August 1, 2008

Passing

I passed the Tagalog test (sigh of relief)... Can you just imagine how humiliating that would be to fail in something I use frequently?

Now the next step is to handle the paper work...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:03 PM | Comments (0)

Memoir Writing: Spark of Interest

Today is the last day of my one-week intensive writing workshop. Genre: Memoir. I like it a lot especially for its hybrid nature. It's weird (fated sense) how 'things' (of what I want to pursue) are clarified throughout my educational journey.

I had this general idea of what I wanted to pursue starting in

grade school (poetry, the use of words, playing with words, form, structure, creation...)

high school (writing as expression/art and teaching so greater possibility of livelihood- the practical/earthy Taurus in me)

College (English majors are not destined to be stuck as teachers [not that teaching is bad], but what I'm saying is that there are more options for English majors than what are often believed... so I stopped pursuing a certification for elementary ed. and decided to focus on art and other aspects of English, such as journalism, literature... I did everything in my power to avoid teaching)

Graduate School (Ironically enough, I became a teacher, well a graduate instructor... Chose to get an MA in Folklore (American Studies) instead of an MFA in Creative Writing... folklore is interdisciplinary (I can combined writing, art, culture, people [children's folk group], blurring the lines but it's okay... personally not feeling so confined by canons et al [I respect them nonetheless and learn from them, I need different types of teachers]... inspiration=people)

Summer 08 Graduate Seminar (8 am to 4:30 pm... I took Memoir Writing Workshop... the word 'Memoir' sort of encapsulates what I want to do in terms of my writing, starting with true experiences connected to/from people, molding it with creative fictional techniques in order to bring out the truth more, pass the surface/superficial, deeper meaning... using words to express and to create/shape/influence world)

Important Points about the form of Memoir:
-Literary- art before story, 'craft' used to bring out deeper truths
-Not confessional- not grating whines
-An aspect of life (more specific) not biography (general: birth to death)
-Lemons squeezed plus water and sugar = lemonades (bitter turns bittersweet)
-Questions (answer the 'so what'- to Discover, Question Authority to claim authority)
-Hybrid Form- Blend of Truth and Fiction
-It's true (not made up- however this could be tricky because of subjectivity and selectivity slippery Memory... differing truths: emotional, factual, historical, scientific etc.)

Here's the vague essay quiz I wrote for this class (because of time constraints--only an hour--I decided to be playful with the form, I used a hybrid of cohesive paragraphs and fragmented definitions... some metaphors...)

Title: Literary/Craft: Art before Story

The most important aspect of Memoir I learned this week dealt with the literary nature of this genre. Art takes precedence before the story (story is secondary). If you trace the origin of the word ‘art’ (its raw meaning), you’ll discover that it means close to the idea of ‘making’ / to make. Words, like artifice, artificial (not Natural, for example artificial intelligence), art (something made like a picture of the scenic mountains etc.) reveal some sort of manipulation (not in a sinister way, but taking charge in the shaping and molding). This manipulation uses fictional techniques, like scenes and summary, to illustrate the story and give form in order to grasp something as slippery as memory to get to deeper truths and a better understanding by musing through metaphor to express something inexpressible.

Scene- close-up, Slows down the pace, moment that reader and narrator experience together (greater connection), can include dialogues, very particular/specific moment, can have a sense of adult looking back through musings…

Summary- long-shot, overview, faster pace (covers more time in less words), reader is watching from afar, introduces, recaps, fills information/background, gives a sense of adult looking back, embedded quotes (usually repeated, almost like a slogan that could personalize characters)

Story- the experience, trying to make meaning of experience by putting it in form (linear: chronological, sequential, or lyrical: round-about, associative, relational), once in a form, it is more concrete compared to ‘recall from memory’ (tricky- perception/limited knowledge/ factors)…

Truth like perspective differs from person to person (each has unique way of seeing the world)… each is true, different truths: emotional/factual/scientific (gravity)- (example if you ask people to define happiness, each one of them will say something different. For example: money, family, love, etc., they have different priorities, it doesn’t mean that the person who values Family is happier compared to the one who values Money… it’s what they believe, it’s subjective, recursive/dialectical (moves back and forth, shifts, not static but DYNAMIC)

Musing- getting to/trying to understand, exploring, analyzing experience, answering the ‘so what’ question (deeper subject), thinking about the experience in a bigger context, trying to find the universal truth in a personal experience

Selecting/ using significant details that enhance experience, show through Metaphor to express the inexpressible/ juxtaposition of ideas/words which at first appear incongruent but reveals to create another idea/perspective.

All of these are applied in the readings throughout this week, such as Shumaker’s “Moving Water, Tucson”, Lott’s “Towards Humility”, David Sedaris’ Naked, McNair’s “Drink It” and many more. Shumaker’s piece took an ugly/traumatizing experience like witnessing death into sometime beautiful and poetic. She made the most of her experience (turning lemons into lemonades)…(Sorry, I’m not that specific, I ran out of time…if I had more time, I’d make better/stronger connection between term and application from these samples).

In the Memoir, truth becomes more apparent. One is able to understand the deeper meaning not just the surface and thus understand the self, its relations to life (multiple sides/complexity of the person). Memoir is like a performance (folklore sense) where a heightened sense of awareness/consciousness is achieved.

***

It's been an intensed week, waking up at at 6 or 6:30 so I could leave the house by 7:30 am (at the least) because it started at 8... sometimes, I won't be sleeping until 1 am (busy reading, writing critiques/own work, etc.)... Wednesday and Thursday, I was so tired, i had to crash at 11:30 pm and wake extra early to catch up in my work... my final portfolio is due next friday Aug. 8... the good thing is that the hours next week will be dedicated to writing my stuff and reading (non-assignments)... I can set up my schedule, more time to sleep...

After next friday (8/8)- I have to start focusing on 2010...

Despite of being sleep-deprived, one of the great things I got out of this intense seminar is inspiration (new ideas on what to explore/ what to write, a great intro to this genre, application of process, self-discovery and many more!)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:34 PM | Comments (2)

July 27, 2008

Memoir Review on the Night before Class Begins...

Chapter 2

The "so what?" is emphasized in the memoir genre (why should I care? why should others care?)... answering this question gives purpose and authority... writing the memoir shouldn't fulfill one's ego... stories should be written for the sake of the story not other ulterior motives (such as revenge, to get attention, etc.)...

Pick mentors carefully!

"It takes time to learn"-- there's a negative attitude from non-professional writers undermining the value of writing and writers... they often think that since WORDS are ubiquitous and used everyday (especially when speaking), everybody can write... everybody does have the potential to write, BUT not everybody will have the perseverance to write for a living... I'm starting to realize why writers are often called "word smiths" because writers shape and create using words like sculptors. Anybody with hands can pick up a hammer or something in order to start beating something to a pulp But not everybody can pick up that hammer or chisel and create a work of art like David.

Learning process- I liked how Barrington mentioned the difference between saying one's a writer and one's an apprentice writer. The former usually received a condescending response like, "Oh you're a writer, I'm a neuro-scientist. I've been planning to writer my biography ever since gradeschool.... Oh you're writing your memoir, I thought only famous people write their memoir? Who's going to recognize your name?"

Don't worry about publishers... write memoir first, then start searching...

Ideas- record dreams (in the past, I've had interesting and powerful dreams, but they're so scary [my heart racing]... that I purposefully did not record them because I wanted to forget about them), have a writing notebook, don't make excuses, just WRITE!, learn from others (read their memoirs)

Why should people/you care? Identification/connection: "Moments in my life might resonate with moments in theirs."

Chapter 3
Memoirs have forms (just because they're personal, it doesn't mean that they're easy to do)

Think structure and organization, similar to Fiction (form serves functions)... arrangements, selectivity (SIGNIFICANT details), clarity, audience friendly, high and low moments, a sense of completion/closing/middle/beginning... like a fragmented essay, like a personal-not-private narrative.... could have parallels... can be as straight-cut as recall and last paragraph analysis/musing... since it's a process learn when to ADAPT... no magic formula/ page length... differing perspective between child and adult... some sense of resolution...

Chapter 4
Truth: exact truth and emotional truth (other truths)- Memory "is not a record of the past but the evolving myth of understanding the psyche spins from its engagement with the world" (not historical facts) but if you're going to use historical facts, double-check and make sure you're citing the facts correctly.

Different perspective ROCKs! The way you recall events will be different from others BUT it doesn't mean it's not true (the difference is okay-- you're the expert of YOUR life)

Telling the truth is hard... it has consequences: Pain (of reliving sad moments), being ostracized, betraying other's trust (revealing family secrets), recognizing the past as something not "romanticized"... be responsible with your words

advantages- learning from others, speaking on behalf of the voiceless, enjoyable- seeingone's writing grow like one's own children...

HUMOR/irony can engage (tone/ voice's authority)... think imaginative recreation of the past... be transparent with your readers (let them know you're exploring instead of coming-off as a whiner or "know-it-all"... process/journey...

Memoir is a blend of truth and art. Not necessarily scientifically or historically true, but a true experience/moment nonetheless, and art, something "made", to make... to write to show "a" truth (factual/emotional etc.). Writing is NOT just self-expression; it also shapes culture: "Our words make the world."

Chapter 5
Memoir employing fiction writing techniques (also think cinema!) to highlight a truth:

Scene- close-up, immediate, an instance, slow down, SHOWs, dialogues (essence of what the person would say, doesn't have to be verbatim, But must stay truthful to the character's personality- select... only use plain attributes if speaker is not clear, avoid descriptive attribute (she mused, she snapped, etc.)--- look hard for the HEART of what actually happened...

Summary- long shot, great distance, covers a lot of time, can be enriching with details

Musing- can be clear-cut in the end, or interjected throughout, embedded--- whatever you prefer... Insights, speculations, questions, purpose, revelations, discoveries: "the essence of memoir is 'the track of a person's thoughts struggling to achieve some understanding of a problem.'"

Note your weakness and strengths in order to improve... YOu're the director!

Chapter 6
Moving around in time: There has to be a "now" (implicit/explicit) and a "then"... the now ANCHORS readers so readers can have a starting point... "now" clarifies for the reader your struggle/ your explorations etc.... shows "on-going" nature of inquiry/self explorations

Past- retrospective, not as limited as the present
present- immediacy, limited (in the sense of clear sentence constructions)

Practice both tense separately to master!

...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:59 PM | Comments (0)

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 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2008

Memoir Prep

On July 28, my one week intensive seminar class in Memoir writing will begin... my teacher emailed the class telling us to read Judith Barrington's book on memoirs called "Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art" ... so to prepare, I'll have to finish reading this by July 28 (pretty easy, only 176 pages), and I'll be blogging my notes, and...

I'll be reading supplementary memoirs:

David Sedaris's "Naked": I first heard of Sedaris when he came to SHU-- regretfully, I didn't attend his lecture, ironically enough missing his lecture made me want to read his works, I'm not sure which one I read first either "Me Talk Pretty..." or something about "denim/corduroy"

Mark Doty's "Firebird: A Memoir": I first heard of Doty last semester... he was supposed to visit USU but had to cancel due to health reasons... USU rescheduled him for this November so hopefully by november he'll be healthy and he could visit USU... my friend/colleague read his book called something like "Still Life with Oysters and Lemon"? for one of his class... it explored art and life and so during office hours, he'd discuss some of its aspects with me (for sure I put my two cents especially when it came to discussing art) ... eventually I read this book also ("Still Life...")

Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier": Beah is USU's guest author for the summer so he'll be visiting USU and will give a talk... the freshmen are also reading this book... so I want to read his book before he gives his talk in August

John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley": I started reading this book last Febuary- I'd read snippets of it before I slept- hopefully I'll finish this before class begins

Louis L'Amour's "Education of a Wandering Man": I accidentally discovered him in the Logan Library, I saw a display of his works and I got interested- he wrote mostly westerns but the title of his memoir caught my attention

I'm not going to finish all of these by the 28th, the important thing is exposure and enjoyment... the first three books explores childhood (which is good because I'm prepping also for my children's folklore class this fall- reading memoirs about childhood might give me ideas for my research) and the last two books talk about travels and journey (two of my favorite things to write about)

So far I'd read the intro and chapter 1 to Barrington's book

Intro

key words/phrases: Virginia Woolf, frankness/candidness, conversation, telling our story, risk, embelishment, truth and memory

some thoughts: I never heard of Virginia Woolf until Nicole Kidman portrayed her in the movie "the Hours". After this, I kept hearing about her especially from my English and/or feminist friends... they were singing praises about Woolf's work. Initially I found this annoying so I shunned Woolf's work and did everything in my power to avoid her books...just a couple of days ago, I gave in and borrowed "the Hours" in the library (this was all coincidence- I didn't know that Barrington was going to mention Woolf in the intro)...I watched the featurettes about Woolf's life and work and "Three Women" which sort of explained how the movie was structured, I watched these before the actual movie (I didn't have a chance to finish it because I was tired and had to sleep and the following day I had to return it in the library- next time)... Barrington noted Woolf's candidness especially when she wrote a prototype for today's literary memoir insinuating an incestuous relationship with her half brother (one of the other things she wrote about which interests me is her childhood memoir exploring her relationship with her mother- most likely I'll try to read this one also)...

Being frank and candid was initially scary... but I remember what I told my students when I explained to them their personal narrative assignment... we discussed the difference between "personal" and "private"- the subtle difference lies in the author's feeling of comfort: is she/he WILLING and comfortable enough to SHARE her/his experience? With this in mind, being frank wasn't so terrifying.

I like conversing and the idea of telling one's story (I feel lucky because the classes I'm taking seem to connect with each other. For example... In June, I took a seminar in Life Stories...I'm about to take Memoir class (telling an aspect of one's life), and in the fall, I'll be taking "Storytelling" [telling stories])... the idea about conversing is pretty dynamic because whenever you converse with people, in a way you are performing... you interact with them (read their gestures/facials and react to these), there is a tone or two in your voice, you pantomine, you do a lot of things (an idea just popped out: Is memoir writing the literary version of oral storytelling?).

I related when Barrington mentioned risk of offending others like parents and friends, etc. whenever I write about them in my blog, I usually use the ambiguous pronoun... this is something I need to explore more...

Embelishments, truth and memory all seem to contradict each other... a semester ago I would have believe it too... my mind changed and adapted to new information/enlightenment I got after finishing my seminar in June about Life Stories... one of the things I learned was that memory is like history, both are selective, we usually remember what is the most memorable, depending on the victor or writer/recorder... from a lifetime of memories, our brains usually select the most dramatic and meaningful... it's okay to be selective- it doesn't mean that it's the only truth, or it can't be true, it's our perception, our impression of our experience, how it affected us mentally/physically/spiritually/emotionally etc.

Chapter 1

Definition:
old concept- memoirS back then were closely associated with autobiography- broader, covering all aspects of a person's LiFe...tries to be factual, relies on facts/research... more than just memory

current concept- memoir, literary essay-like, focused, an aspect of a person's life (story from a life), such as Childhood, more in-depth...I like what Philip Lopate said about memoirs and other "informal or familiar essay" such as diatribe, moral philosophy, fantasy, etc. ... the author's voice (engaging, personality-galore, relax/conversational- the author's signature/fingerprint/identity) distinguishes this genre from others (it plays a CENTRAL role)... it's personal but uses fiction writing techniques (like the personal narrative I assigned my Eng. 1010 students)... an impression... author assumes role of narrator to help with distance even though he's still narrating about an aspect of his life

-person's thoughts/mental struggle is the plot/adventure (author both tells an amusing story and muses about it)
-narrator conversing intimately, like a columnist
-"Not everything in a memoir is factually accurate" (26)- this statement helps me understand Sedaris memoir more... some of the writing in "Naked" seem really out there and even if they are "out there" I still believe him. What Barrington said about the assertion of the author, which affects the reader, is starting to make sense. I believe what Sedaris is writing about because he believes in the story he's telling me. I find him reliable as a narrator (credible enough to tell me his experience). I TRUST him, his voice.

I like this quote "Self Revelation without analysis or understanding becomes merely an embarrassment to both reader and writer." I encountered this personally after I finished grading some of my students' personal narrative (in the Fall/Spring/Summer semester)... I always tell them to answer the "so-what" question in the end, i'd tell them that after they "recalled" an experience they needed to "assess" it also... I'd comment on their papers and ask them "so what?" (I know this sounds harsh...it was with good intention that I said this)... so what that "you didn't want to disappoint your parents?" so what that "you're living by yourself?"... another way I tried to approach this, "why is this memory/experience important to you?"... it's easy for me to ask these questions on other people's paper but when it comes to my own paper, I too struggle (I'm not the outsider seeing the essay objectively)... I'm the insider, writing, in the the midst of all the reliving/figuring out...I've learned though that what usually helps me is to see some kind of pattern (analyze the before and after, how the experience/memory affected me?, what changed? etc.)

tips for beginning a Memoir:
-find a focus/theme (not your whole life) - I'm thinking about childhood, Philippines, being a GI, my house
-be in a judgmental/questioning state of mind- working on this...
-read good memoirs for example- On-going with Sedaris, Doty, Beah, Steinbeck, L'Amour
-find your voice- I practice this all the time when I blog and in my journals...

I'm on my way...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2008

flooding

today I experience being a flood victim in a miniscule scale... since I'm a creative writer, this entry will be extra dramatic... I'm going to blow everything out of ProPortioN because it's fun (plus it's one of the nature of writing)

Dorm flooding seems to follow me... when I was in SHU, my room in Canevin got flooded since my room was in the first floor, the flooding was the result of gravity... one of the pipes in the ground floor got clogged so everything was back up ... obviously the build up water can't climb all the way to 4th canevin... it has to get out somehow... why not in 1st floor canevin?

I'm in grad school now and I've updated my living space... I no longer live in "dorms" instead, I live in "graduate housing"... my one room dormitory has evolved into a two-room apartment with my own bathroom, living room, kitchen, and a mini back-porch (for my bike) [slowly climbing the ladder]... here's where the drama unfolds...

I just finished tutoring my thai friends in the library (2nd day in giving them a crash course in eng. 1010)... I'm bicycling towards my apartment... I went towards the back-porch instead of the front because this is where I usually put the bike (Yellow submarine)...

the curtains were pulled all the way to one side exposing my apartment, the couch was outside... my painting is still hanging... I see a stranger inside my apartment walking around (usually my first instinct would be- burglar must call cops... but the positive side of me kicked in "I must have a new roommate and he's moving in" the stranger was really closed to the hanging painting, I thought he was going to remove it... looking back there was no logic... I didn't question why the couch was outside, why nobody told me about a possible roommate, why my living room was empty... always looking at the bright side...

I finally entered the apartment ... I discovered that there were 3 strangers and everything was moved in the kitchen and there were blowers on the ground... "I lived here, what happened?" surprisingly I was calm, and they were calm too...

one of them answered me "one of your water/heater pipes burst... your neighbor called us saying that water was coming out of your apartment..."

in my mind I thought they were going to blame me so immediately I said,"It must have happened sometime in the afternoon because I left in the morning"

"Yeah, your neighbor called... when we came in, there were at least 2 inches of water... the stuff in your bedroom didn't get that wet... but some of your books and paintings got wet..."

then i started to think, what paintings? what books?- I saw in the kitchen counter the watercolor books, paper and supplies were wet... the good thing is that the wet paper were water color papers so they're used to being wet (I was a bit sad because a wet paper, even though it's still in tact, will change the water color effects... then i got somewhat happy because this is easy to replace... good thing I didn't start my big water color project- I can't imagine spending hours doing a water color piece and find it destroyed)... i stopped thinking about the paper, once i saw the wet books (books that weren't mine... they belonged to USU's library)... once again I'm surprised at the things I was thinking about... I just experienced a mini catastrophe and I'm thinking about money...

immediately I asked, "Can you write me note explaining that I had a flood? because those books are not mine... they belong to the library..."

"Sure... which library?"

"USU's, Merrill Cazier..."

" we'll have the letter typed out some time in the afternoon tomorrow"

he did bring out the point that "good thing your neighbor called... can you just imagine entering you apartment and finding water everywhere" and it's true, I'd probably be more freaked out!

they talked amongst themselves... mentioning that if they have to pay for it, they'll have to, it was their job, their responsibility (hearing this was a relief... then later I got sad again because they were really nice books... I needed them for my watercolor project and two of them are memoirs I'm reading for my class)...

they left... the blowers stayed... I can turn them off when I sleep and turn them back on tomorrow when I leave... one of them or another crew will come back tomorrow and "assess" the situation (I might get new carpets, yippee!)... coincidentally most of my personal books were somewhat saved, it's just everything else... everything in the living room has been moved in the kitchen... my room has been pushed to one side... my bed is no longer parallel to the wall, it lays diagonally across my room... in each doorway the blowers block the entrance... if i want to get from one place to another I have to hurdle over them... wet carpet, dank/musky smell... kitchen floor a bit slippery/lots of smudges... I probably don't have hotwater, which sucks when I take my shower tomorrow morning...

my hunger sort of disappeared but I know this will kick in later- body stress is probably adapting [so while I typed this entry, I put rice in the rice cooker in order to cook it... the great thing is that this didn't happen during finals week (knock on wood)... it's summer, I only have one class to teach... my own class won't take place until the 28th of july, there are no other stress factors which can make the situation worse

my tv time got interrupted but at least I'll have time to force myself to read my textbook for my memoir class... I have nothing else to do, and I can't sleep this early...

most of my shoes are wet.... funny thing, this one pair of shoes I try not using during rainy season is now soaked, I hope it's not broken...

watercolor sketches cover the stove burners... books lay open for drying...

maybe the flood is telling me to clean my apartment more (I did plan to have a late summer cleaning in early August, I would have finished my teaching and my own classes- I would have more time)...

i survived the flood, well anyway, at least most of my stuff survived the flood...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:53 PM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2008

Melange

eclectic delicacy

if you ever get a chance, go try Cottage cheese and marshmallows- they have the same color but eating them together and depending which one you chew first, it has one of those before and after sort of taste

evils of CRACK

one day you can be flying through life, getting by, life is sunny as you cruise, feeling the breeze that ruffles your silky hair and then you encounter CRACK and it brings you down, your life comes crashing down, you fall, drama of scraped knees and palms... dirty, no matter how hard you fall, you must get up and pick up your life again... OH I'm talking about sidewalk cracks, most likely the other crack (the drug) can be dangerous too...

journey to Spaghetti Land

next time I'll only use half a pound of ground beef... cooking the ground beef was interesting...first I tried frying it but I got intimidated so I just boiled it to completely cook it... I used the Newman Sweet Onion and Garlic tomatoe sauce...I added some fresh onions, garlic powder... to make it watery, added ketchup... to make it 'a la Philippines'- I placed two sugar cubes and when I served it, a hint of cinnamon... weird? i didn't screw up the pasta- it boiled well, it wasn't clumpy or lumpy!

the journey was messy, but the destination was delicious (satisfaction)

Mexican Jello

easy to make- add four cups of milk to gelatin mix and refrigerate.... similar to Philippine Jello during fiestas... Coconut flavor! Yummy!

Get Smart (the movie)

-overall good, better than the Love Guru, more jokes not revealed in the commercial...Steve Carrell humor is definitely present...

