Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Freakin' Christmas

Here's Octavia stuffed into a Christmas stocking. This is the photo we used for our Christmas cards this year.
I know we didn't get it sent to everyone, so if we happened to miss you, sorry! Consider this Christmas greetings from O, Linda, and Bret.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Go Barack!

This would make a good x-mas present, don'tcha think? :)

Go Barack!

Click on the picture so that you can read what the latest KFC special in New York is. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Probably the best pic of Baby O so far.

Had my first migraine last night, but I guess it's worth it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Octavia Hermione Fuller

So, she finally arrived. October 9, 2007 at 7:20 p.m. 8 lbs, 8 ounces and 22 inches long.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Favorite Author Never Read: Christa Faust

Who's your favorite author?

Pretty boring question, me thinks. But let's spice it up: Who's your favorite author that you've never read? Right now, mine would have to be Christa Faust. I mean, just take a look at her website. How could you not be a fan of Ms. Faust?


Currently, I have two of her books staring down at me from my "must read bookcase." But, honestly, I don't want to read her books. What if I don't like them? After all, sometimes things are better to admire from afar. I just fear that if I open Ms. Faust's books and take a look inside, I might not like what I find, and then where would I be?

The last time I loved an author before I actually read anything by them? The author's name: Carlton Mellick III. The book: Razor Wire Pubic Hair. What a great title, what an interesting book cover. He was supposed to be the "modern-day Kurt Vonnegut." Nope, he wasn't anything like Vonnegut, and the designation probably does Mellick a disservice as it builds expectations in a fan base that is totally different from Vonnegut's.

But I know I have to take a chance with Ms. Faust's work. I can't just leave the books sitting there on the shelf. I have to take them out for a cup of coffee at some point. And, if it turns out that they're not for me, well, there are other books on the shelf, so to speak. :)

For the Lovers, not the Players

Doing a blog is fun, although I'm not able to post as often as I would wish. And, it would be more fun if it were set up more like an interactive discussion board. Sure, people can leave their comments, but they generally do so without leaving their name. That makes their comments seem somehow dirty to me. I don't like to live in the anonymous world of not even knowing the names of the people that I have intimate relations with.

This is a blog for lovers, not players. :)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Guinevere Octavia?

If you were going to have a baby girl, what would you name it? Most normal people would go for something like "Ashley" or "Nicole" or "Elizabeth."

Not me. I like the name "Guinevere Octavia Fuller."

How would you like to be stuck with that name growing up? :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jenny McCarthy 5, Me 0

I was on Amazon looking up Children's Books, and I ran across an interesting fact. Jenny McCarthy has apparently written (and published) four books -- Louder than Words being her latest release. She also wrote the script to the movie Dirty Love. Not bad for someone that got her start as the co-host of MTV's Singled Out.

Why do I mention all of this? Jenny and I are basically the same age, but I haven't published a thing. She's supposed to be a blond playmate airhead (which of course she's not), and she's publishing books and making movies.

This cannot stand. If Ms. McCarthy can write books, then darn it, why can't I?

Jenny, I accept your challenge. The score is 5-0, but I can catch up!

Monday, September 10, 2007

WWE in Rochester

Ticket prices have gone up a lot since 1987. Back then, you could get a front row seat for $15. Saturday's show in Rochester was $50. And maybe Vince McMahon is overpricing his show, just a little... after all, the Mayo Civic Center was only 1/2 full. And on a sidenote, why do pro-wrestling fans have to bathe in sheep-dip before coming to the show?
If you haven't been to a live, non-televised event, you probably should go. It's fun to watch the crowd, even if the action in the ring is terrible. When the cameras aren't on, wrestlers spend a lot of time standing around in the ring, rolling out the ring, yelling at the crowd, and basically just killing time. Is wrestling really that boring that they have to do all of these time-killing tricks? Probably not. More likely, wrestlers are on the road 200+ dates per year, and they're simply protecting their bodies. Anything more than 5 minutes of hard action would be too much to endure on a nightly basis.
Here's a run down on the matches:
1. Former Tag Team Champions Deuce and Domino lost two a couple of no-namers. Very poor match, and why have two losers win the match? 2/10
2. Mark Henry destroys Jimmy Wang Yang in a squash match. Mark is so beat up now, he can hardly walk. 3/10
3. Michelle McCool makes Victoria submit in a divas match. Why? Victoria is a former World Champion. Michelle beating her makes me think that wrestling must be fixed or something. 6/10
4. Nunzio pins Elijah Burke. That's something you would never see happen on tv! 5/10
5. Big Daddy V and Matt Striker beat Tommy Dreamer and Stevie Richards. Actually, one of the better matches of the night, and they capped it off with an appearance by the Boogieman, who stuffed a bunch of worms down the gullet of Striker. How fun! 5/10
6. Chuck Palumbo defeats Finlay. Horrible match. They do a spot where Palumbo fakes an injury. This kills 10 minutes, and then he makes a miracle comeback, beating Finlay in 30 seconds. Horrible. 2/10
7. U.S. Champion MVP defeats Matt Hardy. Another good match, although MVP used a lot of stall tactics to draw the match out. 7/10
8. ECW Champion C.M. Punk defeats Kevin Thorn. Punk can wrestle, but why do the fans cheer for all of the "baby faces?" Started to make me sick after a while. Thorn is a major heel. He should be cheered! 7/10
9. Kane defeats World Champion The Great Khali by DQ when Finlay interferes. Simply put, Khali cannot wrestle. Actually, he didn't look that bad, but... maybe that's because he did as much as he could before they ended the match. 5/10
And talk about bored? The ring announcer clearly wanted to be some place else. What's it like to have that job, me wonders...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Michael Palin's Diary

