Lessons Learned from Students

Wednesday, 27 June 2012
I've enjoyed teaching summer school this session because we have to move at a faster pace but somehow, the vibe is more laid back. I've learned a lot in my first year of teaching. Lessons I've gleaned from undergrads include:

1. Avoid the dreaded "double text." If you are unaware of the phenomenon, read more here.

2. Rather than use the word "awkward" in an email, text or speech, when something is awkward, it is MUCH cooler to just say "Awk!"

3. Teachers know when you're faking an illness and miss class. Social media makes it almost impossible for people to keep their private lives private. You come in with a sunburn the next day? You probably weren't in bed with strep throat and Palastaie Limosaeviral the previous day.

4. United States elementary schools (public and private) are failing our kids. At least five of my students this year did not know the correct use of "your," "you're,""there," "they're," and "their." Yikes. I pointed this out in an email to one of my students (who probably just had a typo) and he cleverly responded: "Miss D'Arcy, I received your email. Sorry about that. You're the best." Points!

5. You do not, I repeat do not dress up for class. And I'm not talking about a suit and tie here. "Dressing up" means matching attire with a thought-out choice of footwear and perhaps accessories. Try too hard with your wardrobe? People will stare. To fit in, pajamas are acceptable. Clothing that one picks out from the rejects in the dumpster behind Goodwill are admirable and if a student can make his hair look as though he just woke up, played three games of basketball outdoors in 90 degree heat and sprinted to class, he's winning. I witnessed two nicely dressed female students come in this semester and actually apologize to those around them, "I have to go straight to work after class." The haters visibly relaxed from their poised stance of judgement. I admit it, I dress professionally and am scorned.

Dry Your Eyes

Saturday, 23 June 2012
There are times in our lives when things just do not go as planned. When these times happen in my life, I like to find the kernel of fun in it and if at all possible, make sure that I poke fun at myself... just to up the ante. Plus, you know I adore exaggerating a touch to get a laugh out of people. I wish this tale was an exaggeration. Sadly, no...

I was away for Father's Day weekend to see family and friends and came back to find my internet no longer working. Oh joy! It isn't ideal for a social media researcher to have no proper way to access social media. Alas, I patiently booted and rebooted my modem and router. I tried different combinations of rebooting. I restarted my computer... tried hardwiring it to the service. Two hours later... it still was not working. Deciding it was necessary to take a break from my frustration I thought, "Ah! I'll finish a load of laundry." Not good.

Venturing into my quaint (read: small) laundry room, I transfer clean clothes from the washer to the dryer. I have a stacked unit - which is an important detail for later. I move the setting on the dryer and press the "on" button. It starts then stops abruptly. Okay. I open the door and try to give it a manual spin. It won't budge. Try to turn it on again. Same thing. Quick start, then stop, no turn. Taking a deep breath, I remove all of the clothes and try again. Nope. Nothing. It felt like the drum was actually stuck so I did what any reasonable person would do, I climbed up on top of the small cabinet in front of my washer to look behind the dryer. This was not one of my brighter moments.

The cabinet isn't made out of walnut. The piece isn't reinforced with wooden dowels, it's a sh*tty modular unit just meant to hold Tide and Bounce sheets. See where this is going?

At exactly the same second as it dawned on me that I should not be standing on the cabinet, it gave way, dramatically collapsing beneath me. I instinctively grabbed for the bar that I hang my clothes on - and boy was that a great idea! The bar is a spring rod, made to hold up a shower curtain. I crashed down in a (very elegant) heap with clean clothes and the spring rod following. Surprisingly, I was not seriously injured and I didn't even curse (yes, I must have been very tired).

My dryer still does not work and neither does my wifi. Luckily I've been trained for living a life without modern conveniences. I lived in London for two years without a dryer (they hang clothing on radiators) and intermittent internet service. There are worse things in life than dealing with repair people, I suppose. Hope you are having a great weekend.

Going Wild: Zoofari

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My friend James invited me to a fun event with his friends in Columbus, Ohio last week: Zoofari 2012. The event benefits the conservation and education programs at the zoo which is rated one of the top 10 zoos in the country. 

