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connecticut – The Salt-Box http://www.jbj.wordherders.net "A man needn't go far to find a subject, if he's ready with his salt-box."--Uncle Pumblechook Thu, 09 May 2013 17:06:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Changes ahead! http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2013/05/09/changes-ahead/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2013/05/09/changes-ahead/#comments Thu, 09 May 2013 17:02:32 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/?p=447 Continue reading ]]> Steampunk Bantam

(and no, the change isn’t just that I’m posting to this blog again!)

I’m delighted to report that, beginning next month, I will be the Director of Educational Technology at Trinity College. This is an exciting opportunity to work closely with faculty, librarians, IT staff, and others to support Trinity’s liberal arts mission. (And of course I’m extra-pleased to know that there are already folks who have some downright ProfHackerish ideas!)

It turns out that I will apparently go anywhere that prominently features a steampunk representation of its mascot.

This decision was a difficult one: I have enjoyed my ten years at Central, and will miss my students, colleagues, and friends, although since Aimee continues in the English department, hopefully I won’t be a stranger. (And we will still live in the neighborhood!)

There’s no denying that this is a big shift: I was asked “Why would you want to give up being a tenured full professor?” in literally every meeting I had about this job. And it’s a little unsettling to move directly into an administrative position immediately after my term as union president ended. Aimee said, “this is a great job for you, and I definitely think you should take it. But I wouldn’t want it for myself.” (To be fair, the bit she particularly didn’t want is the part about “starting in June.”) In thinking about such a move, it turns out that it’s good to have smart friends who are good writers: Kathleen Fitzpatrick has recently written a great post about doubts, so I don’t have to reprise it here. The same week, Anne Trubek’s article on “Giving Up Tenure: Who Does That?” ran in the Chronicle, and explained that it’s really not so unthinkable a move.

And it’s not just that I’m giving up being a professor, or giving up tenure. I’ve said some tart things about the educational technology industry in the past, which I still stand by. And I still count Audrey Watters as my chief guiding light on a lot of this. But I think that this particular job, and the way that it’s been framed by the CIO, will give me a chance to do some good things.

To some extent, the scope of the change actually makes it easier: it would be even weirder to move into conventional academic administration, or to take any sort of similar role in the state system. All of that said, I had not been looking for a new job when this all started, and so there is still a wee bit of adjustment to get through . . . after grades are submitted for the spring.

I am excited at the opportunity to learn new things, and to work with the Information Technology Services group at Trinity!

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Local legend in the NY Times http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/19/local-legend-in-the-ny-times/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/19/local-legend-in-the-ny-times/#respond Sun, 19 Jul 2009 14:22:26 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/19/local-legend-in-the-ny-times/ Continue reading ]]> George Vecsey’s column this Sunday is about Steve Dalkowski, the fireballing pitcher who struck Maris out on three pitches, convinced Ted Williams to bow out of trying to hit him, and served, in part, as the inspiration for Nuke LaLoosh.

Turns out he’s living in New Britain:

After decades of alcohol abuse, Dalkowski lives in Walnut Hill Care Center in New Britain, Conn., a block from the park where he was a high school star and a bonus baby in the mid-1950s.

His story’s a sad one–he hurt his arm in an era before the surgical reconstruction of pitchers’ arms was commonplace–but it’s a treat to know that he’s living here!

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I may have watched too much Friends http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/15/i-may-have-watched-too-much-friends/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/15/i-may-have-watched-too-much-friends/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2009 16:47:35 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/15/i-may-have-watched-too-much-friends/ Continue reading ]]> People who follow me on Twitter know that this week has been contractor week at chez Salt-Box, with the focus of most efforts being the upstairs bathroom.  (You can see evidence on Flickr: “Things That Are Busted in Our Bathroom“; “Day 2: Return of the Contractor“; and “Day 3: Still Contractin‘.”)

The bathtub’s not cast-iron or porcelain or anything . . . it’s a composite material called “Vikrell,” which is why we could afford it.  I have no idea if this is a good decision, or not–frankly, it’s the best we could do now–but the name is unfortunate.  All I can think of is this episode from Friends, when Ross invents a former boyfriend for Phoebe, named Vikram.

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The zoo! http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/06/the-zoo/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/06/the-zoo/#respond Mon, 06 Jul 2009 12:08:00 +0000 bronx zoosummer 2009 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/07/06/the-zoo/ Continue reading ]]> Yesterday we went to the Bronx Zoo for the first time.  A good time was had by all–as you can see here, we got a pretty up-close visit from a polar bear, plus close encounters with red pandas, baboons, giraffes, and a sea lion.  A few observations:

1. While it’s great that the Eco Restroom near the Bronx River parking lot uses so much less water, the fact that you can smell the restroom throughout the lot probably isn’t a very good advertisment for green building practices.  No one wants to live that way.

2. The Zoo is also particularly heavy-handed in its environmentalist moralizing.  Here’s a small example. I’m sympathetic to the message, but geez!