Story collecting

could be better but I'll deal with whatever I have... I have to read back issues of Children's Folklore Review to jump start my research paper... I met up with my storytelling professor to talk about my duties as one of her TAs...

students

I'm having a good time teaching this summer... the students so far are showing more dedication in comparison to students who took Eng. 1010 in the fall and spring semesters... and because I'm crazy, I decided to give 2 of my thai friends a crash course on effective writing (using prnciples in the Eng 1010 curriculum) in 13 days [something is better than nothing]...

End of Summer semester

the next 2 weeks will be insane- 2 more major assignments to grade, student conference and presentation... then I need to prepare for my intense one week seminar in Memoir Writing...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:28 AM | Comments (2)

July 12, 2008

asking for help totally failed

the silver lining and the bright side... one story is better than no story...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:09 AM | Comments (3)

July 5, 2008

HELP: Tell Me a Story!

Hello SHU community and Beyond... I need everybody's help (students, professors, doctors, etc. ALL ages, it doesn't matter)... most of you know that I'm a graduate student studying Chidlren's Folklore... I have a project to do and it involves collecting stories...

My project is not due until Dec. 2008 and right now I'm just doing pre-liminary research... Here's how YOU can help... "STORIES" is a pretty BROAD term, and I'm trying to narrow my focus and find an angle...

I'm trying to narrow my focus by asking you to share a childhood story that's so memorable to you... the stories I collect here will hopefully give me a focus and an angle to PREPARE this fall when I start officially collecting them in a methodical manner with proper documentation etc.... I won't use your stories other than to get a "feeling" and if I do use your story, I'll send you an individual email asking for permission (you can refuse or accept- no hard feelings)...

I talked to one of my advisers, and she reminded me that "stories" is broad and to make things complicated a child's sense of story is even vague (depending on the age and other exposures/factors- a child might associate jokes, riddles, fairy tales etc. as stories-- the other tricky thing is that I'm asking YOU [people of all AGES] with different backgrounds/concepts/perspective to SHARE with me... I'll never know what I'll find unless I ask ... so PLEASE PARTICIPATE (you can ask all my teachers: St. Matthias, Arch. John Carroll HS, SHU, USU, that I have good academic integrity so I won't abuse the information you share with me)

so If you're interested in participating just comment on this entry and tell me your story in the comment section (pass the word and tell everybody you know, who'd like to participate)...

here are some guidelines:

1. Think back when you were 10 years old (or close to that age), Tell me a story (it doesn't matter what genre- I'm being vague here on purpose because I'm trying to find out something) that you remember telling your peers? What story(s) was popular in your group? What did you tell each other? I'm looking for Personal stories not Private stories and REMEMBER to SHOW a lot (with details) instead of to TELL.

Thanks for participating and helping me! Once my focus is narrowed and I find an angle, I would know how to analyze whatever data I get; and I would have a better idea on how to approach this project this Fall, so thanks in advance!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:35 PM | Comments (1)

Cooking, citizenship, and chillin' at fastfood eateries...

last week I cooked my first beef steak...

first I had to somewhat defrost the meat... so I ran hot water on it (is this sanitary?)...once the meat was somewhat malleable/bendable, I marinated it somewhat... I sprinkled an estimated pinch of salt and pepper on both sides...then I think I used a teaspoon of lemon juice to spread on one side (repeated for the other side)... I just let all (salt,pepper, lemon juice) settle/marinate the meat (for at least 20 minutes)...

while those ingredients was flavoring the meat, I prepared the pan...I prewarmed the pan for a minute on high...then lowered it to medium and spread 2 tablespoon of olive oil... 20 minutes past, and I place the meat in the pan to fry it... it sizzled and the oil leapt/splattered creating a halo around the pan (grease stains?-- this is why the stove gets dirty [now i understand])...sometimes I felt the pin-prickly feeling of oil stinging me...it's like the bites of fire-ants (but milder?)...

I kept flipping one side to make sure both sides are nice and brown (bloody stuff started to exudes from the meat- heat causing the meat to clean itself?)... I fried both sides for five minutes to be sure (the good thing is that I didn't burn it-- sure some of the edges were charred, but it was still delicious)... once the supposed frying time ended, I lowered the heat and poked the meat... no liquidy stuff was coming out (good sign that it's cooked) and then I cut it in half to see the insides, it wasn't pink/reddish (another good sign)...

I served this along with rice-roni's Cheddar and broccoli flavored rice (which wasn't that difficult and daunting to cook- just add water, butter, rice-roni and BOIL- once it reached its boiling point, lower the heat and let it "simmer")... I was full in the end... I ate the left overs for dinner the next day...

A couple of days after cooking this beef steak, I experimented with canned tuna and eggs...

I sliced half an onion (I learned that in order to prolong the life of the onion, one must slice it and put it in the freezer) and a Roma tomato... I spread one teaspoon of olive oil on the pan (I didn't want the same oil splatter- plus the tuna is pretty much cook so I figure little oil is needed)...

I put everything together and the last thing i added was the scrambled egg... I think I might have overcooked everything in the end because the tuna was a little dry (overcooking is better than undercooking especially when it comes to raw eggs)... everything is still edible and delicious for me (just add a little ketchup)... I ate this with white rice (I recently discovered a working rice cooker in my apartment, hiding in one of those cabinets in the kitchen [my first flatmate left it and I'm glad he did!])...my next cooking project will be SPAGHETTI (coming soon!)...

A couple of days ago on July 2nd (2008), my parents and brother became American citizens (I became one before 2006)... I wasn't able to attend the ceremony because I'm in Logan, UT teaching... I called them and they just received the card I sent them... I watched the fireworks on July 3rd with my thai friends and for July 4th, I just stayed in my apartment dorm and chillaxed (watched tv, graded two papers, caught up with scrapbooking etc.- very laid-back)...

So far this summer, I've been balancing between cooking and eating out: cooking my own food, and either eating at the university cafeteria or eating at local eateries (fastfood chain or not)...in the passed couple of days, I frequented Taco Time and Subway...

Taco Time
McDonalds has its Burger King and Taco Bell has its TACO TIME...Taco Time claimed that they used fresh ingredients and they probably do... BUT eveything gets lost when cooking is approached in an assembly-line fashion... I tried their new Pork Quesidilla served with a scoop of rice and beans with tortilla chips and green sauce (verde chili)... the tortilla and chips' supposed crispyness was on the verge of being overly toasted... in the end, I still preferred Henriquez Mexican and Salvadorian Grill (cooked just right and cheaper!)...

Subway
I tried the Foot-long special for $5 and it was good... I ate the first half for lunch and the other half for dinner... Overall a good bargain, and it filled me up... I had the roasted chicken breast on Monterey Cheese loaf with spinach, pickles, tomatoes and honey mustard sauce... this was also approached in assemmbly-line fashion but somehow it worked for a sandwich-type meal... for dessert, I walked over to Juniper's and had the Caramel Pecan Icecream (it was okay, it wasn't like the Gelati's I would have in Philadelphia, but still acceptable)...

YUMMY!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2008

Tagalog Test for a Native-born

Why did a person, who was born in the Philippines and grew up there for 9 years, take the Tagalog language proficiency test at BYU (Provo)?

the person I'm talking about is Me (if that wasn't obvious)... most of you know that I'm trying to complete a master's program in Folklore (in the hopes of supplimenting my BA in creative writing [English])... one of the requirements in a Master of Arts (MA) degree is proficiency in TWO languages...

Originally, I planned on brushing up on my Spanish and making this count for my second language... last semester, I reviewed and took the Spanish placement test and I passed the Spanish 1010 level, which meant that I had three more levels to complete before I'm considered proficient (SP 1020, 2010, 2020?)... in an ideal world where I have more time (more than two years), this task can be easily accomplished...

HOWEVER in the REAL world where I teach two classes and take two classes in my program, I gain opportunities and lose some. I'm building up my CV-resume and picking up skills with the teaching and at the same time I'm not able to focus time in studying Spanish... the few down times/break I have is just that, few and rare- I still have to be SANE. So during these few breaks, I do what sane people do: take a break!

I reached a point where I had no problems accepting a Master of Science (MS) instead of a MA (I figure that after I complete my program and I have more time, I can continue practicing Spanish and maybe there's a test out there I can take to show proficiency and I can show this "certificate" to my future employer) But my colleagues still kept saying that MA is better (favored) because of the language requirement (another skill)...

I was about to just settle for the MS when one of my friend/colleagues (who went on a mission in the Philippines and spoke/studied Tagalog) suggested: "Why don't you take the test for Tagalog?" BYU in Provo was offering this test (Tagalog as a subgenre of Spanish)... and he gave me the website to find out more information...

Can I do this? I thought to myself... I went to the website. It was clear that BYU students who spoke Tagalog was exempt from taking this exam. But I'm a USU student, and reading between the lines, there is a chance for me because the website states that other institutions may have a different policy for language profiiciency...

with hope, I went to the director for the graduate program for the English Department here at USU to clarify this idea... The issue of "NATIVE SPEAKER" came up. I asked him how USU defines "native speakers"...

my rational: yes I was born in the Philippines, and I grew up there for 9 years, the highest formal education I received in the Philippines is 2nd grade... after that I went to the U.S. from 3rd grade to the present, I've had an American education... in both situations whether speaking Tagalog or English, listening/writing/reading Tagalog or English, I still struggle, I still miss the nuances in both language (eventually I get it but it doesn't come easily)...

...here's where the situation gets knotty (for my case specifically), during the meeting with the director we tried to figure out which test I should take... if Tagalog is considred my native language, then that means technically I can take some sort of TOEFL test... if English is considred my native language then I can take the Tagalog test... here's where it gets tricky, the director pointed out the discriminatory nature of testing a native on the procifiency of his native language, he brought up a good point: if a Tagalog speaking person is being tested on Tagalog, then why aren't Americans tested on English to show that they're proficient in it?...

Here's another factor in my case, I'm a graduate instructor (GI), and one of the requirements for being a GI is being proficient in English; if I weren't then the English Department wouldn't have hired me. The director pointed out that taking the English proficiency test would be pointless because I already surpassed this requirement when I was hired ... at the end of that meeting, we sort of settled on the idea that I'm BILINGUAL... right now the director is writing a letter to the dean of graduate studies about my case...

I wonder if the bilingual factor was considered in the clause "proficiency in two languages"... if I don't take Spanish, if I passed the Tagalog or English test, would I still get the coveted MA?

Weeks passed...

I haven't heard from the director (I'll email him next month) but I still took the Tagalog test last Saturday June 28 with my friend (I took it because the testing site is in Provo [2 hours from Logan at least] and I don't have a car, and it was only $30-- it's an investment- if this is succesfull then I save TIME and I get an MA instead of a MS, and if it's not, then it's ONLY $30)

I still have to REVIEW my Tagalog... it was sort of fun, I just listened to most of my Tagalog music cds, and I read this humorous/satiric Tagalog with English book about culture of and problems in the Philippines called "Bakit Baligtad magbasa ng libro ang Pilipino?" by Bob Ong (Why do Filipinos read books backward [upside-down]?)... I sort of wanted to do more, for example, read Tagalog news and watch Filipino TV on-line, do some chatting with my missionary friend who spoke Tagalog... but I waited until the week of the test to get SERIOUS about this test (I couldn't believe that I was going to take the test)...

I listened to Tagalog music when I woke up, while I graded, while I read, while I cooked etc.... then I read Ong's book everyday at least 20-30 pages a day (getting through this book was difficult but it helped me with vocab and grammar- while reading this book, I found it easier to read it when I read it outloud or in whispers...

on the day of the test, I woke up at 4:30 am, my friend with his family, and I left Logan at 6:30 am... we were supposed to be at the testing site 20 minutes before 9... we arrived 3 minutes before 9... the test was scantron- multiple choice, listening, and reading comprehension...

I thought the grammar's difficulty was okay... it was a bit tricky because I got confused between formal and informal... then when I started to overanalyze it too much, I ended up second-guessing my answer/instinct... I followed the old/ sometimes irrational adage "If it sounds right, then it's correct"... sometimes I whispered the phrases so I could hear it (it's amazing how audio can make meaning clearer)...

the listening was okay... there were funny moments especially when the questions and answer choices were sort of absurd that they're funny... the test takers laughed (they undertood and caught the absurdity)... once again, the only time I had difficulty was when I overanalyzed-- sometimes rather than paying attention and listening to the dialogues, I'd make up my own dialogue and finish the dialogue OR sometimes I'd construct the dialogue based on the choices of answers the test provided... Luckily I stopped this habit and focused (hopefully not too late)...

the reading comprehension part was the most difficult... I had to translate 12 passages, each passage got longer and the vocabularies got bigger (the nice thing was that the passages dealt with some cultural aspects of the Philippines: values, religion, weather, foodways, literature, history, etc.- nice cultural review)... the annoying thing was that it took FOREVER translating the passages, and they'd only ask three questions or so--)

a good test-taker would just look at the question and look for "key phrases"- I didn't feel comfortable doing this because it's been a while since I took a formal test on Tagalog... so I translated sentence by sentence-- the advantage of doing this is that the information is retained longer in my brain, and I feel more confident in answering the questions and if I'm not then I know where to find the information in the passage...

translating was fun... when the passage was short, i translated it to the best of my ability following English grammar rules... but the longer and more complicated the passages became, I forgot about the grammar and I focused on the idea (somehow the translation started looking like choppy poetry)... I started taking shortcuts (using letters to designate names, or Mars and Venus symbols for gender, slang, etc.)...

I finished the test 20 minutes before time was up (11:45)- I decided to re-check the grammar section... If I pass, I hope this could replace the language requirement for my program so I could receive a MA instead of a MS...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:49 PM | Comments (5)

June 29, 2008

Project Prettification complete

yes, hopefully I would only have less than a year before graduating... but this idea didn't stop me from SPRUCING up the apartment I live in...

during my first year here at Logan, Utah... I was too busy learning my way around (learning the bus system/schedule, exploring different stuff/stores/institutions etc. downtown)-- my apartment was a place where I slept (and occassionally a place to socialize when dining/chatting with flatmates)... I did everything outside my apartment (the winter season was an exception)... I did most of my homework in the library or in a cafe downtown, I did teaching stuff in my office in Ray B West Building, I watched tv in my friend's house, I ate in the cafeteria or downtown...etc.

the summer season is helping to bring a change to this routine... sometimes I just don't want to go out because I want to sleep in (or it's too hot)... I'm eating more inside the apartment instead of relying on the cafeteria for food (Cooking plays a role)...also trying to save money...

most of the non-perishable stuff I bought to beautify the apartment came to a total cost of only $60... and most of them are second-hand from thrift stores (D.I and Somebody's Attic), you'll be amazed at the treasures you'll find in these places...

tv- I found a 20" tv in "Somebody's Attic" for only $15 (You have five days to test out the tv, if it doesn't work you have to return it within the designated five days-- luckily the tv works so I don't have to return it)... the only drawback to this tv is the broken VCR attached to it...even though there's no tape inside, it keeps rewinding itself... it's annoying at first sounding like a broken metronome, but eventually you get used to it...the remote is not consistent but still works occassionally(wait 5 minutes before pressing the buttons again)...in addition, I bought a cable antenna ($7) so I can watch local news, tv shows, and get access to some cable channels (like USA, MTV etc.)...

SEGA- Forget Playstation 3 or Nintendo's Wii... I went old-school and both a Sega Genesis game consul ($20)... I missed the FLAT 2-D images and simple linear plots of its games (it's another form of entertainment- a nice break from reading 20-30 pages scholarly journals, jargon-filled textbooks, grading, teaching, etc.-- to unclutter the brain)....

the apartment has off-white cinderblock walls, mauve/fading purplish/reddish carpet worn and blackened in some parts through wear and effects of time, gray couch and arm chair with scratched dark wooden base... I didn't go too far with buying couch covers with matching carpet at the center of the living room instead I spent $10 on a large abstract painting and two couch pillows:

art- the colors of the abstract painting caught my attention when I first saw this in "Somebody's Attic"... at first I didn't really care if it was a good abstract painting... the colors were enough to brighten up the living room and put color in a drabby room... it contained both primary and secondary colors (mostly red)... it's 3X4, the more I look at it, the more intriguing the shapes become... sometimes the shapes are blocky, sometimes it's like a lava lamp with organic/flowing shapes... the negative area sometimes pops out sometimes it sinks... something about it reminds me of Miro or a color-field painter's work... it's less than 5 pounds and I used one of those "super sticky" things to hang it... I hang it 2 days ago, and it's still hanging (I hope the "sticky thing" holds it- I fear the day it would fall on somebody's head while he/she is lounging on the couch)...

I was going to buy a rug for $15 but decided not to (it cost too much plus it didn't match)...Instead I bought two couch pillows from "D.I."... One is striped (subdued tomatoe red and yellowish/olive green) another is a solid olive green with a satin finish...instead of having a christmas feeling to it, it has more of a 60s vibe to it...nonetheless they serve their function well- they put color on a drabby gray couch

Other accents around the living room area and kitchen are plants and various birdhouses. I actually got the plants last summer, and they've grown...I just moved them in the living room because my room is crowded plus, they get better sunlight there... the only logic I used in choosing the birdhouses deals with number... while I was at "D.I."... I was looking for knick-knacks to fill the corners and other empty spaces... I decided to have a unifying theme to hold all of them together...I found lots of interesting looking bird houses on the shelf (ranging from $0.75 to $2.00)...

lastly, a natural accesory to have in the kitchen is food- the table is decorated by banana/orange/onion... cereal/instant oatmeal boxes, bread, honey, etc... I also inherited red fabric placematas from my old flatmate...

the entertainment, decorations, and food actually make the place livable, like somebody actually lives there: ME!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2008

grading for 13 hours

if you're ever an instructor, don't wait the night of to grade 17 papers (for an English/Composition class)...

This batch was the first major assignment this semester... the momentum from the Spring semester is gone (last spring, I had a method to grade fast, efficiently and thoughtfully- now I'm trying to remember how I did that... so of course, grading took me longer than usual.... keep in mind that the minimum page count for these papers is "3" (17 X 3 =51pages, i had to read 51 pages of prose at least- almost like a novella but disconnected)... BUT I always encourage my students to go BEYOND (which is good)

with this realization, I stopped complaining and just graded. I started at 2 in the afternoon, and finished at 3 in the morning (took breaks in between, ate dinner/snack)-- next time, I'll start earlier (maybe at noon :), or Saturday).

Nonetheless, I'm glad they're writing and one of the goals in English 1010 is just for them to get comfortable with writing (keep writing in order to learn how to write-- we've discussed writing as a process, they've fastwrite, drafted, polished, revised [being flexible with certain situations], we've talked about "bad writing", the importance of getting ideas down, content first before grammar, inner critic, collaboration, grammar in the polishing aspect, etc.)...

yeah I got 4 hours of sleep (it's summer so I can afford few hours of sleep, plus I'm off on Tuesday and Thursday), but at least my students got their papers back so they could get started in their revision (all revisions are due July 21 or earlier)--- [narcissistic aside: talk about dedication]

it took me forever because i have to justify the grades I gave them (show examples/evidence)...

I returned their papers today, and I told them that I would not discuss their grades in class- if they wanted further explanations or if they couldn't understand my comments, then I told them to visit me during office hours or make an appointment-- I told them to read the comments first before seeing me in my office (in the past, I've had students who just looked at the number grade and totally ignored the thoughtful comments I wrote (which took TIME!), they'd ask me to explain it to them- most likely I'd say the same things I wrote or I might just take their paper and read the comments to them-- if they don't understand what I'm saying, it's their responsibility to ask me questions so I can clarify (I can't read their minds, I can read their facial expressions to a point as a signal to clarify but other than that- if they don't ask questions, then I don't know how to answer them)...

I used the dreaded/infamous RED pen to mark up their papers-- In the past, I've tried torquise, emerald, pink, purple--- BUT these other colors are not as bright and long lasting as the Red pen (plus I think, red goes well with the black typed papers-- graphic design 101- black and red is an awesome and powerful combination- i heard)... another goal of mine is to give my students another perspective/association for the color RED... red is not just used to mark up grammatical errors, correct mistakes--- Red can be used to question/clarify concepts/ideas, used to give SUGGESTIONS, used for constructive criticism...

their next major assignment is due before the July 4th weekend- I'll definitely have more time to grade this batch...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 3:01 PM | Comments (5)

June 22, 2008

people, people who need people...

the folklore classes, which I've been taking since August 2007, are making me aware of people, their behavior and patterns (observable from the outside)... their mannerisms, the words they choose, etc. lead to speculation... this is a weird feeling especially when I recognize some sort of pattern or predict what the person will say (they have repeated a phrase over and over again) in certain situation, like a surreal feeling like realizing that one is dreaming and exploiting this knowledge to fly or do other things in the dreamworld (impossible in the waking world)...

two months ago, I was in Chili's. While waiting for my dad to arrive, the waitress approached me and asked if I'd like to order any appetizer or drinks. I just asked for a vanilla milkshake and explained to her that I was waiting for my dad to arrive before ordering. It looked like she wasn't having a good day, I sensed that she was annoyed. I didn't let her "standoffish" attitude ruin my dining experience (I did make a mental note about how much tip we'd give her later). I brought a book to read... the girl was taking the orders of a party to the left of me. Just as I was about get to the rhythm of what I was reading, the same waitress-girl fainted. I was surprised at how calmly the customers acted. One of them caught her and tried to lay her down, and with an authoritative voice (very subtle shaking of voice, little evidence of panic). "Somebody call for help!...somebody get orange juice... when's the last time you ate?, is this the first time that this happened? Somebody call for help?"... I just sat there and stared, my cellphone in my jean's pocket... finally two young women from a booth to my right came over and offered their assistance. I sat there... they finally moved her to the lounge/waiting area where she could fully lay down, a couple minutes later the paramedics arrived, and continued to question her... another waitress came to me and asked what I ordered, I told her that I was waiting for my dad, and that I'd like a vanilla milkshake while I waited. In my mind, I asked how the waitress-girl could have placed herself in that situation... college student working and going to school full time, neglecting health to finish work, to make ends meet... i've had similar situations when i'd feel my blood sugar really low, really tired- fortunately i haven't reach an extreme similar to the girl's- sometimes I have to force myself to stop everything (even inspiration)... my milkshake arrived, everyone resumed what they were doing, 10 minutes later my dad arrived (I told him what happened), we ate... after paying the bills, my dad decided to give a larger tip (we didn't know if the tip would go to the girl who fainted or the girl who took over)...

I had my teeth cleaned before returning to Logan, Utah. I arrived at the dentist's office on the dot. I signed my name and in a couple of minutes, the dental technician, who would clean my teeth, came out. Her appearance was very neat, her auburn hair was tied in a pony tail, and her voice was very matter-of-fact, mechanical (I thought, "oh my gosh my teeth is going to be cleaned by someone who doesn't want to be here")... I sat on the chair, my head resting,... she placed a bib-like course cloth around my neck, she put on her gloves and a mask covering her nose/mouth... she started doing small talk (which surprised me)... she was surprised at the alignment of my teeth: "Did you have braces?... They're nice and straight (in my mind, I begged the differ, they could be straighter...)... don't tell me you don't floss, you must floss...do you floss? You know how I know you floss, your lips are reacting to the floss (pulling away/pushing it)... the front and sides of your teeth are IMMACULATE, but you need to work on the back of your teeth, protect your investment... I have the same problem as you and my hygienist showed me how to brush back there... just relax your jaw and close it more while you brush... yeah, like smiling while you brush (my analogy)... you seemed to be pretty intelligent and can follow what I'm saying... see if we brush and floss, the friction caused by the up and down movement repels and kills the bacteria that lives in our mouths... the bacteria constantly reproduces and POOPS and if we don't brush and floss, the poop will build up and gather together and starts destroying the teeth."

