Archive for May, 2008

“Various designs for riparian buffer zones are used depending on the intended use.”

I imagine so…

“The question in riparian buffer zones has been a recent focus in the past decade.”

How long has that poor question been soaking in there? Does it have any nitrogen left?

The above is one of the joys of cross-disciplinary teaching. I don’t just get to watch the mangling of the English language by Mass Comm. majors and future accountants, but by would-be psychologists and life scientists.

“The loss of data as the information makes its way through the channels of research and to the general public is important to recognize.”

Because, I suppose, ‘Knowing is half the battle’? The other half, one might guess, would be doing… or coming to some kind of sensible conclusion based on what you know. I would have settled for the latter, but in the case of this paper, there was some mad recognizin’ going on, but that is where everything stopped. [sigh]. The actual student is smarter than this, and is usually leaping ahead to conclusions with great enthusiasm. It’s not always the case that enthusiasm and talent travel together…

For example:

“With DDT and PCBs being a major concern with the Bay.”

I’m reminded of an old New Yorker cartoon, by Jack Ziegler — that showed the Empire State Building with a side of fries. To parallel the above, though, we’d need to have the “concern” that either there was no ketchup, or that the Health Inspector disapproved of the arrangement.

But wait: here’s the fastest way I’ve ever seen NOT to get a grant:

“I have devised a plan to stop overdevelopment of our shoreline and increase the power of officials to protect environmentally-sensitive areas. I figured why continue to allow counties to let developers build on wetlands other environmentally sensitive areas?”

“Figured”? The rest of the paper veers away from Proposal territory, out into the realm of “If I Were King of the Forrehhhhhst“…..

Coincidentally, BBC Radio is now playing “A Shiloh Farewell”, better known to many as the mournful theme music from Ken Burns’ Civil War miniseries. I guess if one is weary of fighting, perhaps making something beautiful out of the remnants is appropriate. This post probably isn’t it, though.

Probably a more apt bit of music is from the 1976 British studio recording of Evita, where a manic charity fund manager sings:

“When the money keeps rolling out you don’t keep books/You can tell you’ve done well by the happy, grateful looks/Accountants only slow things down/Figures get in the way!”

Act II, “And the Money Kept Rolling In (and Out)”

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There are times when I’m just stunned.  A final paper should show what a student’s learned over the course of the semester.  So if the first paper in the term insists on using multiple primary and secondary sources of information and citing them properly, it just doesn’t look good if your final proposal doesn’t do anything of the sort. It instead leaves me with the feeling that you haven’t learned anything this semester, and maybe you should take this class again.  With someone else, thank you….

Similarly, if you are revising a paper at the end of the semester, and the original goal of said paper was to help high school students make a career decision, and you got a 60 on that first paper, maybe you’d avoid sentences in your revision that sound like this:

The ideology of salespeople has shifted from seeking out personal gain and closing quick sales to recognizing the importance of meeting the needs and satisfaction of customers by forming long-term business relationships.”

Really now…. There are high school students who know that Ideology is more than a house brand clothing line at Mays-owned department stores, but is there anything about this sentence that captures your attention and says “Hey, would you like to do this for a living”?

And then the student will be irritated that I’m not recognizing what a good writer he is, completely missing the connection between “meeting the needs and satisfaction of customers” and adapting his knowledge to the needs of the assigned audience for his paper.  But the fact is, the “goodness” of writing is largely governed by who that writing is meant to serve, entertain, or enlighten.  If you give me a short thesis on “The Modern Salesperson” for a business professor when I wanted a “Field Guide to Sales Careers” for a high school student, you aren’t going to get an A for your efforts.

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Shattered keyboard remnant in back of a warehouse stripThis post is likely to get several updates over the next few days, as I slog through this semester’s crop of student portfolios. Please note, these are all college juniors and seniors writing….

Our first competitor is writing about the optimum location for casinos in our state:

“While those you do not want the casino are allowed to voice there opinion, there points on economic growth, crime, and taxes are far from the truth.”

Burn, baby burn!
I gave up marking the other errors when I realized that his statistics all seemed to come from http://www.americangaming.org/Industry/.

Look, folks: the more controversial a topic, the longer you need to explain yourself, and the better your sources need to be. In a universe where one of your classmates is capable of taking 5 pages to exquisitely describe a system for improving the neatness of a shared living space, you taking 2 pages to simultaneously dismiss all arguments against casino gambling AND justify a site for having slots and table games, smack in the middle of a currently gridlocked entertainment district is, well, not likely to fly.