Here's another book that I don't have time to read. :)
How well do you keep a diary? I kept one for a couple of years, actually. 1993-1994. And since then, I'll take a stab at an entry every once in a great while. To a certain extent, this blog has taken the place of my diary, but after getting Michael's diary in the mail yesterday -- 600 pages for the 10 year period -- I'm feeling a bit inspired. It's time to dust off the notebook and start putting pen to paper once more!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Cave

There's a lot to see and do in most places, but when you live in a place, it loses it's ability to be "exotic." Often times, if the choice is: should we go out exploring, or should we stay home and sit on the couch, the couch wins.

As part of our Dubuque trip last weekend, and it took us hours to decide to actually go through with going to Dubuque, we decided to stop at Niagara Cave. http://www.niagaracave.com/default.asp

Some say this is one of the top caves in the country, and it well might be. But, even so, it's just 40 miles from home, and it took us 15 months to make the drive there. (slow car)

Let me rephrase that: Just forty miles, but 15 months to commit to going there.

Am I glad we went? Of course, because now I have a weekend full of memories that I wouldn't have had sitting on the couch at home. And generally speaking, I love to travel. So why was it such a struggle to decide to go?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kip Winger Lives

Question: What is between Rochester, Minnesota and Dubuque, Iowa?

Answer: About 180 miles of corn fields and little else.

My wife and I made the journey to Dubuque last weekend to see Kip Winger in concert. If any of you recognize the name, you're probably about my age. Winger was a hair metal band that was popular for about three years (1988-1991). Not coincidentally, those were the years I was in high school, the time when my musical tastes formed.

Kip, now 46, is more than a hair metal memory, and when he plays live without the band, he plays an acoustic 12-string guitar. The guy can really play.

Anyway, Dubuque was having a free concert series, and Kip was the headlining act. I'd say about 250 people were there, but 220 were there just to drink, smoke, and socialize. Less than 30 of us were there for the music. Quite sad, really.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Familythink: Invitation to Write #18

For Writers:

My mother and her five siblings were raised in the Latter-day Saints religion. All told, I probably have about twenty-five cousins or so, and most of them have a few kids of their own. How many of my mother’s siblings, my cousins, or their children have left the faith of their parents? As far as I know, none of them have.

In the “Up” documentary series, researchers follow the lives of British children from diverse backgrounds. This series started in 1964, and every seven years, the researchers come back to interview the participants. This series uses a motto based on a Jesuit saying, “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of truth to that saying.

Without getting into the whole “nature vs. nurture” debate, why is it so difficult for people to examine the values they were taught in childhood? Not to pick on the LDS faith, but why have none of my immediate family members found a different religion? What would happen to any of them – they all live in Idaho and Utah – if they decided to become, say, Catholic, or worse, atheist? Did they ever have the ability to make the choice for themselves?

Family bonds are strong, and sometimes we sacrifice the freedom to choose. Sometimes, perhaps, we are raised in such a way that freedom to choose is removed – perhaps as early as by age seven. It’s a sobering thought.

Imagine a decision that you have made that went against your family’s wishes or beliefs. How difficult was it for you to go against the pressure of family? Did you keep your decision “secret” to avoid disappointing those you love?