I don't know if "pooping" is the right word, but her choice of word is so vivid that it makes an impression on me. I don't grudge as much everytime I floss my teeth.

during the last week of my vacation in Philly, I was walking in Olde City looking for a souvenir for my friend in Logan... I found a gift shop called Xenophobia?... The magnets weren't overpriced compared to the magnets from the stores near the tourist spots, such as the Liberty Bell, etc. The price was great but the selection/choices were few. I started thinking about buying magnets for my California cousins (so when I visit them, I'd have 'pasalubong' for them)... while selecting the magnets for my aunts, I overheard a female customer give the Asian cashier "attitude"-- I thought the customer was just having a bad day... I continued to look, and then I started looking at other stuff besides the magnets, like the different rubber duckies (duckie fireman, duckie bride, duckie frankenstien)-- I started getting ideas... then the Asian cashier lady said that she'll be closing soon at 5 pm (I looked at my watch and it was 4:40)...I told myself that I'll return to this store in the future, I ignored the tone of the lady (rationalized that she's having a bad day so it was okay that she was rude)... I returned to the magnets and tried to pick the best three designs... in less than a minute: "I'm closing soon," she repeated in a more hostile, unwelcoming way... this time I was annoyed, I didn't care if she was having a bad day or not (she shouldn't be like that to a customer)... I wanted to say how rude she was, but I didn't, I was so angry that all i wanted to do was leave... I returned the magnets haphazardly on the metal display and left (I vow never to return to that place even if the store has cute baubles)... i might have slammed the door, maybe?

my flatmate (for 3 weeks approximately) left three days ago. For three weeks, I experienced living with a person from Italy, from Belluno (between Venice and Padua)... every morning, he'd set up his red clothe mat on the kitchen table, heat up water for his coffee, have his laptop on, internet connected- either reading Italian news or chatting with friends/family, he'd have toast with jam (apricot/marmalade) [I know I have my own routine, but it's easier to observe from the outside]... sometimes he'll question my choice of food for breakfast (especially when I eat cantaloupe or salad with my cereal or oatmeal- I should have something "sweeter" he'd commented) usually he'd be out the of house by 8:30 or 9 am... then he'll be back either at 7/8 or 11 pm -- he usually eats pasta for dinner, or porkchop and crackers... I'll ask him questions about Italy (driving, weather, music, geography, job, etc,) then one day we actually conversed in back and forth fashion about gas prices and global warming... he avoids working on sunday, and he was surprised to find out that I worked on Sundays (I told him that my concept of a weekend [which i adopted from my thai friend] was not limited to saturday and sunday... the weekend is any free day so that means, it could happen on Tuesday or Thursday when I don't have work... I'm also trying to adapt an outlook that views 'work' in a positive manner [i figure, if i'm enjoying my work, I'm not really "working"]... i confused him sometimes...we'll keep in touch through facebook... before he left, he gave me tips on cooking pasta (salt placed on boiling water with pasta for flavor), flavoring food with lemon juice, proper use of olive oil, cooking meat? [tangent but still related to cooking- I found a rice cooker (the magic pot- easier than boiling rice grain over the stove)in my apartment... ginger have expiration dates, and you can peel them using a teaspoon or potatoe peeler and then you can store them in the freezer so they'd last longer]

I bought a used bike in the thrift store for only $15...I was fortunate, the only things the bike needed were air, some grease so everything runs smoothly (the gears, the wheels and other metalic parts). I spent 2 and 1/2 hours at the Aggie Blue Bike shop (free service and education on anything bike related, provided by USU supported by grants et al.). I told the bicycle mechanic that when it came to fixing bikes I was clueless (I can fix English papers to an extent). He asked me about my bike plans... I told him that I wanted to save as much money as possible and that I just planned to bike on flat grounds from my apartment to campus (library/my office and anywhere in between)... the bike is rideable for my intended goals...I assisted him in fixing my bike, I did the little things like putting grease on parts, unscrewing bolts, tightening parts, etc. in addition, I bought a bike lock and new handle bar grips... on Friday, my yellow and gray used bike from D.I. had been baptized as the "Yellow Submarine"...with this bike, I can now wear flip-flops and my diesel shoes, which would normally make my feet ache due to long-distance walking...

approximately 1/3 of the summer session (of teaching eng 1010) is over. For the most part, my students are doing what is expected of them... I'm glad the classroom is running smoothly... I have to grade 20 papers tomorrow... I like the 1 hour and 40 minute time frame... there is time for lecture, discussion, exercises, reading, etc. Last Friday, four students read their work in front of the class and afterwards, there was a brief discussion, it took 45 minutes, but it was worth it... the third semester teaching english 1010 so far has been a charm... everything is just connected better- content and concept are integrated well with chosen assignments and homework--> I structured the 7-8 week course using the rhetorical triangle, writing as a process, and connected everything to these models plus Ballenger's four ways of 'seeing'--- I'm trying to stress being active in one's "education" instead of being passive and "schooled" (Gatto) and just because eng 1010 is a general education class, it doesn't mean that it can't be applied outside academia and in one's field of studies...

one weird thing, some of my students are reminding me of celebrities or people I know (friends/classmates etc.)... one student has the bearing of Patrick Swazi (Dirty Dancing- maybe it's the hair?)...one has a similar face to Jay Pugh (my student is chubbier in the face, but the way they showed impatience is pretty similar)... another student's face reminds me of my friend in Philly... it's always something, like a pattern... whether it's their posture or the way they hold up their carriage/bearings, their walk, their chin/height/hair... something will remind me of people... after all "people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world..."

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:40 AM | Comments (4)

blurb review: The Love Guru

I think the preview showed most of the funny jokes. Nonetheless there were still a few entertaining surprises such as puns and Mike Myer's behavior and good study of a stereotypical guru's mannerism (international wit?).

L-aughing but
nO-t as much as the
V-ery first
timE- but still

G-ot to
LU-v
Mike MyeR-s's
U-nicity
"TM"

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:09 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2008

Pita Pit and Coldstone (they're not wrestlers)

Pita Pit and Coldstone are in the same shopping center area (a tangent from main street, near Walmart)...

one of my students wrote a review about Pita Pit, and based on her review, I was convinced to try it out for myself. She was right about the deliciousness of the food but her description of the serving size was misleading.

The 5-6 inches long cylindrical pita-wrap with an estimated circumference of about 2 inches filled with meaty goodness and fresh vegetables didn't fill me up. I ordered a chicken crave (chicken and bacon) with alfalfa sprouts, spinach, pineapple, green peppers (refrained from the tomatoes because of recent news), shredded cheddar cheese, topped with tzaziki sauce (cucumber mayo-esque) for around $6.25...

I was thinking about getting another one but instead I opted to get a dessert at Coldstone (2 stores away).

One of the special things about Coldstone is their magical 'cold' pan that fuses sweet ingredients using cold technology (in the veins of dry ice)...

I ordered an "All lovin no oven" (which consisted of cake batter, cookie dough, fudge and whipped cream) in the "Like it" size (in starbucks term-"tall" or "small").

They "cooked" the ice cream in front of me and I saw them fused fudge and whipped cream into the cake batter and cookie dough icecream (unique, the whipped cream solidified instead of melting into the icecreams)...

you can also design your own creation (i didn't go for this because it would probably take me forever)... I spent around $4.00 because I had it served on a waffle bowl...

it was sweet!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:22 PM | Comments (2)

blurb review: Kung Fu Panda

I saw this animated movie last week and although it's almost 3 weeks old, you should still see it. It's a good movie for the whole family or anyone who wants to be uplifted.

Cheesy or INSPIRING quotes include "The past is history, the future is a mystery, and TODAY is a gift, that's why it's called the PRESENT."

"Kung Fu Panda" is about a panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) who wants to be a kung fu master. He gets his wish under one condition; he's training in order to defeat the 'baddest', most 'skilled', angry Tai Lung, the snow leopard, who's out for total annihilation and revenge. Will Po discover the secret in defeating Tai Lung, his dad's secret soup ingredient and the secret to life all in time before it's too late?

the graphics are cool- Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)- in the traditions of Toy Story, the colors are so lively, vivid and sharp. I loved the night scenes with the bright moon, the starry sky and peach tree with pink petals...the fighting scenes are also awesome too!

funny moments occurred when things are incongruent, for example, Po the Panda is the son of a Duck, who manages his own Noodle shop, and at a serious moment when Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie) reveals a personal childhood memory, Po makes a disgusted facial expression...

it's cute...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:39 PM | Comments (2)

June 11, 2008

hindi hindsight from Indian Oven

(good alliteration/assonance but bad generalization; not all Indians are hindi, some are muslims, christians, etc.)

i revisited the "Indian Oven" yesterday (along main street). I got the usual- access to the lunch buffet special for $8... i realized that I get full easily, which means, I probably don't need an unlimited access to the menu presented...

the background: I don't know much about Indian food, prior to "Indian Oven" I've had minute exposure to them (I think the first time was when I rode with Neha to CT for spring break. I waited in her house for my Uncle from Stamford to pick me up. While waiting, Neha's mom fed us. The food she served us were delicious and spicy. I remember dipping the spicy food in the supplimentary yogurt-esque side in order to "cool" the spice down [?])...

one of my colleageus at USU recommended "Indian Oven." She told me about the buffet and how the food wasn't spicy at all (after living with a thai, whose sense of "not spicy" or just "mildly spicy" often misleaded me when testing the "not so spicy" dishes he prepared, i've become more wary of other's perception of what is "spicy"-- nutshell: I'm not used to spicy food so even a smidgen of spice is considered spicy for me... so the first time I went, I talked to the host/server and asked him about the level of spice. He assured me that the food in the buffet were barely spicy/ bordering on subtle spice (in the regular menu, you can order any dish [mostly] with whatever degree of spicyness from subtle/sublime to scorching-need-a-new-tongue spicy, it all depends on you; spicy or not, the dishes are still flavorful).

the buffet was just a great idea because it was a good way to sample different dishes and get to be familiar with the names (so that if you look at the menu, you'll have a better sense of "curry" or "masala" or "tandoora?", you tasted the chicken masala, maybe it'll be similar to pork masala, maybe?)...

the buffet was good for "beginners", BUT since I've returned to this establishment several times, i'm ready to go to the next level and explore the other dishes not presented in the buffet menu/servings... here's my revelation; i don't have to spend $8 to be full while eating in "Indian Oven"- for me, a side of rice, an "ulam (some sort of chicken/ meat)", some vegetable/fruit, a dessert, and a drink, are good enough for me (i can get all of these in varying degrees/ combinations). So next time, i'll start exploring the appetizers, side dishes, and different "naans."

i still remember the first time I ate here. I was so full from lunch (maybe because of the unlimited servings or not) that for dinner I didn't have the appetite to eat the usual large dinner; I ended up just eating a slice of pizza and salad. I had a similar experience yesterday and inspite of the unlimited servings, I stopped myself when I was full.

[ tangent: yesterday I cut open my first cantaloupe, I cleaned out the seeds, sliced the canteloupe to pieces for easy eating experience and "peeled" the outer thick/rough covering/"shell"-- it was a good exercise to practice using the knife ;) and I didn't chop my fingers off :) ]

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 3:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 9, 2008

first day teaching summer session: good vibes

not everything planned happened but overall good session. good vibes emanating from my students (with few rare "mal"-feelings)...there are several things I'm changing and since it's a "short" summer session (7-8 weeks, but 1 hour and 40 minutes instead of 50 minutes).. i have to be really selective about the lessons (picking the best out of the pile).

originally I wanted to sit among the students and just chill and when a minute or two passed by, I'd "pop up" like a jack-in-a-box and say, "surprise i'm your instructor!" this didn't happen because it took me longer to walk from my apartment to my office to the classroom (i'm going to get a used bike soon)... one of the great things is that the classroom I'm using is technologically savvy (a smart classroom)- this is really helpful because there are some clips, i'd like to show from youtube. there's access to powerpoint for their presentation, and i don't have to photocopy too much supplimentary readings (they can read it in class with the help of the projector)...

one of the changes that occur dealt with types of clothing... in the last two semesters, I wore dress pants, longsleeve and tie, and dress shoes (to look professional)... it's too hot to be wearing all of those so today, i wore a red t-shirt, chocolate woven khakis and my white diesel walking shoes (i'm comfortable enough with the material that I'm teaching that i don't need fancy clothes for people to take me seriously- sure there'll be some who still won't take me seriously but that's their problem- I told the class straight up front that I don't like LAZY students, BAD-ATTITUDE, and CLOSE-MINDEDNESS)...

good vibes were the result of my students actually laughing at some of my jokes. For every good joke I told there followed 4 bad jokes (I found it amusing that I was telling them, and instead of learning from the bad jokes, i'd continue to tell them-i was laughing inside at the badness of them)

it's weird; it took me several hours yesterday to get back on lesson planning mode... i was excited at the possibilities of different lessons, and at the same time I was dreadful, BUT this morning when I began, I sort of just "click" (something inside me 'click'), I forgot about the dread, class began and i started explaining (once in a while, I'll be aware of me stretching, slouching, dry throat, or speaking really fast, of course i adjust- i wonder how much my students retain?- i am aware that i repeat several things/concept so if they didn't hear it or understand it the first time, maybe they'll catch it the second time)...

in the beginning of class, we talked about the pro's and con's of taking a general ed class (of course most of them wouldn't take this class if they had the choice) I tried to stress the "pro" side and for them to "make the most of the situation" [Go liberal arts education ;) ]

i told them that there'lll be lots of reading and writing (write a lot in order to learn how to write), and since it's an accelerated summer session, they'll have one major writing assignment per week, they'll be writing everyday we meet (MWF- fastwrite, brainstorming, reflections etc.) and on their own writing drafts (editing/finalizing/revising etc.), lots of discussions, teamwork and each of them at some point during the semester will do the "leading" (at this point, i'm trying to encourage them to drop out of my class if they think they can't handle the workload)

I'll see who'll be back this wednesday- at the end of the class i gave an analogy (which I thought was really-really cool). I compared this class (intro to academic writing) to the first step of learning how to longboard.

the first step in learning to longboard is to figure out your 'standing' leg (either left or right). A test to find out which of your legs is your standing leg is by being pushed (somebody stands behind you and pushes you, without resisting but just going with the flow you will allow yourself to be pushed and unconsciously either your left or right leg will step forward. Whichever ever leg steps forward is considered your standing leg, thus the other leg will be used to steer, and push you forward [some people are adroit with both their legs]

the connection: the class will give the students the "push" and it's up to them to practice writing constantly in order to get better at writing

i have basic longboarding skills- I practiced for hours to feel comfortable standing sideways, to learn how to turn left and right, I'm still working on "brakes"/stopping (I usually just jump out), I'm working on acquiring speed, I don't know any tricks, but i'm just content at being able to "cruise"....

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:46 PM | Comments (2)

June 7, 2008

just chillin in Logan, Utah

I'm liking the slow pace of spring/summer here at Logan. It's june, but the mountains are still getting snow. Far in the distance, the Wellsville mountain still has snow. Nonetheless it's still beautiful to see the once gray mountains of Old Man winter turn different shades of green from lime to emerald.

i'd take a walk and sit in the shades (i've yet to try taking naps outside- one day when I don't have a lot of books with me). I have to get a bike (used) so I can get to my office from my apartment dorm quickly (walking takes some time). Since most people are off campus, it feels like a private university (down side- limited hours for university facilities, such as the library, gym, pools, cafeteria).

since i have less access to the Marketplace, i'm forced to cook and buy groceries (explore local restaurants- reasonably priced). my average grocery bill per week is at least $50 (enough for milk, some fruit and vegetables, microwaveable food, easy to make recipes, and snacks). Two weeks ago I cooked my first Filipino dish (sinigang). This was a total adventure, I bought the ingredients (mainly vegetables and fish fillet), I followed the direction I wrote from my aunt, and then I added the mix. In the end, it was passeable; it tasted similar to what my aunt usually make (my friend tried it, and she's still alive). because of this experience, I'm a bit more comfortable cooking.

last week, I helped my italian roommate (flatmate) edit his english translation of an agreement, which he has to present in his field/department (hydrology). my USU writing center training has been really helpful. Sure I don't know anything about hydrology, but i know something about the mechanics of english. so i just approach it as any english text/document. first i read it by myself and circled everything that was out of place/wrong context, anything questionable. then like a writing center session, we went over it side by side. i'd ask a question about what he was trying to say and then we'd look at dictionary.com to find the right word. then we worked a bit on the flow/transition, redundency, conciseness, etc,. we discussed audience, hydrological jargon, differences between italian and english: extra words/phrases, missing words, literal translations etc.. He's a traveling scholar (here for only 6 months) from Belluno, Italy, near Padua, near Venice. He'll be going back to Italy on the 19th of June

besides sprucing up the flat with art, couch pillows, and a teal rug, establishing movie and tv days with friends, reading Orson Scott Card's "the tales of Alvin Maker" (one of his sci-fi series), blogging, fixing albums, attending local events, volunteering at Common Grounds, teaching eng. 1010, and planning for eng 2010 (reading/understanding the text book, coming up with lessons, organizing notes/handouts, and planning in general), etc., I'm going to pick up/resume watercoloring again in order to make a gift (i've borrowed books on stained-glass art, such as Tiffany's, to study and serve as models)...

some sort of direction for the summer, but still, most remain tentative....

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:50 PM | Comments (0)

restaurant blurb updates

Mandarin Garden- along main street. from 11 am to 3 pm Monday to Friday, they have Luncheon specials. I ordered Cashew Nut Chicken for $6.25. Because of the increasing price of gas, rice is expensive. The dish served to me had 2:1 ratio. The diced chicken, cashew, water chestnut, and zucchini were twice as much as the fried rice. I had left-overs, and I ate it for dinner with the white rice (cooked by my friend and I). The "brown" sauce (water-downed soy sauce?) was flat, but everything else was delicious. The interior looked like a messy amalgamation of western flowery wallpapers and bamboo artwork.

Henriquez Messican & Salvadorian Grill- along main street, I ordered Pasteles de carne (meat vegetable turnover- reminded me of corn beef hash), 3 pieces for $3.50, and Empanadas de Platano (fried plantains filled with milk pudding) 3 pieces for $3.50. It came with this coleslaw-esque side containing red pepper and some kind of vinegar. They were all good (it was interesting to taste and see a derivation from the fried plantains I'm used to: banana-que from the philippines).

La Beau- I ate here with my friends after watching Zohan. For $8, I ordered a Teriyaki Chicken burger and a small raspberry milkshake. Delicious. The teriyaki chicken was up to par with other teriyaki chicken I've tasted, the raspberry milkshake was the bomb (reason why we ate dinner here- my friend recommended it, this shake tasted like the famous raspberry shake she had when she visited the Bear Lakes). The shake was not too sweet or fruity, it retained some of the pungent elements of the natural raspberry without making your lips pucker. Simple interior of red and white with two hanging flat tvs.

Juniper- somewhere near the Transit center. This was the first restaurant in Logan, which I ate at (last august 2007)... for today's lunch, I had a cup of tomato beef soup and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for $4.17. I was full in the end. The style of serving here is like a classy cafeteria, the soup is fresh. I got the soup served on a tray and they brought out the recently grilled ham and cheese a couple of minutes later (they found my table with my number). There's a tv, some soft rock music and different age groups hanging out: senior citizens, mid-aged women, young family, college students, teenagers, babies and more.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:59 PM | Comments (0)

blurb review: You Don't Mess with the Zohan

Yesterday, I saw Adam Sandler's new movie, "You Don't Mess with the Zohan." I was laughing so much that when I tried to stop myself from laughing or tried to suppress it that I've hurt my neck a bit (but heal-able nothing that a little rest from laughing can fix). If you're worried about injuring your neck, don't fret, there are times when the joke goes flat or insider jokes from the culture are used (not funny when you have to think about it in order to understand it).

the movie is about an Israeli soldier, Zohan (Adam Sandler), who is tired of fighting in the war. He fakes his own death and escapes to America (New York City) to follow his dream of being a hair-dresser for Paul Mitchell. This movie pokes fun at current issues such as immigration, terrorism, politics, israeli and palestinian conflict, and more...

(academic theory tidbit about laughing- laughing induced by incongruency [misunderstandings/randomness], ambivalence, and taboo in Zohan. Examples of:
incongruency- word and context do not match, typical to foreigners who do not know a lot of vocabulary
ambivalence- happy for Zohan that he'll be achieving his dream, sad for him that he has to do it incognito
taboo- sexual innuendos- hinted promiscuity of senior citizens, booty snapshots...)

go watch the movie and give it a try, and tell me what you think...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:21 PM | Comments (0)

getting ready for summer teaching

I just finished my intense one-week seminar (june 2- june 6) and this monday summer teaching begins (it wouldn't be so difficult because so far I only have 18 students and this is the only thing I'll be doing- not like during the fall when I'll have at least 36 students plus 6 credits).

my seminar started at 8:30 am, and ended at 3 pm. We had a fifteen minute break in the morning, and had 1 hour and 15 minutes for lunch. All I can say is that I've never written so much in a week. We had guest speakers, and on thursday, our special guest speaker gave a presentation...

the seminar is called Fife Workshop Seminar: Life Stories. We had two short articles to read, we'd listen to people's stories, we'd have discussions on structure and importance plus analysis of stories (their meaning), we'd watch videos, more discussions and lots of writing (fine with me)... as soon as I got out at 3, I'd go to the library and spend 2-3 hours just writing (writing prompt, values to me, and, extra analysis). I turned in my portfolio yestersday.

one of the nice things I liked about the class is that it seemed to be connecting and tying up everything I've learned about folklore since august 2007, and it's giving me ideas for my future classes. while responding to the prompts, i started brainstorming for memoir pieces which I might explore further in my upcoming Memoir writing class (at the end of july).

This fall, I'll be taking a storytelling course and children's folklore course. I'm supposed to be some kind of teacher's assistant in my storytelling class, which would involve collaboration with my prof (i'd help her with some lesson planning/demonstration, and student evaluation etc.). The children's folklore class is an undergrad class, which means that to make it count for "graduate level" I'd have to write a research paper or an enthographic work (both 15 pages at least). The seminar gave me ideas on what to research. it looks like i'll be doing a combination of research and ethnography maybe about children's narratives (memory and nostalgia). I have to brainstorm with my adviser before the end of June.

tomorrow, Sunday, I'll cull over old lesson plans and put something together for the week or for the entire summer (depending on inspiration)...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2008

blogging calories project

one of my blogging projects for the summer is to write blurbs about different dining experience here in Cache Valley, Logan. Restaurant reviews will be too long and tedious so blurbs will have to suffice. I've been exploring different eateries in the past months but I haven't blogged about them yet (but soon). Local restaurants, food chains--which I haven't been to or seen--and cafes/bakeries etc. are some of the spots in my gastronomical journey.

The thing which makes my job easy to do is the convinient location of these eateries. Most of them are in downtown Logan, along Main Street. There are of course some further away, but Main Street is my starting point. Some of the places that I've been to several times but neglected to blog about are: Indian Oven, Korean BBQ, the Thai Kuisine, the Blue Bird Diner, Angie's Diner, Citrus and Sage Cafe, some food chains, such as KFC, and many more. I'm going to revisit some of these and see if I can capture the good first impression, which encourages me to return, while of course trying new ones and blogging about them immediately so I don't have a list of places piling up.

