Music, Images, Work, and . . .

101Hello from my office on a Sunday evening,

The past week felt like I was hanging on by a thread and the single strand will be stretched and possibly frayed before the end of the coming week. I thought the fall was the busiest of the semesters I have had here at Bloom, but it seems like this semester has already outpaced that one. I have not really added a single thing to my list, and, in fact, I have lost some things in the process, but that will be for a different time and posting. I am wondering if some of it has to do with the fact that this winter is certainly a winter of one’s discontent . . .  and it has decided to stay for an extended period. Saturday it was a day with actual sunshine and reasonable temperatures. More importantly, it was understandable to me (as I know myself) that I felt energized, but it also caused me to realize how depressed I was by the continuous winter. I do not dislike the snow; in fact, I find it quite beautiful, but as I look at my house and the green of the yard, I am realizing the early summer is more appreciated by me than I might have given it credit.

My Foundations students are working on their Visual Argument papers and I am pleased by the seriousness that many of them are working to find primary source material. They are required to work on contacting a number of people who have some specific roles in the creation of the video. I am continually astonished by the ever-increasing integration of sound, image, and language. It is nothing new and I understand that, but our realization and subsequent development of it as a important art form is really interesting to me. 

This past week I got a copy of a new book, which I cannot find at the moment (the moment is past, and I have found it. It was right in front of me). It is titled Writer/Designer and is authored by three of my graduate colleagues. I need to dig through it because I think I am going to employ it, but I have to figure out to get it digested in a day or two. I think there are some things that can be really interactive and might work to help both students and me accomplish what I have laid out in my Writing for Multiple Media class. I am continually caught a bit off guard at how quickly things seem to add up. I hear my students say it, but it is not really any different on this side. I think part of that is because I am never satisfied with how things are going. I always want them to be better. Yet, I must note, and I am quite pleased, I might add, that the great majority of my Foundations students have seemed to have turned a corner. Their memoir packets come in tomorrow and that will give me a lot of work over the next couple weeks. I cannot even get to their papers until Wednesday to start. I have other things I have to manage for the program, for my department, and for the committees I am on. There is something wrong with that statement because we are here first for the students, but I have that much on my plate at the moment.

That being said, I did get some significant things done over the past three weeks, so I am in better shape on some things. However, I need to keep the little nose to the grindstone as they say. I am afraid at the rate I am going I will not have much of a nose left. Maybe I should put some of my more extensive flabby parts to that grindstone. Of course, that is an entirely different issue that I need to get back to managing more effectively. Perhaps I need another significant bout with my “Crohn’s Diet” as I call those times. My weight is not where it was, but I feel as out of shape as I ever have. It is depressing. However, I know too well that bemoaning it, will not change it; it requires something more substantial.

That being said, I need to sit at my desk a while longer and get more done here first. So . . .  I am listening to music, reading about music, considering image in a number of different genres, and working away. At the same time, not far from my thoughts is Lydia, whose picture graces this entry.

Thanks for reading as always,

Dr. Martin (aka: Miguelito)

Beginning a Morning at Fog and Flame

Martin's Acre and a winter barn
Martin’s Acre and a winter barn
Good morning from the @Fog_and_Flame,

I came in early this morning to get my ducks-in-a-row and try to get ahead of the game a bit. As we are already a third of the way through the semester this week, I am realizing how quickly some things are coming. It is a bit disconcerting at best, and down-right scary at worst . . .  or maybe there is something even worse, but I do not want to know. Today we were supposed to get another 2-4, 3-5, 4-6 (you pick) inches of snow, but it ended up being a dusting. This place is not used to that amount of snow and I think people are pretty shellshocked. What I do know is the area retailers had (and have) no clue. Over the weekend, I went to get salt, ice melt, or some product that will help me manage the ice that has built up on my sidewalks. I know that there has been a run on such items, but there was none to be had. No big deal, but it is only the middle of February and there is a good 2 feet of snow on the ground. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot told me they do not plan to get anymore. Really?? So I resorted to ingenuity. I used a large container of Sea Salt from my kitchen and I seasoned my sidewalk. Holy Buckets! More importantly, it worked. 

