Thursday, December 29, 2005

How to order wine

As many of our friends know, Doug and I really enjoy a good bottle of wine. For those of you who occasionally like to order wine when dining out, Waiter Rant has put together a good guide on how to order wine in a restaurant. If you have time, read the comments as well. A few of the folks are right on track, especially about the Spanish wines. Rioja is one of our favorite varietals. As for wine from Argentina, our Women of Wine and the Men Who Adore Them group had an Argentinean tasting in October and we did like them. Still, my money is on super Tuscans. I will take that most any day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Barbecue wars

Today we are on a day trip to Shiner. On our way we stopped in Lockhart for lunch. Lockhart is known for it's barbecue and more importantly, its family feud between barbecue joints own competing family members. Today we sampled the barbecue at Kreuz Market. It was okay, but to be honest, we prefer Cooper's in Llano. We may need to do a road trip up there next week.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Who's the biggest snooper?

The other day I wrote about how Doug was snooping and found his Christmas present. I also talked about how I have been known to occasionally try to catch a peak at my presents. For the last few days we've been arguing on who is the biggest snoop in the house. On Christmas Eve we figured it out.

It's the dogs. Dante & Allegra are the biggest snoops.

It seems as though lately the dogs have been into presents. They haven't always been, and for several years they ignored presents under the Christmas tree. About a year ago that started to change. Somehow they figured out that there were presents suitable for dogs, and even if they weren't dog gifts, they were fun when you tore open the paper. Of course, you had to hide anything you opened because mommy and daddy would be mad. Their fascination with presents extends beyond Christmas; at any gift giving occasion the dogs insist on being right there to help you open your present. It has become quite annoying. As such, we didn't place any presents under the tree for fear of the dogs destroying them.

Christmas Eve we spent most of the day cleaning the house to have guest over for Christmas dinner (another post to come). I decided it was time to put presents under the tree to have the finishing touch. That night we were going to a couple of Christmas parties so we decided to lock the dogs outside. After all, it was a nice night and they should be okay. We left the house that evening with the knowledge that everything was secure.

We were wrong. Our first hint that something was amiss was when we pulled into our driveway after 1 a.m. As we headed inside, we could hear Dante scratching at the door, excited that we were home. "Those bastards got inside," Doug said as he reached to unlock the door. Sure enough, they did.

As Doug went to find out how they were able to get in, I saw the scraps of Christmas wrapping shredded on the carpet and begun to assess the damage. The stock that Doug's mom sent me was not under the tree where we left it, but in the dining room. There were pieces of wrapping paper around it. As I took the stocking back to the tree, I looked at the presents. "Make sure your gift from me is still there," Doug yelled from the kitchen, still trying to figure how the escape artists did there trick. Yes, that present was there, as were most of the rest of them. The only ones that were missing were the four presents for the dogs -- special treats about the size of candy bars. The dogs went straight for those, eating them whole, and leaving everything else intact.

We're still not exactly sure how the dogs did it, but they ended up popping out the metal door to their doggy door. This metal door slides down to close the door. Doug hadn't been able to get the door shut all the way, but the crack at the bottom was too small for a cat, much less a couple of labs. The dogs must have put there paws under the door and pulled until it popped off its hinges. This from dogs who, like this morning, were let outside through their doggy door, which was left open, but forgot and wouldn't stop scratching at the bedroom door until we let them in.

Of course the net result of this is that dogs ruined their own Christmas. Because they ate their presents on Christmas Eve, they had nothing to open Christmas morning. They wanted to help us and sample what we received, but we weren't in an accommodating mood.

At least Doug and I don't have to argue any more. We now know who the biggest snoops are in the house when it comes to presents.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No snooping at Christmas time!

We have a tradition each year of purchasing a few ornaments for the Christmas tree that are symbolic for the year. For example, the year Doug ran his first marathon we purchased an ornament with 26.2 on it (that’s the distance of a marathon). This year we hung an ornament we purchased on our trip to Hawaii with Santa doing the hula.

Last January we went to Disney World, and while there we purchased several Christmas ornaments. When we arrived home we put the ornaments in a safe place where the dogs wouldn’t get them. Unfortunately, the place was a bit too safe as we couldn’t remember where we put them. For the last week I have spent some time each day searching for the box that the ornaments were in. I knew they had to be around here, but I just couldn’t find them.

