Friday, April 26, 2013

What Has I Gots In My Baggins?

The other day it occurred to me that the black shoulder bag that I use to carry my supplies from home to my various jobs was getting a bit heavier than usual.  This is not an uncommon occurrence for me, as I do tend to toss things into it far more often than I take things out of it. You never know when you will need a specific something, I suppose, although sometimes the need has to be startlingly specific to require that particular something.

But then I’ll have it.  And won’t I be the hero then?

However, having reached an age where wear and tear is starting to get a bit more obvious than it used to be, notably about the shoulders in this case, I decided that it would be a good time to take an inventory of my bag to see what could be offloaded for the time being.  There is no point in being a hero if it means having to resort to ibuprofen merely to haul around your gear.

This is what I found.

Two umbrellas, one black and one black with fluorescent polka dots.

It has rained for most of the last several weeks here in Baja Canada and the only reason we’re not up to our eyes in sprouting vegetation is that the high temperatures have only barely been enough to keep the rain from being snow.  Once in a while I manage to impress upon my children that they should carry appropriate gear in the face of this weather, but invariably it ends up forgotten – if I’m lucky, in my car, and if I’m not lucky then somewhere at school, at a 4H meeting, or some other destination.  The polka-dotted one came from my car.  I put it in my bag to take into the house and forgot it there, next to the other one that I had forgotten there after using it myself.  So apparently my children get this trait from somewhere very close by.

Twenty-three partially graded Western Civ II exams, focusing on the Enlightenment and the Long 19th Century (since returned, fully graded).

I grade these thing by problem rather than by student, so I end up going through each exam eight or nine times.  While it is a wonderful process for making sure that my standards are consistent across exams, it does mean that nothing is ever finished until the very end of the process.  This can get a tad discouraging after a while.

One excuse note submitted by a Western Civ student to justify taking the exam late, okayed by me.

When a student who hasn’t shown up more than a couple of times requests an extension for an exam, I want it documented.  If they’ve been attending, participating and generally making themselves known and trustworthy, then I tend not to worry about it.

One answer key for the exam.

This is how I usually spend the first part of the exam itself.  I figure if I can’t whip through it in a third of the time, they’ll never be able to do it in the full time.  It’s a handy barometer.

One wooden clipboard, with roughly a quarter inch of scratch paper attached to it, on top of which was a grading sheet for the Western Civ exams.

I have learned not to put the final scores on these exams until the very end, as otherwise I box myself in.  Sometimes you go through and realize about halfway through that your standards should have been adjusted, and it’s just easier to do that on my sheet than on each individual exam.  When I’m done, I transfer it all over onto their exams.

One CD case containing two CDs: Blue Moo (Sandra Boynton) and English Rebel Songs (Chumbawamba)

When I go over WWI in my Western Civ class, I don’t really go through the blow-by-blow of the war.  The textbook does a good enough job with that, and I spend my time going through the lead-in to the war (an interlocking series of tripwires set up between 1870 and 1914 that pretty much guaranteed the sort of continent-wide disaster that followed), the conduct of the war (trenches and what that actually meant on the ground), and the dispiriting conclusion of the Armistice (“They never knew they were beaten.  It will have to be done all over again.”  -John Pershing, Commander, US forces).  Chumbawamba’s CD has any number of protest songs from English history, but the one I play for my class is “The Old Barbed Wire.”  If you want to find the general he’s pinning another medal on his chest, but the private is hanging from the old barbed wire in No Man’s Land, between the trenches.  It’s a beautiful song if you don’t listen too closely to the lyrics.

I’ve largely given up trying to figure out how to play CDs in the various computers I find in classrooms – even when I do know how to make whatever version of whatever program they have actually work, the odds of it getting set up in time to be useful are pretty minimal.  So I bring in a CD player.  This one happened to have Blue Moo in it, and a fine CD it is in most circumstances though not really appropriate for WWI.  Unfortunately the CD player died, so my class never did hear any music this semester.  I didn’t even bring the CD player home from Not Quite So Far Away Campus.  Just the CDs.

The power cord from the above-described recently deceased CD player.

You can never have enough power cords.  This I did save.

One roll book containing:

Class records for two of my three current classes (the third being online), as well as several previous classes.

