Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Paying twice for an education?

The Houston Business Journal for August 29, 2006 has an article in its online edition entitled "Study: Texans Paying Twice for Education." The article is about how community colleges have to invest large amounts of money to provide remedial education to high school graduates. The idea is that taxpayers pay twice for this education: once for the education they should have gotten in high school and the second time for the remedial education. According to the article, Texans spend $88 million a year to provide that remedial education, and they lose $194 million in wages due to the fact that remedial students are more likely to drop out without finishing a degree, which lowers their earning potential. This caught my eyes because in my university we do a very large amount of remedial education. Given that we are an open admissions institution, we take pretty much anybody who can pay. This means that we get a lot of students who simply are not "college-ready." Now, I am not saying that providing opportunities to those who may not have them otherwise is a bad thing. On the contrary, I do believe in my campus's mission of providing an education to those who, for various reasons, never had access before. However, the fact that so much is spent on remedial education should be alarming. I see it in the students that retake basic classes once, twice, a few even three times. I see it in students I work with that clearly did not get the preparation they needed in their high schools. Now, we should not just be blaming the high schools for all the woes. What we need is to collaborate--the schools, the colleges, the communities--so our students have the necessary preparation each step of the way if we want them to become successful and productive members of society. It means there has to be an urgency to fixing the problems of high schools in ways other than just adding another test. It means funding higher education at adequate levels and supporting it as well. Or, we can continue to pay for the same stuff twice.

Update note (8/31/06): Find here the press release from the Alliance For Excellent Education, which is cited in the story I mentioned above. The release also has a link to their issue brief as well.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rapper name and other things meme

I found this at the ZenFoPro, who got tagged from someplace else who got tagged from elsewhere. You get the idea. At any rate, the rap and alternative music things I have to just toss a coin, you'll see why. So, here goes.
  • Rapper name: I can't say I am a fan of rap. I listen to some of it in small doses. But, if I had to pick a name for myself, here goes: Master G Furious. No, I am not going to be a "happy" rapper (is there such a thing?). As for the "G," it seems to go there. I know, I am not quitting my day job.
  • Band name: Caustic Martini Squad. Well, it sounded cool at the time.
  • Name your pain: People who simply give excuses instead of delivering on what they promise. If you are going to do something, shut up and do it already. I don't need to hear the reason it is not done yet or the latest excuse. If you are not going to do it, say so and stop wasting my time. While we are at it, obstructionists are another pain as are educrats.
  • One (1) true word that symbolizes God: I am not sure about symbolizing God, but if I have to symbolize the other guy, it would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Now there is something that haunted my childhood for a while.
  • One true love or one million dollars: Hmm, a tricky one. On the one hand, with a million dollars. . .heck, who am I kidding? A million bucks just does not go very far these days, especially when the I.R.S. will take half of it at least anyhow. In seriousness, I am a romantic sucker, so true love it is. Does it have to be just one true love though? Since I already found it, I am set. As for the million bucks, well, one can always dream. Now, if the meme adjusted for inflation, say, ten or twenty million bucks. . .hmm.
  • Live free or die stupid. Definitely live free. I am certainly not going to die for some dumb reason if I can help it. Anyhow, as for dying, as revolutionaries have said throughout history: I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees. As for dying stupid, that is pretty much how Mother Nature takes out the trash. I only wish she would have more frequent trash days.
  • Purest, happiest moment ever (in 8 words or less): the birth of my daughter. Ha, five words. I may be a heathen, but I am still moved by some miracles.
  • Most influential life lesson: I am still working on finding that. I am a work in progress still learning. Then again, maybe I missed it.
  • Most successful person you least admire: Hmm, just about any politician that somehow manages to get elected. For the most part they are successful if you define success by wealth and being elected, yet they tend to be hypocrites who actually care little for the people they are supposed to serve. Some CEO's would fall in this category, not because they are wealthy (got nothing against money. Good thing if you can get it), but because of their questionable ethics.
  • Where do we go when we die (one word): somewhere. He,he, one word. Though, Valhalla would be nice. The whole idea of hanging around in some mead hall telling stories and getting drunk sounds like fun. Problem is I don't have much occasion to die while raiding someplace.
  • Worst TV show in the past decade: Just one? Pretty much any "reality" show.
  • Best TV show in the past decade: Just one? The X-Files, but if I could name another, Babylon 5 and Farscape.
  • Still with me, yes or no?: I think this is to see if people are paying attention. Are you two still reading this? As for me, I left a while back and put the rest of the post on cruise control.
  • Burning building: baby or dog?: Depends. If it's my baby, it's a no brainer (the baby). If it's someone else's ugly spawn. . . heck, the baby and the dog can burn. I am a cat person anyways, and the cats are smart enough to get out on their own.
  • Who runs the world (two words or less)? Some cabal. It's easy to say The Man, but I think he has some help. It's likely a group of men with big fat portfolios who sit on some big leather chairs in some reading rooms smoking cigars. Those scenes in The X-Files where the Cigarette Smoking Man is meeting with the other guys who run things, the Syndicate, yea, kind of like that.
  • Worst idea you ever had: I've had a couple, so which one? I told you I was a work in progress. Messing up now and then is part of that.
  • Shittiest job you ever had: Camp counselor. However, I have come to discover that often it is not the job, it's the people you have to work with, which are cases of Mother Nature being late on trash day.
  • Best job you ever had: Hmm, possibly Instructional Assistant during library school. Then again, the best job may be out there waiting for me, but for now, this answer works.
Readers know I don't tag people, so, if you feel so moved, go right ahead.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Spiritual or religious quiz: The Monk