Yesterday I was looking yet again in our bedroom. Doug kept swearing they were in there, but that’s where I had the Hawaii ornaments. I opened one of his dresser drawers and noticed a stack of gift cards. “Hey Doug, look at what I found.” He has a really bad habit of putting gift cards given to him in safe places and forgetting about them. One of the cards in the stack was a gift certificate I gave him when we first started dating in 1998.

Doug comes in and looks, and as I am putting the gift cards back, he decides to help me look for the Disney ornaments. He turns to the top of armoire, looks behind a stack of books and grabs a bag. “Hey, here’s a Best Buy bag, do you think they could be…”

Before he finishes the sentence, my head rotates 180 on my body, like something from the Exorcist. “Put that down!” I command, sounding like I am accusing of stealing the gold from Fort Knox. He just stares at me a minute and then sets the bag down. “You know better than to poke around at Christmas time!” I yell. With this, he starts laughing. I walk towards him saying, “you shouldn’t be such a snoop.” As the words come out of my mouth, he starts laughing harder, grabbing his belly and falling to the bed. The dogs think he’s having a seizure and start barking and licking him. As he wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes, he manages to say, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black – you have no room to talk.”

Okay, he has me there. I have quite a reputation for being a snoop, especially when it comes to presents. I like to say it was my journalism training combined with being a woman, but I was snooping long before my first journalism class. When I was young, I would take the wrapped presents from under the tree, slit open the tape on the side of the present, and see what was in the box. I knew that mom kept the Santa presents hide in her closet. I know peaking was horrible, but I was a kid.

Now that I’m older, I’m still a snoop, but not to the extent of purposely trying to find presents or unwrapping them. Still, Doug takes precautions. One year, when we were still living in Dallas, he decided to hide my present in the clothes dryer. I’m not really sure why, but I guess he figured I’d wouldn’t look in there. One morning I got up and reached in the dryer to grab a towel before heading to the shower. Luckily, I didn’t have my contacts in and was blind as a bat. Doug, however, wasn’t and saw this happen. He didn’t say a word, he didn’t even breathe, until I got into the shower. I missed the present by a half an inch and he decided he wasn’t going to let that happen again, so he grabbed the present out of the dryer and hid it someplace else while I was in the shower.

Of course he knows I have this insatiable curiosity and tries to bate me with it. “You know, your present is just sitting unwrapped on the front seat of the green car,” he tells me last night. He wants to see if I’ll go look. One year, to throw me off, he took huge box, filled it with computer manuals, just so I wouldn’t guess that inside was a pair of earrings. He loves trying to get me and makes a game of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to presents he doesn’t care. If his present was in bag in the front of the red car, he would take the car to run errands and never look in the bag. He makes me so mad that he doesn’t care, which he thinks is hilarious.

So of course, when he grabbed the bag, which had his present in it, I knew he wasn’t purposely peaking at his present. I also realized that the top of the armoire was a stupid place to hide it, even though he never looks up there and it was just temporary spot until he left the house and I could wrap the present.

Now he knows what one of his presents is, which he loves because he can tease me about it, only not too much, he he’s not quite sure if I will return it like I said I would, disappointing him because he wants that present. He also continues to taunt me about the present he got me. It’s just not fair. Luckily, we finally found the Disney ornaments this afternoon and they are on the tree. Too bad we could find them before Doug decided to snoop.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

International Santa, Austin edition

This year as I was setting up my International Santa display, I started wondering what the Austin version would look like. After all, the Australian Santa is wearing swim trunks as it is summer down under, and the Irish Santa wears green instead of red. What would an Austin Santa look like? This is what I came up with:
  • He would be wearing sandals, preferably Birkenstock.
  • Instead of a red wool coat, Austin Santa would wear a red guayabera with white embroidery.
  • Austin Santa's beard would be silver, in the aging hippie style, instead of white, and his hair would be long as well.
  • He'd wear a funky pair of wire-rimmed shades and some sort of bead necklace. He would also be sporting a yellow LiveStrong bracelet.
  • For a hat, he'd wear a straw, raffia western-style hat, one that was Austin-cool, NOT cowboy.
  • He'd have his wireless laptop with him, so he could connect most anywhere in this wireless mecca.
  • In his hand, he'd be carrying either a margarita or a Shiner Bock.
  • He'd have a tattoo on his forearms.
  • Instead of carrying a bag full of toys, Santa Austin would have a guitar strapped across his back. After all, he never knows when he could get into a jam session in the Live Music Capital.
  • Austin Santa would have traded in his reindeer for a more eco-friendly hybrid sleigh.
  • At the various houses, he would expect soy milk (not cow's milk) and cookies from the bakery at Whole Foods.