3. The 6-yr-old’s day was absolutely made by the presenter on the Wild Asia Monorail, a college-age woman who saw his Hulk t-shirt and reported, not only was The Hulk her favorite superhero, but she even named her cat “Banner.”

4.  If you can’t wait until September for the new Mac OS upgrade, you can see all the snow leopards you want at the zoo.  You can even buy a plush one in the gift shop.

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The first science project http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/06/08/the-first-science-project/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/06/08/the-first-science-project/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2009 02:38:04 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/06/08/the-first-science-project/ Continue reading ]]> The 6-yr-old, answering a question from his principal

Last week, the 6-yr-old’s school–the Holmes School for Science & Technology–had its first science fair. (I know, right?  What were they waiting for?)  Anyway, the boy was *super* excited about it, as you can see in this photoset on Flickr,  and he did a project on whether a solution of sugar, epsom salts, or alum will grow the best crystals as they evaporate at room temperature.  (Alum!)

We were a bit surprised at the fair to discover that the judges were evaluating grades K-3 together, using a rubric that included such items as a “lab report” and “three documented sources.”  Now, we both know enough about the scientific method to know that good experiments take into account existing knowledge, but . . . documented sources?  For kindergarteners?   That sounds age-appropriate.

Instead of doing that, we opted for a project that the boy could do, and for a poster that he could design and make himself.  He likes his participant ribbon just fine, and he and the *one* other kindergartener who participated both felt super-proud of themselves, as well they should have.   (They also worked each other into a panic early on, because the instructions had said that judges would interview you about your poster before making a decision.  That didn’t happen, but it took them a couple of minutes to catch on.  The adults you see him talking to in the photoset are my dept. chair, whose younger daughter attends the same school, and the principal.)

He’s already announced that next year he wants to do a project on Darwin.

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For my CT readers: Merlin Mann is @ CCSU next week! http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2009 03:15:47 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/04/20/for-my-ct-readers-merlin-mann-is-ccsu-next-week/ Continue reading ]]> On Tuesday, April 28, Merlin Mann (of 43folders.com, You Look Nice Today: A Journal of Emotional Hygiene, 5ives, 30 Seconds With That Phone Guy, Kung Fu Grippe, and too many awesome things to mention) will be at CCSU.  Mann will give, not one, not two, but THREE public events.  All are free and open to the public, and are located in Alumni Hall in the Student Center.

  • At 5.30pm: Inbox Zero.  How to stop answering e-mail and get on with the work you love–or, at any rate, were hired to do.
  • At 10am: Broken Meetings, and How You’ll Fix Them.  Everyone complains about meetings, but no one does anything about them.  How to change that in a few easy steps.
  • At 3pm: Future-Proof Your Passion: The Job You Never Knew You Wanted.  Merlin Mann explains how he went from “maybe I should repair cash registers” to “comedy podcasts” and “creativity guy.”

Mann is an engaging, funny speaker–as seen at places such as Google, Pixar, Apple, Yahoo!, &c., and at places like sxsw and Macworld.  For my two cents, his steampunk penis pump parody video is among the funniest 4 minutes on the internet, and You Look Nice Today, his joint venture with  Adam Lisagor and Scott Simpson, hits my comedy sweet spot like nothing since the heyday of Suck.

If you’re in Connecticut on Tuesday, I hope you can stop by for one of these three events!

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An offer to UConn http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/17/an-offer-to-uconn/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/17/an-offer-to-uconn/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2009 12:54:45 +0000 http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2009/02/17/an-offer-to-uconn/ Continue reading ]]> Readers outside CT may not be aware that there is currently a mini-scandal in the state about retired employees, including faculty members, who keep working and are thus drawing both pension and pay from the state.  Sometimes this is fairly innocuous–some poor soul keeping her hand in by teaching the odd section of composition, but sometimes, well, sometimes it is a little outrageous:

One retired professor, [name snipped, since it’s not really about him, and I’m sure he’s a fine person who doesn’t deserve to be subjected to all this at the end of his career], teaches two introductory accounting classes each semester and is paid $81,650 per year in salary and more than $174,000 in pension, according to public records.

Regarding the salary of more than $81,000, Hogan said, “That’s what the market is” before adding that the market is even higher. UConn, he said, would need to spend $110,000 to hire an accounting professor as a replacement, and that professor would not teach the 800 students that [snip] currently teaches.

So, as I understand it, the offer is $81,000 for 2 intro classes?

As a service to the state, and as a way to get you off the front pages of the Courant,  I will teach two intro classes per year for $81,000.  Why stop at 800 students?  I will teach 1000 students in the two sections.

