Locking up grandma

January 10, 2014

I recently returned from visiting my mother. She’s in an assisted living facility and we are investigating a memory care facility, although she does not need it yet. The memory care facility locks the residents in. While touring the facility, one man suggested I put her there now, so she can adjust to it. What? She doesn’t need it yet, she’s happy where she is, and they want me to move her? I would certainly be unhappy to be put in a locked facility when I didn’t need it. It would seem like imprisonment. No, more accurately, it would be imprisonment.

I don’t resent the freedoms I’ve given up with age, because it is the price I pay for living as long as I have, but I am aware of them. I have many limitations that I didn’t have when I was younger. I spend more of my time and energy staying healthy. It takes me longer to do many things. I have trouble learning my students’ names. The list goes on.

My mother was unhappy when we persuaded her to give up her car. I don’t blame her, because having a car means freedom to go places. I will be unhappy when I reach the point I cannot work, since the ability to work is another kind of freedom. She is in her nineties. She may never need to go to the memory care facility. She could go into a nursing home or die before she goes there. I am not going to try to lock her up until she needs to be locked up.


The Fall of Larkesong

December 23, 2013

My friend Summer Hanford has a short story available on Amazon. It will be free on December 25th and 26th.

The Fall of Larkesong

The Fall of Larkesong

Different priorities

November 6, 2013

I talked to someone who is working part time and claims he is under employed. He’s spending more than he’s making. At one point in the conversation, he mentioned getting a bottle of water. I suggested a drinking fountain, which was actually closer than the machine selling water. No, he wanted a bottle of water. I realize this is not a major issue, but if I were short on money, I wouldn’t buy water.


I do not want this student

September 21, 2013

She asked me if she could observe my class. I am not supposed to let anyone in who isn’t registered, but I was tempted to say yes. Why not? It wouldn’t hurt. But instead of giving way to temptation, I told her I wasn’t accepting new students. Three weeks of class passed. It was late to start.

She said she was already registered for another section of the class and she just wanted to change sections. What she did not tell me revealed more than what she told me. She did not tell me she had a conflict with work or child care. She did not give me a reason for her desire for a change of section. She was not going to ask me to accept her as a student until she observed me.

She was teacher shopping. I don’t want someone who was teacher shopping. They tend to be picky. If it took her three weeks to find out the teacher was bad, it wasn’t because the teacher’s foreign accent wasn’t understandable. It could easily be because the student had a bad grade or did not understand the material.

Another student asked me to let him join my class after two weeks of class. When I told him it was too late, he started to explain. “My psychiatrist said” were the first three words of his explanation. I don’t want to deal with a student whose psychiatrist is telling him something that makes him not follow the rules. The rules say one should register before the semester starts, not at the end of the second week of class.

I did give permission for one student to come in late. It was a student I had in a previous semester and a work conflict made him have to change sections. This student had two things going for him: I knew he wasn’t a problem student and he had a good reason for the change in sections.

I can’t keep problem students out of my class if they register on time, but I no longer invite them in when they want to come in late.



August 22, 2013

The community college where I work is going to restructure. If I go by the comments of the faculty, most of the faculty objects to what is being done. I certainly have misgivings about the department chair covering all three campuses and not someone who is in the department. I like having easy access to the chair and having someone who still teaches being the one who makes the decisions as the chair.

I haven’t paid much attention to the arguments in favor of this structure, although they were available online. In the opening meeting, the college president said we were going with this structure. Over the next couple of days, I heard quite a number of people saying very vague things in support of it. There is only one argument that I heard repeated: Good people will make any structure work.


I am pretty sure that I didn’t hear the same message that the people who were supposed to support restructuring were trying to send. I heard that there is little justification for the changes, but we can make it work. Maybe I’ll retire before it does too much damage.

An apology is not enough

August 4, 2013

It took me a long time to learn it, but the best apologies often come from people who need to apologize most often. Of course they know what makes a good apology. They’ve had practice.

A while back, I dealt with a student whose anger was disruptive to the math lab. This happened before, and he returned the next day with apologies. While I appreciate the earlier apology, I would prefer if the student changed his behavior. An apology for behavior that will be repeated sends a different message than is intended. It tells people that he knew he was doing something wrong, but had every expectation of continuing to do it.