During the past few days as I have worked with my Foundations students on their memoir papers, either through conferences or by questions in class, and not surprisingly, much of their reflection on the world is related to technology. What I have realized as I look at effect of technology in a more analytic way, is that it has (or more accurately we have with it) created a world of paradox. I think I might have mentioned this in my last blog, but my memory fails me yet again. I am quite sure that if Lydia were here, we would be fighting over her medication soon. 😦 However, I digress . . .  The point is to consider what I think about the phenomenon of paradox. I believe paradox, in theological terms, is quite an accurate systematic schema of who we are as human beings most of the time. I think we are most always struggling with those seeming opposite options or polarizing choices. All too often we are not sure why we are confronted with such a dilemma. Even as I write this, I try to imagine what it is that causes this seeming sense of struggle . . .  maybe it is just me and my overactive synapses. I am reminded of a line in the movie On Golden Pond. It occurred when Norman was having a discussion about whether or not Bill and Chelsea could sleep together. At some point, Bill asks, what the bottom line is regarding the “illicit sex” question. Norman responds in his cantankerous way, “So you are a bottom line person?” What is the bottom line? I often approach things that way. I like knowing what I can expect. Even if I do not like the answer, I would much rather know than be surprised.

Well, today is a day of meetings and managing. I have a meeting with a local radio person at 1:00 and then we have a departmental meeting at 3:30. It will be an important meeting. In the meanwhile, I will keep working on things that need to be accomplished. I do have to go to my office at some point because I have left things there that I need to get home. I also want to get a couple more things off my plate. If I can get more things off my list versus things added to the list, it will be a successful day.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Dr. Martin (aka: Michael)

Pleasant Surprises


Hello from the study in my house,

It was a busy, but productive, week as I noted in both my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Today I had the opportunity to serve as a judge of the Pennsylvania Forensics Association competition that was held here at Bloom. I judged both debate and poetry. I was so astounded by some of the presentations. Those students give me hope. They are traveling on a tough-weather weekend to demonstrate the hard work they have put into their different events. It was stunning to see how polished and dedicated they were. One of the students was in my University Seminar class some years back (it cannot be that many as I am only in my fifth here), but his poetry was quite exemplary. It was really pleasant as I note in my title to be involved today. 

I did get much of what I hoped to accomplish this week, but there is still more. I did not get that much of my own work today, so the remainder of the weekend needs to be extremely focused. Of course, then there has been our weather. I have shoveled more this week than I think I have in four years here in Pennsylvania. I bought an ice chopper last weekend. I tried to use it today and it snapped in half. I guess I will back at Lowe’s with it tomorrow to see if it has some sort of “7 day” warranty. Really?? What the heck!! Fortunately, it was not that cold out today and there was no wind, so show by itself is very manageable. I will be working on BOLT work and grading for the remainder of the weekend. I might have to spend some time in the @FogandFlame tomorrow. I am realizing that all that work I did to get ahead before the semester began has been used up. I need about three days of solid work to get through break. 

It is hard to believe, especially considering the inches (feet) of snow outside that Spring Break will actually be occurring a month from today. My break will be spent doing tenure things. I have a couple things to do for that this week. We will decide on a candidate this week also. My committee members have been emailing things today and I am still pondering. I dislike all of these sort of things because I realize all too keenly that we are deciding people’s lives. That is very serious to me. I remember having to rank people my first year here and I left that meeting sick to my stomach. The only other time I was that ill from what had occurred was the day I was ordained as a pastor. My family had a reception for me and I went to bed because I was so overwhelmed with the ordination vows I had taken. I am reminded of the story of Martin Luther the first time he presided over the Eucharist. He was overwhelmed too. 