It's Friday, thank the powers that be. Odds are the two readers know what it means for this blog. Today we have the results of this Religious vs spiritual quiz. I think, for me at least, it's fairly accurate. I make no bones that I have no use for so called religious leaders. Not the best written of these little amusements, but it was still entertaining. Anyhow, feel free to give it a try.

The Solitary Monk
You are influenced 84% of the time by Spiritual callings and 38% of the time by Religous beliefs!
You have a firm understanding of the beliefs and workings of the universe. You also agree with some religous practices and traditions.

You are often upset by the Occasional and tend to dislike the Religous Leader.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Spiritual
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Religous
Link: The Spiritual vs. Religous Test written by leoofthewest on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Some things to learn this school year

Guy Kawasaki has a post on "Ten Things to Learn This School Year." I agreed with most of the points, but the first one made me wonder. I wondered about talking to the boss. He writes that "in the real world, you’re supposed to bring solutions to your boss in an email, in the hall, or in a five-minute conversation. Typically, your boss either already knows about the problem or doesn’t want to know about it. Your role is to provide answers, not questions." For context, do note that he compares this to the college setting where the student goes to see a professor to solve a problem.

The reason that statement made me think is because it may explain why so many businesses and organizations in general seem to have problems they can't solve. This seems applicable to libraries as well. I think the reason is that I see my role as bringing in questions as well as answers. There are times when we should be asking a lot of questions, and the role of the boss, if he or she is any leader, is to encourage questions as well as nurture answers. You can tell I am probably not going to make it in the corporate world since the concept of nurturing anything is not something they like in that neck of the woods. But, if the boss already knows about the problem and just does not speak about it, it does not seem very productive. Sure, you can bring a solution to that boss, but if said boss is in a state of denial, you can forget about it. Or, if you are like me, you may try out a few things without telling the boss right away (or at all). I think overall, the message Mr. Kawasaki tries to convey is that people should display initiative and problem-solving ability. I just don't think it was phrased that well. And let's not even go into the cases where the boss is just absolutely clueless. That go be a whole new post.

The other lessons he points out are valuable. For one, his advice on how to run a poorly run meeting. I appreciate this being someone who has suffered through some of these. He writes on the topic the following: "First, assume that most of what you’ll hear is pure, petty, ass-covering bull shiitake, and it’s part of the game. This will prevent you from going crazy. Second, focus on what you want to accomplish in the meeting and ignore everything else. Once you get what you want, take yourself “out of your body,” sit back, and enjoy the show. Third, vow to yourself that someday you’ll start a company, and your meetings won’t work like this."

There are other good tips and things to consider, so hop on over and take a look.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The 2007 Mindset List

Feel a little older as you see what the class of 2010 has never known or has always had. These are the kids mostly born in 1988. This is the list compiled every year since 1998 by Beloit College. Some items from the list:
  • The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  • "Google" has always been a verb.
  • Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.
  • Reality shows have always been on television.
  • Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
  • Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.

A hat tip to The Kept-Up Academic Librarian.