"The important thing is not to stop questioning."
Albert Einstein

Happy Birthday, Poppa

Give it up for the Old Man. Anyone up for a road trip to Key West??

Harry Potter Day

Linda and I have at least one friend that went to the bookstore at 12:01 a.m. this morning to buy her copy of the last Harry Potter book. And, I'm sure there are tens of thousands of people that did the same, giving up sleep tonight to feed their Potter need.

Me, I'm a bit behind. Just finished the third book tonight, and I fear that by the time I get to book 7, the secret of who dies at the end will have been revealed. I'm going to do my best not to find out, but since it will probably take me another couple of months to finish the next four books, it seems unlikely that I'll be able to avoid finding out.

My guess is that Snape and Voldemort will be the two that die... surely not Harry or Ron or Hermione?? That would be too sad...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

An Explanation for Everything: Invitation to Write #17

For Writers:

Chris was a forty year old professional who pushed himself to perform to the best of his abilities at all times. He almost never allowed anyone inside, but from what people could see on the surface, everyone respected his passion and drive. They also considered him to be a loving family man with a caring wife and a well-mannered little boy.

Then one day he was traveling for his job and received a phone call from his wife. What she told him in that conversation made him cancel one of the most important work-related events of his life to immediately catch the next flight home. The matter was apparently that serious.

Outside of Chris and his wife, no one knows the why behind what happened once he arrived home. With his small son sleeping in the adjacent bedroom, Chris strangled his wife with an electrical cord, leaving her lifeless corpse to rot. The following morning, he put a bag over his son’s head, removing the last breath from his small body.

A little bit later, Chris worked out in the basement gym of his house; two dead bodies resting where they lay in the rooms above, a Bible placed next to each. Tying a make-shift noose around his neck, he hung himself.

Chris always was a man of few words, preferring to let his actions speak for themselves.

Today, fill in the missing pieces. Do the “reasons” behind Chris’s actions even matter?

“Strong reasons make strong actions.”
William Shakespeare

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Octavia

A special happy birthday to one of my favorite writers, Ms. Octavia Butler (god rest her soul).

Backstage Passes: Invitiation to Write #16

For Writers:

She and her kid sister took a road trip to Ohio one summer to catch three Def Leppard shows. This was 1987, and the band was at the height of its popularity.

The kid sister was 16, and she was willing to do anything to meet the band. By the third show, the roadies had taken notice of the two young women, and one offered the girls backstage passes.

When they went backstage after the show, the band was nowhere to be found, but the room was filled with assorted roadies and hopeful groupies. “Take your tops off,” one roadie said, “and you’ll get to meet the band.” This was the initiation price all prospective groupies had to pay for the chance to meet the heavy metal heartthrobs.

The 16 year old was willing to strip down, as were most of the girls in the room. The older sister refused to take her top off, however, as the thought of a bunch of 40 year old roadies pawing at her chest repulsed her.

In the end, the roadies failed to keep their end of the deal, selecting only the ones they deemed “prime” to meet the band -- and only after completing one more task, which I won't relate here, to prove their worth.

Fortunately, the 16 year old was not among those invited to play the roadies' next game, although she didn't feel lucky at the time, and she never listened to Def Leppard in the same way ever again.

Where would you like "backstage access"? What would you do to get past the “filter” to the restricted area beyond backstage?

“Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.”
Bayle Roche

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Into the Void: Invitation to Write #15

For Writers:

I hadn’t seen or heard from her in over three years, and then one summer, she sent me a letter. The reasons for us losing touch are too complicated to note here, and may not matter anyway. In short: she had graduated from college and moved on with her life.

Her letter was handwritten, which is a nice touch in the age of word processors and emails, and she briefly filled in the gaps of my knowledge. She was preparing to adjunct at a local college, and her wedding was set for that December.

Interestingly enough, I was beginning my teaching career as an adjunct at the same college that fall. Seeing her a few weeks later at the teacher orientation session, I noticed that she hadn’t changed that much. On the surface, her look was more professional than it had been as a student, but otherwise, I found it difficult to acknowledge the passing of three years.

And though we were friendly to one another that semester, we were by no means close friends. When she wasn’t teaching, she was understandably occupied with wedding plans.

On the last day of the semester, we were both in the office finalizing our grades; and as I had not been invited to the wedding, I knew that this would be the last time I would ever see her. She never seemed to notice that she was going back into the void; she never seemed to notice that her absence would be felt deeply for years to come.