The USA Travel Guide website says: [No other zoos] have achieved the positive worldwide reputation of the Columbus Zoo, arguably America’s favorite.

Staff members wandered around showing off smaller animals and giving talks on their characteristics. We were able to touch a Bearded Dragon which is a desert dweller and can flatten its body to the width of a pancake when predators are around. When flat, the dragon's spikes (you can see them on her sides below) become prominent and make it difficult for predators to attack successfully. 

We also learned about alligators and were able to pet this female (below). She felt smooth rather than scaly, almost like a bone. Her handler said, "We're hoping she grows to be at least 10 feet long."

A kangaroo was also out and about. She was on the move and didn't care to pose for a photo. It was truly fascinating to see this animal up close. Kangaroos have bizarre looking middle toes which help with balance. The toe has a long, fierce-looking nail (creepy but awesome) and kangaroos use their tails as a sort of third leg, moving around in a naturally choreographed arms-toes-tail combination. Her fur was very soft. I could have watched her for hours. 

We met a Bush Baby or Galago which is from Africa, in the family of primates. The animal has large, thin ears that help it slow down and navigate when jumping from tree to tree. People were not allowed to touch him and he had two handlers (one was carrying food). 

Some of the animals were still out early in the evening and we had a blast watching the polar bears. These two (below) played like a couple of cats for a few minutes, pawing at each other, and one chewed on a stick for a while like a canine.

Food and drink vendors were scattered throughout the zoo grounds and it was enjoyable to try new treats and see creative presentation. I adored a cake decorated with a zoo theme and I'm so sad that I failed to write down the bakery. Look at this thing! 

The company made the evening even more fun. (R-L) Robin, Michael, W.D., Art and James have known each other for more than 25 years. Their interaction is entertaining and they play off of each other with the familiarity of family. Zoofari is a lovely event.

Cape Hatteras Light Station

Sunday, 17 June 2012

While in Nags Head, North Carolina with my friend Melissa and her good friends, we took a side trip to see the Cape Hatteras Light Station. This is a cool site because it makes one of the biggest engineering feats in the United States to date.

My friend Steve and I ventured to the light house with friends Angie and Bill. 

The Cape Hatteras Light House (located on land that is part of a National Park) was built close to the shore line in the Outer Banks in the mid-1800s. Over time, the beach eroded and in 1934, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse as a beacon for ships. Even though in the 1960s-1980s crews worked to stabilize the beach, efforts were washed away in a hurricane. It was looking pretty dark for the light house... but wait! After years of study, in 1999, the lighthouse was actually moved 2,900 feet away from the shore in 23 days.

The move was controversial because many people believed the lighthouse would not survive the structural trauma. The International Chimney Corp of Buffalo, New York won the contract and got the job done in three weeks. There's a museum on site with an interesting documentary on the pragmatics of the move. 

I adore lighthouses and have a particular fondness for Old Baldy on Bald Head Island, North Carolina.

Succulents and Suckage

Monday, 11 June 2012
I've become slightly obsessed with succulents otherwise known as fat plants. This plant family grows in tropical or dry climates and has leaves that store water. While I was in Phoenix last month, I attempted to educate myself on the foliage there and I would love to grow varieties of cacti at my home in East Tennessee.

The species pictured here are from the grounds of Montelucia Resort in the Scottsdale area of Arizona.

My bizarre interest in succulents developed years ago. Being quite the botanist, my grandmother always had a few Aloe plants on hand and my brother and I would almost try to garner a cut or scrape so we could break off a bright green leaf and smear cool goo onto our injury.

Now here's where things get really funky: cacti are succulents but not all succulents are necessarily cacti. Interesting. Here's something else you might find to be pretty cool (I did)... a cactus stores as much water as possible in its core and roots so that the leaves evolve to "spines" or "prickles" which are the spiky parts. 

My favorite cacti variety on the resort grounds included the relatively vibrant Purple Prickly Pear cactus. 

Another bonus for this type of plant? Protection. 

