All my blogging energy has flowed into gardening efforts. #CullowheeCommunityGardening



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April 5, 2015

traveling west on I-40

early spring is as colorful as late autumn:
the highway flora is putting on new clothes
winter’s browns and greys displaced by greens
and oranges and reds and purples

further west, the road gets curvier and trees,
more hardwood that evergreen, more long-legged,
evergreens shorter, bushier

the baby mountains start to appear,
along with their mothers and fathers –
majestic, protective, persevering

I can feel my brain starting to bend
to the mountain curves. I switch the sound
from talk radio to jazz. A Love Supreme
takes me all the way to my mountain home

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Blog post for April 1, 2015

The big event of March was my wife’s illness and my return home to support her recuperation. Everything else suddenly became secondary or tertiary. I learned that being a caregiver is hard work, it is easy to make mistakes, and you don’t necessarily get better at it by trying harder. After a couple of weeks she had made significant progress in her recuperation, and I was able to turn over the day-to-day operations of caregiving to a professional and return to work.

Another teaching session occurred in March, this time English sophomores working on argumentative essays. They had already chosen their topics, so the goal of the workshop was to familiarize them with databases as information sources and how the mechanics of the search for those sources could reveal certain information types that would assist them in making their arguments. So, no hocus-pocus, just straight up library instruction.

Taking a page from the playbook of one of my more experienced co-librarians, I prepared for each student a worksheet that, once filled in, would both outline for them the search and information source selection process, and allow them to prepare a customized path to proceed, from research proposal, to search term development, to source selection. The host instructor and I worked with each student individually to resolve any outstanding issues and, and this is an important step, provide examples of ideas outside their present train of thought for developing their arguments.

Research topics were varied and interesting, personalized and relevant. Sharing among themselves their topics and experiences with the resource selection process resulted in a type of cross-fertilization that will hopefully further inform the learning experience of each student.

As an aside, today begins National Poetry Writers Month (NaPoWriMo). For the past two years, I have managed a crank out a new poem each day in April. Sometimes it’s garbage, but there has been the occasional pearl in the monthly collection. This April will be different for me, however. This year I plan to work every day on unpacking and reshaping a poem that I have already written. Unpacking to remove all the dross and junk that got invariably packed in the first time. Reshaping to open up the format, freeing the poetic thoughts from the walls that previously constricted, restricted, and even conflicted open thought and discussion.

So, if you care to join me, I’ll be posting here every day in April, with links to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

p.s. Started my garden plot at Cullowhee Community Garden last week.  Haven’t gardened since my childhood, but it’s just like riding a bicycle, right?  With any luck in a few months there will be a crop of beets, turnips, okra, cantaloupe, watermelon, jalapeno peppers, carrots, foxglove, sunflowers, and lavender to share.

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Pre-thoughts on SLA2015

So I am reviewing my blog posts from SLA 2014 and thinking about a game plan for Boston and The Revolution and SLA 2015.  Already having studied the schedule of internal conference events, now I am thinking about the outside stuff, the pieces that make the experience complete.

What’s really different this year? Well, last year I was a student, stumbling my way through the newness of everything. This year I am a SLA conference veteran AND a LIS graduate (barely, commencement is May 16th).  So maybe I am a little bit smarter.

Some key takeaways/carryovers from last year: 1) stay at a bed and breakfast some distance away from the conference site – it’s way cheaper and you see more of the city; 2) pay attention to the scheduled events but know that the most interesting conversations take place between meetings, in the hallways, at the coffee line, at free breakfasts, and in the exhibition hall; 3) develop a game plan in advance for meeting and chatting with vendors – they can tell you a lot about how the field is changing and where the industry is headed; 4) be sure to schedule some down time, some “me” time in the middle of the conference – go to a museum, better yet, a library, and catch some live music, at a bar or a pub or a concert hall; 5) take plenty of business cards but more importantly, scribble notes on the cards you receive, something special about the person; 6) make it a point to look up folks you met in Vancouver – need to build on those relationships, maybe even send out emails prior to the conference; and 7) take a deep breath and enjoy the time away from home, or school, or the new job, or whatever the thing is you left behind.

