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September 14th, 2016
10:36 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 14 September 2016
Hey, I'm trying to get one of these done on-time for once?   *headdesk*

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. What's changed in your life, home, or community since your last birthday?

Well, reaching back a whole year (hint, hint ...)

We adopted a cat.   Our church youth group collapsed and then was miraculously reborn.   I'm almost done with training to become an AP Workshop Consultant.   I've made a lot of people angry at work.   I'm back as indefinite-interim music director at church.

That enough for now?  :)

2. September is Classical Music Month. Do you like/listen to classical music? If so what's a favorite piece and/or who is a favorite composer?

I used to love listening to classical music at home.   I took piano lessons throughout K-12, and my training was classical (Bach, Beethoven, etc.).   I don't listen nearly so much anymore ... mostly because it's a little too soothing when I'm trying to get stuff done.

Favorite pieces?   Ask me something simple, like which of my children I love more ... :)

3. Besides The Bible, what's a book that has positively changed your life, relationships, career, or perspective? How so?

The one that comes to mind within the last few years, which I think I've talked about in blogs before, is To Forgive Is Human.

I've had problems with bullies in my life (adult bullies, mind you) that I've not known how to forgive --- even if they've asked for forgiveness.   It's impossible to summarize the book in two or three sentences, but .... the book has given me a perspective on forgiveness as something active, not passive.   Forgiveness doesn't say that the offense doesn't matter, or that the offense didn't cause harm.   It does say that the forgiver views the relationship as having enough value to not let the offense sever the relationship.  It's something I'm still working through.

4. I read these ten hobbies will make you smarter...play a musical instrument, read voraciously, meditate regularly, work out your brain (puzzles, sudoku, board games, etc), exercise often, learn a new language, write your feelings down (blog, journal, just write), travel to new places, cook different kinds of meals, participate in sports actively
Are any on this list your current hobbies? Which hobby on the list would you be most inclined to try?

Current hobbies: play a music instrument (keyboard), reading (well, maybe), brainwork, writing feelings (blog/Facebook).

What I'd be most inclined to try: I really should exercise more.   I'm overweight.

5. What sports traditions does your family have?

Every year, for the Super Bowl, my dear wife makes sugar cookies in the shape of football helmets, and decorates them with the helmet designs of the two participating teams.   Then we invite people over to our house for a simple dinner and to watch the Super Bowl.   Alas, in the last few years, nobody's come to the party.   (Is it a party if you invite people and no-one comes?)

6. In a few words, weigh in on the current football/National Anthem brouhaha. Keep it family friendly please.

Several thoughts, mostly about the rhetoric.

A.   I feel like this is a manufactured controversy.    Nobody noticed that Kaepernick wasn't standing for the National Anthem for the first two games of the NFL pre-season.   It was only after someone asked about it in the third game that the whole thing blew up.

B.   If paying respect to the flag during the National Anthem is so important, why are people spending their time looking around at the players on the sideline?   If you're paying respect to the flag, shouldn't you be looking at the flag?

C.   I find it odd that people are complaining about the action as being "offensive".   Of course it's offensive: that's the point of a protest.   If a protest isn't offensive in some manner, no-one notices.

D.   Most importantly ... I hear lots of people complaining about the choice of actions, and I hear very few people talking about the complaints of those behind the protests.   Which, to a certain extent, proves the point of the protestors: American society tends to turn a blind eye to those concerns until they're forced to deal with them.

7. Where do you have loads of patience, and where do you most lack patience?

I feel like I have loads of patience in the classroom and with individual students; a student who is honestly trying to master the material will get a great deal of my attention.

Where do I lack patience?   Lately ... hypocrisy.   I'll leave it at that.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Tomorrow, I turn 30.

(If you count in hexidecimal.)

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September 1st, 2016
06:35 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 31 August-1 September 2016
Yeah, I fell off the wagon for a few weeks.   Let's try this again, shall we?

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1.  Are there any men or women in blue on your family tree?

Nope.   I have ancestors who fought in the Civil War --- on both sides --- but that's about as close as our family has been to that form of public service.

2. Are you someone who suffers from the Sunday night blues? What helps you get over it?

Perhaps a little, but not much.

Part of it is that I married a woman who believes in a somewhat strict observance of Sabbath --- no vocational work on Sundays.  And I've taken up the practice.   Don't get me wrong --- we're not legalists about it.   But we rather unabashedly plan on spending Sunday doing things that we choose to do instead of things we're paid to do.   It does make the other six days go more smoothly.

3. I read the color blue is an appetite suppressant since there are very few naturally blue foods out there. How do you feel about blue cheese? Love it or blech? If you're a fan, what's something you like that's made with blue cheese?