So where would you find Austin Santa? This time of year he'd be hanging at the Trail of Lights and catching "Santaland Diaries" at the Zach. He'd probably be hanging out on Sixth Street, playing the guitar, hoping to catch a few coins. Maybe he'd even chat it up with Leslie a bit. Most of all, Austin Santa would be doing his part to Keep Austin Weird.

Santa, My Santa

My obsession with Santa Claus continued this week when I purchased more International Santas. My collection began in 2001 when Doug saw them at Dillards and thought they would be a great gift for me. My collection has since grown to 56.

These 5-inch figurines represent various countries and each come with a different story about the Christmas tradition in that country. Santas come from such countries as South Korea (Santa Grandfather) to Italy (Babbo Natale) to Finland (Joulupukki ). There is a Santa from Australia who is wearing swimming trunks as it is summer down under, and there is an Eskimo Santa with a husky by his side. Each December as I unwrap them and put them out, I think about the various ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Leading survey

I just received a telephone call that was a 1 minute Texas political survey. The first thing I noticed is that it was all automated -- I wasn't talking to a real person on the other end and could just answer yes/no. I wasn't too fond of that. Especially since I would have given an earful to the person regarding the questions.

This survey was full of leading questions -- you know the ones, sort of like "do you still beat your wife?" Obviously this survey had an agenda and I decided to ride it out. In my Intro to PR class I spend a day covering surveys, and while not in too much detail, I would think that my students would know not to ask questions like this. By the time they graduate the PR majors take a Research Methods class and in there they darn well learn not to ask those questions. Maybe this pollster should go back to school.

So what were the questions? Things like "Do you think Ronnie Earle is once again playing politics with the Tom DeLay indictment?", "Do you think the government should be allowed to take about your house to build a building?" and "Do you think the government should allow school vouchers so that parents can send their children to the best school possible?" How do you answer these questions -- no, I don't want to send children to the best possible schools.

The more the survey went on, the more frustrated I got. I realized whoever was doing this poll was going to use it for their own agenda and own spin. Still, I was curious and didn't want to hang up, so instead I became a bit obstinate. School vouchers? No. Would I vote for Gov. Perry? No. Am I a Republican? No. Am I a Democrat? No. Is Ronnie Earle playing politics? No. Is my property tax too high? No.

After a minute all the questions are asked and the automated voice thanked me for my participation and informed me that the survey was sponsored by the Texas Republican Party. Yeah, I definitely think they need to go back to school.

Famous blogger :-)

Austinist cited my Napoleon Dynamite post as one of the posts of the week for last week. I appreciate all the visitors who are coming to the blog to read the post. Feel free to poke around. I try to post several times a week about things I see around Austin and things that we are doing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An apple for the teacher

This semester went pretty well, although there were some bumpy spots. But I was learning and everything ended up fairly smooth. I was actually surprised, but several students said they really enjoyed my class. I got hugs, comments like 'you're my favorite teacher' and others, like:

This class was very helpful and if I wasn't so far along in my academic career I
would pursue a PR degree.

I really enjoyed having you as my teacher.

I just wanted to say thank you for an awesome semester!! I feel like I learned so much in your class. When I first came to college, I thought I wanted to major in broadcast journalism and didn't declare a major until last year when I became a Public Relations major, but I was still a little unsure of what I wanted to do. But I loved your class so much and now I know for sure that I want to major in Public Relations.

I even got a gift from a student that I helped by introducing her to some potential employers.