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getting back on the blogging track…

Too much happened in life since my last post and it knocked me off my blogging routine. There was the flight home for a poster presentation at a conference, reunion with family and friends and LIS classmates, three snow storms (two in Cullowhee on either end of the Washington trip, and one in Washington) that were all somewhat disorienting.  Then my car’s alternator died on the way home from the airport two hours away, sparking a week-long sort of obsession/discussion that involved three cars (the old one, the rental, and the eventual new one (it was time, on many levels)).  Still working to resolve disposal of the old car. She served us well for 13 years, and I am not inclined to simply abandon her for blue-book cash without knowing that she will end up in a good home with decent people for her new owner

So I am climbing out of the hole and back to some semblance of normality.  A bit behind on my #MOOCMOOC reading and studies.  Catching up with Seymour Papert today.  I did manage to plow my way through a couple of interesting books while waiting in airports in Greenville, Chicago and Washington, riding on DC subways, and on the actual flights themselves.

Ashley Kahn’s A Love Supreme (Hunter Library) treats/analyses/ explains the John Coltrane Quartet signature piece by the same name, exploring the evolution of the musicians, individually and as a group, and the development of the music, from swing to bebop to avant-garde and presenting a picture, in the process, of the social and cultural turbulence of the period from 1955 to 1965.  (Accompanied by several listenings to the actual music on Youtube).

George Monteiro’s The Presence of Camoes (also borrowed from Hunter Library) was an appropriate choice after reading aloud the Camoes Sonnet #271 at a poetry event a couple of weeks ago on campus.  Monteiro shows direct and indirect influences of the 16th century poet on British, America, South African, and other Portuguese poets.  Most interesting for me were the chapters on Poe, Melville, Dickinson and a series of South African poets.  Will definitely read it again, though my next read in this vein will be The Presence of Pessoa by the same author.

OK, sports fans, that is it for now.  Planning to do some #MOOCMOOC readng at the laundromat this morning, and at home this afternoon.

Peace, y’all.  A luta continua!

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Catch up post for the week – Friday, February 13

Tuesday.  AdobeConnect GoToMeeting with HR mgmt grad students.  Walked them through the HR Libguide, pointing out the research aids and search syntax features that are standard to most of our libguides, but highlighting the special features for their course work, the tab covering case studies, a prospective page on evidence-based HR mgmt, the dynamic news feed of HR news articles.  The students provided good feedback, so I think they were paying attention, but the next time I do an online session I am going to make better use of the built in feedback features, as well as appointing one student as the “skeptic question asker” to keep everybody on their toes.

Wednesday.  The Romance Languages Department had a poetry reading with a slight Valentine’s Day theme.  Students and faculty were invited to read a poem in a Romance language, so of course I signed up to read a poem in Portuguese.  I chose Camoes sonnet 271, and practiced all night Tuesday to get my r’s rolling appropriately!  It was well attended and about 18 people read poems in Spanish (mostly), French (one) and Portuguese (mine!).  It was so much fun!  Glad I participated.

So, it’s Friday night, and I just got home from the WCU candlelight vigil for the three students who were killed in Chapel Hill a couple of days ago.  Sad event.  Folks are saying that the Muslims have had their Trayvon Martin moment. We are all Trayvon Martin. Thinking people need to think about what’s going on. It may be just a matter of time before domestic terrorists and domestic terror criminals set their aims on targets that look more like themselves.  Good piece by Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker

At the Grammy’s, Prince said “Albums—you remember those? They still matter. Like books and black lives, they still matter.” Happy he included books.

#MOOCMOOC Google hangout tonight on anarchist pedagogies.

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Conservative journalist attacks MOOCs – ModPo Army circles the wagons

One Carol Iannone of the National Review took it upon herself to launch a poorly researched attack on MOOCs, entitled, “MOOCs Can’t Teach.”  We heard about it and, well, you know, we couldn’t just let it stand.  Here is my contribution to the fray:

rdmaxwell • 15 hours ago
Dear Ms. Iannone: I haven’t read all the comments, so please forgive me if I mention something that has already been mentioned. I am struck by your title” MOOCs Can’t Teach.” It suggests that somehow, non-MOOC courses do teach and that therefore, MOOC’s are somehow defective or inferior to non-MOOC courses. But as anyone who has ever taught a course (or imparted any type of information) can attest, courses and course delivery systems do not teach, teachers teach, and even more significantly, the most recent research suggests that learners, properly motivated, teach themselves. Others have dealt with the internal points of your argument. I challenge you to enroll in a well-run and carefully designed MOOC course, like ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry). If you are in close proximity to others taking the course, and if you attend the weekly meet-ups, and if you are near enough to catch a live webcast or two in Philadelphia, and if you participate in the twitter chats accompanying the weekly live broadcasts, and if you write your essays and participate in the peer review of at least four other essays by your colleagues, and if you watch the videos and participate in the forum discussions, then, by the end of the tenth week, Ms. Iannone, I predict even you will learn more than you previously knew about poetry. And you will be a better person for it. So I join the chorus in inviting you to sign up for ModPo. Then you can write an article about MOOCs with some degree of authority.
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Week four of #MOOCMOOC – A librarian reads anarchist pedagogies