Blue cheese is an abomination, right next to shaved coconut.   It's one of the very few foods for me that causes a gag reflex.

4. We can't head in to the Labor Day weekend without a related question, can we? Complete this thought: I work best when____________________.

... the work I'm doing is valuable --- not just to me, but to others.

5. 'Everything yields to diligence.' Antiphanes Your thoughts? (on this particular quote or on diligence in general)

Nope.  Some things (and some people) are immovable.

6. The National Park Service turned 100 years old on August 25th. Have you been to many of America's National Parks? If so share with us a favorite or two. Which National Park would you most like to visit before the next birthday rolls around?

I'm sure I've visited a few in the various vacations we've taken, but it's hard to make a list.   Yellowstone was probably the last one I visited, just a few years ago, so that's the one that is most prominent in my memory.   Absolutely stunning natural views.

7.  Bid farewell to August in seven words or less.

You load sixteen tons, and whaddya get?

(Okay, I cheated on the word count.   Deal with it.)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This week, I received two of the oddest complements, from two different people at work.   I won't repeat them --- partially because it would be self-serving, and partially because it would take too long to explain them.   But one thing they had in common: people recognizing the unpleasant work that I've taken on, and how well I seem to be doing it.   It was quite encouraging.   A lot of the time, I don't feel like anyone notices the value I contribute to the organization.   This week showed me that what I do is making a difference.

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July 14th, 2016
01:13 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 13-14 July 2016
Yeah, I'm late.   What else is new?  :)

The Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or is it more the other way around?

"More" is an interesting word, which makes it hard to answer the question.

Certainly, I'm influenced by the world; we all are.

But I'm also a teacher.  My job is, by definition, to influence young people.   So I'm sure I'm influencing the world.   I hope it's for the better.   (I'm pretty sure that it is for the better, but that's a judgment for others to make, not I.)

2. July 14th is National Tape Measure Day...the device was patented on this date in 1868. When did you last use a tape measure? Do you always know where to find one in your house? Tell us one way in which you feel blessed 'beyond measure'.

I honestly can't remember the last time I used a tape measure for any purpose, though I know I was trying to find one recently (in the toolbox in the hall closet, by the way) because someone else needed it for some project or other.

Blessed beyond measure?   (Warning: sentimental ramblings ahead.)

When it comes to romantic relationships, I see so much brokenness --- not just globally and nationally, but locally.   I see young people jumping from bed to bed, trying to find intimacy and settling for sensuality.   I see marriages casually thrown away (even after decades) because one party or the other gets bored.   I see business that have to set rules for how people relate to one another because of the ways people use power to get sex, or use sex to get power.   I see people "settling" for whatever comes along instead of holding on to their high standards.

And I see the woman I married 22 years ago ... and I am incredibly grateful.

Not in the superficial, cheesy sense of "gee, I'm grateful that she hasn't dumped me yet."

I am grateful that I have a life partner: a helpmate (Genesis 2) with whom I share hopes, dreams, ambitions, values, interests, beliefs, intentions, and ideas.   Oh, and with whom I also share a bank account, a mortgage, a Netflix password, and a bed.

While some of those 22 years together is a result of our mutual commitment to stay married "until death us do part", I also know that some of this is only possible because of God's gracious gift to us.   In a world of brokenness, we are knit together tightly.   And God gets the credit for making that possible.

The nicknames we use for our spouses vary from the ridiculous to the sublime.   One of the better ones I've heard is "my better half".   I've come to appreciate that phrase more and more over the years.   She makes me better than I am.

And, for that reason, I am blessed beyond measure.

3.The Plaza Hotel (Eloise), The Land of Oz (The Wizard of Oz), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), The Hundred Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh), Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), or Never Never Land (Peter Pan)...which storybook land (on this list!) would you most like to visit and why?

Perhaps the Hundred Acre Wood.   It's hard to pick ... frankly, I'm more of an indoors person than an outdoors one.   But A.A. Milne's stories are so delightful ... it would be lovely just to spend an afternoon looking for heffalumps, or finding a birthday gift for Eeyore, or just walking hand in hand with Piglet.

4. Where and when do you get your best ideas?

I don't have a good answer for this.   Good ideas come and go, depending on context.

5.  So what have you been watching on TV this summer? Anything good?

In terms of live TV?   We're big fans of BattleBots.   After that's over, we need to catch-up on Agents of SHIELD.

But over the last few weeks, now that the kids are out of school, we've been trying to get my daughter caught up on movies that she needs to see to be "culturally relevant".   Of course, "culturally relevant" mostly means "understanding the movies we keep quoting" or, at least this summer, "seeing enough prequels so we can take you to the movies with us".   The last week or so, it was watching selected movies from the Star Trek franchise in order to be ready for Star Trek Beyond when it releases.