This past week was a week that Charles Dickens would appreciate and one that he specifically might have used his famous words from the Tale of Two Cities. I had students not show up for conferences or for class most of the week. I also had students come to meet with me on a snow day to conference about their papers. I am so grateful for their hard work and commitment to trying to improve. It is for those people that I teach. However, it is also for the people who struggle or wonder why they are there or wonder if they can do it. I have been reminded this week again of those different learning styles. I wish I could manage them all well. Sometimes I just don’t; I fall on my face. I wish there was something I could do to prepare when I get caught in those moments of wondering “now what”? 

Last summer, I was blessed to have a student in class who was insightful, enjoyable, intelligent, a strong writer, and a character. He has provided me a moniker of “the evil gnome”. I am not sure I like the adjective, but I can manage the gnome part. I have been fortunate to catch up with him again this semester. Within that realm of my existence, there has been the pleasant surprise of getting to know more of his background and life outside of the classroom. He is fortunate enough to have people close to him around, both to help him be employed on campus as well as keep him “somewhat” in line. Everyone once in a while, we find that someone who comes into our life and has the ability to stun us. It is not often that a person catches me off guard by their ability to think, analyze, and ask insightful questions. That has happened this week. What a most wonderful surprise. It is even more interesting when he or she is still an undergraduate. I think it is not so much because of their age, but because of the ability to see both the university and the world from an outsider perspective. I can understand how that can make a person more critical or analytical, but when their critique is so balanced and intelligent it makes me want to hear more about what he or she wants to say. 

I have this saying about God having given us brains to do more than hold our ears apart. The brain in this one is quite astounding. It brightens my day when I can have a conversation of substance, a conversation of consequence, a conversation that gives me hope for this world. To the next conversation . . . 

Thanks for reading as always. 

Dr. Martin (aka: Miguelito)

Snow, Classes, Choices

Good late Sunday evening,

I have been working on school work most of the weekend, but returned from the Legislative Assembly of the Faculty Union on Saturday. I am alway amazed by what I learn at these assemblies. I am amazed by the hard work and tremendous scholars that is conducted and are present at the other universities in the system, but I am also reminded of how fortunate I am to be at Bloomsburg. I believe it is one of the stronger schools in the system. Serving on a state-wide committee is also a honor and something that has already taught be a great deal. 

I am rather mind-boggled by some of the proposals and the decisions made at the state level of the system. While I am not naive, I do believe there is still more idealism to me that is perhaps helpful at times. I am not sure why I would like to believe most people can be reasonable if given the complete picture. I guess there is an assumption that people want good things to happen, particularly when it comes to education. I guess when I am forced to look at the complete picture, there is certainly something askew with our priorities. While as you know I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan, the fact that Aaron Rogers is paid 49,000,000.00, and as such is the 6th highest paid professional athlete is ridiculous to me. The amount of money paid to athletes, and I am well aware of all the attempts to justify because of their short career life, says a lot about what we deem as valuable. When most who teach at any level are making less than 6 figures, but an athlete can make 11, there is an issue.

Most of yesterday and today, I have graded or worked on my classes. I am a bit stumped by some of my freshmen students. We are beginning the fourth week of class and some have done minimal to no work. A significant number of others have done some really substandard work. This is a bit disconcerting to me because the clock is moving much more rapidly than they think. When about 1/3 of them have earned a below average or failing grade at this point, there is about to be a reckoning. I am reminded of the line in the movie Tombstone, when Doc Holiday says this about the members of the Cowboys and Wyatt Earp. I do not want to scare students, but I do want them to do their work. Writing is fundamental to who we are and to not be able to do it in an acceptable scholarly way will not work, either in the classroom or someday on the job. There is a choice. The middle of last week we had a snow day, and it snowed even more today. I worked in my office all day. I had sign up sheet for conferences that begin tomorrow up on my wall and they had been there since the day before. As of this evening, there was still about 10 of 47 students who had not signed up. I do not understand this, particularly when I have sent out emails and put announcements in the course delivery tool. I am boggled, as I noted earlier. 