To start this project, I'll write about the two places I visited today. I'll update later the approximate location and correct name, but for now just know that they are in the Main Street vicinity.

Today, I ate a late breakfast. Nonetheless by 12:30, I knew I had to eat something especially since I would be walking around; I needed sustenance and energy. While trying to find the thrift store downtown, I noticed the "Great Harvest Bread Co." bakery. I remember passing by this bakery several times last semester but I always ignored it because from the outside, it looked like a bakery that sold overpriced muffins (I have this notion that fresh goods are more expensive than processed food because they are FRESH). Inspite of this misconception (?), I somehow convinced myself to enter and just "see" what they offer. The starbucks menu board came to mind when I saw their menu board. But instead of having many different kinds of coffee, it had many varieties of salads and BREAD. My first reaction: I didn't want to just eat bread, and even though a salad was healthy, I wanted to eat something heavier. Then I saw a soup sign: $1.50 for a cup of Chicken with Wild Rice Soup, and then I was convinced. I knew that a cup of soup was not lunch, but I still ordered it and took it as an appetizer for a later lunch. But what made this soup extra delicious and a great bargain was that it came with two slices of bread (I was already thinking about sampling their bread but hearing these additions from the cashier were icings in the cake. I made a mental note to return again). I tried the Asiago Sourdough and the Cinnamon Apple Crumb. They were scrumptious, fluffy but still hearthy with whole wheat substance. I ate the Asiago with my soup, and I saved the apple crumb for later (when I ate it four hours later, it was still fluffy and fresh). So even if a place looks posh, see if it's still in your price range and sample the goods. You'll never know, you may find a bargain and a place to frequent in the future for delights.

After this, I found the thrift store, "Somebody's Attic"... after the thrift store, I found this Spanish Bakery (two stores down, same street and side) called "Ana" something. I decided to enter this store because I saw people walking out of it with quartful of fresh fruit, such as strawberry, melon, etc. I wanted to see if they did something different with it. I was about to get it but then I saw these kids eating something similar to a Filipino dessert called Halo-halo (crushed ice with syrup, fruits, condensed milk, etc.). I was right in my comparison. I thought about how Filipinos might have adapted this dessert during Spanish colonial days and used local flavors to 'naturalized' it to suit Filipino tastebuds. The people in the store spoke Spanish; I was afraid to practice my Spanish. Luckily a brave soul stepped in and translated. The cashier spoke little English, and I spoke little Spanish. In the end we both said thank you in the other's language: she said "thank you" and I said "gracias." The ice treat cost $2.50, and I ended up getting the Coconut and Strawberry flavored one with condensed milk and caramel, recommended by the cashier.

In summary, today's treats totalled ONLY $4 (taxes included). So don't forget to do something good for your tastebuds and always remember the three/four E's: Explore, Eat, and bE m'Erry (?) :). Until next time...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2008

some plant folklore? (folk belief)

one of the things I like about my field of folklore is that it's somewhat interdisciplinary. (if you want to make your graduate experience more interesting get to know people outside your master's program, outside your department, outside your own culture and outside everything you know etc....)

one of my friends is doing her PhDs in plant biology studies (this is the general idea- I forgot the name of her program)... and she's Thai too (I met her through my first Thai roomie)... [I like plants (especially flowers), I might have inherited my father's green thumb (maybe?), plants can be artsy and metaphorical, I've had experience raising a few plants: Edel, Weiss, Sammy, Heart and Faux-Hawke, and for the most part I can follow scientific biology-talk]...

you wouldn't believe some of the interesting discussions I've had with my plant biologist-friend(s)... here are some of them

one of them is doing her thesis on this type of plant that grows well in dry and salty places (she wants to learn more about this so she can apply the knowledge to help improve her country and the world)...the other one is concerned with improving vegetation/plant in urban areas...

while talking to the latter, we started discussing ONIONS and modifying genes. She brought up square watermelons, seedless grapes and she was excited about removing the gene in Onions, which makes people cry. I was totally devasted (I wasn't bawling though) about the idea of tearless onions. (on the week of this discussion, I was teaching my english 1010 students about "showing versus telling" and using the senses)... to make the case that eliminating this tearing gene is detrimental, I argued that future generation who would grow up with tearless onions would miss out with this visceral example of association and personal experience. this generation wouldn't experience for themselves the feeling of their eyes swelling, getting filled with tears, tears rolling on their cheeks due to the smell of onions... they wouldn't understand the irony of a trapped housewife crying while chopping onions... what will happen to the story about onions (even though new stories will be formed)? Can you just imagine a footnote explaining why the onions no longer made people cry or a footnote explaining the irony in the housewife/ or a brokenhearted cook and the ONION? (progress- you gain some, you lose some...)... in the end, I remained pro-Onion for the sake of the IMAGINATION (the irony- the tearless onion idea is thinking outside the box)...

(my biologist-friend can usually tell if I understand what she's talking about or not and if I don't understand she just go on, most of the time I ask questions to clarify...)

another discussion I recently had with another friend dealt with Heart, the pothos... it started out when I noticed a yellow leaf. I told her and the first thing she said was that Heart was sick. Of course I got worried and started asking questions. She examined Heart; it wasn't an infection from a bug because the yellowing didn't occur in spots or patterns, the yellowing occured at the edge following the normal growth patterns of the leaf... she concluded that Heart was lacking her nitrogen. I had two options: to replace the soil or buy plant food (I will buy plant food in the near future)...

another incident with Heart occurred just tonight. I haven't seen Heart for 3 weeks because I was in Philadelphia (my biologist friend "plantsat" for me). Heart looked healthy; she was spreading out her vines with new additions. While combing through her leaves, I noticed a YELLOW mushroom growing on her soil. I panicked and told my friend. Her response further startled me. She didn't see the yellow mushroom on monday and I was alarmed at the fast rate at which the mushroom grew. In three days, one of the mushroom was passing the one inch mark. My friend came to two conclusions: the mushroom is either poisonous or beneficial to the plant. I let the plant-biologist take care of it (I'm an English major and I wouldn't know a poisonous mushroom from another, luckily today I learned a bit about poisonous mushrooms- most of the colorful ones are poisonous [I associated this with the brightly colored tiny frogs of the Amazon forest]- you have to digest dozens of grams of mushroom to get poisoned, skin contact can't absorb all those poison at once [maybe a rash will occur but not full poisoning])...

she took out the 1 incher, and it calmed me... I started exploring the other possibility that these yellow mushrooms could be beneficial for Heart. My friend told me that certain mushrooms grow with plants (they help each other like a symbiotic relationship- also mushroom remnants are in the soil- the enviroment, damp soil, and low light will encourage fungus growth). She hypothesized that if the mushroom belong in the 'mycorrhiza' family then it might be the good mushroom... we had to find out what type of plant Heart is and then google it to see if there's something in the internet about mycorrhiza and Heart...

the internet gave me a good start.... I totally forgot what type of plant Heart is so I typed in google image "heart-shaped leaf" and I tried to find the closest picture resembling Heart. I was reminded that Heart is a Pothos, not a rhodendron (the differences are the yellow-whitish variegated leaves and the subtle curve at the tip of the leaves)... the internet helped me to identify Heart but didn't explain directly the appearance of yellow mushroom... I found lots of personal stories from people with similar experiences...

I also found folklore on the Pothos, which is sometimes called Devil's Ivy (I wonder why?) and in some part of India,it's considered the "money-plant"... then I started thinking about mushroom folklore, in some part of the Caribbeans, the yellow mushroom is called the "Spirit Umbrellas", and in the Philippines, mushrooms are believed to be homes of magical beings such as "'dwende" and fairies...

we didn't find a clear answer (my friend might ask her adviser, who has a phD), but one personal story was comforting. the person pointed out that the yellow mushroom didn't harm her lavander. they co-existed peacefully so she just "let them be"...

Heart and her yellow mushrooms will just be... they'll exist side by side, and we'll just see what'll happen in the near future...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:42 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2008

Top 6 things to do when stuck in an airport...

Because of lack of and or (mis)communication, I was stranded in the Salt Lake City (SLC) International Airport for 6 hours. Here's the reader's digest version of the story: I missed the shuttle bus that would have taken me to Logan, UT because the operator told me to wait in the wrong gate; therefore I had to wait for the next shuttle, which arrived 6 hours later. I cancelled my plans for today and improvised so I didn't waste 6 hours of my life just sitting in the airport.

Here are the top 6 things I did to entertain myself and pass the time (maybe these'll give you some ideas just in case you would ever get stuck in the airport for 6 hours or more).

1. Read- unfortunately I finished reading my beach novel/ roman de gare book in the plane. I only brought one becaue my carry on was occupied by my gigantic SHU portfolio (I decided to bring it to show my students). I didn't want to spend money on an overpriced beach novel when I have tons of unread books in my own collection (I only brought one because I planned to write but when the situation came up, I didn't feel like writing). I had other magazines and books, but they were more difficult to digest. After a couple of minutes, I decided to read some of them anyway (my rational- since they're harder to digest, they will "take up more time" to finish reading). I read a nutrition and supplementary magazine front to back, and two essays on Children's Art.

2. Listen to music- I had my mp3 player so I listened to that (the shuffle program in my mp3 player is not that good; several songs repeat before new songs are heard). One of the good things about my mp3 player is that it has a radio. When I got bored listening to my collection, I tuned in the radio and listened to popular hits of the area.

3. Play a game in cellphone- in today's society there are lots of pocket video game systems, such as gameboy, nintendo DS and others. I used to have a gameboy but not anymore. Good thing my cellphone had a game I liked to play (Bubble smile- tetris-esque). I played this for an hour, and I even beat one of my old high score.

4. Look at art- most airports, which I've been in, exhibited artworks. In terminal 2 of the SLC International airport, I looked at and studied 7 landscapes depicting Utah. The medium used was oil (oil painting), and the landscapes were rendered in the style of impressionism (contemporary artists but I still couldn't read their names). I observed the compositions (dynamic diagonals, vanishing point, fore/middle/background, etc.), the colors (complimentary, cool, warm, dark, light), and the textures (lines, smooth, thick, fuzzyness, etc.), and tried to figure out how the artist made them. While looking at them closely, a stranger started talking to me about their beauty so we chit-chat for a bit (he starts talking about his children who are USU alums); then I moved back and magically the impressions of light started to focus and solidify the shapes and contours of the land.

5. Eat- I drank starbucks (surprise!), and I had a whooper and onion rings from Burger King for lunch, and for dinner I ate an overpriced cafeteria food with the "gourmet" label. I didn't want to but I had to because I was going to get home very late. Good thing I had my bottle of water and very ripe and delicous orange fruit.

6. Take a walk- My brain had a work-out from reading, listening to music, playing games, and anaylzing art. My stomach did its work to digest the food I ate. In order to complete the "head-to-toe" workout, it's only fair to do some sort of physical activity like walking. With my heavy carry on on my back, I pulled my luggage from one end of the terminal to the other. It made me exhausted and made me forget for a while that I was stuck in the airport for 6 hours.

Lessons- communicate, be prepared, be flexible, and triple check everything. Around 8 p.m., I called the shuttle service (the lady was probably annoyed at me) and triple checked: "So I'm supposed to be at Gate 11 by 8:10 p.m.? Right?"

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:06 AM | Comments (2)

May 6, 2008

Where in the U.S. is Michael B. Diezmos?

The semester ended for me when I turned in my final papers and my students' grades. I only have three weeks of vacation before the summer session begins so of course I want to make the most of it. So to start off my "summer vacation" I rode the Amtrak train (instead of the airplane) from Utah all the way to Pennsylvania. This was a very tiring endeavor but very rewarding (beautiful scences, cities, and lots of stories). I had some time to spare and it was now or never.

I left Logan, UT on Thursday afternoon on the first day of May. Can you believe it? It was still snowing. It looked as if the winter semester just began (so I was glad to go somewhere snow-free in MAY [I know snow in May is possible- I once saw flurries in Greensburg PA, also on the first of May- nonetheless, there is a difference between flurries and snow)...

Clue #1 of first city stop: The 2002 Winter Olympic was hosted by this city...

If you said, "Salt Lake City" UT, then you're CORRECT!

Can you believe this? I've almost lived in UT for a year, and this is the first time I've actually explored Salt Lake City (SLC) [I've been in the airport several times though].

Here's the story: I had a choice of paying $126+ for a shuttle to drive me to SLC on the day of my Amtrak departure at 4:25 a.m. OR I could pay $32 for the SLC express shuttle to drive me 12 hours earlier. I opted for the latter and explored a bit of SLC (used some of the money I would have spent for the expensive shuttle for sightseeing instead)... the only awkward thing was ME lugging my green rolling luggage around the city (a person thought I had just arrived in town to settle- al contraire, i had arrived to leave). I heard a story that "tourists" were often approached by missionaries to be converted. Nobody approached me and tried to convert me (in my situation the rumor turned out to be FALSE)...
the shuttle dropped me off at the Conference Center. I found door 15 and asked for direction (I had a map but I didn't know the ratio of distance to depiction of picture). The guy was nice, he helped locate the address of Amtrak and told me about the UTA 'trax'... he offered a tour of the conference center but I had other agendas (I was surprised that some of his co-workers didn't know where the Amtrak station was located [let me tell you something, the SLC amtrak station is not a "30th Station" of Phila. or the "Grand Central Station" of N.Y.C.]).

After situating my self, I went first to the Information center and then to the Art Center (next to it). Gaylen Hansen's, a contemporary artist of the 20th century, work was displayed. I enjoyed the exhibit (sample of works). After this I rode the "trolley"-- I didn't have to pay for the fare because it was in the "free zone" area. Riding this led me to the Amtrak station. I then went to the Gateway Mall, bought my bro a souvenir for his b-day, I walked around, window shopped, ate at the food court (panda express), and drank a starbucks (I tried to drink a starbucks at every city I visit)...

I returned to Temple Square, went to the LDS Church History and Art Museum, and then at 8, I went to the Tabernacle and watched and listened to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir practice singing (held and open to the public every Thursday 8-9:30 pm)... I took lots of picture of the SLC temple and the surrounding art and area...

I watched "Iron Man" at the Gateway Megaplex at 9 p.m. (I had to ask the movie people if I could leave my luggage at the guest service area- they concurred and I watched Iron Man)... this ended around 11 p.m. from here I took the trolley to go to the Amtrak station. I got my tickets.

when I arrived at the station, I got coffee (amaretto flavored), my plan was to stay up till 4:25 a.m. and then as soon as I get inside the train, I'd sleep. Plans changed especially in this type of adventure. My train- the California Zephyr- was three hours delayed. The cashier left and put a sign "Will be back at 3:30 a.m.", I was left in the station with one other person (the situation could have been scarier). The pot-belly man with dull blonde and unkempt hair, wearing a baseball cap with a phrase "Jesus is my boss", started talking to me and I learned some info about him- he just came from Idaho and he's diabetic (he also smokes). A couple of hours later he fell asleep- he snores, his head would bob/lumped down and head straight up jerkily. It took me a while before I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer... I moved to the wall so I could rest my head along the wall (i didn't want to do the "bob")... sun started rising and more people started appearing and finally the train arrived (the double decker type that have "sleeper" compartments- I just got regular coach to save $800+)-

I asked the lady cashier if this delay would affect my schedule (missing my connection)- She LIED, she said that "delays" were configured in the scheduling equation (there was time allowance)...warning- if you have to be at a certain place at a certain time: DO NOT take AMTRAK across the nation. I sort of expected the delays, but not the magnitude that I experienced. It was one delay after another (and I started losing the spirit of Adventure)...

the first delay happened somewhere in Nevada before SLC and other delays occured on the way...

On the way to Colorado, we passed by Bryce Canyon, Soldier's peak of the Wasatch mountain and we went through a 6 mile tunnel in one of the Rocky Mountain chain (pine trees, snow on the ground instead of snow falling, wild animals). Originally, i took this trip so I would have time to "reflect" and to start reading an epic novel, "The Tale of Genji" (considered to be the first novel in the world)... but I was so distracted by the delays that I couldn't get myself to reflect or to read. When i did start reading, I still found it difficult (tip- only bring beach books or something a bit lighter or bring novels, which one has already started [reading in media res])... I stayed at the lounge car, and there was a bunch of old ladies playing cards... they were having a blast (hearing them laugh cheered me up)... people from New Zealand talking with an American student...

lunch and dinner time-
Con- eating overpriced cafeteria food
Pro- being forced gently to sit with strangers (just to fill the table and to encourage socializing). During lunch, I sat with this old couple- they wore clothings with similar color schemes (shades of purple, marroon, mauve, and grays). The lady had curly brown gray hair and brown eyes, the man had blue eyes and fine whitish hair... at the end of dinner they argued in the typical fashion- "I told you shouldn't have taken that..."

During dinner I sat with three other people, a lady who had a son, who is teaching English in Thailand, a blonde-haired middle -aged man (who looks like a "William or Bill", he has a beard and later on in this adventure, he'll be known as Mr. Information Guy), and a old guy, with hazel eyes and a hunched back... there was talk in our table and it wasn't strained... I mostly listened and if asked I answered...

We made other stops in Colorado, and we heard more bad news when we reached the state capital of Colorado.

If you said, "Denver" then you're CORRECT again!

We picked up more passengers at Denver (we arrived and it was dark already). They told us that one of the bridge that span across the Mississippi river is damaged.

Con-
Communication between crew and passengers wasn't that great. Sometimes the crew doesn't have all the information and sometimes they withhold information (which irks the passengers)... in the middle of the trip, the intercom started malfunctioning (word of mouth has to be employed)...

Pro-
certain crew members especially those in the dining service started being more personable- making the situation better by having high spirits, telling jokes, and just being troopers...

Sleeping-
was not easy especially in the coach section, the good thing was that the train wasn't full, each person can occupy two seats, lay diagonally in fetal position (advantage of being short)... sometimes the motion of the train can rock one to sleep or wake one up....If one is not careful, one can strain one's neck depending on sleeping position... I eventually fell asleep and if I was lucky, I slept in intervals of 4 hours...

I woke up one morning and I was in Lincoln, Nebraska - a soft golden orange sunrise... we stopped at a station and locals were setting up for a craft fair (Con- Amtrak encouraging smoking by saying "next stop, you'll have time to smoke"- the first thing that they usually say) and more bad news was received in this city in Nebraska, which is the main setting in the novel "Alas, Babylon" written by Pat Frank.

If you said, "Omaha" then you're on a ROLL!

The damaged bridge is confirmed. Passengers heading to southern Iowa had to transfer into a bus, and the rest would go on to Chicago using the northern route of Iowa. Prospect didn't look good. We were way behind (no chances of making the connection). Passengers were pissed and a decision had to be made.

Because the northern route shared the track with freight trains, we had to stop often to let the freight trains go first. Boiling points were reached when we stopped in the middle of nowhere Iowa, surrounded by empty fields and an occassional farm house here and there (because of the culminating inconveniences, the dining service decided to give passengers free beef-stew dinner [a funny dinner, I sat with three other people, one was a 29 years old guy, very taciturn, another guy from Michigan, and an older guy, who seem to ramble. the Michigan guy asked the Rambler where he was going, and the Rambler told him New Jersey and then he continueed with his mini-biography])...

Later that night, the decision was made... they called us by our connecting train number. They told us that we would be staying overnight in CHICAGO and that they'll give us a voucher for a hotel and some cash for the cab and food. SWEET! This decision was clarified as we crossed the famous U.S. river which has 4 "i"s and 4 "S".

If you said "Mississippi" river, you're dead wrong. JUST KIDDING!

After the assistant conductor explained to me the situation, I continued to hang around the area and chat with other excited passengers... after all the inconvenience we were rewarded a free overnight stay in Chicago (maybe at the expense of a butchered schedule)... William aka Mr. Information Guy was the calmest out of all of us. He'd been in Chicago, and he'd experience similar events. I asked him questions about Chicago... I wanted to make the most of my brief stay in Chicago (my rescheduled train would leave at 7 p.m. the following day)...

We arrived at the Union Station Chicago at 2 a.m. and I got a voucher to stay at the Swissotel, at East Wacker Drive (this hotel was the bomb!). The first thing I did when I got my room was take a hot bath and shower and then slept on the bestest bed on the planet (it was soft and firm at the same time), all those hours sleeping on the train, this was a humongous difference. The next day, I woke a bit earlier than the alarm because of housekeeping. I still had a restful night. Check out was at noon and I had six hours to roam around Chicago.

The great thing was that I didn't roam Chicago by myself. I met a friend in the the train and coincidentally she's also a photographer, her name is Audrey Michelle. We walked up and down Michigan Avenue taking pictures (she brought her camera pack and I brought my digital). There were a lot of tulips and windmill-esque outdoor art. We searched for a Chicago hotdog (we had a hard time locating it in the Northern end of Michigan Avenue but later on in the southern side near the Sears tower, we found several), I drank starbucks, we saw a lot of toy dogs (pets), I bought Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown" at borders with my gift card to read in the train on the way home, we stopped by Millenium Park (took more pictures), we were planning to go inside the Chicago Art Institute, but we ran out of time... the art museum closed at 5, it was already 4 in the afternoon. An hour wasn't enough to look at art so we went straight ahead to Sears Tower (funny story- we were pressed for time so the first souvenir shop we saw, we did a spending splurge)...

It was an awesome day until our cab driver had the effrontery to ask for a tip even though he was rude, and when the train station told us that our new train will not be able to go all the way to Washington D.C.; we had to stop and transfer to a bus...

We were exhausted from walking so falling asleep on the train wasn't difficult.

When I woke up, outside, we were under a bypass of some sort. It looked vaguely familiar.

This city is the home of the baseball team, the Pirates, and this city is the biggest city near the famous university in Greensburg called, Seton Hill University (SHU).

You're a genius! How did you know that the answer is "Pittsburgh"?

The Amtrak people told us that we would be switching to bus in Pittsburgh. When I awoke, I doubted the familiar sight because the conductor didn't say anything. The train was just sitting there and I thought that they would have announced our arrival. I started thinking about SHU. I was hoping that the bus might pass by SHU but it stayed in the main highway. We were on our way to D.C. (in the bus, there was a baby crying) and when we reached the D.C. area, the driver gave a mini tour. He pointed out Camp David, the Washington Monument, White House, and others. He dropped us off in Union Station D.C. I waved good bye to Audrey Michelle, got my green luggage, and went straight to the waiting area for my train to Philadelphia (while waiting, I read "Shalimar" and drank a starbucks).

I left the snowing Logan, UT on May 1st, and I arrived in Sunny (70 degrees) Philadelphia, PA on May 5th (an extra day was added, and it was okay with me because I was on vacation). It took more than 52 hours to go across the nation (from UT to PA anyway). The landscape changed from the Mountains into farmlands into urban dwellings with tall skyscrapers. In the middle of the journey, when delays and other obstacles seemed to pop up, I just kept thinking about Rick Sebak's words about unexpected invitations as dancing lessons from God. There was a skeptic part of me which kept taunting me with "I told you so", "You should have taken the plane", and "Are you happy with your adventure." There was also the grateful part of me who could boast "YES I did it!". I travelled through Southern Utah, passed the Rockies of Colorado, saw the farm lands of Nebreska and Iowa; I roamed around Chicago (saw many art and climbed the Sears Tower), and revisited some favorite cities such as Pittsburgh and D.C. (even if very briefly). In the end I have a better appreciation for my own home and city, Philadelphia, and I met many types of people, interacted with them and heard their stories.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:21 AM | Comments (3)

May 5, 2008

Flash Update: Spring 2008

Another semester is over (I'm getting closer to graduation, three more semesters)... I'm looking forward to taking writing more seriously and trying to establish a writing routine in the future but right now that future is far (but hopefully getting nearer), currently it's a bit difficult because my brain power is reserved for the graduate classes I'm taking and also for being a graduate INSTRUCTOR...

this semester I took Fieldwork (6720), and Folklore and Literature (6770) classes... and I taught two sections of English 1010...