“In turn, stimulating the economy in there area.”

No, it won’t stimulate anything, either. Irritate, yes. And you really don’t want me irritated when I’m logging final grades….

“Those these exist they are few and far between”

“It depends on luck sometimes, like does you child have a great game when the recruits are they or not.”

This folder is starting to look like a one-way ticket to repeating the course, which, blessed be the name of the Lord, I am not scheduled to teach next semester!

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I’m hoping this one shows up at the sale this summer: yum yum yum yum....Rustler‘ is just gorgeous.  Although getting some louisianas and maybe siberians are the priorities, who wouldn’t love this beauty?  Rich scent, great coloring, and apparently it reblooms!

In other news, I had some students — who did NOT have grade problems — follow me to my office after the last final exam, just to chat with me for a while.  I feel very, very fortunate.

One of my colleagues was not as fortunate.  She has found multiple rings of plagiarists in her classes [more than enough for a circus, and almost enough for the Olympics], and one of the culprits was begging her for a chance to write just one more paper, in an hour, to show that he could really write well on his own, and deserved to pass the class.

“You know,” she said to me later, “I wish there was some appropriate way to tell these [begging] students that the only thing they are doing is humiliating themselves.  It can’t change their grade…”

Plagiarism is a special variety of stupid, in my book.  While the roots may be desperation, or contempt, the fact remains that there are millions of word-combinations that a student could choose and NOT plagiarize, so I don’t have much tolerance even for the “but it’s appropriate in my home culture” argument.  By setting foot in my classroom, and asking for my instruction, you have pretty much signed a contract that says “I want to participate in your culture, and learn what you have to show me.”  That’s not to say I don’t learn things from my students, or that I don’t see value in trying to bridge cultural gaps….but you really do need to do your own work, and you need to be able to prove that to me.

Lunch, and then more grading, I think.

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Smaller iris, but awfully cute!There was a brief respite from grading yesterday, and also a brief respite from the rain [the state of the lawn, we will not discuss it]. What you’ll see in this post isn’t in my garden. Our first stop is Rebert’s Iris Haven, where Doris Rebert provided a lovely show of historic and modern iris varieties, along with a lovely lunch. Members of the local iris society ambled about like drunken bees, buzzing happily about what was blooming, what was on the way, and what was in their own home gardens.Iris and a golden cypress hybrid at Rebert\'s Iris Haven

I confess, I was a little homesick when I walked through the shade garden areas; the tall evergreens, the lush hostas and deciduous azaleas… I can’t help feeling that there was a gardening cohort that started out 60 years ago, and I was lucky enough to be the guardian of one of those gardener’s creations for a while. Now I have to start my own from scratch and memory. Looking through the evergreens at Mrs. Rebert\'s iris gardens

Some days the challenge is uplifting, but at other times I wonder whether I’ll get to see the place at Elsinore ever look as settled and grand as this. Of course, these gardens are also, I suspect, the full-time committments of these gardeners. One of the iris beds at Rebert’s was reserved for their “Queens of the Show” — iris that had won regional or national awards. Those weren’t in bloom yet; I may just need to travel out to see them some season, considering how gorgeous everthing else was!

Oh, and who wouldn’t love a little dedicated gardening shed, out away from the house? I know I certainly would. And if we could run power out there so my woodworking equipment could run without endangering the rest of the house, even better.

But there’s one more stop on the tour: Draycott Gardens [see also here]. Carol Warner was at the Rebert’s garden and kindly provided maps and directions to her place, since so many of us had made the pilgrimage out to Doris’ place. Talk about garden over-achievement: she participates in the iris, peony, and rhododendron societies, a level of splendid plant-geekiness which I guess one can indulge more easily if you’ve got 9+ acres to play with….

I’ve got enough of a challenge with the space I’ve got! This summer, I do hope to get some raised beds in for my rhodie scions, when they come back from Van Veen’s. As for the peonies, I prefer scented flowers in my yard, which means apparently I’m not a customer for the latest and greatest peony varieties. Ah well. Perhaps that will mean the ones I get will be cheaper?