Yes, I’m one of those old-fashioned professors who doesn’t use an online grade book. 

A post-it note with the four-digit copier code I need to make copies at Not Quite So Far Away Campus

This is not to be confused with the copier code I had at NQSFAC two years ago, or the one I have at Home Campus.  Apparently they expire every so often and have to be renewed with some new random collection of numbers.  Because you never know if other faculty members will just jump your code and copy quizzes on your account.

Academic crime: it’s a mean old world out there.

Lecture notes for two Western Civ classes (WWI, and Post-WWI Chaos [Including the Russian Revolution]) and one US2 class (The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s).

Sometimes it’s hard to keep everything straight.

General Board Outlines for Western Civ II.

I throw a lot of information at my students, and I have found that if I put an outline of the lecture on the board beforehand they do a much better job of getting the main points.  And if I have an outline printed up and ready to go before I walk in, so do I.

The SCUM Manifesto.

This was a prop for my Civil Rights Movement class, in which we completed our discussion of the Civil Rights Movement (begun the class before) and moved on to discuss the Youth Movement and the Feminist Movement.  All of those social protest movements went through roughly the same arc, starting out fairly moderate and getting progressively more radical.  The SCUM Manifesto is an example of the radical stage of the feminist movement – the kind of shrill bogeymen (bogeywymyn?) who continue to haunt the fevered imagination of right-wing talk radio hosts even now.  It was written by Valerie Solanas (whose other claim to fame was shooting Andy Warhol) and it’s basic argument is 1) men are scum, 2) no, you don’t understand, men are just scum, 3) getting rid of men would solve all of the world’s problems [thus the title of the manifesto, which is an acronym for “the Society for Cutting Up Men”], and 4) men really are scum.  She makes this argument in what can generously be described as an obscene and borderline incoherent rage, and as a cultural monument to a specific moment in American history it is simply unsurpassable.

A syllabus for my Western Civ II class

Because sometimes even the professor forgets what comes next.

Accommodation plans for two Western Civ students

The university has a very nice system for students with documented issues regarding exams and such, and so long as they have the proper paperwork they can take those exams in much more conducive environments.  While I have never noticed any particular difference in terms of the grades they earn, I suppose it is a good thing for such students to have this available as an option.

Discussion 7 Feedback Notes for US2

Grading online discussions is a laborious and time-consuming process, at least the way I do it.  I read through each post (each student has to make at least three posts in my class, and it’s easier to read them in their proper threads while commenting on a central sheet than it is to read each student’s posts separately), making notes to myself as I go.  Then I summarize those notes into a feedback paragraph for each student, which then gets posted individually to each student.

A program from Lauren’s school play from February

The trees!  They talk!

Cue sheet, tech specs and introductory notes from Friday’s Performing Arts act down at Home Campus

My job as Performing Arts Guy down at Home Campus covers everything from negotiating contracts to hanging lights to making sure there is bottled water in the dressing room.  When acts come in after lunch and expect to perform three hours later, this can be a paperwork- and energy-intensive experience.

A crescent wrench

For hanging lights, what else?  I’ve had this one since college – it was, in fact, given to me by one of the theater groups on campus, and for most of my college years I simply kept it in my backpack.  You never knew when somebody would come running over to you as you walked between classes and beg you to hang or focus lights, and it was just easier to have it than have to walk all the way back to my dorm room to find it.  This actually happened a lot, given that a) there were 8-10 major student drama groups on campus, depending on how you counted, and b) there were maybe a dozen and a half of us who did lighting.

Of course, this could get me into trouble.  The first time I ever flew abroad I forgot to take the wrench out of my backpack, which I was using as a carry-on.  The security people hemmed and hawed about it for a bit, but ultimately decided – in that pre-9/11 era – that unbolting the wing would probably not be a very effective terrorist strategy anyway, so they let me pass.  It is a well-traveled wrench.

A random plastic grocery bag

I think I stuffed that in there because of the rain, when I wanted to keep something dry.  I hope whatever it was stayed dry.

One copy of Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

My reading material for much of the week.  A classic.

A plastic spoon

No, I have no idea why this is in there.  I assume there was a reason once, but even that might be unwarranted.  Spoons just seem to accumulate.