I passed my Fieldwork class and I'm just waiting to here from the other class. I read a lot of jargon-filled journal articles in my fieldwork class, and I did a good amount of actual fieldwork (which I enjoyed a lot!):
1.- attended a service from a religion different from mine
2.- attended a court hearing
3.- observed and participated as a basketball fan (Aggie)
4.- conducted a 40 minute interview and transcribed the whole interview (which took FOREVER!)
5.- reviewed an actual published ethnography

overall this class was good, it made me think about the ethics involved in studying people (especially children)... I used some of the journalism skills (interviewing, etc.) I've acquired in the past and also some creative writing (showing, senses, observations etc.)... we tried to define ethnography and in the end we agreed to leave it open -ended, different writers will have different style to approach their subject... we looked at the processes of different writers and evaluated our own processes (what worked best for us)...

each of the fieldwork assignments was a mini adventure:
1. Being in Utah, I'm surrounded by Mormons (and this year I've learned so much about the Mormon culture [I'll blog about this when I graduate]) so when I heard that my first assignment for this class was to observe a religious service, which is different from my Catholic background- the first thing that came to mind was the mormons also known as the Latter-Day Saints- I did this assignment sometime in February so it was snowing. I didn't want to stand out and be asked questions so I asked my Mormon friends how I could blend in better... they told me about the structure (which helped a lot)... I still ended up standing out especially the way I dressed BUT the good thing is that nobody approached me and made the whole thing more awkward...

2. I went to downtown Logan at First District Court to observe a hearing... this was an interesting exercise... I recognized some of my bias and assumption I bring (especially about my "class" gender, identity, roles etc.)... the security guard decided to place me in the drug court hearing (which was more dramatic compared to traffic court)...

3. I observed fans and participated as an Aggie fan (see separate blog: "fieldwork?: basketball game"

4. I interviewed a member of the First Presbyterian Church for their oral history project... I did the interview in a coffee shop downtown... while I aksed open-ended, closed, and leading questions, I sipped on a chai tea latte... it took me forever typing out the trasncription... the first time- it took me two hours to transcribe 5 minutes of interview... I started getting better in the end, to keep my sanity, I transcribe for only an hour a day and I ended up transcribing 10 minutes worth of interview per hour... I finished in 4 days but these 4 days felt like FOREVER! I had to type out everything- the repetitions and the 'ums'- what I found fascinating while I transcribed was that I found myself editing out the ums and repetition- this always threw me off because when I would replay it to check, I'd discover that I erased the ums and repetition, it took me a while to overcome this habit...

5. The fifth assignment sort of deviated from the other fieldwork assignment-- I had to review a published ethnography and analyze most of the issues- we've been discussing in the semester, such as power, relationship, methods, and more... Because I tried to unite all my work under the umbrella of children's folklore- I reviewed Margaret Brady's ethnography called "Some Kind of Power: Skinwalker Narratives of Navajo Children"- This was recommended to me by my prof, and it was the closest thing to "children and stories" (narrowing my focus)...

being a fieldworker is fun but a lot of WORK... in the field one has to be alert and ready for anything- decision making, compromising, interacting etc. and when the fieldwork is done then one has to focus on turning data into something comprehensible for others...

For my Folklore and Literature class (I think I passed, I hope I pass)... we read several novels and applied the folkloric lense to analyze the works. We read: Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Morrison's Beloved, The Robber-BrideGroom, The Chosen, The Way to Rainy Mountain, Achebe's Things fall apart, several short-short works such as The lady or tiger...

the first thing we did was "identify" the folklore using evidence from folkloric work and author's bio etc., and then we "interpret" and tried to answer the "so what?" (how the literature is enhanced with the knowledge of the folklore)- we discussed different folklore genres such as Myth, Legend, Fairytale (Marchen), food ways, folk beliefs, esoteric and exoteric folklore, etc.- the most difficult text to read was "Beloved" but still enjoyable...

for our final paper, we had to pick an outside novel and analyze it using the folkloric lense and write a 12 page paper (12 pages is okay but what added to my distress is the weight of this paper- 70%)-

I decided to reread Salman Rushdie's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" (I first read this when I was a junior at SHU in World Literature class)... I didn't mind rereading this fun novel. I started researching during the spring break. At first my thesis was about oral storytelling conventions being adapted in written literature... then it changed to "folk belief/ritual" that involved RASA- an Indian concept that is connected to enlightenment... several of my research pointed out the marchen/fairy tale form of the novel however my prof pointed out that we should build on the research instead of simply regurgitating... it would have been easy to apply Vladimir Prop's schema but I didn't... what I did notice during my research was how the main inspiration for "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" have been overlooked... Rushdie's son is the main inspiration, and he has been mentioned in "passing" and as I did my research this became more obvious (also another funny thing- this is also a sign that I needed to stop researching and start writing the draft- I noticed that my resources started cross-referencing each other- it was funny because my research would say that so and so wrote this and I'll be like "oh I read that article")...

I also had to drag this paper out, the great thing was that I had an outline so everyday, I'd look at my outline and write a paragraph or two and call it a day... so in the end, I focused on the father and son relationship in Haroun and instead of using a folklore genre, I applied a folklore definition instead: "folklore as artistic communication in small groups"... the novel is the "art" used by Rushdie to "communicate" with his son (small group) during the time of his exile (impelled by death, want to pass on beliefs before dying).

I learned a lot about Rushdie... I'm still able to apply some of my research to his other novels especially the one I'm currently reading, "Shalimar the Clown"

by the end of my master's program, I'm NOT going to have a THESIS, nonetheless I do have a topic/main focus- children and stories. So far, every project in my classes, I've tried to connect to this focus
1. Practicum in Teaching Writing (my final paper is about "rites of passage"- everybody goes through this however children go through this more at such a short time in comparison to adults)
2. Cultural History of Weird (my final paper is about Mother Goose Rhymes and DEATH)
3. Folklore History and Methods (my faux-proposal [which didn't do so well] is about rhymes of children today and mother goose relevance for today's children)
4. Fieldwork (analysis of ethnography about children's narratives, ethics of studying children, who are not considered "independent agents")
5. Folklore and Literature (research paper- father and [young] SON relationship...)

This summer I'm taking two classes: Fife Folkore Seminar and Creative Non-Fiction. The Fife Seminar is about Personal Stories (so I can totally apply this to children). The Creative Non-Fiction is focusing on memoir writing (during the semester in fieldwork class, we discussed the similarities and differences between ethnography and memoir- this class will be a bit difficult to connect with the theme but it goes well with "application" especially in writing ethnography).

and in the fall 2008, I'm planning to take Folklore Colloqium special topics: CHILDREN's FOLKLORE, and Storytelling (this is a theater course and it's going to involve performance and telling stories in various ways)...

so these are my classes...

this summer I'll also be teaching one section of english 1010 which starts in June (that means I only have three weeks of vacation- which is better than nothing)

compared to my first semester as graduate instructor, I definitely improved this semester (but I'm still going to be changing)... I received my evaluation- this semester, one class "abhored" my teaching style and another class was totally "infatuated" with my teaching... next fall I'll be teaching Eng 2010 which emphasizes argument, persuasion, and research... it'll be a new thing but I'll still be able to apply some of the eng 1010 materials and share my own "researching experience"...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:01 PM | Comments (5)

May 1, 2008

Parts of Part 2: Finding beauty in a "void"

It's been two weeks since I last blogged about my springbreak at AZ. I only have a month left of school, which means that I have a month left to finish a 12-15 page research paper (I have some sense of direction, but what's bothering me is the fact that I keep finding sources and I keep collecting them [a stack of books is piling up, and the sight of it intimidates me]), I also have to finish grading my students' "analyzing sources" and their last project "Annotated Bibliography and Complications Presentation" and calculate their final grades. And lastly, I have to read and analyze an ethnographic work for my fieldwork class. So once again, my mind is cluttered. I hope to free my mind from the ennui of routines by blogging part 2 of my "long awaited" sequel (I've been holding off/delaying writing part 2 for the past two weeks so that I could focus on all the other school work); and I hope to be reminded of "the beauty in empty-open spaces [and] in "barren" lands... [And the] endless sky" of northeastern AZ.

Lake Havasu, AZ
How can you see the original London Bridge without leaving the U.S.? Go to Lake Havasu, AZ. I couldn't believe it either, and then I saw it and read about it. A rich patron bought the bridge and transported it all (piece by piece) to AZ. This bridge was replaced by the now famous draw-bridge, which stretched across the Thames river in London today with its Roman arches (very sturdy looking). WE took a lot of pictures of it and with it. Beside the bridge, Lake Havasu is also a good place for swimming and fishing. it was still somewhat cold to swim in it at the time of my visit, but the fishermen were already out there catching different trouts and basses. My aunt recounted stories about fishing and getting free fish from other people, who didn't really care about eating the fish but instead cared only for the sport of fishing (the act of fishing). We ate lunched, which was prepared by my aunt. There was a warm breeze not too warm, and it complimented the sun and cloudless sky. The cerulean lake, fanned by the breeze, foamed white and reflected the brightness of the sun.

Laughlin, NV
After Lake Havasu, we went straight to Laughlin NV. Laughlin is only 45 minutes away from Kingman, but since we were in Lake Havasu City, it took a little bit longer to get there. Rather than turning around and going back to Kingman, my uncle took a route which passed CA briefly. I found it amusing how we started out in AZ, traveled through CA so we could reach NV (three states in one day). Laughlin has casinos (so if people do not want to go all the way to Las Vegas, they can go to Laughlin) and outlets (I bought my first D.C. zip-up hoodie). I didn't gamble much (only once in a machine where my aunt deposited $5-- I ignored the diagrams and directions, I just kept pushing the button, sometimes I won (without understanding how I won) and eventually I lost). I joined 4 casinos and received my "player's" card (in my opinion, the best looking card came from the Colorado Belle). I also got lots of freebies for being a new member. I got an oversized Tropicana shirt, a Golden Nugget traveling coffee mug, an Aquarius key chain, a bag of caramel popcorn and a screwdriver. One of the nice things about being a member is the discount. During the night, we ate at a Buffet in the Colorado Belle where card members saved $5. I didn't feel like eating beef so I had a seafood platter: rice, mussels, clams, popcorn shrimps, battered/breaded halibuts, vegetables. I had orange juice and water and for desserts, a Lemon Meringue cake and a Peach Pie a la mode (vanilla ice cream). I was very full. We drove back home, the original version of "Someday We'll Know" by Daryl Hall and John Oates played on the radio, and I looked out the window. Once again there were clear skies, and when we got far enough from the lights of Laughlin, the Little Dipper appeared upside down in the night sky.

Grand Canyon, AZ
Oatman and Chloride, AZ
Downtown Kingman, AZ
Hulapai Mt. Park, AZ
Hoover Dam and Las Vegas International Airport (AZ and NV)


I wrote this entry a month ago, and I'm just publishing it... Obviously, it's still unfinished but the awesome things are: I finished my research paper (I made the minimum- 12 page, usually after finishing a research paper, I don't ever want to see it again and I just want to give it the the professor...surprisingly, I'm proud of this paper-- the paper I'm talking about is a paper for my folklore and literature class [originally I dreaded this paper because it was worth 70%- but I finished it and hopefully I get the full 30% participation in class so that even I bombed this 70% paper, I can still pass with a B- [passable grade for graduate courses)... writing this paper felt like a drag... sadly I can no longer stay focus for more than 4 hours; I find it difficult to spend a whole day writing a research paper so during this last week, I broke up the writing process, I wrote tidbits here and there and I eventually finished it.); I also finished reviewing an ethnographic work, and I just turned in my students' grades today (I quadruple check them so that I wouldn't make a mistake) [more details to follow in my "flash update" coming soon].

Tomorrow May 1st, I'll be heading back to Philly for a short vacation before the summer semester begins (stay tuned for the mini "Vacation within a vacation" article)...

and maybe if I find the inspiration, I'll finish "beautiful void"...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2008

Springbreak 2008: CA, AZ, NV

For Springbreak 2008, I didn't go to any white beaches or lush green jungles, but I did go somewhere yellow with sunshine, and warm (at least 30 degrees warmer compared to Logan, Utah). I went and explored Northeastern Arizona (AZ). But before arriving at my AZ destination, I stopped by San Diego, California (for 4 hours). One of my cousins showed his disbelief for my choice of vacation spot. "There's nothing in Arizona," he said. "Auntie's place is in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing there but the desert." His comment fazed me a bit, but not completely. The adventurous side of me accepted the challenge of seeking something -- a treasure-- out of "nothing/ a void," and finding the beauty in empty-open spaces and in "barren" lands.

Auntie's house/Miscellaneous
The original plan was to fly to San Diego on Friday night, spend a weekend with one of my titas and her family, and then meet another tita and drive with her and her husband for 6 hours to Kingman, AZ. But you know what they say about plans: "The great thing about plans is that you can change them." A week before my scheduled flight, I found out that my tita was driving back to AZ on Friday midnight (it was too late to change my reservation without paying extra).

Adapt to the situation
In a very hilarious scenario, I did my best to catch up with my San Diego cousins in 4 hours. I haven't seen them since the Summer of 2002 (to make things better, I told them that I'll save up again and visit them this summer for a longer time). Of course lots of things happened. Some events (which I won't elaborate for the sake of time and space) included cousins/family graduating high school/finishing college, getting a license/job, getting old etc.

The first thing we did was eat Filipino food. They commented on my skinniness, and I complained about eating cafeteria food in Logan (I'm in a long process of learning how to cook edible and nutritious food). We recalled the past (especially the Summer of 2002), swapped recipes, and surprisingly discussed politics (I generally would try to avoid this but my cousins were so comfortable with it that I just let it happened and listened). Under normal circumstances, I would be the one asking questions, but my family did most of the asking. All of these are happening while I ate. The funny and memorable part of it all was me chewing and swallowing rice and fish at one moment, then the next answering questions about my job and MA program, ate more, then recalled the past... etc. There were many conversations going on, I felt a bit overwhelmed; I didn't know which conversations I should be listening to and responding. These conversations were interrupted by calls from other relatives in the area, who couldn't be there to greet me. Every ten minutes or so, one of my relative would ask if I wanted more rice, fish, shrimp, or soup. One of my titas admonished me to eat "slowly" or risk upsetting my stomach. I ate moderately because I wanted to leave room for dessert (turon [fried sweetened bananas], Goldilocks cake and bubble tea).

One of my cousins thought it would be amusing to see me drunk (don't worry, I didn't drink). However we did go to a Tea house that sold bubble tea and bolba (the closest comparison I could think of, Tea house are like Asian equivalent of the Starbucks franchise: different flavored powdered tea mixed with milk/ latte-esque, served both hot or cold, and lots of "add ons" such as bolba, pearls, tapioca, pudding, jelly, ice cream etc.) That night was a bit chilly (even for San Diego weather), so I ordered a hot Taro milk tea with bolba and pudding. It was delicious (side note: Tea houses are not only found in San Diego. Any city with a Chinatown usually have tea houses. However I must admit that San Diego has one of the best tea houses in the U.S., definitely better than the one in the Philadelphia Chinatown).

My cousins and I talked some more in the car. Once in a while I glanced out the window, which was cracked open. Brine and automobile exhaust wafted in. I recognized some places vaguely and saw the outline of the Coronado bridge. When we got home, the energy waned a bit. The hour for me to leave and meet my other tita came closer. My cousin told me about food network.com and invited me to call her anytime for cooking advice. Before being escorted to my other tita, I gave my family pasalubong (travel gifts). I recognized how much I missed them (I consoled myself with the thought of returning to San Diego for a longer time this Summer even if I'm broke). As the great governor of CA, Arnold S., once said, "I'll be back (insert guttural German accent)."

I arrived at my other tita's house; we left San Diego at midnight. I would have loved to see the commute from CA to AZ, but it was really dark and I was tired. My tito drove the van. I sat at the front and my tita in the back. I dozed on and off sleep in the 6 hours drive (which wasn't that bad, the infamous L.A. traffic was non-existent). Songs from the Beatles, Beegees, Neil Diamond, and other 60s/70s pop icons filled the van.

When I was finally fully conscious, dawn was breaking or at least trying to break out of the overcast-filled sky of Kingman, AZ (this picture is not mine- it's Michael Payne's photo, not overcast, but you get a sense of "desolation"/lacking the skyscrapers of Manhattan). There's nothing in Arizona- the words of my cousin- echoed in mind.

We drove past two museums, several diners and motels, and mediocre shopping centers. This drive lasted for 10 minutes (not counting the traffic stoplights). "This is the downtown area, Mikey," my tita said. "Your Uncle will take you here this Wednesday."

"Okay," I said.

We drove further and finally reached their house in Rancho Santa Fe. A long time ago (like 2 years ago) I used to think that 5 acres of land wasn't that big. My tita's house was big, and I was even surprised when I found out that her house (including the front and back yards) was only 1/2 an acre (compared to my parent's 1/4 or 1/8 of an acre town house in Philly- I'd say that's humongous)...

My favorite parts of the house- the high ceiling, and the kitchen with the island counter (breakfast bar?). In the backyard, the view of Hulapai mts. lined along the highway. A couple of months or years from now, more houses would be built. I spent most of the evening in this house mostly sleeping (during the day various excursions took place outside- more details later). I watched my regular shows. We watched American Idol and afterwards voted to support a fellow Fil-Am. My tita showed me how to cook three recipes:sinigang, ginisang, and spaghetti sauce. I helped out somehow. I remembered washing several vegetables and tearing them apart. I peeled a slice of squash in 3 minutes while my tita peeled nine at the same time. Dinner time was filled with stories from my tita (stories about her work and the caricatures who inhabit them) and of course delicious food.

The next day, we woke up early so we could have a head start towards our first excursion. As soon as I got up, I greeted my tita and tito a "good morning" and then I went to the backyard to get a glimpse of dawn. The overcast of yesterday was gone. Already the blue sky was crisp and sharpened by clean air. There wasn't smog in the distance, just the highway and the horizon.

Later that night, the sky remained clear. I found Orion, and the Little Dipper/Big Dipper. Even though the sky was star-studded, I only recognized Orion and the Dippers. I got frustrated a bit because even with a star map, I still couldn't figure out other constellations. Since it was the "desert", it was cold being outside at the time. Even at night you could still tell how open and endless the sky was. I needed this openness and "barrenness" to unclutter my mind from distractions and stress...

to be continued...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 1, 2008

my first Pow Wow: learning to respect

so I just spent half of today reading a 124 page book filled with anthropological/socio-linguistic jargon... the author could have written a more condense 20 page journal article and save the reader (me) all the repetition....

the RA checked the apartments today- I woke up early to do last minute tidying up-... when he came to my apartment, I passed the inspection- BUT he annoying pointed out that the kitchen floor was too dull (caused by shoe marks) and the bathroom mirror was too streaky- honestly, the dull floors and streaky mirrors are not fire hazard... overall the apartment is still clean and pristine...

this week will be hell week, it's the week before spring break- I'm excited, I'm going to visit my family in CA and AZ, so I have to do a lot of work this week so during spring break I don't have to do as much.

Goals before spring break: finish grading papers, start another novel for class, read journal articles for the week after spring break, continue research so I'll be prepared to write my a folklit paper proposal, which is due the Wednesday after spring break

enough with the introduction... the main subject of this blog post is my first pow wow, which I attended yesterday...

It was held in the Nelson Field house here in Logan Utah... Native Americans, different tribes congregated here, some came from Wyoming, some from New Mexico, and some more from different parts of the west... I don't know what a pow wow is, and I didn't do any research... somehow, in the back of my mind, I had some info that pow wow had dance exhibitions and I was right - but other than that, totally clueless...

it started at 7 (according to the brochure, the announcer said that native American time was different (fashionably late)... I walked in and since I had time, I checked out the vendors (I didn't have a lot of money with me)... I saw hand-crafted jewelries, pottery, drawings, clothings and a food vendor selling FRY BREAD ( i love fry bread, my first exposure to this was last week, the Native American study Association sold them at the Taggart Student Center to raise money)... Fry bread reminded me a little of johnny cakes (of the Virgin Islands)- you have two options- on your toppings to put on top of the fry bread: vegetable salsa, sour cream (traditional taco-bell stuff) or butter and honey- I chose the sweeter deal (sugar is bad for you, BUT honey is not processed the same way as sugar, they are more natural and therefore not as dangerous)...

so during the pow wow, the first thing I did after checking out the vendors was buy a fry bread for $2.50 and then found a seat with my friend...

I got a program and read through it while waiting for pow wow to begin- I was partially right, the pow woo had dances- but it also has fashion, singing, drumming, and dancing contest, it's a celebration-- I found something funny in the program saying that the fashion et al. are part of legends and traditions, which were too lengthy to explain in a small blurb in the program.... I know this is true but some context would have helped... I just did a lot of guessing and interpretation based on previous experience and exposure

Native Americans were dressed traditionally in ceremonial clothing/dressing (not costumes- to say that they are wearing costumes is insulting and disrespectful- costumes imply Halloween)... some using colors of the natural earth (brown tones and torquoise) some some using today's accessibility of the world- silk inspired, neon colors,-- lots of sparkle, beads, satin/matte finished, feathers, animal symbols (I didn't bring my camera- I'm hoping that USU' Utah's Statesman will have good picture to commemorate this event on this Monday's issue)... I hear the jingles of bells, the clanging of cylindrical metals...

the grand entrance started, the dancer processed in a circular path (the circle is prominent in native American culture)...

dancing- marching- some animal movement maybe rooster fighting, eagles soaring, there was a warrior dance, dance separated by age- tiny tots, girls/boys, teens, women/men, golden age (respect for the elder), there's the traditional dance, the fancy shawl category, and exhibition (it reminded me of ballroom a little bit)

drumming/singing contest- my friend and I sat behind a group of singers and drummers, so when it was their turn to demonstrate, you can feel the reverberation of the drum all the way to your heart... I heard the men singing and the women harmonizing- the men's voice seem to crack, they were singing high (screeching almost) and it felt like they're straining their voices, the women seemed to be more at ease, the high notes came out of them effortlessly...