6. 'Don't swim for an hour after you eat', 'Dog days of summer', 'Knee high by the Fourth of July'...choose a summer saying from the list or share one of your own, then tell us what image or memory comes to mind when you hear it spoken.

Of those ... I think it's "Dog Days of Summer".   I've never been one to enjoy hot temperatures, and those middle two weeks of August here in Michigan where it's consistently in the 90s every single day are just really looooooong to endure.

7. In a single sentence, sum up one life lesson you've learned.

You can accomplish a whole lot more than you think you can --- especially when you're tired.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It's the first week of the semester, and I still feel out-of-sorts.   I don't feel in-phase yet with my students.   This, too, will pass; I'll get to know them, they'll get to know me, and we'll get there.   But it's not there just yet.

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July 6th, 2016
05:29 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 6 July 2016
It's baaaaaaaaaack .........

1. How did you welcome the month of July, and tell us one fun thing you did to celebrate the 4th. (or the weekend for any non-USA residents playing along today)

We welcomed the month of July by driving home from our annual vacation at Cedar Campus.   I've talked about Cedar many times before; this place is holy ground for us, and it's an important week for our family.

July 4th?  We had a fairly relaxed day ... slept wait, took in a movie (X-Men: Apocalypse), then tried a new Mediterranean restaurant for dinner.

2. Right now..what's your favorite red thing? white thing? blue thing?

Um.   Wow, this is hard.   I don't think of a lot of things in my environment as "favorite" things.

Red?   Oh ... look at this cherry cobbler sitting on the table here.   I love summer cooking with fresh fruit.  :)
White?   I can't think of a lot of things around me that are dominantly white in color.   Maybe the new set of socks I just bought, because the old ones all had holes?
Blue?   Here, it's the opposite problem, because lots of things in my world are blue.  Probably I'd have to pick a jacket that I received as a gift for attending a teaching retreat here at Kettering.   It fits well, and looks sharp.

3. Wave the white flag, raise a red flag, fly your freak flag...which 'flag' have you flown most recently? Explain.

Wave the white flag.   I'm having to learn how to give up the unrealistic expectations I set up for myself, and trying to say "no" to things.   Saying "no" to good things is hard, but I'm about to be over-extended for the next six months, and I've got to do a better job of being extremely selfish about my self-care.

4. According to Cond Nast Traveler these are the seven best places to visit in July-
a boat safari in Botswanna's Okavango Delta, Riviera Maya Mexico (it's whale shark season and apparently you can swim with them), Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, Pamploma Spain, St. Petersburg Russia, the Fuji Rock Festival at Mount Naeba Japan, the Salzburg Festival in Salzburg Austria
If time and money weren't factors would you want to see any/all of these? Which would you most like to see and why?

I haven't taken the time to really investigate most of these.   My uninformed glance through the list suggests the Salzburg Festival ... I've really enjoyed the little time I spent in Europe during my mad research days, and I think that might be delightful.

5. Grilled cheese, pimento cheese, or mac and cheese...your favorite from the cheesy treats listed?

I used to love pimento cheese spread when I was a kid ... haven't had it in ages.   Between the other two, I'd pick mac and cheese ... I've never been an amazing fan of grilled cheese, and people are doing all sorts of interesting things with mac and cheese these days.

6. What makes you sweat?

What doesn't?  :)

Seriously ... most outdoor exertion.   I'm overweight.

7. Your favorite movie with a 'patriotic' theme of some sort?

This is really hard for me, as the jingoism that often accompanies displays of patriotism bothers me.   Paradoxically, some of the older wartime movies have appeal --- at least the ones that have some sort of strategic elements in them.   The Longest Day and The Great Escape come to mind.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

So, I didn't do much hodgepodge blogging over my non-teaching term (April-June); I think the different rhythm of my days meant that I wasn't thinking about doing this.   And then I went to the AP Reading in June and had several people tell me how much they enjoyed my blog entries, especially the Hodgepodge.   It still surprises me that people like reading what I write.  :).   So, I'm going to try to get back into the habit of writing once again.   It's a good muscle for me to exercise now and then.

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April 27th, 2016
12:41 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 27 April 2016
So I missed a few weeks, and then the Hodgepodge took a week off.  Let's try to get back into this, shall we?

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side Of The Pond.

1. This is the last Hodgepodge in April. Share something you learned this month.

On Spring Break with my family, we spent a couple of days in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.   I'd seen the movie, and knew the broad outlines of the Civil War, but it was fascinating to see the land itself and put all the pieces together in my head.

It was also interesting to accidentally end up eating lunch at a local pub which happened to be the headquarters of both the Union and Confederate cast members during the shooting of the movie.   Apparently, the Confederate cast was a rather rowdy bunch, enjoying themselves nightly the pub.   One night, the actor who played General Pickett jumped onto the bar and shouted "I've finally taken the high ground!".