All of these comments were unsolicited. I truly expected that my first semester would be mediocre at the best. These comments made me feel good, and more importantly, made me feel like I was reaching the students and giving them something that would be helpful in their careers. After all, I tried to approach it from what I would want them to know if I were hiring them to work on my PR team.

But I guess some profs might not get it. The other day I was at school and passed a certain prof in the hall. I mentioned that I was grading my finals and then my first semester of teaching would be finished. The prof asked how it was and I responded positively, and mentioned how several of my students said they really liked the class and how I was their favorite teacher. The prof's response, "They are just trying to butter you up for a better grade."

I love the warm, caring support of senior faculty to new teachers. Screw it. I wonder when the last time this prof got a thank you note from one of their students.

At least my students and I know the truth. :-)

The wait is over

The wait is over, I finally received my grades. The prof never did email them, though. I just had to wait until the university posted them. As such, I still don't know what I received on my paper. But I guess the paper doesn't matter as much as the final grade.

One more class, and my thesis, and grad school is over.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Topper, aka Napoleon Dynamite

This Dilbert cartoon from Monday reminds me of a guy in our department. I call him Napoleon Dynamite.

Napoleon Dynamite is a second-year masters student/graduate assistant in our department. Just like the movie, Napoleon is tall, lanky and annoying as hell. He creates these fantastic stories and tends to piss people off; the guy has few friends. The only difference between our Napoleon and the movie is that ours doesn't have a 'fro and his voice is more whiney.

Our first inkling that this guy was Napoleon was a party last fall that a prof threw. Out of 8 GAs, 7 of us were new and we were all just getting to know each other. K had been a GA the previous semester and just a sweet as could be. We started talking and I found out she was training for the Chicago Marathon. I was envious, as my leg was in a brace from a car wreck. Come to find out that the previous year we had both trained for the same local marathon under the same program; she in the town where she was an undergrad, me locally. She actually ran the marathon while I got a stomach virus the night before. I was very depressed about doing all my training only to be sidelined. This was going to be my year until the car wreck two weeks before the program started.

Needless to say I was interested in her training for Chicago and was discussing what we had heard of the route. We were talking paces and finish times when Napoleon jumped. "You know when I was in the Army I ran a marathon in full gear up a mountain. I finished in 3 hours." K and I just looked at each other. The fastest marathon time ever is just over 2 hours -- you have to be damn fast to do a 3 hour marathon -- that's a 7 minute pace for 26.2 miles. Impossible with full gear and up a mountain. It took the fastest guy I know 6 hours to complete Pike's Peak -- the lack of oxygen at higher levels can just drain you.

Yeah, Napoleon, whatever. And you hunted a pack of wolverines last summer in Alaska.

As the school year progressed, we found this guy full of wild stories. No matter what you've done, he's done it too, only better. One day I told K, "You know, if I said I was pregnant, he would say he had given birth to triplets last year." We started associating the song from Annie Get Your Gun with him.

"Anything you can do, I can do better. Anything you can do, I can do too."

So the school year went on. Napoleon had a tendency to latch on to sweet young girls who would be too nice to him to tell him to get the F*&% away. When one girl broke up with her Army Ranger boyfriend, Napoleon was right there, borderline stalking and just way creepy. There were actually some girls who made a complaint against him when he got in their face about something after a class. I wasn't in that class and the details are fuzzy, but I know the girls and Napoleon had to go discuss it with university officials.

Then there was the incident about getting out of the reserves and not going to Iraq. Evidently he got called up to go to Iraq but was too sick with some phantom disease to go. This drama went on for a couple of months and he had a lawyer to try to get out of it. The Army kept denying his claims. It was high drama. Not that you ever want someone to go to war, but most of us weren't going to be sad if he was sent, especially since several of us grew up in military families. At the last minute the Army decided he didn't have to go. It was like, "oh, yeah, I don't have to go to Iraq." Two months of high drama and all he could talk about, and then it was just a passing thought. Go figure.

We never imagined that Napoleon would be back this year. One, we didn't think he had the stick-to-it-ness needed for the job. After all, he told us he's had more than 30 different jobs, including his time in the Army. Second, we couldn't imagine the department allowing him to continue as a GA, and if no GA, we knew he wouldn't be returning to grad school. Third, as a GA you have to keep 9 hours per semester, unless you get special permission to take less. Last spring Napoleon dropped one of his classes mid-semester.

