July 25, 2008

hodgepodge

beginning of a temporary end...

Lots of things happened since the last time I blogged: food, post-flooding, movies, crash course, memoir prep, Pioneer Day, Eng. 1010 students, good-byes...

Food:
I'm finding inventive ways to prepare left-overs for a new dining experience (I don't know why some people I know have a negative attitudes about left-overs... for me, food is food, I appreciate them. If I don't like them I avoid them nonetheless I'm always open to try new and different types...at least I'm not starving). A couple of weeks ago I "made" (heat/fry more likely) spaghetti sauce using Paul Newman's Sweet Onion and Garlic tomatoe sauce and added fresh onions, garlic powder, two sugar cube, ketchup, and a hint of cinnamon, mixed all of these with 1 lb of ground beef (too much for one person... that's why I still have left overs)... anyway, I was getting tired of boiling spaghetti noodles every night (so they're fresh at least) so one day instead of using spaghetti noodles, I mixed the sauce with my left-over Spanish rice. Then an idea occured, "why don't I make burritos?"...

days passed and I went to the grocery store and bought flour tortillas and other stuff... I tried the concoction and tried my first Italian Burrito... to make it a little bit more "healthy", I added some greens (from the Dole pre-packaged instant salad, I usually get, "Tender Garden" which consisted of sliced carrots, spinach, romaine, etc.) and drizzled it with Asian Ginger salad dressing... so it's more than just an Italian Burrito, it's an East-meets-West Burrito...

talking about the East, I revisited the Indian Oven. In the past, I've always gotten the buffet lunch special. I would spend $8 plus tax and I would be TOO full (who can resist unlimited servings?)... However this time, I opted to order from the menu so I could try other things and maybe save money. I ended up spending the same amount of money, but the good thing was that I got to try other things. The food I ordered were delicious BUT half of them were too expensive for the amount served. The strawberry lassi (yogurt drink) and the Basmati rice were sufficient.

However, the mango chutney and the chicken soup were too small for the price charge (even if they were "imported"). I didn't know what a mango chutney is; I thought it was some sort of salad. I asked the server to describe it and she said it was "sweet". She almost seemed irritated at the question, but she continued smiling. I figured for $2, it should be somewhat substantial. She came back with a small metallic container, similar to those ketchup holders in cafeterias/Wendy's. Mango chutney is like a mango jam with peppers (it's a sweet and spicy [but not too spicy] jam). Of course I didn't know what to do with it so I started mixing a little bit of it on my Basmati rice for flavor (I took the rest home to use for spread on toast).

Like I said, the soup was great but the serving was insufficient. The size was probably cup-size, but for $4, the container should be bigger. I've had soup for less in bigger containers (from The Corner Bakery and the Great Harvest Bread Co.)...

have you ever tasted an energy drink that tasted like Tang mixed with grinded/crushed Flinstones Chewable Vitamins?... I have...

Post-flooding:
a while back I blogged about my apartment flooding... the post-flood was pretty interesting. The blowers stayed in my house for 2 days (at least) and every high-elevated furniture whether desk, tables, or couch, was filled with puffy books etc. for drying. My kitchen was un-navigable. The noise from the blowers made it feel like I was in an airplane hanger; the carpet was undulating like waves, like rolling hills, like those fun-house floors, like jello. As the hours passed I learned to tune them out (luckily), and at night I turned the blower, closest to my room, off. ... tip toeing with my flip-flops, damp carpet... forgeting the floor once in a while, slipping...smell of musk/ wet dirty hair... even after the carpet was cleaned it had somewhat the smell of a bathroom but not lemon-scented fresh... days passed by and the odor is disappearing

I'm lucky that this was a very minute flood in comparison to what happened in the mid-west a couple of months ago, but I still had to work to avoid penalty (avert bills). Some of the library books I borrowed were damaged because of the flood. Talking with the maintenance people/worker in situ (in the field/ on location; apartment), I was assured that everything will be okay. On the contrary, talking with the people behind the "paper work", who handles the bills, I received a different impression... the maintenance field workers told me that there would be a letter ready for my retrieval the next day. I went to collect the letter but to my dismay the letter wasn't even ready and when I inquired about it, they responded, "Letter? we have a hand-written note..." (all that was going in my head is, "where is their sense of professionalism?"... most likely the people at USU library would take my case more seriously when I present them a typed letter with contact info rather than a hand-written note from scratch paper)... they finally asked me when i needed the letter... I replied, "As soon as possible- at the end of today, if that's okay..." I explained to them that it would be better for me to have the letter when I bring the damaged books back and that I was in the process of setting an appointment with library officials on this matter... I picked up the letter, and i knew they didn't want me there. They didn't ask me about my situation, or how I was managing with the inconvinience so of course I wanted to get out (a careless thing I did was not even read carefully the letter so if there were any mistakes I could take care of it immediately without returning)...