2.  It's National Poetry Month, and we all know you can't escape an April Hodgepodge without a little poetry. Keeping the first line as is, change the rest of the wording in this familiar rhyme to make it your own - 'Hickory Dickory Dock...

Hickory, Dickory, Dock
There's no one on our block
Our house just sits
Alone, but its
A lovely example of nonconformism.

3. What were one or two rules in the home you grew up in? Growing up, did you feel your parents were strict? Looking back do you still see it that way?

About the only "rule" I really remember was "call when you get home".   My mother re-entered the workforce when we moved to a new home at the beginning of my junior high days; she wanted to know that we were home safely from school each day.   It wasn't a long call (because she had work to do, of course), but it helped her know all was well at home.

I didn't think my folks were particularly strict or lax, either then or now.

4. Tell us about a kitchen or cooking disaster or mishap you've experienced. Do you have many from which to choose?

The story I always tell ...

The time that I truly lived on my own was the summer after my junior year of college, when I got a summer job working for IBM in Rochester, Minnesota.   I'd never really "cooked" anything in my life; okay, I could open a box of frozen stuff and stick it in the oven or microwave, but that was it, really.   When I rented an efficiency apartment in Minnesota, my mother fully expected that I'd just eat out for every meal.  I said that I really shouldn't do that, and we assembled a small collection of kitchen items to allow me to move forward.   Mom even sent me a package with a frying pan and a "Cooking for One" cookbook.

So far, so good.

I look through the cookbook.   There's a recipe in there for fried rice.   Excellent; I love Chinese food, and the instructions appear pretty simple.   I go to the supermarket, buy all the ingredients, get home, open up the recipe.   First ingredient in the recipe: "two cups cooked rice".   I grab the box of rice and look at it: right there, on the label, it says "pre-cooked rice".   Great!   So I poor out two cups of the contents of the package directly into the frying pan and continue with the rest of the recipe.

The results were ... a little crunchy.

I had to do it a second time before I finally realized that "pre-cooked" meant something else, and that, yes, indeed, I needed to cook the rice before I could fry it.

5. Plant a kiss, plant doubt, plant a tree, plant yourself somewhere...which on the list have you most recently planted?

Probably a kiss.   I love my wife.

6. What's your most worn item of clothing this time of year? Are you tired of it?

Right now, I'm wearing a lightweight jacket that I received last month from Kettering's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning as a part of its inaugural Great Teachers Retreat.   It's very comfy.

7. I'm wrapping up the A-Z Blog Challenge this month and our Hodgepodge lands on letter W. What's one word beginning with W that describes you in some way? How about a word to describe your home, also beginning with W?

For me: the word is weary.

For my home ... it's probably "welcome".   As Robert Frost said: "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

8. Insert your own random thought here.

This non-teaching term is going ... oddly.   News from work is discouraging, and so I'm almost deliberately saying "screw it, I'm staying home and playing, because I'm going to stress out unbelievably in July".   Which is, on the one hand, something I probably should've started doing years ago.   But I hate that I'm doing it.

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March 31st, 2016
12:34 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 30-31 March 2016
The Wednesday(-ish) Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. What are two or three expectations you have of yourself?

Mostly, that I put forth my best effort, and that I speak the truth (tempered with love if needed, but still the truth).

2. In what way does your outdoor space need sprucing up this spring?

It's hard for me to say.   In our household, care of the outdoor space mostly falls to my dear wife.   But we've had a few things fall down on our property (one ancient picnic table, one tree) that probably need to be disassembled for safety reasons.

3. According to this site (Roadtrippers), six of North America's most wondrous waterfalls are-Webster's Falls in Ontario, Upper Whitewater Falls in North Carolina, Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, Multnomah Falls in Oregon, The Lower Yellowstone Falls, and Niagara. Have you seen any on the list? Which one on the list would you most like to visit? Prettiest waterfall not on the list that you've seen in person?

The ones that I can remember seeing are Yellowstone and Niagara, both within the last few years.   As for visiting ... I wouldn't know how to pick one.  

4. Looking back, what's something you wish you'd done as a teenager?

I don't have many regrets.   But if I do have one, I think it would be learning how to cook.   My dear wife loves cooking, and so chooses to cook most of the family meals as an act of pleasure for her.    When I pitch in to help by preparing a meal or two, my skill set is limited; mostly, cooking pre-packaged foods.  I'm starting to branch out ever so slightly, thanks to the acquisition of a gas grill a few years ago, and realizing that grill cooking is pretty easy.   But I always feel like my meal preparations aren't really "cooking".