We were wrong. The first day of the semester I walked into the office I share with five other people, including Napoleon, and there he was, holding court with one of the newbies. I was there 15 minutes before I decided to interrupt and introduce myself to the newbie as I knew Napoleon wouldn't do it. Napoleon went right on with his pontification of something or another about what companies look for when doing this and that, yada, yada, yada. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world for six months could tell he was full of BS.

I finally had enough of his misplaced theories and whiney voice, so I left the office to grab some lunch. On the way, I called K, who has since graduated and is in another state. I left a voicemail, "You'll never believe it, but Napoleon is back -- they let him stay as a GA. Go figure. I hadn't seen or heard from him all summer (thank god), but within 10 minutes of being in the office with him, I was ready to punch him." Sometimes Napoleon just brings out those feeling in you.

Of course, little has changed with Napoleon. He is getting his assignments/professors switched for the spring semester, and he emailed everyone the changes before certain individuals were told themselves. And somehow over Thanksgiving, our office was left unlocked and he pretty much blamed everyone else.

I'm still not sure how Napoleon gets to stay in the department. Maybe it's because we need more GAs than we have applicants and Napoleon is better than nothing. Maybe it's because the university just won't fire anyone.

Whatever the reason, I don't have to hang a poster of Napoleon Dynamite in my office when I actually share an office with him. I think, however, I will hang this Dilbert comic in the office after the holiday break.

The waiting game

I check my email. It's not there. I go do something else, come back and check my email, it's not there. We run errands, I come back and check my email, it's not there. It's 5:15, grades were due to our department office at 5. I check my email and it's still not there. I review the email memo about turing in class grades; if we (meaning us teachers) don't have our grades in to the department by Wednesday at 5, then we have to personally take them to the registar's office by 9 a.m. Thursday. I wake up this morning and check again, it's still not there. I check several times this morning. It's 10 a.m. and I still haven't received it.

Of course, I'm talking about my grade for my Theories class. At one point, I had an A in the class, but when we got our focus group project back, I started worrying that my A wasn't a sure thing. We got a B on the project, which was 25% of the grade. Although the prof had the projects for almost two weeks, and there were only two groups to grade (and the papers were only about 10 pages long), she admitted that she didn't spend a lot of time grading the projects and probably should have spent more time on the front end explaining how to conduct focus groups. However, she didn't take either fact into account when grading grading the projects, so we got a B.

Now we are down to the final paper, which is another 25% of the grade. She has 10 papers, 15-20 pages in length, turned in Monday night. She thought she might have the grades Tuesday night, but Wednesday was more likely. She mentioned that grades were due 9 a.m. Thursday and she had until then to finish. This was news to me, as I thought they were due Wednesday, until I went back to read the memo. Either way, she said she would email us our final grade.

It seems like my grade in the class may come down to what I make on the paper. If I do well, I keep my 4.0. Unfortunately, I feel like the grading is fairly subjective, and it depends more on if you give her what she wants. Too bad that none of us knew what that was.

So I check my email and wait, and then check email again. Maybe if I check one more time, the email will arrive.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Come Monday, it's going to be alright

This morning I get off the bus that brings me from the stadium parking lot on to campus. I am listening to my iPod Shuffle and feeling fine. My final paper is done, minus some minor tweaking. I am heading up to my office so that a few of my students can review previous tests in preparation for their finals. The sun is shining and a lot of the pressure is off.

I think very few people realize how difficult this semester has been for me. It's been a lot of work, and thankfully, a lot of reward. I've questioned both my present and future and have second guessed a lot of my decisions. And worries have been hanging over my head so much so that I've been focusing on what's not happening versus what is happening. It hasn't been a pretty sight.

Still, the end of the semester is in sight. I turn in my final paper tonight, my students take their finals today and tomorrow and I turn in their grades tomorrow night. I can finally stop for a moment. Just then a new song plays, Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday." I dig this song. "Come Monday, it's going to be alright..." Looking around, I take a deep breath, smile, and know it's true.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I am a Pod person

For a couple of months I have been giving my friend V a ride to/from school on Mondays. She's living in Round Rock now, near our house and it has been absolutely no bother. In fact, I enjoy the company on the long commute. V has been wanting to chip in for gas, but I haven't let her -- I mean I'm going down anyway and it would just be bad karma. I told her after we finish our Theories class, she could take me out of drinks. I thought we had a deal.

