Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Teaching beyond Christmas?

My college is changing its core curriculum and is basically no longer requiring things I teach: English, Literature, Humanities and Art Appreciation. They say the accrediting body, Southern Association, has changed its distribution requirements, and a consultant has assured them they can do it. It puts my continued teaching there at risk. But I'm doing the art apprec. this summer term--probably for the last time, and a "shadow English II Lit" this fall for those who have already completed English Composition I and will need it.

Whether they are risking re-accreditation, I don't know. I've been retired fulltime and out of the information loop for several years, teaching part-time only. But I can't imagine parents putting out the kind of money they charge to send their sons and daughters to a university that doesn't require English, math, humanities or public speaking courses. They say they're replacing them with interdisciplinary "dialogues" that students will begin in their sophomore years, and all faculty will teach.

I think they're crazy, and I predict that rather than enhance enrollment they will find students leaving in droves and not being able to recruit new ones. Who in their right mind will go to a university whose credits will no longer transfer, and may not continue to be regionally accredited? But I may not understand the issues, as I said, being on the outside now.

I had hoped to continue teaching at least one more year before I turn away from the rigors of the classroom altogether. I realize I will need to at some point. But I'm not looking forward to retiring completely. And I know I don't want to do the usual things well-meaning relatives and friends suggest to keep busy: volunteer work, golf, tennis, involvement in clubs, groups, church work, part-time work here or there. I'll be damned if I'll be a Walmart greeter or help people find galvanized nails at Home Depot. I'm a teacher

It looks now like I'll be able to keep teaching through Christmas, enough to stay out of trouble. I only need one section a couple of days a week to do the trick. Two is better, but at this point I'll take one. There's not much distance between one and two, but there's a vast distance between none and one. I'm hoping the university will come to its senses at some point and scrap the changes to the core. But I don't think it will happen for a year or two at the earliest, and that may be too late. If I run out of teaching opportunities before I'm ready to call it quits, I may try to get a class at one of the community colleges within driving distance. "Hello and welcome to Walmart" is not for me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Parade of Shames

I could hardly believe my eyes and ears as I witnessed the evening news cover a limosine full of prospective home buyers being paraded from foreclosed home to foreclosed home in South Florida by realtors hired by the lenders to unload the seized properties. The video was festive and the mood bubbly. Here were bargain basement prices for many homes of much greater value than the asking price, and the sellers and buyers alike were drooling. One clip showed a small group of them toasting the occasion with champagne.

It made me ill. The apparent attitude was as if someone in a monopoly game had landed on a high-improvement property of theirs and they now got to seize all the opponent's properties, cash, and other assets and put him out of the game. How could people be so crass! Don't they realize they are dealing with people's former homes? With their lives? With what remains as all they had to live in? With what, but for the hasty greed and avarice of unscrupulous lenders, they would have been able to still be in until this horrible recession passes?

Millions, we're talking about, Millions of families have lost their homes across the nation to foreclosure, even as they have lost their jobs, in many cases permanently, and the government just drags its feet trying to do something to slow the process and get the banks and finance companies to work something out so people can stay in their homes. What's the rush? Those houses are not going anywhere. What's the rush to ruin lives? It's not like they will make more money by seizing and selling them for pennies on the dollar, for gosh sake.

And as for the parade of shames (not the parade of homes), if those champagne-tippling philistines have the money to bargain-shop for houses they don't even need for themselves but undoubtedly want to flip just for a fast fat profit, why don't they use it instead to try to help those foreclosed people stay in their homes and ride out these tough times? They're the ones who need help. And for that matter, the banks who created the crisis with their sub-prime loans, the government who refused to regulate it, the rich oil companies who have exascerbated the poverty of those poor families with their obscene gas prices, big corporations, the churches, synagogues, mosques, charities, and anyone else who can afford to offer assistance should do so as well. This is an unprecendented human crisis, not a time for bargain shopping. There aren't many things that are worse for a family than to lose its home. It's bad enough when it happens from natural disasters or accidental causes, but to look out your window and see a limo of greedy vultures drive by sipping champagne and eyeing your house is enough to push one over the edge.

At the very least, lose the champagne and lose the limo. If you can live with the idea that you have a home that was basically stolen at the misfortune of another, then at least have the decency to buy it quietly and discretely.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

If an infinite number of monkeys and typewriters....