Today, think of absence. Is there someone still living (as far as you know) who was once a valuable part of your life that you’ve now lost complete touch with? Did you have any clues that this was going to happen, and if so, why didn’t you fight to maintain contact?

“Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear.”
Alexander Pope

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Camilla in the Crib

We put the crib together yesterday, and guess who has already made herself at home? Our white fur ball.

(Click on the picture for a bigger look)

Life's Highlight Reel: Invitation to Write #14

For Writers:

When I graduated from college, it was a hot August day in Illinois. The gym didn’t have air conditioning, and my silk shirt was completely soaked after the first ten minutes. The ceremony lasted for over two hours, and then I went out to eat spaghetti with a couple of friends. Yawn.

Graduating is one of those events that people would instinctively put on a personal highlight reel. But at least in my case, the event – the ritual – was an uncomfortable and mundane experience. Symbolically, it represented three years of my life, but it’s hard to capture three years by walking across the stage, shaking a few hands, and having a few pictures taken of you.

In life, we often try to capture the culmination of experience through ritual – whether it be a baptism, a wedding, or a graduation. Human beings need rituals, but are ritualized events really the highlights of our lives?

Today, consider your own personal highlight reel. What would you include on it? Would ritualized or ceremonial events be on it? If so, fine, but stop to consider if a ritualized event is as important as taking a walk through a park, smiling at your son as he plays baseball, or visiting a cave in New Mexico.

“The one thing I remember about Christmas was that my father used to take me out in a boat about ten miles offshore on Christmas Day, and I used to have to swim back. Extraordinary. It was a ritual. Mind you, that wasn't the hard part. The difficult bit was getting out of the sack.”
John Cleese

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tattoo You: Invitation to Write #13

For Writers:

It’s a hip thing to do, to get a tattoo.

The idea of joining the inked masses has crossed my mind on a number of occasions, but at this point I’m still ink free. The main reason for that: I haven’t found anything so soaked full of meaning that I wanted to leave an indelible mark on my body with it.

Over the past decade, however, many people have started getting tattooed as a kind of fashion accessory. Statistics indicate that over one-third of people in the 18-29 age range now have at least one tattoo. Why? One of the main reasons given is to feel “sexier.”

The non-tattooed majority still hold prejudicial thoughts against folks with tattoos, though, with opinion polls indicating that those without tattoos find those with tattoos to be less intelligent, less sexy, and overall, less attractive. Nevertheless, fully one-third of the 100 sexiest women, as determined by FHM magazine, have tattoos.

At the moment, tribal tattoos are the most en vogue, followed by crosses, stars, and dragons. But leave it to my wife, Linda, who is always thinking outside the box. If she were ever to ink her body, she’d sport the likeness of Papa Smurf.

Today, think about tattoos. If you have one (or more), write about the meaning and significance it has for you. If you do not have one, would you consider getting one? Why or why not? And if yes, what would you get, and where would you put it?

“Show me a man with a tattoo and I'll show you a man with an interesting past.”
Jack London

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Paradise -- Invitation to Write #12

For Writers:

When my wife and I visited Hawaii for the first time a few years ago, we both thought that this might be the place. Stepping out of the airport, the first thing to greet us was a rainbow, and the temperature stayed at a constant 80 degrees for our entire visit.

I have an aunt that claims it takes an artist’s eye to see the many variations in the shades of green in nature, but then she’s never been to Hawaii. Hundreds of shades of green were growing everywhere.

Paradise is easier to imagine than to experience, just as anticipation often times trumps attainment. I would assume that it is hard-wired into each of us to be difficult to please, but how can a place like Hawaii start to get old after just a few days? But it did, and we were ready to go home. Home might not be paradise, but the paradox is, it doesn’t need to be.

What is your idea of paradise? Try to describe it in physical terms. Is it a place you’d want to live, or is it a place just best to visit? Can you make a home in paradise?

“Travel is a fool’s paradise.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Reference Letter from God -- Invitation to Write #11

For Writers:

People are busy, and acknowledging that fact, I hate asking anyone for favors that will eat away their precious time. As I know from personal experience, writing a reference letter can be a chore, and needless to say, the person doing the requesting always needs it written and sent out immediately. The sense of urgency is probably a good thing, though, because if given an ample amount of time – two or three weeks would certainly seem helpful – it would just be far too easy for the reference writer to procrastinate and forget.

When I first started asking people for references, usually professors to support my applications to graduate schools, I would often write the letters myself. Sometimes my professors would look at me like I was crazy to hand them a completed reference letter that I had written for them to sign; but I’m sure that some of them simply signed their names at the bottom, secretly glad that they didn’t have to take the time to write anything themselves.