I'm guessing that the winners will be announced at the last day of the pow wow...

the clothings were really amazing-- one in particular sticks in mind, this woman had a black gown-esque with sparkling/violet/blue sequence/bead work, and it just reminded of the night sky with with stars... the black/ebony hue made the earth-toned beads and other warm colors stand out... it was really pretty and inspiring....

to be continued...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2008

fieldwork?: basketball game

yesterday I attended my first USU basketball game... at SHU, our basketball team is small and still in its incipient/beginning phase, so it doesn't have as big of a fan base compared to a larger university, such as USU... it was a fun experience and USU won.

while walking out of the "Spectrum" I heard people talk about how "exciting" the game was when USU was behind (losing), it was more exciting to see if USU will catch up or not (a hard earned victory is much more satisfying than a ten point lead)... for me, the whole event- not just the actual game- was "exciting" especially the people (various groups inside the Spectrum).

confession:
I'm taking a "fieldwork" class right now so my mind is in "fieldwork" mode. I know that not everything is academic, and when I attended this event, I didn't intend for it to be a fieldwork of some sort, I actually attended for personal interest BUT I couldn't help it...

fieldnotes:
I sat in the toppest row because I wanted a good incompassing view. The enemy team were warming up. They wore dark jerseys and shorts. They dribbled, passed, and practiced basketball shots. And then the home team entered and the noise level sky rocketed. Blue, the bull mascot came down from the ceiling- mission-impossible style. Male and female cheerleaders led the procession/ team line while tumbling/ back-flipping... some were running waving a giant banner of USU's "monogram?"... the band played (trombones, trumpets and drums)... the Hurd (student organization devoted to supporting USU athletics, very distinguishable- wearing their blue faces, the official "hurd" blue shirt [show me your "A", your true aggie blood]) started chanting "Jaycee Carroll"- ... the cheerleaders formed a line and started doing lifts while the roster was called... everybody/ most everybody were standing, I stood too because if I didn't I wouldn't be able to see what went on...

singing began, Blue, with the help of the cheerleaders, led the crowd with arm movements- left and then right, then formed "U" "S" "U", then some sort of drum-roll movement/mash potatoe... the lyrics were on the screen (without looking at the screen all I heard were scotsman and thistle and WIN and FIGHT)...

the noise level waned minutely... the people remained standing (so did I)... in this campus and probably across the nation, derogatory chanting was banned, the fans were still able to work around this, they adapted to the restrictions and still made intimidating noises... the old comprehensible chants turned to monotone sound, like a large humming maybe "whoooo" later on some people got bored and started whistling and making obnoxious bird sounds (it was like a jungle)... at one point, they'd vary from "whoooo" to "you, you, you suck" (it sounded like this was what they said)... so the wooing sound always got started whenever the "Enemy" had the ball, BUT whenever, the hero/home team had the ball, chants of "here we go AGGIE, here we go" would start... the crowd would also "woo" at the referees if they made call in favor of the Enemy.... Whenever the Enemy made an airball, the crowd chanted "airball" and in unison, they'd point at the person who made the "airball" (can you just imagine hundreds of people mocking you for your mistake?).... occassionally you'll hear the disappointing sign when the hero missed. And when the hero is trying to make the basket (because of a foul), the crowd would raise their hands in the air and wait. If the hero made it, they'd put their hands down and make the "swoosh" sound, and if not, a sigh of some sort...

there were some international students in front of me (they may be from India or near that region), I'm guessing that they're pretty familiar with the actions because they were able to follow the movements and sing along... fan behavior transcends language/international boundaries...

all of this happened before the first period ended... the energy remained high throughout,

during the first "time out", the cheerleaders had some minutes to fill, and they used this time and "backflipped" across the court in straight lines from left to right and vice versa, diagonally, up and down... another time out, they had shooting contest, another timeout, and they (the camera) was "highlighting" couples in the crowd, when the couples see themselves on screen, they would "kiss" in front of the public... they had AGGIE trivia, Blue would tossed shirts, there were give-aways, more contest, like look-alikes of the coach (Stew Morrill), a version of deal or no-deal, money give aways from sponsors.... AJumprope troupe/team exhibited their jumping and acrobatic skills... the cheerleaders did more tricks

the game ended after the 2nd quarter when the other team forfeited/gave up... Jaycee Carroll set a new school record.... I was a bit disappointed that they ended early (no half time show, and no 20% discount [the USU bookstore promised to give 20% off if USU scored at least 80 points... they had 79 points)

for me, whether USU wins or loses, I think I would have still had fun, the people and the events in-between were more entertaining than the actual game (I'm still glad USU won, the Aggie tower will be shining "blue" tonight)... next time I go, instead of observing, I may actually participate in the chanting, singing, and dancing (upper body miming choreography)...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:47 PM | Comments (1)

January 7, 2008

day 1 of spring 08

I'll keep things brief and general because I don't want to cause trouble (can you believe that, "Michael B. Diezmos" causing trouble with his words?). Here in Logan, Utah, the spring semester already began.

I met the new students I'm teaching this spring. I'll apply the things I learned last semester and I'll trust my intuition and the "signs" more (basically being more aware). Even though I already have my lesson plans from last semester, I'm still changing them (revising- re-seeing). The great thing is that I can look at a month's worth of lesson plans and connect them (so they can be more cohesive). Something different I'm doing this semester- I added a supplementary reading: "Wicked..." by Gregory Maguire. The reason why I did this is to make the lessons more cohesive. Every assignment that my students are doing is going to be connected somehow through "Wicked." And I'm actually using one of my old textbooks (from SHU) as another supplementary to further explain different concepts of the writing process and also for writing prompts.

I met my co-workers today and recapped. We shared stories about our holidays and new ideas (what changes they made for their addendum/class). It'll be different this semester because we don't have a common class together. The only times that we'll see each other are during office hours. I do have classes with some of them so I'll see them then. Speaking of classes, I decided to be sane and logical this semester and only take two classes. Even though they're only two, I still have a lot of reading to do. The classes I'm taking are "Fieldwork" and "Folklore and Literature." Some of the books in the fieldwork class include writing ethnographic fieldnotes, people studying people, learning how to ask questions, tales of the field, proper documentation, etc. Some of the Folklore-inspired literature that I'll be reading are Achebe's "Things' fall apart", Toni Morrison's "Beloved", "The Chosen" by ?, Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and many more.

My Thai roommate returned to Thailand. To finalize his departure, some of his Thai friends stopped by the other day to pick up some food supplies he couldn't bring back home. The tv and microwave are gone (I have to buy them soon or I'll get bored and starve if I get "snow-bound"). My new roommate hasn't arrived yet. I'm using the living room area as a drying room for my snow drenched coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and boots.

I'm glad that SHU printed Rick Sebak's speech in the Forward Magazine. Now instead of watching the tape to remember and to get inspired, I just read the article. I'm utilizing more the concept of genuine small talk, reading (something besides my school work) and ordering the special (every new restaurant/cafe I go to I look for the special, and if it's an old hang-out, I try to order something new).

Things that I'm saving up for and planning- trip to Europe (Spain, Italy, France, and England), California (San Diego, Redwood Forest, San Fransisco), and an internship as a teacher's assistant (hopefully in Hawaii). These may not all come true (but I can dream), and as my old teacher used to say "the great thing about plans is that you can change them!"

Wish me luck!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:33 PM | Comments (2)

January 3, 2008

Mark Doty, books, and movies

over the break, I read several stuff: Mark Doty's "Still Life with Oysters and Lemons," the first half of Stephen King's "Different Seasons" (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and Apt Pupil), more poems from Pablo Neruda (collection of poetry in "Odes to Opposites"), some short pieces from literary and art magazines (USU and SHU), and I'm starting to read the English translation of Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana."

Mark Doty's "Still life..."- I wasn't planning on reading this book because of the title. At first "still life" connoted boring to me. I don't like ultra-realistic paintings (my dislike probably started from the fact that I have difficulty making realistic art myself). However the phrase "Oysters and Lemon" stayed in the back of my mind (there's an element of dadaism in it). My colleague read this book for his class. In the the office, sometimes, he'd discuss this book with me. The book became more interesting. The book's length also made it more appealing to read (only 70 pages, I read it over the break). After reading this book, I became a fan of Mark Doty. He'll be stopping by at USU this semester; I can't wait to hear his talk. I'm planning to read his other stuff (I hope that USU's library has them). For me "Still life with oysters and lemons" is like a big drawn out haiku (if you don't know already, I'm fanatical about haikus); this book has bits of art history (brings back memory of art history classes), art criticism, poetry and its analysis, philosophy, reflections about life (his life), memoir-esque passages. Doty created a good synthesis of academic and personal. I never thought before of being able to pull this together (make them work with each other instead of being in conflict).

King's "Shawshank Redemption" was hopeful, but his "Apt Pupil" was not. Redemption is about a man wrongly imprisoned, and Apt is about obsession especially with the horrors of death camps/holocaust. I watched the movie of Redemption after reading it (it was pretty accurate, I felt the same way after finish it similar to me finishing the book). I felt sorry for the characters in Apt; I was hoping that he would get out of his conundrum.

I continued my never ending review of Spanish by reading more Neruda poems in his collection of "Odes to Opposites" (both English and Spanish). I get bored just learning the grammar and the vocabulary (this is necessary) so I tried spicing it up with literature/poetry. Update on the review- last semester, I got caught up with everything especially teaching. over the break, I finally finished reviewing the vocab/grammar of chapters 1-12 (I'm not motivated to finish reviewing ch. 13-16). I feel like I have the basic (enough to pass spanish 1 year 1. I watch spanish movies, read the subtitles, read short stories, listen to spanish pop music, for the most part I can understand it. the thing I'm most uncomfrotable with is speaking in spanish. I want to get to the point in my education when I can be somewhat comfortable with speaking spanish instead of starting in level one again (so wish me luck!).. lo siento for the digression... two poems in particular created awesome imagery and showed me another perspective (surprised me, made it memorable for me): "Ode to Fall" and "Ode to Waves." Neruda wrote something like fall being a difficult season, it's not easy being fall. Unlike playful spring, fall works (sort of like the ant and grasshopper story). In "Ode to Waves" the image of waves as Venus and later as running horses is novel and beautiful (if you get a chance read it to see for yourself).

Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana"- I got this for Christmas ( I chose it because it was on-sale and it's a novel that incorporated pictures- it's not like a graphic novel, the pictures allow us to see what the narrator is seeing, and they play a vital role in restoring the character's memory). So far it's interesting. The main character is around 60 years old and he lost all his memory which pertains to feelings and personal experience. The funny thing is that he still remembers facts but not emotions. He's re-learning things.

I tried catching up with my movies (it's more convinient to watch movies in an urban area versus rural). The first movie is "Golden Compass" (same title as the book). I want to read the book. The movie was a bit choppy. This is the first from the trilogy, and it felt that they were just introducing characters. One character would be introduced and leave and later reintroduced to play a part (I'm betting that the book has better flow, transition, and be more in depth). "Enchanted" was charming, funny and romantic (disney sort of parodied itself). It's witty, I want to see it again. "I am Legend" reminded me of Tom Hawk's "Cast Away" meets "Resident Evil/28 days later/a zombie flick of some sort" (but not so cheesy)- more drama less gore, but still suspenseful. "Sweeney Todd" is a bloody musical (both in british slang and literally). It could have been humorous because you see Johnny Depp slashing someone's throat while singing; but it wasn't. I've never seen such a musical. The juxtaposition is not so strange but it's still disturbing. "Aliens vs Predator: Requiem" is a movie I saw with my friends. It was entertaining. My friends rated it 7 out of 10. The aliens and predator's delivered it right, but the human actors' performance were expectedly disappointing.

I'll try to watch more movies, hopefully the snow in Utah won't hold me back.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2007

End of the year reflection

Last month during the stress of teaching, I wrote that I was looking forward to looking back. In my three weeks and almost four days of break, I got my wish. I can now look back at the drama and laugh (I will learn from them).

Leaving Logan, Utah for the winter break (reminiscing)-

The Cache Valley Airport shuttle picked me up at my apartment at 3:30 in the morning. I was eating breakfast (microwavable lasagna and vegetables), my thai roommate was still awake (he's a bit of an insomniac). He waved goodbye to me and I waved back. He returned to his room and I continued eating (most likely, I'll never see him again. I look forward to hearing from him and I'll do my best to keep in touch, however keeping in touch is always a funny and challenging business.)

I heard a knock at the the door. It was Steve, the shuttle driver. "I'll just get a quick drink and I'll be done," I said.
"Do you have any luggage I can put in the shuttle?"
"Hold on..." I went to my room and took my green suitcase.
"Just one?"
"Yup!" He walked away. I finished my breakfast and threw the plastic tray in the trashcan. I ran to my room and scanned it to see if I forgot anything. My e-ticket was in my pocket, next to my wallet full of ids, coins, a credit card and a few remaining cash, which I still had since the beginning of the semester. I even brought my passport just in case. Everything was unplugged and locked. I took my carry-on backpack. Outside it was still dark and a little chilly. Some snow covered the ground.

Steve made small talk in the shuttle. We picked up other passengers. I was surprised that he could be so talkative at such an early hour (and I thought I was talkative). His daughter was currently attending USU. She had an internship in New York and Hawaii. She majored in theater set designs.

We were a mixed bunch. A mother and a daughter were going to Africa for the holidays. A man and a woman were going to to Tennesse for job training (they're in the retail business). And I was off to Philadelphia for the break (I had let my guard done because I could- I finished my major projects and I finished grading my students papers, I turned everything in- I was able to relax. I was glad. At this moment I realized how much I missed Philly, my family and friends. Chasing one's dream is difficult).

In spite of the recent precipitation, the night sky was clear. The stars were out and the mountains' silhouette outlined the horizon. Steve started to count the cars that we passed by going opposite us. He explained the rules of the game. He wanted to see if this day was the day he was going to break his record of encountering more than 8 cars/vehicles before he reached the stop light that would lead us to the main highway. We talked about probabilities. Time was definitely a factor, also weather. There was no major snow storm to deter travelers, however, it was still early in the morning (around 4:30). Despite of the time, we beat his record passing by 15 vehicles. After this, he started talking less to me and more with the other passengers. Instrumental Cole Porter and other broadway hits played serenely. I fell asleep.

I woke up and we were entering the Salt Lake City International airport... I thanked Steve and checked in.

Arriving in Philadelphia

The arrival was 30 minutes late. My dad picked me from the airport. When I saw him,I waved to him enthusiastically. He just nodded. He started telling me a story about him and other people waiting for their family outside the airport, and cops. I told my dad that I had spent $130 in the airport mall for christmas gifts and food (I needed to start my christmas shopping). He asked about teaching. I just told him that it was fine, and I continued telling him about spending money. I assured him that I would pay him back once I withdraw cash from my account.

Instead of going home, we went straight to pick up my mom at her work. On the way we stopped by in CVS (I bought christmas wrappers) and Popeyes for dinner to go. Once mom was in the car, we drove on Broadway street and around the Rittenhousesquare area. My dad started telling stories of my mom's driving lessons (about her being pulled over by a cop, having difficulty turning, going around the parking lots and more). I just laughed.

It was weird entering my house. The furnitures were mostly in the same place. Some moved. There were more plants in the front of the windows. I went to my room, and it was even more weird to enter it. I never knew how bright my room was and how colorful. Edel-weiss the bamboo had grown wild. On the contrary, Sammy, the sampaguita, was almost bald (the sight of her reminded me of Charlie Brown's christmas tree). Dust gathered, but the room remained organized and in place. I knew there were so many things I needed to do, but I couldn't help it, I just wanted to sit there and do nothing. I kept telling my self to do something, to do something, to start my list. I didn't, I just sat on my bed and looked around. An hour passed by, and I still didn't do anything. I finally decided to sleep it off. I had been awake since 2 in the morning (I deserved a good 12 hour nap). I was going to start the next day, nice and fresh (maybe I would be able to think). Lights off, I lay there on my bed and prayed. I felt the same way I felt when I got home from my first Fall break of my first semester at SHU. I was relieved that I made it through. Then I started pondering- what if it was all just a dream? If it was a dream, I would be pissed because I wanted my trials and victories to be something, to be meaningful.

Outpour of creativity

This christmas I wanted to make something for my family. I spent three days designing and painting a bowl, a vase, two mugs, and two plates. Even though I had fun painting these, for the most part, effort was overlooked. I later learned that practical gifts were more valued than aesthetically pleasing ones. Before this manifestation, I finished my shopping, I wrapped presents, I wrote to people and send cards outs, I started my mini projects (albums, pictures, reviewing, reading). I went out with friends. Some confronted me and complained about not adamantly keeping in touch, some were just happy that I was back (I liked these meetings more than the former).

One day while walking in Center City (downtown Philly), I felt claustrophobic. I sort of missed the open space and mountains of Logan, Utah (I'm sure when I get back there, I'd miss the crowdedness and skyscrapers of Philly). I liked the feeling of familiarity (walking around the city, taking the bus, knowing the streets, the shortcuts, the RESTAURANTS- it's a wonderful feeling).

My relatives arrived. Christmas came and ended. I heard the same comment I heard last year and the year before and before- how it took a year for christmas to arrive (waiting), how one prepared for this day and it was over in a day. And it was back to WORK until New Year's Eve. Materially, I got everything I wanted for christmas, but I still posed the same question that Faith Hill sang about in the movie, the Grinch: Where are you christmas? The lyrics which stated, "My world is changing. I'm rearranging..." kept playing in my head. Basically, I have lots of redefining to do for 2008.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:26 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2007

making a list, checking it twice, three weeks of break

what a semester!? tomorrow I'll be flying to Philly for the winter break- I have three weeks of FREE time, and I tend to use every minute of it wisely and productively having fun... I can't disclose too much here because one of my students actually found my blog this semester- it's not that I'm incriminating myself in any way, but I still have to be aware of audience...

I have to go christmas shopping, then I have to buy cards and send them to peeps, I have to do fun readings, I have to watch movies, I have to keep in touch, I have to visit starbucks, I have to resume my latte tasting party, I have to reflect, I have to meet up with friends and family...

I learned a lot this semester about teaching, about people, about myself- all I can say is that, teaching (especially for those who haven't learned how to balance self and class interest) is a selfless act- I like teaching college students because I don't have to worry so much about national testing standards, parents, and because my students tend to be more responsible (some are actually paying for their own tuition so they take education more seriously)- one thing I don't like about teaching general ed. classes is that most students don't really give a damn about the class, they're just taking it for the credit... this semester, I did my best to try to make the class interesting and memorable- sometimes it worked and other times it backfired...

I did a lot of grading, reading short essays, conferences, lesson planning- one of the things I'll be doing over the break is typing out my lesson plans and revising my addendum, the good thing is that I have the foundation for the lessons I'll be doing, I can just tweak them.... At this moment I don't see myself as being a full time teacher, I might teach in the future part time at a community college, but I still want to pursue my dream as a writer-- a compromise I am thinking of is trying to get a part time job at the University of the Arts in Philly, teach basic composition course or basic creative writing courses, then take some free art classes (free to faculty/staff hopefully) and maybe even network there, but I want to be doing something in the arts... I'll be changing my addendum a bit next semester, I'm thinking of adding a supplementary reading that'll be good for discussions and also as aide to the assignments they'll be doing... next semester will be a bit easier because I only have 30 students instead of 43 and I'll only be taking 2 classes...

my classes this semester were interesting:
Practicum in teaching Writing- we talked about pedagogy, we discussed about 1010 issues, we did exercises to help us plan lessons, hold conferences, grade papers, deal with all the fun issues and controversial ones too, the assignments were explained to us so we could explained them to students, we did adaptive papers similar to our students so we could better explain it to them... my synthesis paper is about rites of passage (particularly that of undergrad student to graduate instructor)... we were also required to work at the writing center ( i feel that I did more tutoring this time around in the course of 12 weeks compared to the year I spent tutoring at SHU's writing center)

Weird: a cultural history- in highschool I learned about two context of weird- odd and foreboding- this semester in this class, I learned other definitions- like weird as the fates (noun) and many more but at this moment I can't recall them... we started with the witches, spiritualists, legend tripping, weird locales, art, and ended with folk singer Pete Seeger (the theme of the class, is tthe marginal people/ scapegoats, the blamed ones)--- at first I wasn't sure about this class becaue it was too "weird " for me- but in the end it turned okay- for my final I wrote a paper (which I can turn in to a hypothetical conference)- about the weird in mother goose rhymes- I focused on death... one of the things I liked about this class is that we had a lot of speakers this semester, and lots of discussion, I still like our discussion about art and all the weird stuff we talked about...

Folklore theory and methods- this class ia an overview/survey course of folklore... we started with folklore history part of the nationalistic/romantic movement- discussed how folklore is an underdog in academia- demeaned because of its interdisciplinary nature- different definition of folklore- folklore is like art, it starts with "tradition" and you can complicate it and keep adding layers/ or keep opening layers... FOLKLORE Rocks! sometimes I felt that folklore is a bit rigid especially when using old definitions of it- I'm finding out that I'm agreeing more with the contemporary definition of folklore, folklore as a process, something dynamic and constantly changes, folklore is like the writing process- it's recursive, it employs the rhetorical triangle, context, text, textuality are all involved, artistic communications within small groups, did I say that folklore is awesome?-- I explored the archives, I'm learning the author-date system of citation (adjusting from MLA- another skill to learn, ) --- for my final, I wrote another hypothetical thing- I wrote a proposal just in case I want to do plan A thesis (slim chance)- I'm thinking about doing a creative plan B- if this is not possible I'll stick to plan C and just take extra classes- my proposal involves children's folklore and mother goose rhymes (surprise!)

next semester I'm taking "fieldwork" and "folk literature" (just two this time so I don't drive myself crazy)...

I also learned a little about the Thai culture through my roommate- he always cook delicious food, sometimes too spicy for me... I think he got used to me asking him "how spicy the food is" he created different degrees: little spicy is something tolerable for my tastebud, alot spicy is a triple dog dare..., I learned about heirarchy (elders first), a bit of fortune telling (which often involves love triangles), a bit on humor, even if I don't understand the language, a bit on thai alphabet, food preparation, a bit of cooking... lots on HOSPITALITY... he gave me a "thai tie" (good homonyme?)

in spite of my busy schedule, I was able to do some writing this semester and also do some artsy stuff... for my teaching practicum class,we kept a teaching journal... I also did some personal narrative (my students were my inspiration)... I read a lot of haikus (Kerouac and japanese classics), I even wrote some too... something I'm proud this semester, I was able to expose my students to some poetry and the arts, so if they were open minded, not only did they get the basics in composition, but they were exposed to the arts as well... I picked up a sketch journal and started drawing cartoons or still-life whatever...

continueing with the list- I have to re-review my spanish, I'm going to take the test on the first week of class next semester (I have to finish my degree as close to the expected 2 years- because after that, my chances of being a GI are slim to none...

I learned a lot about the mormon culture, about missions, the dogma, no cursing/drinking/coffee- scripture readings and public prayers, one of my student actually was nice enough to give me the Book of Mormon (I'll read it)... I learned how to longboard (so far I've only fallen three times- I think I'm getting good at falling, whenever I fall it doesn't hurt as much as the first time I fell...)

back to the list- I need to watch new movies, I have to walk around downtown Philly, I have to go to the art museum (U penn and art musem- I hope they're showing something nice at walnut theater )....I have to buy art...

I have to continue packing now, because I'm supposed to take a nap before waking up at 2 in the morning to get ready because the shuttle will pick me up to go to the salt lake international airport for my 7:10 flight

next semester there'll be more salt lake trips...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:44 PM | Comments (2)

October 21, 2007

I'm horrible, I haven't kept up with my blog

Last week is USU's fall break, which means a three day weekend... it was just an extra day for me to grade papers and catch up on my own readings...

I did attempt to do something, like explore the downtown area... I found several bookstores (not the chains like Barnes, or Borders, more like book exhange, collectors etcs), some thrift shop (for more used books and other treasures).... and local cafes...