Now, you will perhaps object, “but you are a Victorianist, not an accounting professor, and can barely keep up with your checkbook and your (fairly simple) taxes,” which is a fair point.  But I have sabbatical coming up in the fall, and I could use that time to re-train.  Plus, let’s be honest: You don’t *really* care about pedagogy, or you wouldn’t  pack 800 kids into two classes.  Give me a few months with an intro to accounting textbook, and some publisher-supplied online/multimedia content, and everything would work out fine. I’m a good teacher: a two-time excellence-in-teaching award finalist, and a semi-finalist another time.  You can trust me!

(Somewhat more seriously, I’m bemused that the UConn union tolerates this: Unions should attend more to pay equity within the university.  When accounting professors earn $81K/yr, while English and history adjuncts earn pennies per hour . . . something’s badly broken.)

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Overheard at the Genius Bar http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/08/17/overheard-at-the-genius-bar/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/08/17/overheard-at-the-genius-bar/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2007 18:17:52 +0000 apple storectnordstromwest hartfordwestfarms http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/08/17/overheard-at-the-genius-bar/ Continue reading ]]> Standing on line at the Genius Bar Wednesday night, I overheard the end of a transaction between the Genius and a Customer:

G: You’re all set . . . just pull your car to the door in parking lot B1, and I’ll have someone meet you with your iMac.

C:  Great!  But I don’t need anyone to meet me–I got a spot right outside Nordstrom.*  I can carry it that far by myself.

G: Yes, but Nordstrom complains when people walk through their store carrying unboxed computers.  (G & C share an eyeroll.)

Stay classy, Nordstrom!

*Nordstrom is two doors down from the Apple store; it’s easily the most convenient entrance.

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Women and The Wire http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/women-and-the-wire/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/women-and-the-wire/#respond Wed, 25 Jul 2007 18:57:03 +0000 comment is freeguardianmisogynythe wire http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/women-and-the-wire/ Continue reading ]]> Urmee Khan has a terminally silly post this morning at the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free site, arguing that only middle-aged white guys like HBO’s brilliant show, The Wire.  Her chief objection to the show is its treatment of women:

It is misogynistic. All the main characters are men, apart from one woman. It is a world of men, in which many of the women are portrayed as subservient, lap-dancing gangsters’ molls.

This isn’t really true (there are several women who’d count as main characters) as a description of facts on the ground, and it’s just insipid as cultural commentary, inasmuch as it confuses a representation of misogyny with its endorsement.  The show signals pretty clearly indicts even its most sympathetic characters for their attitudes toward women.

She’s not much better on race:

The white characters in The Wire inhabit – usually – a sort of post-race world, where friendships and enmities with black men are denuded of racial tension. There are questions about how realistic this is, but for the purposes of the show, race in The Wire is a background hum rather than a dominating theme. When, in season three, a white detective kills a black colleague, under the mistaken belief he’s a criminal, the “racial element” (as it’s referred to) of the resulting controversy is shown as something unreasonable.

This isn’t an especially reasonable reading of season 3, which includes in it a ludicrous white cop who insists on singling out black cops as character witnesses for the shooter.  It also glosses over racial tensions depicted in the first two seasons.

But my main reason for writing this post is just anecdotal: As far as I can tell, women love The Wire.  That’s how it came into our home, through word-of-mouth from West Hartford moms.  (Think Little Children, and you’re not far off.)  I’d heard of the show for a couple of years, but never queued it on Netflix because I figured A. wouldn’t be interested.  But then Every Single WH Mom she hangs out with started watching it obsessively, plowing through those first 3 seasons on DVD over and over again, and talking about it nonstop at playdates.  So, we started watching, and got hooked.

Frankly, the first scene of the first episode caught us: It’s the greatest opener to any television show.  “This is America–everybody gets to play.”

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What’s your Walk Score? http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/whats-your-walk-score/ http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/whats-your-walk-score/#comments Wed, 25 Jul 2007 12:04:07 +0000 sprawlsuburbswalk scorewalking http://www.jbj.wordherders.net/2007/07/25/whats-your-walk-score/ Continue reading ]]> Via Digital Digs, here’s Walk Score, an interesting Google Maps mash-up that “calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc.”

Our house scored a 28, or Not Walkable.

Which is funny, because we in fact walk everywhere (except the grocery store, but that’s usually because we have the 4 year old in tow).  In particular we walk to work, which for both of us is the fair-sized university  about three or four blocks from home, and which doesn’t show up at all on the Walk Score results.  So while the neighborhood might not be extraordinarily walkable in general, we actually bought the house in order to walk.

Their algorithm is a little peculiar: It sees the campus bookstore as the closest bookstore, but it doesn’t see the campus library.  It also misses the bar right across the street from campus, but it counts the local head shop, Snotlocker, as a “clothing store.”  I don’t think it distinguishes “movie theater” from “theater for plays,” and, again, for both it omits campus as a venue for these.

(I think this is a general problem with the way they harvest data–when I plug in my first address from graduate school, freely available campus resources don’t show up.  As a result, it gets a mediocre walk score, when in fact I lived without a car for three years.)

Those caveats aside, it’s an interesting project–focusing attention on the practical realities of getting around is a good idea.

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