Wednesday, September 27, 2006

'Its' just hilarious

What do you think it says about someone that said person thinks it's amusing to stand in front of a fridge rearranging the magnetic words and inserting apostrophes where they don't belong a la "It's hinges are so rusted its difficult to open."

Hee hee hee. I mean, that person is just sick. Sick, I tell you. And so is my--I mean that person's--copy editor friend. Freaks.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

No undergrad left behind

I have this uneasy feeling that higher education is about to go the way of K-12.

By that I mean, “Hello, I’m from the federal Department of Education and I’m here to make sure that YOU are accountable.”

And when I say “accountable,” I mean, “Let’s see how much money we can suck away from the classroom to create a huge bureaucracy to administer tests that we have engineered to tell us absolutely nothing.”

Hmm, not sure where that vitriolic rant came from. Years of repressing my true feelings in print, I suspect.

Anyway. “All Things Considered” had an interesting interview with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings this evening. In it, she spoke about a recently released report from the Commission on the Future of Higher Education. You can hear the full interview here but the message I got out of it was that higher education needed a few things, among them more money for scholarships, more information for parents and students about the education they are purchasing and more accountability for the money the federal government puts into higher education.

All of these things sound fine on their face, just as they did when officials said similar things during the genesis of NCLB. I mean, really, who can oppose things like students learning and public entities spending our money wisely?

But, a couple of things she said made me shudder. First, Michele Norris asked her whether she was advocating testing in higher education. Her answer was to say that she wouldn’t advocate a one-size-fits-all test. The inference here was that the universities or states should decide what type of evaluation system works best for them.

Then later in the interview she said that the federal government needed to offer higher education “incentives and assistance” to meet the challenges detailed in the report.

I’ll go out on a limb here and translate. Keep in mind this is my opinion and is filtered through my more-cynical-than-is-healthy brain, but try this one on for size:

Dear Higher Education (I capitalized that because people in higher ed REALLY like to capitalize things);

Since our recent report found that you are lacking in several areas, we are here to offer you some incentives and assistance to move to a new and exciting age in education.

First, we want you to develop a set of assessments. We’ll tell you what to include in them, what it takes to pass them and how often you have to give them, but we DO NOT want a one-size-fits-all test.

Please develop a large and expensive bureaucracy to administer this new testing system. We can’t afford to give you all the money to pay for this new department, but I’m sure you can find some money in your budget somewhere. Just so you won’t feel alone, we’ll do the same.

Once the testing system is in place, we’ll move on to how to bring every student up to 100 percent proficiency, but that’s a memo for another day.

Oh yes, I did mention incentives, didn’t I? Of course, we wouldn’t expect you to do this without some incentive. How’s this: Do it or we‘ll jerk your funding.

Love and kisses,
U.S. Department of Education

Whack me upside the head with a piece of celery if I’m wrong. I even have one you can borrow. I smell a changing tide in higher education, and if it’s anything like what NCLB is doing to K-12, it’s low tide in Ketchikan when the humpies are running. (Just ask someone who has lived there.)

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Attack of the killer ...

Well, celery, actually. I am now the proud possessor of an absurd amount of celery. As the mercury drops here in Fairbanks, those of us with gardens kick into holy-crap-I-had-better-pick-everything-before-I have-the-low-budget-version-of-flash-frozen-vegetables mode. (Most gardeners, however, probably don’t hyphenate quite as much as I do, though I believe that at least AP style would say that’s correct, no matter how over-the-top.)

But I digress. About these wily, green stalks. Apparently celery thrives on neglect and abuse--great, I have masochistic veggies--because I ignored it for most of the summer and didn’t really even bother to remove the chickweed from around it. The result of my black thumb was an armload of the stuff.

Now I’m soaked from washing all of it and about had to use my feet to stuff it into the bottom shelf of the fridge. What the heck am I going to do with a 10-pound, white-garbage-bag-encased brick of celery?

Perhaps I should fill every stalk with delicately seasoned cream cheese and head out on the town in search of a fancy soiree to crash. Of course I’d need a forklift to carry the trays.

OOO! OOO! I know. I’ll make 20 gallons of cream of celery soup. Yeah, and we can have it for dinner every night. I can freeze it and ... Oh wait. If I do that, a certain 6-year-old in my family will cry because she has to eat green soup and every night the strains of “Mommy, you make yucky food,” will haunt my dreams. Hmm. Scratch that idea. Better just do what I do with everything else I can’t find a use for right away.

Chop it up and throw it in the freezer.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shaggy mania

Mushroom saga, part deux: I went just a tad crazy last weekend. I found a field of shaggy mane mushrooms and the owners kindly allowed me to go pick them. I left with two brown shopping bags full and could have filled a couple more. This grassy lawn was just littered with the things. It was amazing. ‘Course, when I got home, I had to clean and process all of them, right away. See, there’s a bit of fine print with these mushrooms. They look all pretty and white in the field, but if you leave them uncooked overnight you will have a stinky black mess. (Shaggy manes belong to a group of mushrooms known as “inky caps.”)

So, the result was four hours of washing, chopping, cooking and freezing. It was, I must say, exhausting work. Still, I’ll have enough for soups and sauces for the winter, which is a good thing. Now if I can only get some ducks to go with it. Mmmm. Duck.

Anyway, as a bonus to this little excursion to someone else’s lawn, I ran across huge bunches of what I believe to be fried chicken mushrooms, shown below, which are also supposed to be a good edible.

The deal with these is you have to be careful because they supposedly resemble some other poisonous varieties. One test, which goes along with a few other things, is to take a spore print. Pink spores=bad. White spores=good. My mother also notes that she has never heard of a poisonous mushroom that actually tastes good. Of course, that’s a little bit more risky.

At any rate, I was elated to find a white spore print and so now will try a tiny bit and see whether I keel over or not. *grin* So if I’m not back within a couple of weeks, I probably offed myself with a mushroom. Kidding. Kidding.

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Equal opportunity elite

For those of us who are feeling left out of the inner circle of power in Alaska politics, Cafe Press now offers a lovely assortment of items for purchase that allow wearers to proudly proclaim that they too are among the esteemed leaders of our great state who, for the past year (at least), have been guiding our government with morality and strength of character.

Er. Yeah.

Check it out here.

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