Update note (8/24/06): Walt Crawford, of Walt at Random, points out some "interesting" inconsistencies with the list (ok, it's things wrong with the list. I am just being polite). I will admit that the first time I saw the list, I did not think much of it, and it seemed a fun link to make. However, this afternoon, I was looking over the list again, and I saw their line about "they have only known two presidents." I read that line, and I said, "wait a sec. That does not sound right. Since '88, we've had Bush, Sr., Clinton (who served two terms), and Bush, Jr. (the current executive), which makes three presidents, not two." It was at that point of saying to myself "wtf?" that I came across Walt's post and got a sense of relief that "whew, it's not just me." Walt also points out that Google was not around until September 1998 (here is their corporate history); I guess by now we take Google for granted, so we don't always recall it has not been around that long. Let this be a lesson to always evaluate what you find online.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Houston is "only" the 17th angriest city

According to a recent study by Men's Health Magazine, Houston ranks number 17 in the list of angriest cities in America. Orlando was number one. I guess the Magic Kingdom is not exactly conducive to happiness after all, huh? Actually Florida has four cities in the top ten. Maybe all those hurricanes are really pissing some people off. I am starting to wonder if some of those survey people actually ever set foot in Houston. I mean, another study found Houston was number nine when it came to road rage. I would have expected then the rank for angry to be higher for Houston. At any rate, the study was based on the following:

"Our search for evidence of urban anger began with the percentage of men with high blood pressure, from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (as calculated by Sperling's BestPlaces). We then factored in FBI rates of aggravated assaults and Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers on workplace deaths from assaults and other violence. And because rage and the road often go hand in hand, we also included traffic-congestion data from the Texas Transportation Institute, as well as speeding citations per state from the Governors Highway Safety Association."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Animal in previous life

Well, once again, it is Friday, so the two readers know that odds are good it means I am posting one of those fluffy quizzes I amuse myself with now and then. This one is so accurate that it's scary. Not bad for something that is just based on your birthdate. No, I am not revealing it, but if you need a hint, I am Gen-X. At any rate, you have to laugh at life. Given it's craziness and at times painful moments not to mention surrealist instances, laughter is always the best medicine.

You Were a Coyote

Brutally honest, you encourage people to show their true selves.
You laugh at life - none of it can be taken too seriously.

Found via Mark Lindner's Off the Mark.

Have I got a dish for you. . .

Warning: If you are squeamish about certain foods, or you find offensive any references to animal sexual organs (or any other sexual references for that matter), you may want to skip this post. On the other hand, if you are like me, someone who can't resist reading on, and willing to try most anything once, read on. Either way, don't say you were not warned.

Office Pirates is one of the humor sites on my aggregator. At first, I thought that this story for "Chinese Restaurant Serves Up Wide Variety of Penis" was one of their jokes. However, their post picks up on an actual restaurant review for a restaurant in China that specializes in penis. The Guo-li-zhuang in Beijing will serve both penis and testicles in a variety of combinations. They feature donkey, yak, and goat. Why would people eat this? Well, I am sure it's yummy for one, but from the review:

"In China, you are what you eat, and The Daily Telegraph's nutritionist, Zhu Yan, said the clients were mainly men eager to improve their yang, or virility."

But wait, it can also be good for the ladies, although the nutrionist did mention that she "'wouldn't recommend the testicles. The testosterone might interfere in fertility. But many women say bian is good for the skin.'"

So, let's get some highlights from the menu, shall we?
  • A simple dish: "the simple goat penis, sliced, dipped in flour, fried, and served skewered with soy sauce."
  • Then you have the more elegant pieces "such as the elegantly named "Head crowned with a Jade Bracelet" (provided by horses from the western Muslim region of Xin-jiang), for £20 a portion, or "Dragon in the Flame of Desire" (yak, steamed whole, fried and flambĂ©ed) for £35."
  • Then again, if this is your first foray, you may want to try the beginner's dish: "the hotpot, which offers a sampling of what the restaurant has to offer - six types of penis, and four of testicle, boiled in chicken stock by the waitress, Liu Yunyang, 22."
  • And if you are a big spender, they have a dish for you as well: "One speciality, Canadian seal penis, costs a hefty £220, and requires ordering in advance."
Bon appetit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A book meme, or some of the books I read

