Archive for June, 2007

Time Moves By So Slowly

Just a brief update from the Emerald Isle.

I haven’t missed the internet too much but, I miss having instant access to connection. I know there is so much going on and I don’t enjoy missing the action but, I needed a break from it.

We are staying in a cottage in Doneraile in County Cork and it is really out in the country. It takes us about 20 minutes to get to Mallow which is not even that big of a city. There are cows in the backyard and the roads are very narrow. I think I have determined that Europeans aren’t more environmentally conscious than Americans but, in actuality it would be a physical impossibility to drive a large car on the narrow roads.

I’ve gone through several batteries so there will be plenty of pictures to upload when I return. We plan on going to the Dingle Peninsula soon guess I need to buy more batteries, I’ve got to remember not to take a picture of every green hill, it is hard not to though.

Being disconnected from the internet (for the most part) has given me time to just write without checking out what everyone was doing every five minutes. When I’m not writing I’m reading some books I picked up in the Atlanta airport. More reflections to come when I get home, when I don’t have to pay for internet access.

The craic has been mighty.

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To My Father

I usually don’t like to get too personal on my blog but, I have been partially inspired by Laura who recently delved into her past to share reasons why she is not a scientist. So on this Father’s Day I would like to take the time to thank my dad, celebrate his life and reflect on what he has taught, and still continues to teach me.

This is now the fourth year where I didn’t get to say “Happy Father’s Day” and buy a necktie, cd, or card. The passage of time has made such days easier and memories bring more smiles than tears now. As Barbara Ganley so eloquently said in her Faculty Academy talk in reference to the recent passing of her own father, “…my relationship with him has not ended but has shifted into memory conversations and flashes of understanding I never had the time to reach because I was so busy in my relationship being with him in the present”. Leave it to Barbara to beautifully state the relationship I have had with my father for over four years now. I continue to learn from my father and have recently felt his presence more acutely as I begin to understand his own methods of teaching me.

My father appeared to be quiet man to many people but, his warmth never failed to come through, he taught through his actions rather than words. Those close to him were blessed with the opportunity to hear him speak at length, sharing his wisdom that seemed to come from a mysterious place far beyond my own understanding. I was so used to these conversations with my father growing up I didn’t realize their rarity until my Aunt pointed it out to me a year or so ago how special my relationship with him was.

I have learned the value of being active from him. He taught me how to ride a bike, swing a golf club, throw a baseball, tend to a garden. My father and I share the same natural athleticism that drives us to be competitive on the field and even though he grew up loving the game of baseball he easily made the transition to soccer coach when I expressed more interest in it than baseball. From 1996-2002 when I played on the inter-city travel soccer league he was the assistant coach. We must have made hundreds of trips in his Saturn to games and tournaments and some of my fondest memories of him come from those rides together. It wasn’t until after his death that I realized how he was a constant in my soccer life and for several months I could not bring myself to play. He did not grow up playing soccer but, he studied, watched, and played so he could learn the nuances of the game. The bond we shared over soccer wasn’t just a mutual love of sports but, went down deeper to the bonds between people that form over shared experiences.

When I went to California for the first time in 2004 I wondered what he would have said to me, having spent a good part of his young adult years on the west coast. I even climbed Telegraph Hill trying to imagine where the shop he had was, hoping I could reach across time to contact him there. Hiking through the Sierra Mountains I thought about the stories I had heard from my Aunt about him spending weeks with people hiking out into nature and those people being amazed by his knowledge and love of the outdoors. I think I understand where my wanderlust comes from now.

It comes as no surprise that he was an avid gardener. Maintaining a large plot of land in our backyard with such ease that the rest of us still haven’t figure out his secret. Now the garden has been overrun with weeds but, naturally weeds that grow quickly and abundantly. My father had a spiritual relationship with nature and he felt most at peace when he dug into the dirt, creating life with a well practiced dance of watering, weeding, and trust in mother nature herself. Even at his grave when other plants nearby are dying his stone is almost obscured by the plants growing around it, it is truly an amazing sight to see.

In his own way he supported my curiosity to learn. In elementary school when I wanted to be an astronomer he went out and bought plastic glow-in-the-dark stars and books on constellations so we could set up an accurate night sky on my ceiling. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I uncovered a lesson my dad had been teaching me my whole life. In his pursuit of knowledge and new experiences he taught me the value of being able to have an open mind and to be open to change. When my father became a manager at a factory where most of the workers spoke spanish he went ahead and learned spanish. When computers and the internet were starting to take over my dad took classes on computer programming, he knew that computers were the future. I have no doubt that if my father were still alive that he would pretty web 2.0 savvy, perhaps even dabbling in blogging. When he became too ill to work and was subjected to lying on the couch most of the day he would watch the food network and would learn to create elaborate meals that would have even impressed Emeril.

My family nickname that he created when I was little still carries on and has been more widely used by family members that are perhaps trying to keep memories of him (and my cousin Ryan who also used it) alive. I respond to the nickname like a second first name and each utterance is a testament to my fathers influence.