It's getting cold here... there's already snow in the mountain tops, it doesn't stay too long, usually by the middle of the week, the snow's melted off, but then when the weekend comes, old man winter reclaims the mountain... this morning there were hail showers the size of candy nerds... as a compensation for the cold weather, sunsets are really pretty... for example today I spent at least half an hour walking in the cold trying to capture the warm hues of red, magenta, mango with my digital camera...

back to grading- I 'm finding that all those peeer-reviews and copy-editing I did at SHU are helpful- they help me justify the grades I give my students (who, sadly, don't take to heart the suggestions I give them)... my students surprised me, their concept of modesty is different from mine, I have to be careful when I plan activities which involves the media (with this said, it doesn't mean I have to censor everything- I rarely censor, but I do give warnings, caveats, disclaimer, etc.)... I still find it weird when some of my students call me either, Mr. Diezmos, prof. Diezmos (even though I told them repeatedly that I'm an instructor), sometimes Instructor Mike, and I even get caught by surprise whenever I'm addressed as Michael....

this week everyday, I'm reading at least one article for my hypothetical abstract and prospectus...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:57 AM | Comments (2)

September 23, 2007

Amazon.com sucks

before I begin my tale, thanks and shout-outs go to Karissa and Prof. Jerz...

so after a month, I finally got the book I ordered from Amazon...

the moral of the story, if you ever want to order something from amazon, make sure that You know at least three months in advance what you want, and when you finally decide this, travel back in time (at least) six months before you figure out whatever you wanted, and THEN order it.... pay extra money (tons of money) so that Amazon can deliver it in a day... but I'm sure if you order your book 3 years in advance, you'll have the book at least by the second week of the semester...

in spite of this rant, I'm still glad that I finally got my book (lucky for me, I had the reserve to rely on)... next time, I'll consider my option more, not rely so much on Amazon.com, and actually look for other venues...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:22 PM | Comments (5)

September 19, 2007

witches in weird class

so for my first paper that I'm writing and still trying to connect to my overall goal (of storytelling), I'm exploring mother goose and her possible connection to witches/witch-lore

the concept of weird that I'll be connecting my speculation is the concept that deals with "tales" and some sort of "foreshadowing (educating/advising about future) /divining/warning"

the associations:

elderly woman= typical witch figure (old women in margins of society especially widows)
goose= concept of familiars (do the bidding of the witch in exchange for something belonging to a witch [physical/emotional/spiritual] etc.)

Latin prayers= spells, charms/ rhymes (to educate the illiterate about Catholicism)
Anticatholicism -- catholics=witches (according to English Protestant/Puritans)

okay, I know Wikipedia is fickle (because anybody can put something in it- but it includes scholarly references and I can check them directly and see their credibility-- the archivist was helping me, and she discovered in Wiki, that Mother Goose originated in Boston, reported to have 10 children of her own- around the 1600s (historically this was around the time of witch hunts/trials in England)- Speculation- the witches in Boston could have tried to escape to the New World and settled in Boston, (or they could have been sent there to get rid of them- they could have been banished/exiled)...

here are the connections I'm finding so far, I still have to read more... any suggestions are welcome dear audience...

I met the children's library librarian (Roslin)... she gave me ideas on possible contacts for storytelling classes/teachers/ places etc.

I went to the Education Bld. and found resources for my ESL students- it's overwhelming because there are lots and I don't know where to begin, I got an idea that I can use these resources to help me with my own review for the Spanish language...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 3:49 PM | Comments (0)

wondering

I wonder why my blog entries are not showing up in the homepage- is it because I'm not writing about SHU? is it because I graduated already and I'm no longer "in" the SHU community? Is it because I'm talking about my new school or I'm writing about graduate stuff? just wondering...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 3:46 PM | Comments (4)

September 18, 2007

extracurricular activities aka stress-relieving activities

it's not like I'm not busy enough with my own classes and with my teaching, but I'm really putting effort to just have down time... what better ways to do this than pursue one's interests...

so I signed up to be a part of the Polynesian Student Union- I'm really interested in Hawaiian culture and other pacific islanders... I know somehow, I can connect this to my thesis... one of their activities is telling stories through dance...

I also volunteered with Common Grounds- we basically spend time with people with disabilities and have fun in the great outdoors-- we'll be camping and biking and trying to enjoy the weather before the snow comes in... most of their activities are on the weekends...

then there's exercising... Monday is running day (it's a bit difficult because the altitude is higher here, and I'm finding that it's taking me longer to adjust my breathing), Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are "Core" days, Wednesday night is dedicated to dance (jazz and hip-hop)-- I'm extending my dance vocabulary (for example, I learned what corkscrew and tabletop mean-- they're not alcoholic beverages either)... Friday is free weights day... Sunday is rest day...

I'm falling behind on my readings and I'm using up a lot of time for my teaching (I'm getting used to it though- making lesson plans are sort of getting easier...)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:34 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2007

a good compromise

in spite of the craziness, I feel (with a lot of assurance) that I made the right decision picking Utah State University...

it was a good compromise because:
-I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to grad school because I've been in school forever and I needed other types of exposure besides school
-I actually have a real paying job (even if it's only a little allowance), I'm a graduate instructor- I have office hours, I make lesson plans, I attend a concomittant training session while teaching- I'm a tutor at the writing center, I do administrative stuff/record keeping, organization, grading, facilitating- I'm getting a lot of valuable experiences
-everything I'm doing is related to writing- so this is a plus, I need to practice
-even though Logan is not a metropolitan like New York, it has all the resources I need- the beauty of the great outdoors, a huge library, opportunities, networks- it's also nice that I'm not that far away from Arizona and CA- I'll be doing a lot of sight-seeing and visiting family members...
-I'm learning more about folklore- emphasizing the "artistic utilization" of folklore using text and image in a picture book...

I'm content...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:36 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2007

I can't believe it's finally back... tons of stories to tell

so it's 12:00 am in Utah, which means around 2 am in PA... I'm awake because I hit a roadblock, I'm trying to figure out my lesson plan for tomorrow... the irony is that all throughout today I've been pretty productive...I've read several chapters for my own grad classes, and now I'm stuck...

lately I've been attending academic socials to meet with people in the English department here at USU, it's important to network... sadly though, I was sort of brain dead when I went last friday... I didn't reach out to anybody, I just sat comfortably in a circle with the rest of the GIs recapping stories of the week... we ate food... I have an office sort of, in this big room,open space,I share it with 7 other GIs, so I have an implied corner (better than a cubicle, which is so restrictive)... my implied corner has a column of some sort (thus creating an angle)...I have a desk with a giant calendar, a make-shift bulletin board, and a painting by van gogh (starry night- it was the only artistic thing I found in walmart)... I even have office hours (can u believe that?)

tomorrow is the third week of school... the first week was nervewracking... the classes I taught were in the afternoon (which meant that for most of the freshmen, these classes were not their first, maybe their last for the day)... during the first week, I did lots of quirky introductions, which paid off, by the end of the week, I had their names memorized and I learned/heard memorable stories to associate the names with the faces...

I encountered light administrative nightmares- trying to figure out SyllaBase (similar to J-Web), I collected papers from my students, made some sort of file for them... I'm in the process of finalizing the format of my gradebook (can you believe that?)...

All throughout last week, I had 10 minute conferences with my students (44 of them- 75% of them attended, the other 25% will hopefully make up their missed conference tomorrow, Monday)... I just collected their writing notebooks, and read them...I commented and read really fast their entries- I wanted for them to have a good start and a good foundation...

We're learning about the writing process... using writing and reading as inquiry.... we're practicing fastwriting, dialectical thinking, questioning beliefs etc....I'm approaching this sort of like a presentation where I engage my audience, have participation and activities planned and be some sort of facilitator

Being a grad student is so weird... it's weird because I totally forgot that I was a student, I got so immersed in being an instructor, that I forgot that I'm also student pursuing a Master's degree... so far the only difference I noticed is the amount of reading ( alot more in a short time)... I sort of lucked out because this semester i HAVE three seminars, my work doesn't involve too much research paper... my work this semester emphasizes the "process"

(side note- it's scary talking to people about their thesis, once you mentioned the word thesis, their eyes sort of turn hazy and glazed... they are no longer talking to you, they are talking to themselves, they are having a monologue, they are lost in their own thinking, you were once their audience and now, you've been sidetracked... if I ever get like that about my thesis somebody slap me/pinch me gently)...

In my Folklore Theory and Methodology class, we're going over history of the field, researching (using library resources etc- USU's library is humongous, it has four floors plus a ground floor... they modeled it similar to barnes and noble, which means it has its own cafe and those comfy lounge chairs... it has an archive and a huge warehouse where old journals and rare manuscripts galore are kept, it uses the BARN system [roughly an acronym for borrower's automated retrieval network system- something like that])

I'm reading about witches in my "weird" class called "Weird: a Cultural History"... my professor's goal is for us to produce a short paper at the end of the semester which can be submitted to a conference, we're also going to learn how to write an abstract... it can be of our interest as long as we can connect it to any concept of "weird"

In my Teaching Practicum, we're reading and discussing a lot of teaching pedagogies... this is a good supplement for our first year teaching... a good place to get ideas, to reflect (we're keeping a teaching journal)... concomittant to this, we're having writing center seminars... discussing being tutor (not so new for me)...I have to do four observations of a tutoring session, write a paper about it... I work at the Writing center for an hour every thursday starting at 7 pm.... it's a lot but reasonably manageable...

so far I don't see myself as a folklore scholar in a traditional sense, I think I'm leaning towards "artistic utilization" of folklore instead of academia... I'm getting my Master's so I can understand it more and not end up offending folklorists (misused it and make it fakelore)... some famous people who might have use folklore in their arts are, Shakespeare, Keats, Yeats etc.

this wednesday, my class will hand in their first major assignment....

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:13 AM | Comments (3)

August 23, 2007

more policy and worst case scenarios

as the days go by, it's getting more serious, and a reality happening...

I made some changes/revisions to my addendum (my contract with my students-- I actually went back to J-Web and reviewed my old syllabus, which I found reasonable)...

I saw a room that can possibly be a facsimile of my office... I have an office, which I share with other GI's (at least 8 in a room)- it's okay, except I feel like the others already claimed their spot, I'll probably be left in the middle, an island (I don't mind this, except, I'd like a corner with good outdoor lighting- but if I have to, I'll make the most of my island)...

we talked about disability issues and privacy issues- what to do in a seizure episode, how to adapt with a blind/deaf student, and others... how to stay calm...

we met with the multicultural coordinator... (I want to join the Polynesian club and learn how to hula, the latino club to practice spanish, the Native American club for folklore reasons, and the Asian club for the food festival)

we talked about violence in the classroom (the V-tech incident came up)... I was shocked to find out that students (part of their State rights here at UT) are allowed to carry consealed weapons in CLASS (as long as they have permits)...

we were advised, when in doubt/feel threatened to go ahead and call the cops...

we took a break and went to a grad student orientation (exposed to resources that I'll take advantage of, since I paid the fees already- I want to try having a personal trainer, use the indoor climbing practice, go hiking with the outdoor recreation center, etc.)

I met my Eng. 1010 librarian, who will work with me and my class- her name is Flora--- (oh yeah, Karissa, the head librarian here used to have a stitching group, she likes to stitch and she reads that "stitch" and "bitch" book- I think that's the title)...

we met with the whole English department.... so far I'm impressed, USU is really trying to integrate the Writing Center, the Library, the Eng. 1010 classes, and the English Department together... they're trying to do a lot of collaboration...

I started collecting publications- I went to their newspaper office- and wow, it's humongous (Val and Amanda will totally love it)- their newspaper comes out three times a week- it's really deadline oriented- (I saw a couple of typos, and depending on how this semester will go, I might volunteer to do some copy-editing)
...I talked to Sabine (a name similar to me mom), one of the editors for this journal of essays and non-fiction, they gave me a free copy... I talked to Leslie and Chris, editors of the literary journal called "Isotope"- about a possible future jobs (just in case the teaching doesn't work out, just thinking about options)... they advised us to network as early as possible- I learned that Chris, one of the instructors of the creative writing program, is part of the art museum committee, one of his class did a collaboration with art and writing- this might be along the line of my possible thesis project...
I got a copy of Scribbners, USU's undergrad literary and art magazine (but grad students are allowed to submit)- it's only once a year during the spring- I'm planning to submit poetry and some pictures (I started carrying my b/w camera just in case I see something I like to photograph)...

in spite of all the worst case scenarios, when I walk out from the Ray West building, I see the mountains looming up, engulfing me (not in a claustrophobic way), then open space, green grass, a breeze, and the soft hued sky...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:53 PM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2007

overwhelmed in a good way

GI training sessions began Monday, today is Wednesday, it feels like it should be two weeks later... sensory overload, nonetheless I see the value in this type of cramming session- it exposes us to situations so that way it's not going to be as "new"...

by the end of this week, theoritically, we would have experienced the semester in a nutshell...

the first day, we discussed the different roles we have- writer/teacher/student/etc. In one of my reflections, I wrote about being comfortable as a writer but not as a teacher--- I was familiar with writing terms such as drafting, brainstorming, writing badly, etc.-- the only teaching I did was doing presentations... I know how to prepare, to interact, to pass on knowledge- however doing presentation is a one time thing- teaching lasts for a whole semester (which means more connections and questions)... there's a lot of literature people, and they're showing interest in doing more reading than writing but the emphasis at USU Eng 1010 is writing (I even heard some of the Lit-fanatic that they abhorred writing, they just want to read and analyze---- I like reading, but I'm more pro-writing- so instead of reading literature, I like to make literature...
I like USU's approach, because they're focusing on writing process and because I majored in creative writing and took a lot of writing classes, and I do a lot of writing myself and feel comfortable talking/teaching about the writing process- my weak points maybe the reading and discussion sections

we did exercises, such as fastwring, icebreakers and others... on the second day, we focused on the assignments (this session was comforting, it gave me a clearer view of how to explain the assignments to the students-- I saw my roster and saw the pics of my students- it's really exciting)....

since everything is so new, I'm learning to translate for example, at SHU we used the J-Web system, here at USU we're using the Syllabase- this is good for discussions, and outside classroom resources...

a representative from a textbook company visited us and talked to us about the on-line companion of the textbook- it's a good resource ot have but with everything going on, it's hard to incorporate or add this to the designed course-- of course it's helpful (but I don't even know yet what works- the important thing is that the resource is there--- one of the benefits of big university is the resources- but coming from a small university such as SHU, made me more creative in trying to find resources that are limited)...

our head GIs showed us worst case scenarios, we did exercises in grading papers, we talked about policy, conferences, gave advices on different situation...talked about teaching clothes

veteran GIs had a Q & A session about teaching, being a grad student, more teaching and worst case scenarios...

the people from the writing center came and talked to us, then we signed up for our hours, we worked on our addendums (borrowed a lot especially from some of my old SHU syllabus), the grad director talked to us about graduating on time

so in between GI sessions, there's Grad sessions- tomorrow, we're supposed to meet with the whole English faculty/department and have our pictures taken... so far I'm really impress with our GI instructors... I'm learning that USU is using similar approach as SHU in terms of writing process...

sad thing- I'm not trying to be too serious, but I'm hearing other grad students doing the same "bs" they did in their undergrad course- of course this is not all grad students-- maybe it's a facade/veneer that they're trying to project to their peers- being all nonchalant.... one of my GImate, spent two years in the Phil. and he and I sometimes conversed in Tagalog- it's fun! :) I don't want to appear frantic, but at the same time not cocky... I know if I apply myself, I can do this...

away from the tangent, I figured out my office hours, the time I'll be working at the Writing center, my classes for teaching Eng 1010, the classes I need to take for my program and for being a GI... I still have to finalize my payroll, I've yet to see my office (omg), I'm trying to establish sleeping habits--- the veteran GIs shared stories about sleeping in the offices (I see this as a possibility, but it'll be really bad if it gets to this- more omg)...

I'm trying to get use to the bus system, I can walk it, but it's still far... this is a lot, and I don't want to miss opportunities of getting to know my roommate or other people, exploring Utah, taking advantages of the resources offered at USU, trying to enjoy the moment, learning, being sane, more exploring...
we've been eating good food (which won't last)

I'm taking a deep, a very deep breathe...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:57 PM | Comments (1)

gaps in education

a professor once told me that graduate school is good for filling in gaps in one's education- ideally this type of gaps deals with academics, however I'm finding that graduate school is also filling in the gap in my education of being independent specifically cleaning a bathroom, ironing dress clothes and going grocery shopping...

after buying toilet scrubber, gloves, mildew/scud remover spray, the powdery thing that you put in the toilet bowl, my mother demonstrated- it's pretty self explanatory... it was the icky factor that inhibited me from learning this skill until know...

ironing is tricky... we bought this high-tech iron with lots of option- bad for beginners trying to grasp the basics... the technology at first was intimidating but once I decided to ignore the many options and focus on the "on" button and the "universal" mode, the session finally got rolling... I decided to take the step by step approach... my mother started with the collar's inside and out, then went to the shoulders, sleeves, one side of the front all the way around until the other side was reached, then finishing touches... after the shirt, we did the pants, a lot trickier because folds and creases were considered... then there were techniques using steam, damp clothe, pressing hard and following the direction of the crease, etc... my mother also added some of her superstitious caveat such as "never iron and then wet your hands"- I just nodded and most likely follow her adage...

on monday, I went food shopping by myself
side note- originally I wanted to go on sunday, but I found out that the bus doesn't work on sundays- I ended up walking for a mile trying to find the nearest gas station- the first one I found was close, and finally the second one was open- in it was an Indian Restaurant- I was going to continue my exploration of Indian cuisine however the restaurant was close but not the food mart section- I ended up eating a cup of noodles and moon cakes for dinner...
going food shopping without a car, relying on a bus, was difficult- I didn't want to make many trips so I dealt with carrying 8 bags of grocery food instead (4 in each hand)- people thought I was crazy, But I was hungry so everything was justified... the important lesson here is budgeting and selecting- I know how to budget money for everything else but food (usually I try not to delineate any lines (money wise) with food as long as they are delicious)- i factored in expiration date, nutrition (healthy), am I going to actual eat it or is it just good looking to the eyes? etc.--> my meal plan hasn't started yet and it's good to have snacks at the apartment...

Maintainence of living space/ neat appearance /affordable budget, is a learning experience for independent living.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:26 PM | Comments (3)

August 21, 2007

apartment/dorm and roommate

Aggie Village
my room is a little smaller than my SHU room... my roommate's room is bigger than my SHU room (Caniven singles)... but others compensate for that, I have a kitchen, living room (with couch and arm chair), and a bathroom (with good water pressure)... lots of storage spaces... because of finances, I'm not going to go extravagant with decorations...

even though I'm surrounded by mountains, my room doesn't have an immediate view of the mountains (so I can't wake up to the view of the mountain and right behind it the sun rising)... advantages, my room is facing west, so no direct sun, which means warmer/hotter... since my room is in the back, there's good air flow...

all my art background and exposure to trading places paid off, I'm proud of turning my little bland room into a place of solitude and respite... my room has brown carpet (not the doo-doo brown, but more earth clay-esqu)... I sticky-tabbed a poster of starry night (this is cliche but my choices were limited, either a violent reddish "Scream" of Munch or the serene blues of Van Gogh- I needed to be sane- irony, also scrutinizing starry night, there's a similarity in the mountains compared to Logan's)... I did bring another small art from Philly... I had navy blue reversable comforter with plaids on the back... matches my blue lamp, digital frame... a giant calentdar, small cd alarm clock, to beautify my window with a bad view of the parking lot, I put up using crafty wires, a a cool mint green curtain- drape style... a wall designated for memos etc. ... it's comfortable... I also bought new pet plants... their names are faux-hawke and heart

there's speculation that my roommate is Thai... this is confirmed (his name is Surasak, he did the same thing I did, he typed my name in google search and found my blog, and some facebook picture)... he's older than me (I'm finding out that I either get along with older people or younger people, people in my age bracket is rare) he's at USU, working on research for his thesis... he's a civil engineer, his focusing on water resources, irrigation, floods etc.

my section of Aggie Village (dorm apartment) is like a little global village- this is where most of the international students living on campus are housed... I hear Chinese/Thai being spoken outside, sometimes I'm passing Indian people... note on diversity- even though I'm around people from all over the world, sometimes, all I experience is just "seeing" diversity- it's perfectly logical for people with similar culture and beliefs to stick together and be safe in the circles-- for the more curious ones (me), I have to approach them and reach out for them so I can interact with them and learn from them... so yes, I see diversity, but more of the negative melting pot notion...

my roommate is a different situation, since I'm leaving with him, I get more chances to interact with him... English is our link to each other... sure he has his Thai clique, but his not around them 24/7... so far, all the chances I have with him have been learning experience

kind acts
he give me some pork-ribs cooked in the oven called "Ka-dook moo oop" (ka duke moe op)- pork ribs marinated in "parsley", garlic, with steak/ketchup sauce
I learned to say thank you, "kob khun" (cobb coon)
he doesn't mind me asking him questions, he's willing to demonstrate thai and chinese cooking (in return, I'll help him with his English)
I learned that Thai alphabet contain 44 letters/sounds... instead of having 5 vowels, they have 22 combinations of sounds that make up something similar ot vowels... almost each vowel-esqu letter have five progression of sounds... he demonstrated, I couldn't tell the difference... he demonstrated some more, I started to hear the nuances in pitch/length/volume/stress... a Thai word can be different parts of speech totally unrelated to each other, for example, the word my roommate said which sounded like "poh" meant "blind, pick up, find..."

even though I'll be watching the diversity... I'll be able to learn more in depth with my roommate...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 9:02 PM | Comments (2)

shopping and friendly strangers

would it be bad to go shopping at walmart, k-mart, or bed bath and beyond (I usually go to BBB but they're pricey)? the reasons why I don't like to shop usually at walmart/kmart is because of the horror stories associated with them: sweat shops, underpaid workers abroad, beating national market, unemployment because of cheaper labor abroad, etc... but

being in a new land (Utah), with a few bucks and credit cards, which build interests, I have to go as cheap as possible... I try to balance quality with price, make them somewhat proportional... Going to walmart was the first exercise of getting use to the public transportation (which is free, thank goodness)...

we walked to the bus stop closest to TSC (I'm learning a lot of acronyms, it's sort of addictive)... a lady came out of the education building, and I asked her about walmart and she started explaining to me about the transit center, transfering etc. at first this sounds really complicated but after being here in Utah for five days now, it's getting easier... the kind lady got picked up by her husband and 2 minutes later she came back pulled in front of me and me mum and offered to give us a ride to BBB (because they were on their way there-- not thinking about danger or anything like that, we just jump in.... on the car ride, we learned that the nice lady was also new to Utah, she and her husband were from Kansas... she got a job at the university)

I bought apartment/dorm stuff, some school supplies, room decorations etc.... people can tell that we were newbies, we're carrying tons of dorm stuff, waiting at the bus stop...

the next day- time for check in , it was Saturday... we ate breakfast at the university inn... the view was spectacular, mountains, birds flying, the sun hasn't completely risen,dawn, swallows flying... we got outside, wasn't sure if the transit was running around because of weekend, I asked the first guy I saw if the transit was running on weekends, he wasn't sure... so he gave us a ride to my apartment/dorm (later I found out that the transit did run on saturday) the nice guy helped us moved to my apartment/dorm, also to locate my RA- he was also a faculty, but in the science department not humanities- I hope I remember him and the nice lady when/if I run into them...

after he dropped us off, it was just crazy bringing the other luggage and shopping bags from the university inn to aggie village without car, relying on public transportation...