5. Ham...yes please or no thank you? If you said yes please which of the following do you like best-baked ham with all the trimmings, a ham and cheese sandwich, prosciutto with melon, a ham biscuit, a bowl of split pea and ham soup, or a slice of pizza topped with ham and pineapple?

Oh, yes, please.   It's a hard choice between "baked him with all the trimmings" (memories of family) and "ham and pineapple pizza".

6. Are you typical of your generation? How so?

Oh, heavens, no.  

I'm a practicing evangelical Christian who believes in a thoughtful approach to the Christian life.   I was blessed to live with parents who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   My wife (whose parents also just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary) and I never slept together or lived together before our wedding night.   I don't drink beverage alcohol, mostly because I've never liked the taste of anything I've tried.   And I don't drink coffee.

7. April rolls in at the end of the week, and in keeping with that theme...'act the fool', 'nobody's fool', 'a fool's errand', 'could have fooled me'...which foolish idiom most recently applies to you? Explain.

I regularly "act the fool" ... but that's part of the job of being a university professor.   Entering the classroom is often like walking onto a stage as an actor; I play the part prepared for me, in order to engage the audience with the activity of the day.   For an introvert like me, that's often "acting the fool" in order to bring students along into the material.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I am entering the most dangerous part of the year for me: my non-teaching term.   Five months of "important" tasks to do in the next three months, and the most important of those tasks is probably resting and leaving that list of tasks undone.   Not being in the classroom is hard; while the flexibility in time schedules is wonderful, I also don't get the benefit of interacting with my students.

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March 26th, 2016
10:45 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 22-26 March 2016
The Wednesday(-ish) Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. Has spring sprung in your little corner of the world? Other than the calendar how would I know? What's your favorite thing about spring?

Spring is getting here.   In this corner of the world, spring arrives in fits and starts ... we'll have a few days of warm weather, and then the next week we'll have snow.   Mostly, I notice it's spring because of the retiurn of daylight over more hours of the day.

My favorite thing about spring?   Because of my weird academic schedule, it's the arrival of my non-teaching term.   Three months to do the five months of work I save up for then.  :(   Seriously, though, it's my chance to attempt to step back and relax a little and try to clear the deck of all those annoying little tasks that build up over time.

2. Besides the weather, what's put a spring in your step recently?

I just got back from a one-day retreat focused on teaching, sponsored by our on-campus teaching center.   It was nice to take some time --- even if briefly --- with like-minded people to think about good things.

And maybe --- just maybe --- I got an idea or two for a research project?   We'll have to see.

3. How does Easter impact you?

Someone once said that "in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is."

In theory, Easter has a huge impact on me.   I'm an evangelical Christian.   Without Easter, there is no Christianity; Easter is the fundamental event at the core of Christianity.   If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then all of us Christians are fools.

In practice ... the specific observance of the Easter holiday tends not to impact me much.   Part of that is living in a secular world (and, in particular, a University world) that pays no attention to Easter.   Today is Holy Saturday, and I'm typing this while proctoring my algorithms final exam.   I spent a good part of Good Friday working on administrative tasks and grading.   The world marches on to its own pace, and I follow along.

Also, Easter tends to fall at the time of the year when I'm just finishing up nine months straight of teaching (see above), and I'm tired and burned out.   It's hard for me to muster a lot of enthusiasm about anything just now.

Not treating Easter as special is not necessarily a bad thing.   There are sects within Christianity that do not celebrate specific holidays like Christmas and Easter, because every Sunday (indeed, every day) is supposed to be a celebration of those things.   I would hope that people would see Christ in the life that I live each day.   That's a matter for others to decide.

I'd like to think that Easter was a bigger deal for me.   But, in total honesty ... not so much.

4. I saw this somewhere on Facebook and thought it would make a fun Hodgepodge question. Which of the following would you find most disappointing...
a just stuffed taco shell breaking open and spilling out before you take the first bite? dropping a just-purchased Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts coffee? opening the peanut butter jar and finding it empty? upending onto the sidewalk a just-purchased ice cream cone? a burnt bagel popping up in your toaster when you're rushing breakfast? or cutting into an avocado and finding out it's rotten?

The ice cream cone.   Not sure why ... just seems like the greater tragedy.

5. What's something held together with tape at your house? Or a paper clip? Or a wing and a prayer?

The only thing that I can think of right now is the connection between the dryer exhaust and the outside vent.  Lots of duct tape.

6. Do you feel underappreciated? In what way?

I think this question is why I waited so long to finish this week's blog entry.

I feel appreciated by people in my life.   There are a small number of people who go out of their way to show me that I am important to them, and invest what few resources they have in showing me that.   You know who you are, and I thank you for that.