as soon as I got back to my apartment, I finally read the letter... while reading this letter, I became more appreciative for my English training/background... being an English major, I've been trained to be critical on how ideas are expressed especially in how words are chosen and how sentences are formed/structured (reading between the lines and other types of analysis), and I'm surprised how my English training helped me to really analyze this three short-paragraphed letter. To add to my stress, the letter suggested that I was at fault and that the library should consider the situation/factors when/if they decide to charge me for the damaged books. They averted the blame and pointed it in my direction (the water valve exploded in a locked closet, which is off limits to residents)... I keep the apartment and its visible side clean, it's their job to make sure the inner workings of the house is functioning properly.

I met up with the library, showed them the letter, brought back the backs... I explained to them my side (I sort of whined :) and gave them my interpretation... they were more sympathetic). They took the books off my accounts, and I left the letter with the contact info. One of the ladies asked if I wanted to be the mediator. I pointed out that this would me more problamatic so I said that it would be better if they contact housing personally and discuss (I can just imagine going back and forth, emailing but not getting a response, getting the run-around if I became the mediator)... a good news, I might be able to keep some of the damaged art books I borrowed (there's a chance that the library will re-order new books and disposed the rest... yes the paper is wrinkled and some pages are stuck/torn, but for the most part, the pictures are good to study)...

Movies:
I saw Hancock and Batman: The Dark Knight. They're enjoyable. I liked the anti-hero idea in Hancock but not the twist. The visuals were stunning. The beginning of Dark Knight was a bit slow for me. It's good that it's independent; there was no apparent transition from the last movie (it's sort of like in media res). Christian Bale's Batman voice was annoying and comical but as the story progressed, it got better. The Joker affected me. He irritated me (I believed his character). Dark Knight, like Hancock, had superb visuals and effects.

Crash Course:
I'm helping my Thai friends with their thesis and research paper by giving them a crash course in Eng. 1010. In 13 days we'll be talking about aristotle's rhetorics and writing as a process (13 days is not enough but at least it's something). This is all voluntary and SOMETIMES I forget this. Sometimes I get annoyed when my students had to cancel because they had to talk to their adviser. My annoyance abated tremendously when i remember that this is voluntary and they choose to seek help (it's not like they're required)... sometimes I forget that most of them are graduate students... they already had the concept of a writing process. Knowing this is good, I'm able to condense info (good for time) and move faster. They're aware of their academic audience and their subjects... so we're working on their weaknesses, which is grammar. They have the ideas, but the grammar is getting in their way of expressing their ideas (they're getting stuck because they're so occupied with their grammar that they forget the ideas. they're practicing the idea of fastwriting, badwriting, shitty first drafts etc.). So in the short time, we have, I adapted my approach.

Grammar is making more sense to me now that I'm teaching it. The short lessons, I'm currently giving them, deal with sentence structure and word choice. and in teaching these topics, I finally understood the difference between a clause and a phrase (they have similarities also). Knowing the different types of phrases, dependent (three types) and independent clauses make me more aware of how I structure my sentence and how meaning changes depending on juxtaposition (in the past, I memorized, and everything was lumped to one thing for example in the case of 'phrases'... I found this confusing in the past when I used to think in "absolutes" so if the phrase example didn't meet the phrase criteria of my understanding, I wouldn't know how to fix or identify or use it to express my thoughts (there's a distinction between prepositional and absolute phrases especially how they function). So the plan of action is to look at their adviser's marks and see how to polish the sentences so meaning is clearer.

Memoir Prep:
This Monday, my intense one-week workshop in Memoir Writing will begin. I have to finish the assigned text reading this weekend and resume reading the memoirs I borrowed from the library.

I did finish reading Louis L'Amour's memoir called, "Education of a Wandering Man". I liked it a lot because he talked about his informal education, reading, his process as a writer and his travels (I'm inspired to read one of his western novels). He even touch upon folkloric genres, such as storytelling, oral histories, etc. I also got the idea of logging the books I've read completely from him; I'm starting to record the books I've read in 2008 and I'll backtrack when I return to Philadelphia (seeing the list growing does give me a sense of accomplishment and it's interesting to just see the types of books I've read- easier to remember too).

