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Showing posts from June, 2014

The Unpreparedness Dream

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Most people I know have had the "unprepared student dream."  It comes in many versions: you arrive at an exam only to realize you have forgotten to prepare, you blank out before a phone-book-sized final, or--my personal favorite--you realize three-quarters of the way through a semester that you registered for a class but have forgotten ever to attend it. Along with flying, falling and appearing naked in public, the unprepared student dream is apparently one of the most common.

It's not surprising, I suppose.  In many ways the given circumstances of schooling (testing, performance, being evaluated) apply universally to life.  I'm told that actors have their own version in which they find themselves on stage without having memorized their lines or even being quite sure what play they are to perform.

It's curious, then, that I've never heard of anyone having an "unprepared professor dream."  You know, a dream in which you walk into the class without a…

The Fog of Evaluation

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The Spring evaluations are back from wherever it is they go to be counted, crunched and computed.  And--as happens twice a year--I'm utterly baffled by them.  What do they really show me?  What am I supposed to do now that the students have informed me "You rock!" or they didn't much care for a book  Don't get me wrong. My student evaluations numbers are generally okay and often pretty good.  Still, I never know what to make of them.

At my institution we use something called IDEA, which allows us to stack ourselves up against every other person in a database comprising hundreds of institutions. Want to know how you rate on the database's curve?  Well, the results tell you whether you're in the top 10-20 percent of profs teaching in similar courses or flat-lining across the bottom. Students at my institution may not be graded on a curve, but the professors sure are. And it doesn't matter how many caveats are placed on the interpretation of the data.  …

Very Little Things

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I wrote earlier about reading projects. One I began last January is only now wrapping up.  I decided to read a few histories and novels about the onset of the First World War, which began 100 years ago this August.  I started with Jean Echenoz's slender and somewhat lyrical 1914: A Novel, then switched to some histories: Christopher Clark's Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 and Sean McKeekin's July 1914: Countdown to War, the latter of which provides an almost minute by minute chronology from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June to the mobilizations a month later. Right now I am about half-way through Lynn MacDonald's 1914, a history of the opening battles of the war.

A few observations: it's astonishing how little the politics and ethnic hostilities in the Balkans have changed in the past 100 years.  I saw over the weekend an obituary for Dobrica Cosic, a Serb novelist whose work did much to fan the nationalist passions in the run…

May in the Midwest

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No deep thoughts or beefing today; just some photos of last week's run to trout streams in Northeast Iowa. 



The Department of Natural Resources lists around 60 trout streams in Northeast Iowa. My life list is now around 47.


This little brown liked my prince nymph, which I tied especially with him in mind.



Of spring-fed creeks the writer and fly fisher Ted Leeson writes,
That a great many cultures have endowed springs with numinous properties--curative power, rebirth and regeneration, prophesy and oracle--is scarcely surprising, and that they would have been regarded as sacred seems almost inevitable. Water is the ancient emblem of spiritual purification, and its symbolic power to absolve is as old as the need to be forgiven.Took two browns out of the run above last Tuesday. Note the steeple of the little Catholic Church in the distance.



Putting back a plump rainbow taken on Waterloo Creek. My son asked me once what the fish thought when they got caught. I told him they're probably …