Information from Wikipedia: Plants bearing thorns, spines or prickles are often used as a defense against burglary, being strategically planted below windows or around the perimeter of a property. They have also been used to protect crops and livestock against animals. 

Perhaps I should carefully consider the above uses. Using cacti for security would be a lot more green than installing a full-blown system. Clearly, succulents do not suck.

Garden Update

I could rock the Vegetarian thing and not miss meat too much. At times I've considered declaring myself a Pescatarian (person who doesn't eat meat but will eat fish) but it would be inconvenient to cut out a food group all together. Nonetheless, I've already enjoyed a couple of meals provided mostly with ingredients from my garden this year. 

We're having a heckofa hot spring in Tennessee thus far so a few items have grown like weeds already. Last week I prepared a fresh salad with my own lettuce, radishes and cucumbers (the cukes are sweet and crisp, yummy). The dressing is easy: T fat free mayo, T horseradish mustard, T of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, whisk. 

The next night I harvested quite a bit of basil (the leaves are huge!) and decided to try basil pesto. I didn't have pine nuts on hand so I substituted with roasted and salted sunflower seeds. Not bad. To make: use your food processor or blender to process basil, nuts, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and lemon juice (1 whole lemon). Thoroughly mix pesto and angel hair pasta, coating your pasta. Dress with parmesan cheese, cracked pepper and fresh basil. This was surprisingly very good and low cal/fat.

True Food, Phoenix

Certainly the best way to lose blog readers is to fail to post anything new for days and weeks. I've got this one in the bag! Please accept my apologies for distraction and laziness. I've been super busy! There's so much to talk about...

I went to Phoenix for ICA in May and visited my friend Brad while there. One night we went out to dinner with his family and friends and really enjoyed dining at True Food. The place doesn't take reservations so Brad's brother and sis-in-law arrived early to put our name in. The wait was 40 minutes but the experience was worth it.

True Food is popular because the chefs use all sustainable, local produce from partners in Southern California and Phoenix. The kitchen is open concept and it was fun to watch meals being prepared and see all of the fresh ingredients. We certainly didn't see any cans or can openers (at least out in the open).

Even the bar was slammed! The cocktail list is incredibly inventive and our table ordered different drinks and all tried sips of each other's bevies. I tried Spontaneous Happiness: Ginger and Vanilla infused Sochu, Thatcher's Elderflower and fresh lime and Retail Therapy: Belvedere Vodka, Grand Marnier, basil and strawberries (picture below). The drink with basil and strawberries was a hit with most of the ladies. The taste combination is amazing!

I ordered the Spaghetti Squash Casserole which was baked with fresh mozzarella, organic tomato and zucchini. Brad ordered Red Chili Shrimp: Sesame Noodles, Gai Lan, Spinach and Shiitake Mushrooms. I preferred his dish over mine, even though I adore spaghetti squash. True Food sticks to their goal of providing healthy food so you're not going to find tons of butter in the dishes so the flavor is different than what most of us are used to. Yay for healthy eating!

True Food is also decorated in a natural way. These gorgeous planters were all over the place and the bar tenders could actually pick fresh herbs to mix into the cocktails when needed. 

ICA in Phoenix

Friday, 1 June 2012

I attended my first large media academic conference last week in Phoenix. I'm a member of the International Communication Association and even though I didn't present a paper (that's the goal), I was able to support Dr. Nick Geidner who is a professor in the Journalism and Electronic Media school. We are also conducting two research projects together this summer.

Dr. Geidner presenting research

One of the sessions I attended was moderated and designed in an interesting way. At least five presenters gave a 3-4 minute talk about their project and findings. Then, participants broke out into groups and we were able to speak individually to all presenters about findings and ask specific questions. This was efficient and gave attendees a chance to delve into the details rather than just watch Power Point presentations.

The other goal of a conference is networking. I met some great people who help organize ICA events and also folks from some of the universities I'm interested in working at someday. I also became great friends with a UTK doctoral student that I knew before the conference but just didn't have much time to talk with. Looking forward to AEJMC (journalism's biggest academic conference) in Chicago this summer. 

UTK represents