This meme has been going around in various forms. I picked it up from C.W.'s Ruminations here. Since I can't resist something that has to do with reading, here goes my reply. By the way, as often the case, I always have more than one. Why these memes insist on just one when it comes to books is beyond me. I could have let the Gypsy Librarian take this one, but on the other hand, I think it works better here since I have a thing or two to say.
  1. One book you have read more than once. I reread Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude every so often. I do it when I get the "it's time to visit Macondo" feeling. As much as I enjoy his other works, it is that one that I always go back to. When I get to it this fall, and I usually read it in the fall, I think it will be my fourth or fifth outing (could be more). By the way, I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and other Latin American novels the way they are supposed to be read: in Spanish. No, I am not saying to be a snob, but you lose a lot in translation when it comes to authors like Garcia Marquez and Borges, for instance. It does make me wish I could learn a few more languages so I could read a few other great classics in their language. I also enjoy rereading Mario Puzo's The Godfather. I could probably find a couple more, but I am one of those readers with too many books and too little time, so I usually read new stuff rather than reread. Well, the stuff is new to me. I am not a bestseller reader, and I have never met a book that I need to have the minute it hits the bookshelves.
  2. One book you would want on a deserted island. One Hundred Years of Solitude wins this one hands down. However, I would rather have more than one book if I could save a few for my deserted isle time.
  3. One book that made you laugh. Scott Adams's Dilbert books. Given workplaces these days, and mine is not exempt, you either laugh or cry. I would rather laugh.
  4. One book that made you cry. I don't really come across books that make me cry. Maybe I avoid them. Same goes for movies, though I can name at least one that have made me cry as an adult. Schindler's List, and it happened after I came out of the theater (it was one I did manage to catch in the theater). How people could be so evil to their fellow human beings was something that moved me and still puzzles me to this day since it still happens in other ways. By the way, I did not get tears on reading the book, which is pretty good. I think the visual of the movie was what did it for me. But I am disgressing. I do read books that literally piss me off and make me angry. Johnathan Kozol's books have that effect on me. It is not because of him. I get pissed at the politicians and educrats and people who allow the things that Kozol chronicles to happen. I love his work, and I find it thoughtful and compelling. I know, however, that if I pick up one of his books, that I have to brace myself to keep me from kicking some dumb educrat's ass. I want to read his new one, The Shame of the Nation, but I have to put aside the time to get pissed.
  5. One book you wish you had written. I am not sure about this. Maybe I don't want to sound pretentious by saying I could have written this or that. I have ideas of books I would like to write, but they are my ideas.
  6. One book you wish had never been written. I will go on a limb here and say it: religious books like the Bible and the Qu'ran. Those so-called "great books" seem to be more tools to justify some of the world's greatest atrocities, racism, prejudices, ignorance, and other ills and woes. And before the hate mail pours in, I would suggest to those who claim to be "moderate" to put a leash on your extremist brethren. If you sit back and stay silent, or secretly cheer them on, you are part of the problem too. Me? I live happy in my heathenism. And yes, I know there are other religions, but for some reason, those two seem to be the ones making a lot of trouble lately.
  7. One book you are currently reading. I can't do one since I am always reading more than one book at a time. I read a lot based on my mood. Readers can take a look at my blog's sidebar to see the running selection of what I am currently reading or about to read. However, for those who may choose to read the blogs in the reader, here go some selections. For one, I have been reading a lot of graphic novels. They are fun to read, and I often read them fast, which means I can often read one in the commute (half on the way there and the other half on the way back). In addition, I have found a lot of them to bring in excellent writing and storytelling in addition to the art. This is a form I would recommend to anyone since it features all genres: fiction, scifi, comics, etc. In fiction, I am currently reading Jeff Shaara's The Last Full Measure. This is the sequel to Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels. Once in a while, I get the urge to read war stories and military history, but I usually do it with nonfiction. The Shaaras are one of the few historical fiction writers that fit that mood for me.
  8. One book you have been meaning to read. Just one? Well, definitely Douglas Adams's Hitchiker "trilogy." After seeing the movie, I am much more motivated to read it and see what I missed. I would also like to read Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. I've gotten some good recommendations, and I am hoping to get a few laughs while I am at it. By the way, believe it or not, I have not read Asimov's Foundation novels, so they would fit this category too. I have read a lot of his short fiction, though. And by the way, my "to read" list is quite extensive.
  9. One book that changed your life. Paulo Coehlo's The Alchemist. Find some reasons why in this post I wrote a while back.
As for tagging, my readers know I don't tag. If it moves you, go right ahead and blame it on me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Classic Movie Quiz

It's Friday, and it's time, once again, for the Itinerant Librarian to. . .you get the idea. Anyhow, this quiz turned a bit of a dark result for me at least. Will I ever find that shadow self? Or has it found me already?

