and I had visited on Wednesday afternoon, taking time to enjoy our breakfast treats.

While waiting for the streetcar to take us back up to our hotel (it's raining again), I see this poem and it reminds of last night--of strolling through the Tenderloin with the man I love.

We'd been talking about getting iPads for nearly a year.  Back and forth, the words not yet, why, probably, yes let's, and later, had been floating around in our conversations.  But we finally decided it was time and I certainly liked the idea of buying an Apple product in their flagship store in San Francisco.  We were helped by a man in a denim kilt.  That's how you know you're in San Francisco. although to be fair, Christine and I saw a similar outfit on a man in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC (but he was a tourist).


The new happy owners of iPads. Now we can do FaceTime with our children, and grandchildren.  We checked out of the hotel (but brought home our rubber ducky) and headed across the Bay Bridge to Oakland, where we were going to visit Ratto's Grocery.  I remembered it from my visits ages ago with Aunt Charlene, and then Christine my sister.  


Such hopes and visions for a grandiose Italian shopping adventure were soon dashed, as the inside had only a few shelves with grocery-store goods, a huge deli case in the middle of the store and a few bins of unusual beans.  We bought those, but not much else, then dashed back to the parking lot to beat the 20-minute parking limit.  Then off to Berkeley, as we like eating at the Cheese Board Pizza Collective, and we especially like their ginger cookies.

You can buy slices of whatever the day's pizza is.  Today's was roasted cauliflower and red pepper pizza.  We also shared a salad that had grated Brussels sprouts in it, and that was delicious.

The band played us out.  We drove straight home, arriving. . . in the rain. 
I'm ready to go back, which is the sure sign of a great trip.