Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for October, 2008

A Tribute

Posted by Gerald on October 29, 2008

I’ve been meaning to write this for several days now.

Last week Alan Greenspan testified before Congress.  When asked about how he could reconcile the behavior of the market and many of its players in recent months with his theories of economic behavior, Greenspan basically said that he couldn’t and that he would need to re-examine those theories.

In essence, that he was wrong.

The only response I’ve heard to this has been some fairly snarky jokes.

I think he deserves better.

The essence of honesty in science is that when objective reality doesn’t behave according to theory, the theory is wrong.  Greenspan publicly championed a set of theories and formed policies based on them.  He made his reputation by doing so.  Now he sees those policies and theories having results he didn’t believe possible.  Most human beings would refuse to face that.  They would distance themselves from the ideas or refuse to admit any fault or explain how what appears to be happening isn’t really happening.  At the least, most people would try to avoid the spotlight.

Greenspan went in front of Congress and questioned the validity of the basis of his life’s work.

That was an act of intellectual courage and one of great honesty.  One made all the more dramatic by contrast with this era of empty spin and ideological fanaticism in our public discourse.  That act showed what science should be all the time.

Bravo

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A Break in the Silence

Posted by Gerald on October 29, 2008

Another long silence.

The reasons have been pretty much the same except that added to them has been our period of “advisement” at work.  Since my esteemed institution is still incapable of reaching into the 1980s and allowing students to sign up for classes on their own, we faculty are still registering.  This is misleadingly referred to as “advisement”.

I do sometimes actually advise students.  For example, this week I advised a student who had wanted to join our college’s Basic Law Enforcement program – which is not a program intended for transfer to a four year college – that he should go back to the people in admissions who put him in the Associate of Arts college-transfer program (and thus made me his advisor) and tell them he was in the wrong place.  I signed a piece of paper to that effect to carry with him.  This was the third new advisee of mine this semester who had no interest in getting a transfer degree.

Most of the time, however, I am spending the time I have with these students just picking courses.  The best of them come knowing exactly what they need and want.  The majority expect me to tell them what courses to take and when they are offered and to fix things to fit their schedules.  They do not take the time to find out what courses they need or to look at the website to see when courses are offered.  They expect me to remember their academic record better than they do and to produce a schedule for them.

“I don’t like morning classes… I need to be home by 2 pm… oh, I just want to be done by then… no, I don’t want to take online classes… no I can’t come back here in the evening… no I don’t know what I need to take this semester…  I can’t remember what I’ve already taken… yes, I have to go full time.”

Then I am confronted by the fact that – for some reason – several of our inestimable department chairs have scheduled almost all of their sections on Mondays and Wednesdays.  That, like every semester, we are offering only three sections of Public Speaking – a course that EVERY college transfer student is required to take.

This is why I am currently enjoying an evening cup of coffee liberally flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

That and the three students who stood up and walked out of my lecture because I ran past the dismissal time – by less than sixty seconds…

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Silence

Posted by Gerald on October 13, 2008

I’ve been silent recently for several reasons, some better than others.

Teaching the World Civilizations course has been much more consuming of both time and mental space than I had anticipated.  This is a good thing in that I am not just presenting different material but am changing my entire teaching philosophy.  My western civ and American survey courses never have inspired me the way this course has.  I can’t just fall back on telling stories.  In a way that I’ve never experienced before the education in theory and all the study of rhetoric I engaged in back in Iowa have started to infuse my classroom teaching.  Still, all of this means I am tired of thinking by the time I get home of an evening, so I don’t feel like writing as much.  I think this is temporary.

I am becoming way too emotionally invested in the outcome of this election to talk about it.  It isn’t that I think Obama will save the world – I’ve written earlier about my problems with that.  However since the nomination of Sarah Palin I’ve become convinced that the election of McCain is potentially disastrous.

Frankly, I also started feeling quite some time back that I wasn’t really adding anything with my political or news postings.  I may have insights about movies, I do have insights about myself, but I’m not sure I have anything interesting to say about the political scene or the state of the world.

About a month ago I did something that might be a terrible mistake, but I’m enjoying it so far.  After years of resistance, I succumbed to the lure of the MMORPG.  I’ve made friends there and am having fun.  I’m considering starting a new blog about that experience since I doubt any of my few regular readers have any interest in this side of my geeky life.  It also has been a place where I can turn my brain off from work, and that has been a very good thing.

Well, there it is.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

A Tale from the Road

Posted by Gerald on October 1, 2008

Every day I drive 25 miles along a two-lane rural highway between our two campuses.

Every day, going each way, I pass a long closed BBQ restaurant of the sort that is so common around here in NC.  I know nothing about this restaurant or its history.  The old light-able sign, dating from the 60s, or possibly the 50s, still stands guard over an empty unpaved parking lot.  Next to it is a small building with decaying gray wooden walls and sagging old window screens.  It looks from the outside life the sort of place that had an open counter and maybe a few small booths along the outside windows.

Every day I pass this building and wonder about the moments that might have taken place there.  Family meals, stops by travellers along the highway (maybe before the interstate moved so much traffic away?), first dates among local kids, jokes told, little intimacies shared – all of those things that people bring to restaurants.  I don’t know if they happened, but I always wonder.

Can you be nostalgic for a place you’ve never been?

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