"I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight... razor... and surviving. " --Colonel Kurtz.

A hat tip to Mark Lindner.

Booknote: The Tao of Willie

Title: The Tao of Willie: A Guide to Happiness in Your Heart
Author: Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin
Publisher Information: Gotham Books, 2006
ISBN: 159240197X
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: autobiography, spirituality, self-help, humor

This is a nice little book. Willie actually has a nice comforting voice when it comes to his writing; it's like sitting there just listening to him tell stories, philosophize about life, and tell a few jokes. The book is basically a guide; Willie simply talks about the lessons he has learned in his life from his early childhood in Abbott, Texas to today. Some of the things are common sense. For example, he talks about values he learned early in life such as respecting your elders (something he likes now that he is an elder). While the lessons are based on the Tao Te Ching, no knowledge of the Tao is required. Much of the message in the book has to do with getting to know yourself and acting out of love. He also does share his views on topics like marijuana, politics, and the environment, but he is easy-going about it, at least when compared to other writers on similar topics who can be pushy or preachy. Nothing like that here. He just shares his views, and you get to listen. I picked up this book after one of my colleagues during Immersion recommended it. She saw me reading Kinky Friedman's book, and she figured I would like Willie's book as well. Sure enough, it was well worth it, and I would recommend it to anyone. Also, some readers of works by the Dalai Lama may enjoy this book as well. It looks like Willie reads the audio version of the book, so I may at some point "re-read" it in audio.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Looking at Mickey Spillane

Mickey Spillane, the creator of Mike Hammer, recently passed away. The site Crime Time featured an article on the author and his work that makes for interesting reading. Steve Holland sets up "Mickey Spillane-You the Jury" as a trial on the work of Mickey Spillane that looks at how Spillane was admired by readers and hated by some critics. I remember reading I, The Jury a few years ago, and I admit that I enjoyed it very much. What can I say? I like hard boiled detective tales. It was one of those books on my list of items to read, and I managed to find an old paperback copy in a second hand store very cheap. Having read some Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it seemed to go along. At any rate, I will let readers look over the evidence and decide.

Article Note: On Small, Multicultural Presses

Citation for the article:

Gangi, Jane M. "Inclusive Aesthetics and Social Justice: The Vanguard of Small, Multicultural Presses." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 30.3 (Fall 2005): 243-264.

Read via Project Muse.

This article takes a look at the work of small, multicultural presses and their role in promoting inclusiveness, diversity, social justice, and high quality work. The article begins with a contextual summary that shows an overall lack of multicultural images and issues in children's literature. The textbooks used to train school teachers are part of the problem given the gaps and lapses regarding multicultural literature in their contents. Why is this significant? According to the article's author:
"Children who see themselves and their families in books can make many more connections with what they read than can children who do not; developing comprehension depends on children being able to use their schema. Simply put, when the literature in the curriculum is largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to practice essential reading strategies than children of color" (244-245).

Overall, historically a series of factors converge to perpetuate the situation: muliticultural images are underrepresented, teacher education emphasizes less professional development, and there is a pervasive lack of funding for the neediest children (245). Want an illustration of that last factor? Go read some of Johnathan Kozol's works.

Gangi goes on to discuss a history of small presses. She looks at publishing houses such as Children's Book Press, Cinco Puntos, and Lee & Low. Again, some significance of the work that these and other small presses do:
"Children's literature tends to depict the middle and upper classes; they are, after all, the market segments whose parents are most likely to have money to buy books. Small presses are distinguished by a concern for the children of the poor, the working poor, and the working class" (249).
Examples of these works include CPB's A Shelter in our Car and Cinco Puntos's Selavi: A Haitian Story of Hope. These are books about the homeless and the poor. In addition, Gangi discusses other works that illustrate issues such as labor leaders and activists, immigrants and cross-cultural experiences, and refugee issues. This part of the article might make a good collection development tool for a children's librarian. Gangi also discusses awards of interest such as the Coretta Scott King Book Award. At the end, the author provides a link for bibliographies(the link is leads to a small page about her book. Look for the PDF link. The author has moved, and has a new page. Look for the bibliographies. I found the new page with a Google search as I could not make the first link work at first). The works cited list is also worth a look.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why do I get this feeling of deja vu?

Someone must have snuck into our conference room for one of our librarian meetings. This article captures it so well.

A hat tip to Jane at A Wandering Eyre.