Friday, July 31, 2009

Mad Woman

Here's a bit of fun enabled by teh internets and provided by the sartorial splendour that is Mad Men.

This is me Mad Men style. I'd definitely be working at Sterling Cooper. I'd be friends with Peggy and I'd tell Don Draper to get his act together.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Three True Things I Have Recently Read

1. "Have you noticed how people talk about 'people', people do this, people do that,'without seeming to realise that they are a person too?" Emily Perkins, Novel About My Wife, p 208

2. "Her disapproval about such things, about the lifeline I found for myself, hurts me. But it's her ignorance that's making me angry. ... 'How dare you judge me? You're just like everyone else, disapproving of the fact that I'm obsessive then disapproving of the way I tried to pull myself out of it. Everyone's a fucking expert. ... Sometimes there's nothing else you can do. Those drugs don't make you well--Jesus, they don't even make you feel better--but they turn off the static. The noise,the interference, the shit in your head that keeps you from understanding you are destroying yourself.'
'You're smart,' Ruby says, looking at me anxiously because she knows I'm upset but she wants to stand her ground. 'You would have figured things out.'
'If we are going to be friends I need you tounderstand this. I'm smart but I could not figure things out. Could not." Sophie Cunningham, Geography, p200

3. "'You have no idea how tedious and unremarkable madness can be.'" Sophie Cunningham, Geography, p201

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Hour on Saturday Afternoon

I was just catching up on last night's episode of Collectors when I was reminded, during a segment by Adrian Franklin on a glass exhibition in Tasmania, about a banner I had seen advertising another glass exhibition not far from me. As Franklin pointed out, there's a whole lot to love about glass as an art form, so I decided to take a bus trip up to Mount Coot-tha, which is where the exhibition, by the Creative Glass Guild, was being held.

The work was varied, ranging from that by people who had done their first classes in lead lighting and mosaics, to more obviously advanced practitioners. Most of the work was decorative rather than artistic--if I can make that distinction--which reflected the hobbyist focus of the Guild.

I thought that these pieces would be right at home in a tea or coffee shop:

While this one would be perfect for a music room:

As I left the exhibition, I paused on the way to the bus stop to take some photos of a sculpture that I've long admired from the bus window.

The sculpture sits in front of the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and the (temporary) plaque says it's a depiction of 'Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Russian Father of Cosmonautics'.

After doing the barest minimum of research, looking at a few images on Wikipedia and elsewhere, I've concluded that this is a portrait of Tsiolkovsky as a young man.

This is not the 'conquerer of space' that characterises the monuments pictured on Tsiolkovsky's Wikipedia entry, where he resembles a kind of latter day Zeus, with flowing hair and beard, along with accompanying robes.

No. Here, Tsiolkovsky does not look into the distance, a master of all the space he can survey; instead he looks up, humbled by the vastness of the cosmos. His clothes and his body language are contained and endearing: his hands find sanctuary in his pockets, while his feet with their slightly too large boots stretch out before him, his thighs primly clenched.

I like the dreamer Tsiolkovsky is in this sculpture, wondering to the universe what it would be like to travel through space in a rocket of his invention.

n.b. There was no indication who the artist was on any signage around the sculpture. I suppose that information might be on the permanent plaque whenever it's mounted.

Monday, July 06, 2009


I'm just waiting for my mushroom soup to simmer for 15 mins before I put half of it in the blender at which point I'll be minutes away from tonight's dinner. Since I have to wait, I thought I'd take the opportunity to reflect a bit on the teaching results I got today. I don't want to spend too long on this, otherwise I will obsess until my head explodes, because that's how I am.

I taught in two subjects at different campuses of the same university, which is not the one where I'm doing my PhD. The comments I got on one subject really arise from the fact that I had minimal face to face contact with the students. I marked their weekly blog posts and I posted questions for the Twitter workshops, only occasionally interjecting beyond that. It wasn't an ideal situation, but it was a solution that the course convener came up with when he was handed the subject a week and half before the semester started and discovered the room bookings were completely unworkable for the usual tutorial structure. There's not much I could have done when the students say they would have liked to have seen more of me.

The second subject I tutored in was a bit of a disaster as far as the support from the course convener went. It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd been left to plan my own tutorials, but along with the total lack of support was the demand to follow a tutorial plan that I only ever got at the last minute. About half way through the semester things came to a head and I told the students of the situation, and I made a request to be exempt from the survey that the students do.

You've probably gleaned that my request from exemption was refused, so today I got to read the comments that the students from that subject made. I find these things confusing. I think overall they were positive, but when you get extremes it isn't clear which to take on board. I certainly don't like to hear that someone stayed away from the tutorials because they didn't like my teaching style, but I don't want to delude myself either that I should only listen to the student who said that I really helped their understanding by persisting with discussing the readings in the face of a class full of people who generally hadn't done them. I'd like to think that it was only one student who thought I shouldn't have been chosen to tutor the course and a whole lot more who would echo the sentiments of the student who said s/he would actively sign up for one of my tutorials again.

I suppose if anything came through more than once then it was a question of my teaching style. I'm not sure what to make of this. Someone said it took them a while to get used to my style. Is it really that unusual? Each week, I tried to take them through the practical tasks that I was directed to so they could complete their assessment. Initially, I tried group work, getting them to talk amongst one another, take notes, and present their ideas, refined through interaction, to the rest of the class. They really seemed to hate group work and writing things down, so then I switched modes and resorted to asking a bunch of questions arising from the readings in an effort to stimulate discussion. A lot of the time many students hadn't done the readings, and worse, hadn't even brought them to class, so that we might go through them together. In the end, I did just persist. I got some good feedback on that strategy, so I stuck with that.

I don't know. What's your teaching style? Or what was the style of teaching that you found most effective for your learning at university?