6/23/2004

The Mentoring Handbook

Filed under: — Joe @ 9:30 pm

My experiment to use my wiki to collaboratively write a “Mentoring Handbook” with my colleague Roger is nearing completion.

It was a good method for working on this kind of project–but it wasn’t really that great of a project to be working on.

We’re pulling together a lot of information from my typed notes and some of those giant post-its produced at a one-day retreat, and the handbook is really only coming into existence because the dean wants it to.

A Mentee?But there’s no real evidence that a handbook for the process of mentoring is needed or wanted, and we don’t really have any kind of formalized mentoring process or structure in place at the college for the handbook to describe, and I’m not entirely convinced that the process of mentoring really needs a handbook, and I can’t say I’ve had much luck with either being mentored, or being a mentor, myself in my own career–so the handbook (like the notes) really mainly covers the content of mentoring (what mentors and mentees should discuss, or what mentors should tell mentees–and will I ever stop envisioning a sea cow, or dugong, when I read that word “mentee”?), rather than the process of mentoring.

But using the wiki to divide it up and work on writing the separate pieces and pulling them together was a real flash for me. I think that, especially with a bigger group (and a better project), a wiki could be a very useful tool for collaborative publishing.

Ideally, I’d like to leave the wiki up and open after next week, publish the url in the printed handbook (the dean is really only interested in a printed handbook, although I think I pushed through the idea of an html version against his lukewarm response), and let mentors and mentees continue to add and subtract and change. That’s the true wiki spirit–and would have the chance of producing something actually useful instead of a printed pamphlet which will be thrown in a drawer.

Hmmm….

6/20/2004

Ricky Jay on Radio

Filed under: — Joe @ 10:12 am

I’ve been a fan of Ricky Jay since I saw him perform in San Diego when I was a kid. He was on tour throwing cards (and other magic and sleight of hand) when his book Cards as Weapons was published. Of course I bought a copy of that book, which of course is now gone, and of course the book now goes for about $200 if you can find a copy! Of course, I have his other books.

I didn’t get to see his recent Town Hall one-man show (damn!), but I’ve been catching him in the movies and on Deadwood, where he’s just about perfect.

Now I find through his website (thanks to BoingBoing for the link!) that he has a radio show in LA, and it’s available online. I’m going to try to put it on my Palm!

6/19/2004

I’m Valid

Filed under: — Joe @ 1:58 pm

xhtml valid! css valid!Finally got the page to be valid with both xhtml and css (as the cute little icons demonstrate). How proud can I be!

6/18/2004

Happy Birthday to me!

Filed under: — Joe @ 8:13 pm

Model One RadioA wonderful day to be, um, over 40! Hot, humid, struggling with some appliance installation all day–but all in all, a birthday is a birthday, and, as they say, it’s better than the alternative!

I even got a very nice gift, something I’ve been craving for quite some time. A new radio, especially one so very attractive and rich-sounding as the Model One, is something any birthday boy just has to love!

6/17/2004

Mentor?

Filed under: — Joe @ 9:11 pm

I accepted this assignment (“volunteered”) from the dean to work with a partner on a “Mentoring Handbook” for the college. We’re working on it pretty well (trying out a wiki–my first experience actually using it for collaborative writing, and it seems like a good technique) although it’s taking longer than I expected.

But when sitting in the full-day retreat where the ideas for the Handbook grew, I remembered somehow that Captain Marvel (remember? “SHAZAM!”) had a kind of guide and teacher named “Mentor.” I have a picture in my head of him somehow floating in the sky, or maybe in a thought-bubble, and advising young Billy about the proper use of his superpowers.

It seemed like a fun way to have a logo and even a kind of unifying metaphor for the Handbook–even one to push against.

Les Tremayne as MentorBut I can’t seem to find a picture or good description of the character. Is my imagination faulty? Just about every reference to that character I can find is from some 70’s live-action TV version (traveling around in an RV, indeed!)–which I don’t think I ever saw! Or maybe I did–but the picture in my head is certainly not this old guy! I know I owned the comic books, but of course, as is the way of things, my mother long ago destroyed that collection. So…where is MENTOR? Shazam!