In his death my father has taught me the value of life. I have learned to love the small things and the small moments that seem so ordinary but, are the times that add the richness and depth to our lives. My small post on the internet does not do him justice but, in the vast realms of the internet I dedicate this small space to his memory. As I think about it his memory isn’t restrained to what I can put down on paper or on a blog. Even though memories of my father will fade, his lessons will continue to carry on and even one day influence my children who will not even know him except through what I share.

My father’s life and death have influenced me in so many ways that I’m not sure I’ll ever fully comprehend it all. Even though I have lived a fourth of my life without the physical presence of my father, every garden that grows and soccer field filled with noise is a subtle reminder of his love, a love that transcends time.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads. Your importance and influence may go unnoticed at times but, your children are forever changed by all those moments spent with them, no matter where that time is spent.

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A Bit of Pessimism or Maybe Not

Ever since the Ronco discussion I attended I’ve been thinking about student buy-in into the idea of real education, life of the mind, the caravan, etc. I’ve been swinging between an optimistic and a pessimistic view.

Most days I feel like getting on the roof of my house and shouting out to anyone who will listen about this exciting adventure I am on at Mary Washington. During these high points I can envision students grasping the concept of real and reflective learning and I want to be able to go to the FSEMs this fall and see the new freshman wrestle with this idea. I want to do what so many people have done for me and include them into “the conversation” and show them they can’t pass up this opportunity. I get genuinely excited at the thought of having conversations with fellow students on any topic through an academic lens. Instead of just complaining about classes students talking about what they learned and are even excited to share this information.

Of course with the high comes the crash down into the low valley of pessimism. There is such a culture of anti-school and in some ways anti-intellectualism among students that mass conversion seems impossible. I’m not looking for an instant change or mass conversion overnight but, I wonder how far can we get in the next three years? I’m taking this moment to be a little selfish in wanting all these changes to happen during my stay at Mary Washington but, I want it! I wonder how do we convince students that the caravan IS really cool? I do believe we are moving in the right direction by encouraging reflective thinking and using different tech tools to help make clear connections in learning but, is it enough? I just have visions of the future where technology has made it possible to see connections and has created a rich learning environment but, students do nothing with it. I guess this goes back to the argument made by several people that it is not about the tools but, what the technology enables people to do. Maybe I just don’t have faith in faculty and students to take this movement seriously. There is just so many ways for this to go wrong (I need to stop listening to emo music) that I often miss how many ways that it could work out. I have trouble convincing myself that even if we make a mistake it is ok, making a mess is ok.

I suppose a lot of this conflict comes from my own internal conflict. My secret desire to be a revolutionary even though I am usually adverse to risk and being outspoken. Steve recently sent me this cartoon. I think it describes exactly how I feel during those low moments when everything seems so impossible.

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What kind of blogger are you?

Martha raised an interesting point in a recent post about different types of blogging. It may not be something that most bloggers think about but, just as there are different writing styles there must be different blogging styles. Are there right and wrong ways to go about blogging? Well I suppose we need to know how people are blogging in the first place, so here is my response to her questions.

1) Generally, are you an impetuous blogger? Or do you mull over an idea or post for hours, days, weeks before hand? Do you draft a post and then let it sit until you’ve had a chance to revise it multiple times, perfecting your language and point?

I would say I definitely mull over ideas awhile but, once I start writing about it like to get it all done in one sitting. I’ve recently tried just writing out ideas and then coming back to them later but, now I have several posts that are not quite done. I’ve never been a real good proof-reader but, I do try to go over my stuff once or twice before posting. 

2) Do you “collect” the references in your posts before you write them (if so, describe your system)? Or do you blog with 15 windows open, copying and pasting quotes and URLs, as needed?

Since I tend to just sit down and write out a post I’ll just have 15 windows open and copy and paste.  

3) Do you blog in the admin panel of your blog? Or do you use some third-party tool? If you use a tool, what features does it have that hooked you?

I’m pretty boring I just use the admin panel, works fine for me. 

4) Do you automatically consider placing images in your posts? Or does this not even occur to you, usually?

I rarely use images in my posts I don’t think the thought ever really occurs to me. I’ve been tempted to try including more visual pieces but, I don’t want to force it. 

5) Do you write posts and then delete them before clicking “Publish?” Or, by extension, do you have draft posts that have languished for days, weeks, months waiting for you to pull the trigger?

I’ve had a couple of posts that have been saved as drafts and when I take another look at them I delete them. Most of those are incomplete posts that only contained ideas or were half done. I don’t think I could stand see a draft post sitting, especially if I’ve put a lot of effort and think it is a quality post.

6) Do you feel compelled to blog on a schedule? Do you feel guilty when you don’t?

I don’t feel compelled to blog on a schedule but, I do feel guilty when my blog has been silent for more than a week or so, especially if I don’t have any good reason not to be blogging (like recently!).

7) Do you “craft” the experience of your blog, adding sidebar widgets and custom graphics to lure readers into your space?

Never really put much thought into crafting an experience to lure readers in, I’ve just put widgets I thought were cool up. Things to think about… 


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