Coins totaling 1.25 euros and 1 American cent.

The euros are there because I use them as a prop in my Western Civ class, when we get around to discussing the lurching steps toward European unification after World War II.  It’s more real to students when they have actual physical objects to hold on to.

The penny is there because dark, enclosed spaces of less than two cubic feet in volume located anywhere in the United States create pennies.  Certainly the mint knows better than to make any more of the things – nobody uses them for anything other than filling up change jars.  Spontaneous generation is really the only possible reason for them.  Nice of the penny fairies to have changed the design on the back recently so we don’t take them for granted.

Twelve pens in various stages of functionality, along with one pencil, one mechanical pencil, two highlighters, and nine dry-erase markers.

Writing implements are just the coin of the realm in academia.  I have no idea how the highlighters got there, though, since I regard them as evil.

A pen for a smart-screen computer.

This is a special pen and thus resides in its own pocket.  It only works on a touch screen computer, and it allows me to draw things that my compressed video class can see with a reliability that approaches 60% on good days. 

A set of keys for the theater and neighboring areas of Home Campus.

A lot of life in these modern times is simply the slow accumulation of metal keys and plastic cards.  As part of my role Performing Arts Guy on campus, I have an entire key ring for the various doors that make up the ins and outs of the theater, art and music building on campus, plus a key for the classrooms in the new building.  That much metal I didn’t want on my regular key ring because very early on I learned that trying to fit all those keys onto one ring would rip out the pockets on any pair of pants in the world.  So I transferred all but my campus office key to the extra ring and left it in my office.  But since they are now asking us to lock up our classrooms all the time in the wake of a series of thefts, I find that I need to carry it around in order to get into my classes.  I’m not carrying that set of keys in my pocket.  And thus we return to the refrain.

A wad of paper napkins.

It’s always good to have napkins.

A copy of a letter, dated 2004, from Tabitha’s allergist to any airport security personnel who reads it regarding Epi-Pens and why they should not be confiscated as a security threat.

So far we’ve never been questioned by security regarding Epi-Pens, which is nice, but you can never be too careful.  Some day some overzealous rental cop is going to try to force my child to travel without the life-saving medicine she would need in the event of anaphylaxis, and the results of such an attempt will not be pretty.  Best to have the paperwork and avoid that … unpleasantness.

A pile of unused 3x5 cards.

Because that’s how I roll.

A pile of used 3x5 cards from my Western Civ class, with student contact information should I need it.

If I leave them in my office, I won’t have them when I need them.  If I leave them at home, the same is true.  So they travel with me.  At the end of the semester they’ll get shredded, as I really don’t need to preserve that information.

No wonder my shoulder hurts.


PDaniel said...

My favorite line from Alfred Hitchcocks "The Trouble With Harry" is: "You never know when a dead rabbit might come in handy."

David said...

I suppose not, although when that might be is not really something I prefer to think about. :)

TimBo said...

While there are many things worthy of comment in your post, I will use this opportunity to complain about the weather here in Edmonton. What prompts this whine in you comments? Well, of course it is your remark: "It has rained for most of the last several weeks here in Baja Canada".

Now there are some parts of Canada where it may have rained this year. And I am referring to the parts that we here in the West we call "Eastern Canada" (meaning "Evil Canada"), more properly called "Central Canada" and historically called "Upper Canada", that is to say Toronto (pronounced Tor-on-a). Here in "Real Canada" it has only snowed. They are promising Thundershowers tonight on the Environment Canada website, but I'm sure that's worth about as much as any government promise.

Anyway, if you want to relate to us here in Western Canada, rain ain't the way to do it.

Katherine McKay said...

Wow! And I thought my purse was overstuffed. Interesting conglomeration you tote around. But don't lose that wrench, 'cause ya' never know.

John the Scientist said...

Hmmm, the bag of a luddite. :D

I've got an iPad (personal), iPhone and iPad chargers, laptop, and laptop cord. Bandaids, naproxen, tissues, blood pressure medicine (for me), plastic forks and spoons, a water bottle, corkscrew, glasses screwdrivers, and various hotel receipts. Sometimes I stuff my running shoes in there when I travel, but I don't take them in the bag to prefessional meetings.