I once heard a definition of being convinced of something: If a person is convinced of something, he will change his behavior to accept that reality. The student may think he is sorry for being disruptive, but he isn’t genuinely sorry if he does it again. I would rather not have an apology and have a change of behavior.


July 29, 2013

We always assumed the letter carrier could read our postcards and could notice the return addresses on envelopes. Not that I really suspected them of doing it. They were probably too busy to care. But I never assumed that these things were private. Some items came in plain brown packages so no one would know who was receiving them. Oddly enough, I can’t remember what those items were, but I know I read ads for them.

People talk as if there were a constitutional right to privacy. Aside from it not actually being in the constitution, I don’t think people really thought about it in the terms we do now. Before the invention of railroads, the vast majority of people lived in rural areas where they were well known. Strangers were watched and distrusted. Anonymity existed in cities and large towns, but most people lived in the country. In 1790 in the USA, farmers and other agricultural workers were 90% of the labor force. Local support for farmers probably added a couple of percent. Farming communities needed blacksmiths and harness makers.

People living on farms or in the small supporting communities rarely traveled long distances. Travel was very expensive in both time and money. The result of this was that people didn’t have privacy as to where they were. The chances were high that someone who knew them noticed them.

Anonymity is a modern invention. As long as human hands held the envelope, someone would know who was writing whom. As for telephone information being private by constitutional rule, the telephone was invented long after the constitution was written, and until the mid twentieth century, most phone calls were handled by human operators.

Making the assumption that NSA is telling the truth and they aren’t listening to our phone calls or reading our emails, we have no complaint. It has only been a short time in history when those things were genuinely private. If terrorist plots are foiled by this lack of privacy, it is a small price to pay.

Why do they keep asking me?

July 13, 2013

I know someone who kept being asked to do volunteer work connected with her children’s school. She made the assumption that people spread the work among the parents and she was asked when it was her turn. Eventually, she realized she was asked because she agreed to do the work.

I’m near retirement. I’m old enough to retire, and could retire immediately. I’ve been trying to cut back on my non teaching duties. For the last two years, I was on a committee which was time consuming. I’m finished with that committee and thought I would have an easier time this coming school year. I got an email from my department chair asking me to take another job. This is the third time she’s asked me to take on a major time-consuming project.

I realize she keeps asking me because I say yes.

I’m mean again

July 9, 2013

On the first day of summer school, a student wanted me to arrange for a quiz to be taken early because of a doctor’s appointment. The quiz was for the next day. I refused. I was told appointments were only available when class met. I still refused.

Quizzes are five percent of the grade and I give at least eight quizzes and drop two of them. Individually, they aren’t important. This grade is very unlikely to have any impact on the student’s grade. It would not be difficult for me to arrange for the quiz to be taken, but I didn’t want to set a precedent for this student or for the rest of the class.

The student did not show up for class, even though the doctor’s appointment was for 9:45 and class went until 1:05. Maybe it was a long appointment. But I can’t help thinking the student didn’t put a high priority on class. That is all right. I don’t expect math class to be important to everyone. I do expect the student to understand there are consequences for the chosen priorities.

Blame Gerrymandering

June 25, 2013

We have gridlock in congress. We aren’t electing moderates, but ideological extremes. I think one solution is to eliminate gerrymandering.

When districts are gerrymandered, the party that has the majority in the state tries to put all the people of the opposite party into as few districts as possible. This means that the people who are elected in those districts are running from the center of their party, not the center of their state. The majority party has safer districts, meaning that they do need to appeal as much to the other party.

The center tends to make both sides unhappy. Nevertheless, I would like the country to be run from the center. Real issues can be addressed, without the fringes vetoing it. Sometimes both fringes will kill a reasonable compromise. I addressed gerrymandering before in a post. I will give an alternate solution.

If a straight lines that connects two parts of a district encloses parts of other districts, those parts are defined as “Places that should be in the district.” If the “places that should be in the district” exceed one fifth of the district, than the district is not acceptable. Maryland is clearly gerrymandered by this definition. Note: the Chesapeake Bay isn’t in another state, and thus doesn’t count, but parts of Virginia and West Virginia are on the left of the image and Delaware is on the right.