This coming week, there is a lot for me to do, and there are a number of deadlines on the horizon. It is a matter of creating a list and making the correct choices so it all gets done. Life is all about choices . . . we are confronted with these options daily and throughout the day. While some are minimal and have small or infinitesimal consequences, others are just the opposite. Sometimes those consequences are not known for some time. All I know is this is one of those weeks I need to get a lot of things off my plate. We are also interviewing another person this week. This is such an interesting thing being on the committee.

Well, regardless the outcome of the week, it will pass quickly. I have more on my plate than seems manageable at the moment, but it is a matter of discipline and priorities. I will check in again something during the week and share how things are going. 

Thanks for reading as always. 

Dr. Martin

Organized Randomness


Good afternoon from the Fog and Flame,

I think I need a vacation. Many might say you just had one, but what I think I need is a working vacation, one where I can focus, in an uninterrupted manner. What might I do with such a “respite” of sorts? The first thing I would do is spend two or three days bringing my tech skills back up to date. I need a seminar where I can work with someone who understands things like Camtasia, Media Stream, Vision Thread, or Diigo really well and then work with them creating one artifact after another so it becomes second nature for me. I want to do some much more with the idea of a flipped class and having the various pieces that I can put into the course delivery tool will help my students. Then I would try to merely write. I need to write for a number of reasons. I have noted this in my blog posting before this, but the hammer is down and there are no excuses.

Today, as I have been in the Fog and Flame, I have run into current students, former students, graduated students, graduate students and colleagues. That has been interesting to see the cross-germination that is in that little space. Then there is the issue of paying for your drinks. I have turned to using Square Wallet. Amazing how many things I can do from my phone. As I sit here I have my Mac updating, which is taking significant time because I am on WiFi and I had not updated things for about 6 weeks. Amazing how many things that get out of day and quickly. I have been downloading OS X Mavericks for about three hours, or more.

What I started to write about earlier is my writing. I am working on a book review and it will be done by the end of the weekend. Then I need to do some additional reading about the “rhetoric of place” article that I am working on. My colleague has given me some things to manage and then I have to come up with an outline. I did some work on that article this summer and then it sat the entire fall semester. The third article is a programmatic review article and that should not be that difficult. What I need to do is manage the free time I have and then use that for writing and not random time wasting. It is the very think I tell my students all the time. Now I need to employ it too.

What I have learned more and more about myself is I get overwhelmed and then I shut down. Very little gets accomplished. I think I had too much on my plate and that is still an issue, but I am trying to make changes. Yet some of those changes have been painful and sad. Then there is the fact that I have not even managed all of that as well as I should or must. That will be part of the next week or two. I wish there was an easier way to manage my life. Then again, I should not be surprised because this time of year is difficult for me. While I have never been technically diagnosed with SAD, I am quite sure I am a person who is affected by it.

One of the things I have been really good at, at least thus far into the semester, and I am well aware that we are only two weeks into the process, is to stay ahead of the game a bit more in my classes. I have spent some long evenings in my office, but I think it is beginning to pay off. Organization is a difficult thing, particularly when it is hard to see how it all fits together, but perhaps that is the impetus for my title. Can we actually organize our randomness? Or are they merely oxymoronic and therefore, it is an exercise in futility? I think it is better to be more optimistic and work under the guise that it is possible. In fact, most everything has such a possibility, if one only take the time and puts in the effort.

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl and I had the chance to get a ticket. That would have been quite an experience, but when the Packers are not playing, it is hard for me to be excited. If the Packers were playing . . . it is a no-brainer, I would be there. It will be interesting that it is outside. It is also interesting because two Bloomsburg students (one is actually an alum) have a central role in the PR and management of the PR for the game. That is very cool.

Well, it is time to get back to another task. So, as always, thank you for reading. I hope your life is more than organized chaos. Have a great rest of the weekend.

Dr. Martin