6/16/2004

Peter Hamilton

Filed under: — Joe @ 6:16 pm

About a month ago I finished up Peter Hamilton’s enormous “Night’s Dawn” trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God). Enormous is certainly accurate–but it’s also, in this case, wonderful. He creates an entire, coherent, universe–a future history–with confidence and talent that I haven’t seen in a long time. This is space opera as it should be, on the grandest scale, but with real characters and believable technology. Just excellent, and long enough to really sink my teeth and mind into. And, luckily, I bought all three two-volume works at the same time, and bought them in e-book format, so on my little Tungsten T I could read them comfortably on the train, plane or in bed. I was sorry, actually, that it all had to end, even after thousands and thousands of pages.

Pandora's StarNow I’ve discovered that he’s started a new trilogy (maybe not quite so long, this time) and I’m ecstatically starting out on Pandora’s Star. It’s just as good, but here’s the problem…it’s only the first book, and the next isn’t due out until next year! That’s a long time to wait, and from reading the first trilogy, I can really see that none of the single volumes provide any kind of ending at all. So I’m going to finish this and then have a long, long, wait…

A Game of ThronesIt’s going to be a repeat of the George R.R. Martin “Song of Fire and Ice” fiasco…still waiting for A Feast for Crows, George! Just about the only fantasy I’ve liked in such a long time…and months and months go by without that promised next installment. Amazon is now promising June 24…but do I believe it? Does anybody? I should hope not!

6/7/2004

Improvements–HAH!

Filed under: — Joe @ 5:51 pm

Our first summer session started on Friday, and as usual, I’m teaching an online course. But this semester is different, because the university decided to take a system that was finally working right most of the time, and thoroughly mess it up.

We were using Blackboard 5.5 and paying Blackboard to host the server in DC–this was expensive, but it meant that it was pretty much never down, always rather zippy and responsive, and we had someone to call when things went wrong.

Well, this year, CUNY decreed that there would be a new system–all Blackboard, for all the 17 campuses, would be hosted by CUNY, at their main CUNY server, and all students, faculty, everyone, would login through the CUNY Portal–and only CUNY would be able to control and modify registrations, users, etc.

They promised this would be a big improvement. We would be able to use Blackboard 6.1, with all its wonderful functionality, we’d save a lot of money, and we’d have a robust, accountable, central server.

Hah! Again, HAH!

Not only did the switch to Bboard 6.1 mess up some of the tricky work I’d done to make my course work better (javascript rollover buttons leading directly to the Discussion Board, etc.)–which I could have dealt with, but starting on Thursday night (the summer session began on Friday morning!), the CUNY Portal, and the “robust” Bboard server were intermittently sluggish–and more often, completely inaccessible!

So my students missed the entire first weekend of a six-week course, and now, on Monday, it’s still not working right.

Thanks for the improvements! 🙁

6/1/2004

Constantine’s Sword

Filed under: — Joe @ 7:43 pm

Constantine's SwordWell, maybe I’m the last person to read it–it’s been on my list for a long time–but I finally finished James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews. I was expecting perceptive analysis and a comprehensive historical survey of the subject. But what I wasn’t expecting, and was very happy to get, was such a powerful personal narrative. Carroll’s voice and humanity let him tie together the narrative and invest it with a real urgency–a need for change in his own faith and in the world at large.

His repeated visits to core symbols and motifs (the German town of Trier, the cross at Auschwitz, Marx and Constantine, the seamless robe) get rediscovered with a kind of synchronicity that could have seemed contrived–but which never crosses that line.

I was unfamiliar with a lot of the history, so I learned a lot from that, but what I most enjoyed learning was the connection to the faith and caring of James Carroll.

I would have liked to see more exploration of “the Church and the Jews” in America, rather than exclusively Europe. I think there’s certainly a story to be told there in the later parts of Carroll’s historical analysis, but he kept his focus strictly European. I also felt that, at the end, when he presents his agenda for a Vatican III, the proposals seemed completely unrealistic (although absolutely valuable and required if the kind of transformation he’s proposing is ever going to happen). I just can’t imagine that re-envisioning the New Testament, the structure of power in the Catholic church, and a complete revision of the emphasis on Jesus’ death which has been so central to Christianity is even distantly possible in my lifetime.

Overall, though, I’m thoroughly impressed. I’m glad I finally got a chance to read this–and I know that I’ll be referring to it again.

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