I feel unappreciated by organizations in my life.   There are many times that I feel like the work I do for those organizations is not valued by those in power and authority.   And while many individuals in those same organizations will reach out to me and show me they value me, their ability to express that is limited by their position in the organization.

And, yet, organizations are composed of people.

Of course, this question comes at a time when I am considering (see above) the sacrifice of Christ, who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but voluntarily made himself nothing (Phillippians 2).   It makes it extremely hard to talk about being appreciated when I serve a God who was actively despised and rejected.

7. What's something you'd build if you knew how?

A house.   I'm a little bit jealous of the folks I know who aspire to buying a piece of property and building a house on it.   I'm never exactly sure how much of their own sweat equity goes into that process.   But it'd be nice to be in such a privileged position to be able to do something like that.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I want to give a shout-out to another frequent contributor to "From This Side of the Pond", Barbara.   I had the chance to see her this week ... unfortunately, the reason for seeing her was a funeral.  Barbara, my thoughts are with y'all.

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March 20th, 2016
11:05 pm
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 16-20 March 2016
Yeah, I'm late.   I'm sure you're all surprised.  :)

The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. What do you think about luck?

I think he's a fine quarterback.   It's got to be hard to be the quarterback that follows Peyton Manning, and have to live with that unfair comparison.   Even amidst all of that, he's certainly one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.

Oh, wait ... that's not what you meant?   :)

As a serious Christian, I don't like the connotations that surround the word "luck".   I believe that random chance will, randomly, result in occurrences that will seem favorable to an observer.   I believe that God sometimes chooses, of His own free will, to intervene in this world and create good things out of bad situations.   You might call those things "luck", I suppose.

But I object to any notion that people can, by their own actions, influence the laws of chance or the sovereignty of God in order to compel results in their favor.   It's unscientific, and it's idolatry.

2. Not counting your own backyard, what's a favorite green space in your town, city, or state?

As I've said any number of times ... my favorite space in Michigan is Cedar Campus in Cedarville, MI.   For decades, that place has been holy ground for me and my family.

3. How do you make your life more complex than it needs to be?

How don't I make things more complex?  :)

Mostly, it's because I feel guilty about the fact that, at this point in my life, I can't do everything that I want to do, or everything that's expected of me.   My life would be a lot simpler if I didn't inflict myself with guilt.

4. I read here the three places you should visit with friends. They are-New York City, Hawaii, and Amsterdam (rent a bike, walk along the canal, visit one of their world class museums). I felt the need to expound on that one. Moving on...Of the three places listed which would you most like to visit with friends? What's one place not on the list you think should be visited with friends?

With friends?   Probably Hawaii.  I'm discovering that as I get older, I'm less enamored with large busy cities.   I'm sure Hawaii is full of busy places, of course, because of its focus on tourism ... but I think I'd have a better chance of getting some time out in nature than with the other two.

What other place should be visited with friends?   Did I mention that Cedar Campus is holy ground?

5. What's the last live performance you saw? On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being best) how would you rate it?

Last month, I attended a performance at my daughter's high school of Much Ado About Nothing.   It was an interesting production.   The performance itself ... well, it was high school students, who are just learning their craft, and it's not fair to criticize high school students for not being Kenneth Branagh or Emma Thompson.   So I'll pass on the numerical rating.

The artistic direction, however, was fascinating, for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the director chose a steampunk theme ... which at least made the sets and costumes much more interesting than usual.  I know it's fashionable to take Shakespeare and put it in usual settings ... and I approve of the fashion when it works well.  And, here, it did work nicely.

But the most fascinating thing about the production was the portrayal of Claudio (the lead male actor).

The actor was in a wheelchair.   That worked reasonably well with the steampunk themes, and the cast made the wheelchair fit into the plot quite well.  (For example, when Don Pedro impersonates Claudio at the masquerade ball, Don Pedro uses Claudio's wheelchair to keep the impersonation intact.)   The actor appeared occasionally with forearm crutches to allow for moments on stage without the chair.

And then, during the curtain call, when Claudio and Hero came to stage center for their applause, the actor wheeled up, stood up, took his bow, and then walked off stage, without any physical aid whatsoever.   The actor had no physical disability, but had portrayed the disability faithfully throughout the performance as a part of the character.

It was a fascinating directoral choice.   And .... it worked.

6. March 14th is National Potato Chip Day. Are you a fan? Your favorite flavor? Besides potato, what's your favorite chip type of snack?

Potato chips are okay.   They're not my favorite food, because ... well, I'm overweight, and I shouldn't like them.   I tend more towards tortilla chips with salsa.

My favorite flavor?   If I'm just looking for taste, it's Pringles Sour Cream and Onion.   But the time I tend to eat potato chips these days is when driving on long trips, in which case I go for salt and vinegar.   It's not that I like the taste; I don't.   But the salt and vinegar is so overpoweringly sour that it helps to keep me awake.