Listen.  Week four of #moocmooc is a real doozy!  Let me confess that I had to look up Hakim Bey, Max Stirner, Francisco Ferrer, Paul Goodman, and the Free Space/Free Skool.  But I knew exactly what heterotopia was as I had created several of them over the past several decades – it was the only way I was able to survive in a hostile world. In fact, I am in a heterotopia as we speak, my refuge in the North Carolina mountains… I had read Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience as a somewhat precocious teenager and it inspired me to write a piece for the high school newspaper on student rights, entitled “The Student is the New Nigger,” which did not make many of my teachers happy though my father found it quite entertaining.  It was, after all, the Watergate years.  Needless to say, the re-reading of Thoreau’s masterful essay brought back warm memories of those years of my youth…(who knew that was all it took?)… But let’s get down to brass tacks. I had never really thought of Thoreau (and, by extension, his intellectual lineage, Gandhi and King) as an anarchist, but in close proximity to the Shantz article, it all becomes somewhat clear.  “Anarchists seek freedom from internalized authority and ideological domination,” sounds very similar, to me, to “The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right.”  The sentence “This American government – what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity” resonates as truthfully today as it did in 1849.  And the classic, oft-quoted lines, “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” have launched many a protest movement since being prophetically penned on the eve of the American Civil War and brings to mind the haunting Herman Melville poem about, perhaps, America’s greatest anarchist: The Portent Hanging from the beam, Slowly swaying (such the law), Gaunt the shadow on your green, Shenandoah! The cut is on the crown (Lo, John Brown) And the stabs shall heal no more. Hidden in the cap Is the anguish none can draw; So your future veils its face, Shenandoah! But the streaming beard is shown (Weird John Brown), The meteor of the war. But back to critical pedagogy (oh must we?).  There are surely shades of Freire and hooks in the sentiments that “learning should contribute to independence of thought and action and contribute to capacities for self-determination” and that traditional teacher/student relationships “can inhibit students and reinforce authority structures of command and obedience.” But we also see where The Free Skool’s adherence to anarchist principles, simply stated, resulted in the loss of administrative power to accomplish political or even cultural goals.  At one point in the reading I scribbled in the margin, “are anarchist pedagogies only for spoiled rich kids?” Conclusion:  I have a lot of reading to do.  Good thing I’m retired.  Except I do have this new day job that I love.  So I guess I’ll be phoning my local independent bookseller in the morning.

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taking a break from academic stuff and posting to the blog about other things…

So, I went this morning to a meeting of the Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor (CuRvE) at the Cullowhee Cafe.  Without planning, I ran into two librarian colleagues (librarians are so multidisciplinary!) and my newest friend from the Cullowhee Community Garden. CuRvE is planning some good stuff for the neighborhood, highlighted by a proposed river park as a stimulus for economic development.  I am all for it!

Speaking of which, I made a stop at the community garden last week to get a plot for the spring.  I think we’ll start with 15′ x 15′, plant some greens (25%), some vegetables and vine melons (50%), and some wildflowers (25%).  Went to Lowe’s after the CuRvE meeting to pick up some fencing material and some seeds (plus already had some heirloom seeds I picked up several weeks ago on my maiden journey to Cherokee.

Speaking of which, you KNOW I spoke to the guy about feasibility of setting up a couple of beehives in the vicinity of the gardens.  To my surprise and delight, he was all for it, and in fact, already had offers of hives and whole colonies, but didn’t know anybody who wanted to be the beekeeper.  Estamos combinados!

p.s. Let me add.  Made a crock pot deer stew last weekend that was sooo yummy and tasty! Lasted all week and I have had my fill of it but there are two serving left.  Taking one for the team…

So, for next week, a sonnet by Luis de Camoes, Sonnet #271:

A formosura desta fresca serra,
E a sombra dos verdes castanheiros,
O manso caminhar destes ribeiros,
Donde toda a tristeza se desterra;

O rouco som do mar, a estranha terra,
O esconder do sol pelos outeiros,
O recolher dos gados derradeiros,
Das nuvens pelo ar a branda guerra;

Enfim, tudo o que a rara natureza
Com tanta variedade nos oferece,
Me está (se não te vejo) magoando.

Sem ti tudo me enoja, e me aborrece;
Sem ti perpetuamente estou passando,
Nas mores alegrias, mor tristeza.

And the translation:

nature camoes

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…and this one ain’t too shabby (I say in my native vernacular for effect)….

….’cause poets are the original critical pedagogs…

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