Discouraged by no sales of my spreadsheet budget after a couple of weeks' trying, I turned again to internet publishing to renew my hopes of rewarding enterprise. I'd like to call it internet publishing because blog sounds so blug, though it's just a lazy word for weblog, but internet publishing sounds like a respectable use of my time.

I quickly decided I'm too old to fight the code for setting up my own site from scratch with Frontpage or MySQL or Perl modules, etc., which younger geeks seem to take to like ducks to water, and my best bet would be to either use this space on Writetosayit or start afresh with another blog. The thing about blogs on established host sites is that they're so easy to set up and maintain that I can get a lot of bang for my buck with minimal technical hassle. So I went shopping for another space to vent my angst.

There are many free and low-cost blog hosting sites out there, and I've tried several over the years. But one which was still on Google's directory of weblog hosts was BlogHi. BlogHi used to be very appealing to me. Along with Writetosayit, my nbknotes blog there attracted me to write well over a hundred posts, and offered several strengths I haven't found either here at Blogspot or anywhere else. Not only was it a free blogsite, it was the best-syndicated and best-set-up site of any I found, and within several months I found my posts reaching hundreds through the rss links and the site itself.

Out of curiosity I clicked it again, and was amazed to find my former blog still just as I had left it when I took my portrait avatar and my xml file of posts I'd written, and migrated to wordpress. The posts were gone, but the notebook template, header, and other sections and choices I'd made earlier were still there, all ready for me to just write another post! In fact, since I still have that .xml and .jpg, I realized I could quickly restore everything to my former BlogHi blog and continue as if I had never dropped out! Maybe my search for a "new" blog was over.

So I wrote and posted a little blurb welcoming myself back after a few years' hiatus, and felt really good about using BlogHi's comfortable and efficient, user-friendly and intuitive features. I was home again, in a sense.

In fact, with its advantages, I couldn't think why I left in the first place. I remembered a rough patch when the owner, an engineer at a Munich company, got out of it and sold it to someone else. I had scrambled to save my posts and migrate to another site before BlogHi closed up shop.

But what I had forgotten was the real reason I left BlogHi. And as I proudly reviewed my page as published, I scrolled down and instantly remembered. There, at the bottom, was what appeared to be some sort of box ad for a GPS device, with a button to push for more information. Foolishly, I pushed it, and made a few cents for the new BlogHi owners through Google's AdSense. You see, at BlogHi, the writer benefits from a free space to blog and post all he wants, but the company gets the money that accrues from advertising on the published pages, not the author.

I was livid. In fact, I remember blogging against that unfairness at BlogHi itself when I was getting quite a number of hits, only to find many of my fellows commenting, "Hey, it's a win-win situation, isn't it? We get free blogspace and syndication; they get some revenue to defray their costs."

That's not the way I saw it. I figured if I wrote it and chose to let Google put some non-intrusive ads on my pages through AdSense, I should get the revenue, or at least the bigger part of it, not the host. I felt like one of the proverbial infinite number of monkeys chained to an infinite number of typewriters, pecking away endlessly to see if all the great books would be written. That, I realized, was what really drove me from BlogHi hosting. I didn't want to feel like an employee every time I sat down to enter a post, with someone else reaping the profit of my efforts.

It's not that I expect to get rich at blogging or "internet publishing" of any kind, and I recognize that few personal blogs attract that kind of traffic to generate more than a pittance of revenue. But it's that the policy of BlogHi taking the potential pot with no way to reward the writer kills the hope of tangible rewards. And every writer hopes for tangible rewards in time, no matter who he or she is.

A host can't just give us a ream of blank paper and say, "Go to it, Bubba." We write and we publish our ideas because we hope that over time somehow we'll attract readers. And we hope that if our words attract enough readers, we'll be able to make some money at it. AdSense is the most accessible way a writer has to do that. Take that collection plate away, and the hope of income goes with it. We're left with only the rewards of seeing our ideas in print and receiving readers' comments--significant rewards to be sure, but not tangible.

I haven't tried AdSense here yet, and I doubt I will. There's something about spotting some ad for a GPS on my blog page that raises my dander. But I may try it on another blogsite, just to keep the hope of tangible reward alive.