7.What rule is most important in your home?

I'm not sure it's a "rule", but ... if I had to put words to it, it's "respond when someone asks a question".   We've had ordinary situations get a little out of control when someone was thinking about a response to a question for so long that the questioner thought they were being ignored.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Last week, before the NCAA Basketball Tournament began, the radio stations around town were all a-buzz with news of Mateen Cleaves, local college basketball hero who had a modest NBA career, being charged with sexual assault.   The details are sketchy as of yet, but according to the prosecution, the facts are these:

Cleaves (who I believe is married) met the woman and her boyfriend at a charity event.  He offered to give her a ride home, and instead he took her to a motel, where the assault allegedly took place.   He's proclaimed his innocence, but has deferred giving any explanation until the trial (as is his right).

Obviously, like any case of acquaintance rape, this is going to get messy --- publicly messy --- before it's all over.   The mess has already begun, in fact; while the crime allegedly took place in Genesee County (where I live and work), the case is being prosecuted by the Wayne County prosecutor, because the Genessee County prosecutor has an unspecified conflict of interest (reportedly, a business relationship with a potential witness).

But that's not where my thought lies.

As I've been listening to folks talking about this on the radio (aside: it's sometimes really painful to hear sports commentators talking about sexual ethics and legal issues!), one thought came to mind.

I'm an old-fashioned, conservative, religious prude.   And it's at times like this that I'm so happy that I am exactly that.

I can't begin to fathom what it's like for people in today's society who practice a looser sexual ethic.   You meet someone at a party; how in the world do you decide that you're going to be sexually intimate with them in a few hours?   How do you know that you have affirmative consent for that sexual intimacy?   Are they sober enough to consent?   Are they consenting because of some external pressure rather than true consent?   Are they lying to you?   How would you know?

And next weekend, when you go to a different party, how in the world do you answer all of those questions again with a completely different person?

My life is much simpler.

There's exactly one person in the entire world with whom I'm allowed to be sexually intimate.   It took me two and a half years to get her to say "yes" (or, technically, "I do").   I spent those years learning about all the different ways she says "yes" and "no", so that I would clearly recognize them once we were married.   I have incredible incentive to make sure that I get the signals right, because I have to wake up next to her the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that --- and I will suffer the consequences in our relationship if I get it wrong.   I've learned that I can trust her, and she's learned that she can trust me.

And there's absolutely nobody else with whom I'm allowed to be sexually intimate.   Period.   I shouldn't come within half a mile of a motel room with a woman who isn't my wife, because absolutely nothing good can come from that.  

And I haven't even begun to talk about Christian theology.  Which I'll save for some other time, because that's not really the point of this "thought".

There are times being an old-fashioned, conservative, religious prude makes my life much, much easier.

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March 9th, 2016
03:26 pm
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The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. March is National Women's History Month. In that vein, who are three women who've been influential in your life? How so?

The first two are easy: my mother and my wife.   Any words I would offer would be inadequate to describe how they continuously act on my behalf to make me a better person.

The third ... is more difficult to pick.  Perhaps I will go "old school" and pick Ada Lovelace, without whom I probably wouldn't have a job.

2. In what ways do you think women have it easier than men?

Honestly, I can't think of a single way.

3. What do you need most right now: faith, love, hope, or peace?

Hope.   In so many areas of my life, I feel like I'm going through the motions because that's what I'm supposed to be doing.   I'd like to have some sort of vision of the future that motivates me to keep doing this (or change doing this) because of what's coming as a result.

4. Do you have a collection? If so, what do you collect and why?

It took me a while to think about this, because I don't know that I have an active collection.  But I do collect pathtags, which are a form of tradeable souvenirs popular in the geocaching community.   (Aside: I really need to make a set of my own and start giving back.)

In the past, I had some collections.   My mother had helped me develop a collection of Charlie Brown comic books ... alas, I lost most of them in a basement water accident a few years ago.   I have a collection of pennants which were my souvenirs of choice from amusement park visits as a kid.   More recently, I was collecting small stuffed bears with state names on them, as souvenirs for my daughter when I went on business trips; alas, they no longer seem to make those bears.

5. Plaids, checks, polka dots, stripes...your favorite?

Probably stripes.   I'm not terribly splashy when it comes to clothing style.
6. In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?

Studious, to a fault ... even to the point of being socially awkward.

7. You're a contestant on the TV game show Jeopardy. What category will you ace?

Computing-related stuff.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Two more weeks left in the term.   Hoping I can get through it ... I am so burned out right now ...

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March 5th, 2016
08:12 am
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Wednesday Hodgepodge: 2-5 March 2016
The Wednesday Hodgepodge appears courtesy of From This Side of the Pond.