Evidently we didn't, as this week she gave me an iPod Shuffle. That was way more than she should have done, but it is cool. It would have not been anything I would have bought for myself, but already I'm getting enjoyment out of it, so that makes it the perfect gift. I spent one morning sifting through CDs and loading the right music on my shuffle. The shuffle is just the right size for working out (which is why V got it), so I loaded all my favorite 80s dance and rock music -- the stuff that just makes me want to get up and dance. As I'm listening I think of other songs I wish I had and am so tempted to buy a few more CDs or download the songs for $1 from the iTunes store. I may be a late adopter when it comes to iPods, but I am really digging being a Pod person.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let me tell you a little secret

All semester I've been keeping a little secret that I want to let you in on -- I actually like my students and enjoy teaching.

Sshhh...don't tell anyone.

I feel like this is quite an anomaly in my department and the university. After watching Declining by Degrees in class last night, I realize teacher apathy towards students is more common than people want to admit. A professor, liking his or her students? It's time to throw them out of the academy. Be sure not to give them tenure, as they must not be doing enough research.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not. I'm not sure I'm even over exaggerating much. As a graduate student, and a non-traditional student, I am privy to more info than I want to be at times. I have had teachers complain about how students are lazy, unmotivated, etc., etc., etc. Of course, it's all the students' fault. There is no way a teacher could be to blame for unmotivated students.

I'm not saying that I don't have lazy students, and I'm not saying that many times I wish they would put in more effort. But I don't dwell on those students. I focus on the students who are there to learn and participate. I work really hard at preparing clear and interesting lectures. It may not always work; sometimes I fall flat, but given that I have never been given any training on how to teach (until the one grad-level class I'm taking this semester), I think I am doing an okay job.

At various times throughout the semester the students would crack me up. Our last lecture I was being a little bold and cheeky, the students really got it. And it's not just my students. Earlier in the semester I guest lectured in a different class taught by another TA, and those students, who didn't know me from Adam, were getting into the topic and asking a lot of questions. One student came up to me after and said that he wished he hadn't already taken Intro to PR because he would want to take it with me. That made me feel great.

It makes me feel good when my students feel like they can come to me for career advice; I will tell them like it is and they know it. Yesterday I was chatting with a girl in the locker room at the campus rec center and told her how she could incorporate her major and her interests into something that she would like to do. I had never met this girl before but we were talking and I asked her major and all of a sudden I've giving career advice. I'm working with some of my students on intern contacts and I had another student tell me that she got a special project at work because of something she learned in class. Students tell me that they can see how what I am telling them applies to their career goals; they know I am not full of shit and that I will deal with them in a straight-forward manner.

Of course there are days and there are students, but most of them are bright kids and want to succeed. At least that's been my experience. Most days I feel happy and successful when I walk out of the class. The last thing I am going to do is bitch and moan about my students.

But remember...don't tell anyone. We can't have it getting out that a teacher actually likes teaching snot-nosed, bratty, undergraduates. After all, undergraduates are the bane of the existence to a university.

Ice storm

Maybe about once every year or two we get an ice storm in central Texas. Generally it's not bad, but everyone freaks out. Then again, everyone freaks out and can't drive when there is rain, so it's not surprising with the ice thing. Yesterday was our ice storm.

First off, understand that we Texans think that temperatures in the mid 40s are arctic. Yesterday our highs were in the 20s. It was actually colder in Austin than it was in Anchorage, AK. Oftentimes the cold is enough to freak us out. Add just a hint that there might be snow or ice and the schools close down.

I woke up yesterday morning, looked outside and saw nothing on the street. Of course it could be the dreaded "black ice" that people worry about around here, but it looked fine. I go into the kitchen and make my famous tiramisu for the potluck we were having to celebrate the last night of Instructional Communication and I tune into the local news radio channel. Listeners start calling in about the ice. Now one must understand that there are still plenty of rural communities surrounding Austin and ice in the Hill Country must not be that pleasant. But the announcers continue to talk about various wrecks, urging folks to stay home, and people are freaking out.