Pioneer Day:
On Thursday, July 24, most of Utah celebrated Pioneer Day (which means universities were closed... most business remained open)... this day honored western migration, settlement of the west, etc. I wanted to see what they regularly do here in Logan to celebrate so I watched the parade, which showcased government, institution, business, people of Logan... candy were dispersed, children running for them... some pie eating contest and music- Fender Benders- recalling classic rock and roll and an acapella group, Vocalocity... there's also the food-- I ate a deep-dished pepperoni pizza for lunch, with yummy funnel cake topped with powder sugar and half apple and half peach toppings... I meandered through the small zoo in Willow Park Zoo (good collection of birds)... hours passed and it was time for another snack so I bought a Navajo Frybread served with honey butter (yum-yum!)...I didn't see the rodeo due to financial concerns (i invested money in food instead)...

my students this semester:
Today was the last day of English 1010-002 for my students. I collected their Giant Reflection paper; the last presenter went, the last four students did their "sharing my work spotlights" and facilitated a discussion- mostly about process and audience ... I gave out fun awards (it was elementary-ish but it was just a fun way to acknowledge their hard work), then they filled out the course evaluation and afterwards we had a PARTY (I gave them extra credit for bringing food for the party and most brought delicious food!).

one thing I don't like about being an instructor is being/getting attached to my class. My students have shared aspects of their lives in their writing; I scrutinized their writings that I start seeing how their minds work; I've talked with them during conference and emails and I've gotten to know a little bit about their lives (their family, a bit of their problems, their dreams)... I'm genuinely curious so the questions I asked them are questions I'm really interested in knowing/understanding... they could be sharing it because they want to share or because they're obliged by my role as their instructor (getting to know them throughout the semester, I'm leaning towards the first reason: them wanting to share)... I did offer to help them in the future, all they had to do was email me but most likely they'll move on with their lives and I'll move on with mine. I find it difficult on my part to detach myself because seeing them grow as writers makes me feel like I'm a 'writing' parent...

and another thing that I don't like is the "cold-shoulders" I get once the grades are turned in. I'm not expecting them to be my bestfriends, but congeniality would be nice (they stopped being nice and attentive once they no longer attend my class or need me)--> this is a generality of course, and on the other side of this, I've had students who remained sincere even after the semester was over...

it's easy for me to start all over again if the experience is bad BUT when it's good, it's difficult. I hope I always have good teaching experience but...going over this process over and over again is not getting any easier... the good vibes, I blogged about in the beginning of the semester proved to be true (I don't know how this would translate in the course evaluation)...I hope for good...

this semester I taught my 5th batch of English 1010 students... I guess I am learning from old experiences... this time around, the atmosphere seemed to be right enough and conducive enough for learning and collaboration... for the most part, they did their assignments and turned them in on-time (requirements and all)... I wasn't so tensed (wearing tie and slacks, don't get me wrong, I like the shirt, tie and slacks, which I own)... I was comfortable enough to take a photo of my class (which will be coming soon in Facebook), to share some writing about my interest/ a bit of my humor... some improv... the students actually discussed and when the discussion created the right prompts, it went deeper, away from superficiality... in their spotlights, they've brought out some interesting parallels and connection (I'm hoping that they'll realize this, or maybe at least in hindsight, they may discover this)... I remember the times when I'd give them a prompt and they would write in their writing binder (they were focused- all I heard were pens moving and an occasional page being turned)... I feel proud of them... I'm not saying that I'm not proud of my old students, I think it's just something about this semester, like I said everything seemed right: my approach, the receptivity of the students, the organization, etc. (the fall semester will be a different story- new textbook, new class, new students)... so the third time is not the charm, fifth time's a charm (unless you're talking about 3rd semester being a charm)...

sure I made some students angry for challenging them or making them work, trying to educate them, making them think... I might have given a student her first A- (I remember getting my first B+) so maybe I helped her start to understand that an "A" isn't everything (maybe?)... I encouraged revision... I remember the longboard demonstration...

I finished reading their Giant Reflections and for the most part, they've written positive things about their experience ... they could be buttering me up (if so at least they understand how to meet audience expectations [me] and shape subject-matter).... but a great part of me would argue against this and believe their sincerity... I was afraid that my students would get the stuck on the idea that Grammar is more important than Content, because I marked up their paper with red pen (I needed to justify the grade I gave them).... their reflections showed their understanding that Content/ideas and grammar compliment each other; I was able to show them that their ideas were good, they just needed more time in the polishing stage to work on some grammar so the ideas could be conveyed clearly.

Something happened in their education which made them loathe English and writing... based on their reflection, it appeared that most of them now were less apprehensive and thus more receptive to writing so hopefully I've started or reestablished a dialogue/bridge between them and writing/English... I sensed a change in attitude for the better...

In spite of the work and all the grading, and dealing with a few disgruntled students, I had a BLAST (makes teaching a worthy endeavor)!

Goodbye:

"Goodbye my friend[s]...It's not the end...So glad we made it, time will never never ever change it..." ~The Fab Five

Posted by Michael Diezmos at July 25, 2008 10:23 PM
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