1. February ended with an extra 24 hours in 2016. What did you do with your bonus day?

Well, actually ... I hosted a lunchtime gathering of geocachers at a local burger joint.  By "hosted", mostly I meant that I filled out the paperwork online to create the event.   I was amazed that 35 people came out for the event.  A good time was had by all, and I did pretty much nothing to make it happen.

2. What's something in your life that's grown by leaps and bounds in recent days, weeks, months, or years? I'm giving you lots of room to come up with an answer here, so no fair passing on this one.

I'm slowly realizing (mostly, thanks to that "On This Day" feature on Facebook) that I spend a lot more time complaining about work.   Not my students --- far from it.   My students are the joy of my day.   It's the administrative crap, and the professional development, that's dragging me down.   I need to find ways to start breaking out of this vicious cycle.   I suppose naming it is a first step, right?

3. Do you read reviews about a film before deciding if you'll see it? Did you watch The Oscars this year, and if so your thoughts on the program? How many of the Best Picture nominees had you seen prior to the broadcast? (Spotlight, The Martian, The Big Short, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, and Brooklyn) If you watched The Oscars who gets your award for 'best dressed'?

I don't watch the Oscars anymore ... not that I'm not interested, it's just that I rarely see enough of the named films to have any sense as to what's going on.   I didn't see any of this year's Best Picture nominees ... we had wanted to see The Martian, but life just got too hectic.   I find we're not getting out to the movies much anymore ... which saddens me a bit, as it was a natural date night.

Reviews?   I tend not to read them too much.   In part, that's because my wife and I tend to enjoy more escapist fare than the elite reviewers will like (or admit to liking).   So movie reviews don't tend to offer much helpful information.   Sometimes, if there's a particular question I'm interested in, I'll seek out specific reviews --- Focus on the Family runs the pluggedin.com review site, which does a nice job of reviewing movies from Christian perspectives, but in a thoughtful way (i.e. the rating isn't just a measurement of how many curse words you hear).   Especially when Biblical movies seem to be all the rage, it's nice to get some perspective on the difference between Noah (which was almost unrecognizable from a Biblical perspective) and Risen (which was faithful to the source material while providing a different perspective).

4. When did you last have overnight houseguests? Give us your top three tips on being a good houseguest.

Probably the last overnight guests we've had were friends of my dear daughter.   I don't know that I have tips on being a houseguest, other than being a nice person in general.

5. March 2nd is Peanut Butter Lover's Day. Will you be celebrating? If so, would you prefer a home made peanut butter cookie, a Reese's peanut butter cup, an old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or shall I just hand you a jar and a tablespoon?

I completely missed this ... of course, I'm traveling right now, so that's not surprising.   Of the options, I'll take the peanut butter cup.  (I shouldn't, but my sweet tooth ...)

6. Why is failure important? Or isn't it?

Oh my heavens, yes, failure is important.   Charles Kettering (the namesake of my employer) has tons of quotes about failure; it's hard to pick just one.   I'll go with this one:

An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn't take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates form college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. It he succeeds once then he's in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.

Training people to fail is hard.

7. Share with us one fun thing on your March calendar.

Probably the biggest highlight is what I'm doing now ... sitting at the SIGCSE Symposium in Memphis, with like-minded folks learning how to do a better job of being a CS educator.   (More in the next item ...)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

This event is often a bit of a touchstone for me.   It's good to hang out with "my people" (mostly, my APCS people) and remember that ... well, yes, everyone has unreasonable administrators that only give lip-service to the stuff that really matters.  Sometimes I walk away with amazing insights.

This time?   I don't know.   I mean, I've been hearing lots of interesting stuff and all, but ... I've felt unsettled throught the whole event, just trying to get my bearings so that I can figure out what I'm supposed to be hearing and doing.  

Part of that unsettlement goes back --- yet again --- to my feelings of professional angst.  But maybe even that is making a bit of progress.

Impostor syndrome is real .... and, professionally, I'm suffering from it a lot right now.   Some of that is, I suppose, to be expected, because I'm still flailing around trying to find a research program to initiate.   And I feel inadequate because I don't have one ... especially when well-meaning folks walk up and say "So, what's your research program?" and it's really not nice to say "well, I don't have one".  

But some discussions I had with colleagues this week --- one colleague in particular --- have reminded me that it's okay to be there.   It's part of the problem of attending conferences where people present completed work; you don't see the years of effort it took to get there, only the polished final results.  

There's a quote from a West Wing episode: "there has been a time in the evolution of everything that works when it didn't work."   That's where I am right now; research isn't working for me right now.   But I need to remember that this doesn't have to be a permanent condition, and that I may not realize that it's working again until it's almost done.

I believe; Lord, help my unbelief.

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