I had told students that I would hold special office hours yesterday so they could review for the final. On a nice day, I would need to leave the house at 10:30 to make it to my office by noon. Today, I'm thinking it's 10 a.m. and then I'm thinking it's 9:30. The more I hear folks freaking out, the less inclined I am to drive. Often I refer to I-35, the main and pretty much only direct route from Pflugerville to San Marcos, as the "Death Highway." Even on a beautiful day with little traffic, my commute takes an hour. Add rain, construction or a wreck, expect delays to last hours, which just stresses me out. So I'm hearing these folks on the radio talking about this horrid traffic and ice, and knowing that the finals aren't until Monday and Tuesday, I inform my students that I'm rescheduling the office hours to Monday morning. Since ice on the road lasts no more than 3 hours, I figure the roads will by dry by Monday.

I'm actually glad I did this, from what I saw later in the afternoon when I had to drive down, after the radio said the roads were clear and it was safe to venture out. First, as expected, the only ice on the roads were the chunks falling off the vehicles. Still, people were idiots. Doug and I went to lunch at a local restaurant and as I was driving in the parking lot to leave, this guy approaches me in the wrong lane and just looks at me like I was in the wrong lane, and he would not move over. I had to actually pass him on the right to get around him.

Later, as I was driving I-35, traffic at times was stop-and-go, for no discernable reason. If there was an overpass, traffic would stop. At one point, this truck in front of me used the shoulder to pass the car in front of him. I'm still not sure what was up with that. People were driving like idiots; I can't imagine what it would have been like earlier in the morning when folks were freaking out.

At least it's over and now we don't have to worry about ice again for another two years. Still it's cold with temperatures below freezing. Never fear, by Sunday temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-60s, which is plenty cold enough for most of us.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Finalizing the finals

Last night I FINALLY finished the first draft of my take home final, which is due tomorrow. I still need to proof and polish it, but it's done. It only took me four days. Actually, it took me two days of writing and two days of wondering what the heck I was going to do and stressing over it and being ticked about a grade on a group project in that class. However, I'm feeling confident about it and now know I only need a 76 on it to get an A. Depending on how he grades it (i.e., is he looking for right and wrong, or is he looking at how we defended ourselves), this is a B paper, if not an A.

Now I just have a 15 page paper due for Monday. Pretty behind on that and don't like the feeling, but I think I can get it done. I hate to say this, but I don't know how much time the prof will get to spend on the grading. Everyone says she will spend some time and thought on it, and I agree, but the papers are due Monday night and grades are due Wednesday afternoon, and she will have 10, 15-20 page papers. It's been 10 days and she still hasn't graded our focus group projects, which were just two groups at 10 pages each.

By this time next week, classes will be done, grades will be in, and I will be on holiday.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last day of the semester

Yesterday was the last day of the semester. As the final I am giving is optional -- students will either take it as a make up a missed test or to try to drop their lowest test scores -- I am realizing that I may not see some of my students again. At the very least, I will just see them passing in the halls. With my early morning schedule next semester, and that I only have one class and it's a 3 week, intensive Friday/Saturday course, chances are I will see very few people next semester, even my officemates.

Some of my students realized too that they won't see me again and that class was over. I'm sure a few were happy about that, but I did have a group that had to hug me as they completed their last test. It was very touching. They said I was their best teacher this semester. That makes me feel good because I want to be an effective teacher and I want students to learn about PR. A few of the students know how they want to focus their careers after this class, so I feel I've accomplished my goals.

I don't know if the students have realized how much they have meant to me or how much they have given me. I truly enjoy teaching and the interaction with the students. Yes, it's been difficult balancing teaching and my own studies, and yes, it has been a baptism by fire. Luckily, Dr. Mottet and my instructional comm class has really helped me know what I'm doing, and has helped me become a better teacher. Are there things I'll do different next semester? You bet. Will I be a better teacher? You bet.

I always say you don't want a professor their first or last semester of teaching. Still, for my first semester, I don't think I did that bad of a job. However, I think that a lot of that was due to my students and I appreciate their patience with me.