I came back to the mentioned stores to buy other things (most likely these type of shopping will continue considering my financial status)...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:36 PM | Comments (1)

Impressions of Utah

it's been a crazy few days, and the semester as a GI hasn't even begun yet... here's the catch up

I arrived in Utah on Friday (me mum was with me)... from the get-g0 it was just insane...as soon as I landed on Salt Lake's airport... I've never seen so much cowboy hats, pick up trucks with license plates that yelled "Utah!" (with the exclamation points)... the mountains just bordering... I passed by the downtown area of Salt Lake City... I kept falling asleep in the shuttle... OCHRE, the color ochre came to mind, the sun was shining, golden dry almost white grasses (the color of hay), dirt, gravel, stone, clay red, Blonde people, paisley-green shrubs bleached by the sun, although the sun was up, it was pretty dry not humid, there's a bit of a breeze... as long as you're under the shades, the temperature dropped... cow and horse pens in people's backyards...

after at least 5 hours of flying, I didn't have time to have jet-lagged... we checked in at the University Inn at Logan.. and then walked to the Taggart Student Center and headed straight to Registrar's office (remember my run-around episode) and set up a tuition installment plan (I have to pay the first half by Sept 26 and the rest by Oct. 26)...

I was taken by surprise by the nice reception of the lady at the registrar's office... maybe she sensed my apprehension, or my newbieness... originally I assumed that since it was Friday, the last hour of work (I arrived at 4 and they closed at 5), everyone would be moody and ready to go home, nope she wasn't (maybe it's the western laidbackness versus the hyper-busy and moody east-coast attitude, maybe it's the mountains and clear air versus the skyscrapers and pollution, maybe)... basically instead of rushing to get me out of her office, she took the time to listen carefully to what I said and to my predicament, basically I came out of the office feeling a lot better (even if I owe all that money)- and wow their registrar's office is really big, with lots of desk and a tall counter and several people are walking around... the nice lady gave me a MAP of the bus/shuttle route and campus...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 8:09 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2007

faceless

I am no longer called Michael B. Diezmos... I am now called Student ######. For the past couple of days, I have been getting in contact with my new school, and it has become part of procedure, whether inquiring or leaving a message, to state my student number foremost before stating my name... I don't have my number memorized, I still refer to the piece of paper given to me...

Besides getting used to this numeral existence, I experienced my first big run-around episode (out of my entire academic career thus far)... dealing with money, specifically financial aid and tuition... it all began with an email... in a nutshell, the email demanded that I pay $5000+ by August 20th or all my classes would be dropped...

"WHaT! Where did $5000 come from, then I was reminded that I haven't paid the Aug. installment of my dorm -but that was only circa $500- where did the $4500 come from? maybe they made a mistake and thought that I was going to pay up front my housing and meal plan for the year.... I did the math and that only came down to around $2500, after some musing, I wisen up and checked my account summary online... the rest of the bill was for my tuition...I got confused, what happened to my "tuition waiver"... I shuffled through my portfolio looking for the contract I signed..."

It became clear to me that the "out-of-state" tuition was waived (back in April, when I was making my decision, my head wasn't as clear as possible- I'm thinking about graduation, the next two years of my life, friends-- it didn't clearly register in my mind the full meaning of that statement: tuition waiver) BUT what about the "in-state" tuition? I started to panic a BIT, then came to my senses, in-state tuition is always exponentially cheaper than out-of-state's... I was relieved to find out that the money I'll be making while being a Graduate Instructor will be enough to pay for the in-state tuition but before I got into this happy enlightenment I expereienced the "run around"

I called the registrar's office... gave them my number and asked them about my tuition : "Why was it so high?"... they got a bit defensive and pointed out that I was "out-of-state".... then told them that I was a "Graduate Instructor" , the lady I talked had an inkling of my problem and sent me to human resources to look for this other lady... I tried her extension, and her answering machine kept picking (which I didn't understand because it was just the beginning of the day), I thought she was sick so I finally left a message... my paranoia got the best of me, so I called the main receptionist and asked her to connect me to the general HR telephone line...

once there, I told my situation and another lady tried to correct me "don't you mean graduate assistant? "No, a GRADUATE INSTRUCTOR-- at that moment it dawn on me- about what Brock Deither said about the low status of GI....She kept correcting me "don't you mean graduate assistant (she corrected me the way people tried to correct me about Seton Hill being Seton Hall)..." eventually she got annoyed at me... in my mind, if I was going to get the run around, I needed specific direction, get their "word." I asked directions on the things I should do, so if I did anything wrong, it's because they gave me the wrong direction... she tried to end the session because she didn't want to deal with me "you're not in the SYSTEM yet, and you have to be in the system" (AH MAtrix! ), She tried to argue using the point that I had to work at USU for at least three months before getting the "in-state" benefit- she didn't know about the little loophole that exempted Graduate Instructors

she finally brushed me off and gave the infamous line "go and talk to your department" before leaving I checked if the lady that I thought was sick, was there, and she was so I asked if I could talk to her...

When she got on the phone, obviously she got my message, and she might have heard the frustration and sigh in my voice and tried to correct the situation by first apologizing and ADMITTING that I was experiencing a "run around"... she finally gave me the info of the person who handled tuition waiver... I called him, he was sick,

I called my department, not really assured- the lady I talked to said that she'll "call me back if there were any problems" and if she didn't call me it meant that everything was fine ... she didn't call me back...I thought this response was very unprofessional, I'm left wondering, I know about patience, I know that you can't always get straight answers... but the scary thing about big university and being part of the system, letting the computer do all the organizing is that computers' automatic responses don't handle the gray areas of predicaments, they see things as black and white, and I do believe that if I don't straighten this financial conundrum, I'll be having a hard time during my first few weeks, I don't want to start on the wrong foot, I don't want to add this type of stress on top of the other things going on like teaching my first class, and taking my first classes for my program)... I called the waiver tuition guy again and found out that my department hadn't submitted the tuition award request yet...

my next action is to email a reminder to the director, then confirm with the tuition waiver dude, then call registrar again to set up a tuition payment plan to coordinate payment with my first pay check (hopefully I'll see it)... pretty soon I'll be part of the system, and when I call the office, I'll have to first state my student number and confirm it with my name in order to interact in this faceless numeral existence...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:45 PM | Comments (3)

August 6, 2007

GI: Ch. 11 Building Your Future

The book, which began on a good and encouraging note, also ended with the same positive and uplifting outlook. As of right now, I don't know if I'm going to be a teacher/professor, and I see this job as a transition (but just because it's a transition, it doesn't mean that I'm going to be lackadaisical about it. I'm going to put effort, hard work and 300% energy and enthusiasm to it). Being a graduate instructor is a learning experience, and I might actually like it (who knows?). I'm going to do my best, besides I already bought the shoes for it (lol).

"Teaching composition may seem like a professional dead end, but as you do it, you learn a wide variety of skills that can prepare you for professions from librarian to corporate manager to, well, English professor" (162).

Skills
-Hone your writing skills by editing your students' papers and teaching writing concepts (writing coach, editors, ghost writers etc.)
-Pick up managing skills through planning and organizing classes and activities. "You may be young and feel that you're relatively untested, but how many people your age are responsible for twenty-five or fifty or a hundred college students? Taking on that responsibility is no mean feat" (165).
-Collaborative work/team work
-Reading and researching skills
-Personal people skills
-Computer skills and survival skills

Remember to connect, relate and integrate!

"For a writer, every experience offers potential material... To appreciate what we do, we must not feel that we're trapped in it; composition isn't a dead end but a path that can lead to a thousand places, including more composition" (171).

Always be professional!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:09 PM | Comments (1)

GI: Ch. 10 Outside the Classroom

This chapter encourages instructors to spend time outside the classroom by joining committees and attending staff meetings. Sometimes these could be helpful or aimless, they can even "make or break" careers. The "default" thing to do is to "accept a committee position only if the group includes people you need to impress. Always ask for time to think over a committee invitation, then ask a veteran or supervisor for advice" (156).

Definitely attend staff meetings if you can.

I remember my crazy committee/activity days while at SHU. Of course in the first two years, I did so much that most of them where just for interest's sake but eventually, I sifted through the activities and kept the most important activities which actually pertained to my major and priorities... but I don't have four years to find out, I'm only supposed to have two. I don't have the leisure of being an undergrad, I'm a graduate student now, and on top of that I have a job as a graduate instructor.

Responsibilities so far (and I haven't even begun yet):
I have two classes to teach, which meet 3 times a week (M/W/F).
I have office hours and I have to put in 3 hours of tutoring time at USU's Writing Center.
I have my classes for my program.
I have a GI workshop course.
I need to find time to take Spanish classes.
I can't forget about my sanity and ART.
I need to explore the "West" and have FUN while I'm here.

-Professional Conferences (attend and network)
-Professional Associations (join if you can afford them, make sure they are pertinent to goals)
-Continue writing (no matter what genre/style)
-Do community service

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:42 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 9 Nightmares

This chapter is a mini worst case scenarios for instructors and teachers. The author rationalizes that "if you ponder these scenes, you'll be in a better position to avoid them or to deal with them if they do happen" (134).

1. Angry students (not your fault, you're the scapegoat)

2. No one does the reading
(rational- students don't want to learn- action- ask troublemakers to leave, have a quiz, short essay on details of the reading to start discussion, extra credit for those who actually did it)

3. Students challenge your authority
(actions- get the class involved (ask their opinions), give yourself time to think, use humor, be firm, confront the student one-to-one, stare silently, ask a veteran, get supervisor involved, don't ignor it, read about it, keep in mind that "rebellion is healthy"

4. Diversity scares you (be sensitive to the issues...)

5. Too much or too little time
(spend free time writing, brainstorming [makes me remember Publication Workshop and Writing of Fiction classes], connect, always work toward the assignment, plan, have extra materials)

6. The class is dead
(I remember sitting through some of these classes, usually on Friday, before a big holiday, or when i finished a big research paper prior and felt very exhausted- advice, be patient, silence will push somebody to talk, small group projects is good, start going around in circles, just call on individuals, journals)

7. Their papers are horrible
(remember Tom Carnicelli's twelfthweek rule- on the twelfth week, progress in writin gis usually visible, examine the prompt, see if it's clear, change focus, look at the papers again and reevaluate see which ones are sloppy versus inability/illiteracy, ask a veteran/supervisor)

8. A student accuses you
(keep tab, take notes and date them, get help from veteran/supervisor, watch out!)

9. Plagiarism
(Understand your school's policy about it, enforce it, talk about with students, spend time discussing, prevent it by monitoring students' papers, have preliminary work to show steps, develop personal relationship with students, always get a second opinion when find a cheater, ask around, google it, find the sources, "turnitiin.com" et al, follow punishment policy)

10. You're the student's only friend
("The issu is boundaries. You need to decide where yours are and make them clear to students" [152].)

11. A student disappears
(Send email, ask around, and don't forget about those who are still present)

etc.

I finished reading the graphic novel Pride of Baghdad, and I watched the Bourne Ultimatum movie (it was really cool, action-pack thriller... my friend and I were late to the theaters so we had to seat on the third row... too close to the screen... the fast movements were hard to discern, it was a rollercoaster ride!)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:58 PM | Comments (0)

August 4, 2007

GI: Ch. 8 Avoiding Stress

Some tips...

-be prepared (know your environment)
-when in doubt ask a veteran
-know your department's goals and rules (the heirarchies)
-manage time wisely
-be yourself (as comp teacher, you'll be playing many roles- "Years from now, our advice about essay leads or paragraphing will have evaported from our students' brains, but students may stll remember, may have internalized, the enthusiasm we bring to writing, our empahsi on discovery, our high standards and generosity" (110)
-ask, what would my good/bad teacher do? with discretion, don't cling to everything your teachers did
-be human "struggling always to 'make teaching personal' without 'taking it personally'" (113).
-continue to REFLECT
-like your students and be positive, have conferences
-use your imagination
-keep it simple, less is more, keep your word
-be flexible, open to interpretations, CONNECT, accept change (don't be stubborn)
-refer to p. 121 for Grading Persuasion/Rubric, p123 for Feedback Guidelines

Being an English major (Creative Writing), I was surprised to find out that composition was usually not highly regarded by other departments (even in most English departments). Composition is at the bottom of the learning/academic heirarchy (132).

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:52 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 7 Confident and Humble And Other Contradictions We Live By

"Composition is a world of contradictions" (99).

1. Clear and Concise
The odd thing- when I first heard this from my teachers, I didn't think about it as a contradiction. One can be detailed and not be wordy (the details can contain brief-straight-to-the-point sentences).

2. Graceful and Political
3. Creative and Comprehensible
Sometimes I have problems with this paradox. Sometimes I make associations unfamiliar to my audience... but from the past, I learned that even if I felt like my paper wasn't technically creative (in terms of syntax and form etc.), my perspective/ and the evidence supporting it is pretty novel and not so mundane.

4. Write for yourself/Write for your audience
Whenever I'm doing an assignment, I always keep in mind the requirements and after that, I write about things that'll interest me and at the same time satisfy the requirments.

5. Deductive and Inductive
6. Directive and Student-Centered
"It's a tricky business, balancing the desire to let the student make decisions about the paper with the need to give the student some direction, some help" (103).

7. Challenge Students and Lower Anxiety (Be like a Coach!)

8. Be a devoted Teacher and Have a Life
This is a funny one. "It's not exactly that I favor the better students; I'm just willing to match the studen't own energy" ... "The best teachers live, inside the classroom and out" (105).

9. Confident and Humble
I have problems with this one... sometimes my confidence can be mistaken for cockiness... and being humble can be mistaken for being spineless.

10. Entertaining and Serious (Don't try to hard to be funny, just "be," make sure the point is relevant, CONNECT!)
11. Authority and Peer (Develop human relationship)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 2:18 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 6 What You Need to Know About Theory (For Now)

"All good teaching is theory-based... which is just another way of saying that good teachers know what they're doing and why" (82).

General:
Composition is good for mental development and growth because "writing is the most concrete mode of human thought"... and "composition courses still focus on the practical" (84).

Always be flexible!

Theories:
Goals
-Working on something meanigful to improve writing is a theory.
-Improved attitude affects every aspect of a writer's performance.
-Make students more comfortable with writing.
-Writing as a process: can be small steps/broken down to pieces.
-Writing as expression of what matters to students- a chance for student to express themselves.
-Writers products of their culture/environment/bias (social construction) but can still go beyond with their imagination.
-"Composition and feminism often share politics and pedagogies: belief in collaboartion, emphasis on cooperation rather than competition, delight in the discovery and construction of new meanings" (92).
-Make CONNECTIONS!
-Active learning, motivated, learn from others
-Immerse, demonstrate, expectations, responsible, practice, response, applied, engaged
-Interpret text using textual evidence, use gut reaction backed up with evidence
-Consider audience, how meanings will change to different audience
-Open up, REFLECT on experiences

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:47 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 5 Grading, Attendance, and Other Pains-in-the-Butt

This chapter is about grading and other issues involved in classroom management. I don't know what to reflect about because this chapter would make more sense while I'm actually applying it to my students. This is definitely a good chapter to refer to when it comes to pratical teaching matters. It advocated being prepared for the worst, and the best quote that summarized the chapters stated that "we have to establish rules and policies not for the one hundred students each year who act like reasonable, civil human beings but for the one per year (or decade) who acts like a bad lawyer on steriods..." (63)

The rules should be clear (answer any questions unclear) and honest.

Grading
-follow the models set forth by your school/department and once you're experienced modify it accordingly
-keep tabs of everything for now (attendance, browny points, participation, etc.)
-time management (be timely, follow deadlines, be flexible with excuses, etc. )
-subjectively/objectively (content, technique, grammar, requirements, etc.)

Some of the things I agree with:
Should we grade improvement and effort?
Yes -Students who improve but still don't receive good grades get discouraged.
No -It's a shame to discourage untalented writers, but it's even worse to punish writers just because they wrote well before the semester began.
Default: Grade the product, but make students aware that effort and improvement affect the "fudge factor."

Work for consistency

Grade participation?
Yes -as long as it's genuine not some sort of BS
No -no deduction for silent ones, we should encourage multiple forms of participation...


Grade attendance?
-part of Fude factor and penalty (3 missed classes or frequent tardiness equal lower final grade) unless family emergency

Grade everything- so not busy work, doesn't have to be letter grade, plus, minus, check will work

Cover Your Ass (CYA)
Write everything/keep evidence just in case of future lawsuits and arguments with boss (I don't like this part- you're trying to help people and if you're not to their liking you can get prosecuted)

Syllabus =contract (assignments with explanation and due dates, plagiarism statements, changes, special exceptions and excuses, athletes)

Document inappropriate comments/harassment

Don't sign anything without carefully reading it!

Miscellaneous
Phone acting up- sometimes the keypad is frozen... I don't know if it's the network or the phone, but sometimes, voices get cut off/disoriented/muffled- not like "dropped call"

finished 1001 Nights of Snowfall (Fable's comic book series)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:11 PM | Comments (1)

August 2, 2007

GI: Ch. 4 The First Day

I actually started thinking about this a long time ago... some of the things I thought about were brought up, for example,:

1. Going through the syllabus- cons (can be boring), pros (tells students what's expected of them)... I do agree to some of the points brought up... such as... most students wouldn't read it word for word... for me, everytime I get a syllabus, I looked up the due dates of major projects, the grading system, sometimes I read the objectives... and over the semester, I looked at it to check the homework... if something is unclear, I ask questions

2. Creating community- cons (not sure yet who's going to stay and who's going to leave), pros (spends time wisely, not getting out early, accomplishes something, establishes authority, maximum laughter is good for icebreakers, imagination and silliness)

Think about everything (exercises, activities, readings, etc.) as part of the overall picture/goal of exposing students to the importance of writing as clear communication. Don't waste a day or activity, connect everything (practical steps complete in itself but continue to build on in order to create a bigger step)!

Quirky Activities to get Started
- listening to music (I did this in Wansor's class [American Lit])
- gut reactions (a good way to start writing, why did it take a long time for most students to realize this? why didn't high school teachers teach this?)

Accomplishing something in the first day is better than dismissing class early. "It will leave both you and your students expecting each class to be purposeful and worthwhile." (62)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 6:32 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 3 Resources

The most important resource is people. They can share with you, (mis)lead to the wrong/right direction (depending on how you've treated them), and no matter how much of a loner you are, people will make your life heaven or hell whether you like it or not.

Secretaries- underappreciated and underpaid... if on your good side, will do all the nit-picky, little things for you that you don't have time to do... will help you go to the right people and more

Administrators- handles clerical/office stuff, famous for red-tape bureaucracy

Mentors- someone more powerful and succesful who believes in you

Colleagues- peers and veterans (teaching with you), veterans like novices (like yourself) because you make them feel appreciated, succesful and important.. in general veterans sympathize, likes helping and sharing their wisdom with you

Students- you learn from them and vise versa, collaboration is important, community

Offices- more legalities and policies, like disabilities, plagiarism, sexual harassment, equality, etc.

The Writing Center- encourage students to visit and let their experience dictate whether they'll come back or not

Websites About Student Demographics/Books and Articles- follow the trend to begin/get your feet wet, then follow your road

TRUST your INSTINCTS! and remember to refer back to this book when faced with the circumstances mentioned!

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:59 PM | Comments (0)

GI: Ch. 2 Preparing

This chapter talked about being prepared and over-preparing. Most of the topics discussed made me laugh. For example, the mention of presentable clothes- the author talked about dressing to be more authoritative- I looked at it as dressing to have a different state of mind (I actually did my work-clothes shopping months ago- for me it's psychological- it puts me in teaching/presenting mode, being professional).

This chapter reminded me of doing a presentation for class. To be not so nervous, as mentioned above, I wear special clothes, I wouldn't normally wear on a daily basis (the clothes are physical manifestation of the job I'm trying to accomplish), signifies something different...

-at SHU while living on campus, I was fortunate to have the chance to go in on any empty classrooms almost at any time (as long as campus PO hasn't lock up the room yet)... sometimes I'd practice my presentation (imagining that the seats are not empty)... I also find it true that once memorize the "first line" of my presentation, everything after that do follow- most of the time it's not verbatim, but I get the general idea, less mechanical, and I get a better grasp at the subject I'm talking about, I keep recapitulating my point in different ways...

the importance of a syllabus-
- spine of the semester
- don't forget to enforce what's written
- contract
- be flexible and specific, clear

My first exposure to syllabus happened during my sophomore year in high school, when I took American Lit. with Sr. Marianna... I liked the idea of syllabus very much because I get a chance to work ahead whenever I finished a section early... I also didn't have to keep writing what the homework is (unless not specified)... and if I was going to be absent, I already know what I have to do to make up

In a nutshell, planning is important...cohesiveness and connections are beneficial to students (learn more, applicable)... sharing is caring (adapting materials to better understand for self, sharing is the only way to show others that your system works), and when in doubt ask a veteran comp teacher.

I just have to remember the rituals I do when preparing for a presentation- having a point, practicing, dressing the part, handouts/visuals, interacting (prizes/questions), emphasizing the point...etc.

Thinking about all this stuff is overwhelming... but according to the author being prepared can be "calming and reassuring."

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 5:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 31, 2007

GI: Ch. 1 Why You've Made the Right Choice

Summary
The first chapter is very encouraging, and it reminded me that I'm not alone (to remember that other GI will be facing the same problems as me when it comes to teaching).

Generally, teaching writing is fun in spite of its concommitant chaos. Here are the reasons why teaching is "fun:"
- giving one a natural andrenaline more powerful than bad drugs.
- being one's own boss, managing one's time, organization
- fostering creativity in sharpening one's own writing skills, stimulating
- getting an opportunity to people watch and learn about/meet others, variety
- learning new things, power
- helping others, changing others
- bonding with peers/forming a (writing) community

Anticipating problems
- lack of confidence (transform nervous energy into fun energy- How about you (reader/veteran) how did you transform your nervous energy in the classroom?)
- time management issues
- volume of work (tome of compositional knowledge- lifelong task, take it a day at a time)
- imposter syndrome (establishing authority, grammar issues)

Relating some of the points to my experiences
- I remember in some of my English classes, my professors responded to students' inquiries with:
"I'll get back to you on that."
"Anybody? (about grammar, asking students to answer to have time to come up with answer, making it a "research project")

Encouraging insights
- act like a professional (more like a reminder)
- "Writers are learners and we never reach a point where we can say, ' Now I know all about it and can teach it.'" and "Ironically, people skills may be more important for most writing teachers than writing knowledge." (Improving attitudes better than learning the vocabulary of grammar) [16]
- enjoy the job, savor the moments, "For me, the clearest indication that I don't like the work is that I become hyperconscious of time" "There's nothing wrong with seeing this job as a phase." (Making a career out of this?, 20-21)-- the insight about being conscious of time, I noticed that when I'm writing I lose track of time, even if in the end, I don't write much...it was the process, the beginning of something I wouldn't mind working on...

I know I'll be nervous, however I am still looking forward to "thinking on my feet," meeting people and helping them the best way I can. It's sort of weird seeing the other side and soon teaching from it (in spite of the advice of vicariously putting self back to student status) and at the same time continuing to learn and being a grad student.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:50 PM | Comments (3)