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“Now this is more like it!” say the bees. The big bumbles love the rhododendrons and larger azaleas. The smaller bees are delirious about the false indigo that just started blooming; they hover around with their tongues sticking out.

There seem to be fewer bees frequenting the exposed clay [which is good, because I finally did get that magnolia into the hole I’d originally dug for it]. But there’s plenty of wet, exposed clay left….

While on the topic of matches between flowers and bees, let’s look at some of the iris that have blossomed recently. These are from last year’s remarkably-affordable binge at the local Iris Society sale.Lovely standards, dramatic falls, but what\'s with the beard curving _up_?

No, that’s not an optical illusion: the standards are standing up, all nicely ruffled, the falls are draping downward, the beard is…. wait a second…. Yes, those beards are standing proud of the falls, rather than curling downward with them. What had been a convenient landing strip to maximize the amount of pollen a bee could transfer when visiting each successive flower has been bred to display something more like a party favor [or a very particular sort of “pinata”, if you perchance remember an ancient Robin Williams routine].

Here: look at another one — G’night everybody!Is this an iris, or the home of a nudibranch?

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Elsinore is just recovering from nearly 5 inches of rain [so we don’t want to discuss what the moats in the garden probably look like right now….Am I going to need mosquito dunks for those? Probably.]. The sun is now merrily beaming down on the Italianate house across the way; yellow stucco glaring against green young leaves and blue sky. At the moment, the most subtle thing about that house is the grey DirectTV saucer attached near the back of the roofline. How often is _that_ true about a house?

And now the geekiness: a friend had this in her .sig today:

Roses are #ff0000
Violets are #0000ff

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Trench Warfare

Actually, this isn’t a post about grading papers. That will come next week. Lawn, meet Mr. Shovel!Right now, it’s the continuing adventures of one gardener versus dense clay soil and torrential rains.

This sort of battle makes me feel like a grown-up. I remember my father out in the rain, hacking trenches into the garden — a hoe blade deep, and a hoe blade wide — snaking like a minature moat around and away from our Victorian house, trying to keep the water from seeping through the sand and horsehair “mortar” holding the basement walls together. [Yes, there was some genuine cement in there, but where you most wanted the water to stay out, there always seemed to be something distressingly porous. And this in a house that only got a cement floor in its basement in 1966!]. During drier weather, those mini-trenches became places for Tonka trucks to drive, for china figurines of animals to have little kingdoms and little adventures…. but during spring storms and summer squalls, my father would be out there, checking our defensive perimeter to keep us safe and dry.

So now I have a Victorian house, and here’s how it’s been going: I chop out blocks of lawn and clay soil, I remove what earthworms I can to a more peaceful location, and then start mixing peatmoss and Leafgro in with the soil remaining. In go the new plants, and the blocks of sod can be used as edging. Theoretically, very neat. The problems start when it rains, and it has been. Then you have plants swimming in their own little moats, which would probably be great if I was trying to grow reeds, or watercress or tadpoles, and probably even would be copacetic with the dappled willows I want near this black elderberry shrub. But not for the elderberry itself, or much else I’ve got in mind. So then you end up with a series of trenches dug to drain away the initial puddles, like this one I started with….. But of course, it’s not where it ended, because this trench Looking up the slope at the Elderberry and Dappled Willowfilled up, too, and this afternoon I added several more, including a 2ft deep hole, which I kept separate from the rest of the trench until the last minute, so that I could watch a miniature waterfall as everything drained into the new “lowest point”.

My glee was short-lived, alas; I could see standing water shimmering through the grass further down the slope, which means that I haven’t yet begun to really change the local drainage patterns yet.

In some ways, this is all academic, because last summer’s drought meant I wasn’t living near a fen, and last year’s waterproofing and setting of nice new bulkhead doors for the basement have stopped the water getting in there. It’s for the sake of getting a better ecosystem going in the yard that I want things other than grass growing, and those plants want soil that drains.

At least right now, it isn’t beastly hot, and I can dig into the dusk hours without being nibbled by gnats.

And now, so you can see it isn’t all slogging through the mud, a selection of blooms from plants that survived the trip from the old Chez Rethoryke to scenic Elsinore!

I’m sorry I didn’t manage to snag a photo of the central azalea when it was in bloom.  It’s called “Klondyke”, and it is indeed an orange, deciduous azalea, with a lovely scent. Here’s a link that shows Klondyke in its glory.

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