What if you needed to ask God to write a letter of reference for you? Explore the kinds of things that might be included in such a reference letter. Would you have the chutzpah to write your own reference letter, expecting God just to sign off on it without reading it first?

"Call on god, but row away from the rocks."
Indian proverb

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Reference Letter for God -- Invitation to Write #10

For Writers:

Over the years, I’ve been asked to write reference letters for a number of students and faculty. The secret to writing a good reference letter is to add specific key words that pop off the page. To help them “pop,” I think it’s even okay to put such words in bold – words such as innovative or leader. No one really reads references with the intent of savoring every word. After all, the reference letter has a certain form and follows specific, mutually-agreed upon criteria. Actually, most readers of reference letters are simply looking for what you don’t say. Death by omission.

I’ve found that the hardest references to write are the ones for people I don’t know that well. A surprising number of students ask instructors for a reference letter after just a semester (and sometimes not even that long). And, as a direct supervisor of faculty, I sometimes need to write a reference letter for someone that I haven’t observed teach. How can I tell someone that Dr. X is a good teacher when I haven’t even seen her teach?

I know we’re all in trouble when I feel the need to pull out my “one size fits all” reference letter template.

Now, imagine that God asked you for a reference letter. What would you list as strengths? What would be your evaluation of the work performed on the job? And what words would you include that would pop off the page that would encourage employers to believe that God was right for the position?

“Since God created man in His own image how often has man endeavored to render a similar service to God?”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thing I'll Never Do: Invitation to Write #9

For Writers:

My friend Patrick called me up and asked me to jump out of an airplane with him. He and two other friends had decided it would be fun to hurdle toward the ground at great speed, and they wanted to include me in the fun. I asked him where they planned to go to do the jumping, and he named a local parachute club.

Although his offer was tempting, I begged poverty as an excuse. I simply didn’t have the extra money to join them, I said. While it was true that I didn’t have the money, any fear I might have of jumping out of an airplane I kept to myself.

None of them plummeted to their deaths that day, and all of them came back telling heroic stories of daring. Once they had returned safely, I felt bad not going. The experience had bonded them in such a way that I would forever be excluded from the “Three Flying Musketeers.” I promised to jump with them the next time they went, but they never jumped again. My opportunity to become the fourth Musketeer never came.

Today, make a list of all the things you’ll never do in your life, making your list as ordinary or as crazy as you’d like. After spending a few minutes making your list, go back through and explore at least 5 of the items in some detail. What are your reasons for not doing these things?

“While we stop to think, we often miss our opportunity.”
Publilius Syrus

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mind Fields: Invitation to Write #8

For Writers:

We all have those “what should I do?” moments in our lives. When I have one, I like to consider all of my options in minute detail. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed in looking at the pros and cons of each option that I find it impossible to decide what to do.

For weeks I might go over the options again and again in my mind, only to find that the problem has resolved itself over time. Either the options that I once had are no longer options, or the problem has changed so much that I have to start the thinking process of “what should I do?” all over again.

I often find myself feeling guilty for having a mind. Why can’t I be more impulsive? Why can’t I act and live life without so much planning? Isn’t it worse being a prisoner, locked behind my own personal mind field?

Write about a time in your life that required you to make an important decision. What emotions did you feel as you thought about what you needed to do? Were you able to act and make the decision, or did you let the decision be made for you by thinking about your options for too long? Are you proud of how you handled the situation, or do you feel regrets?

“I have thought too much to stoop to action!”
Philippe Auguste Villiers de L’Isle-Adam

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Scream: Invitation to Write #7

For Writers:

Hanging on the wall over my computer desk is a print of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The emotions Munch captures in that simple painting often match the way I feel when I sit down at the computer to write. If I’m not feeling any creative juices flowing in my veins, I want nothing more than to go to the nearest bridge and scream.

Sometimes screaming actually helps. It releases tension and bad energy, offering writers the chance to purge the emotions that keep them from producing quality work. While a certain level of stress might be necessary to write, feeling too much stress cripples writers into becoming non-writers.

True writers know they were born to write. Screaming has the ability to unlock the creative energy necessary to write, to tell the story that needs to be told. Writers were born to scream.

Today, think about what story you’re dying to scream to the world. What has kept you from telling that story? Have you tried to tell it before, but somehow refused to infuse the proper amount of energy it needed to be told correctly? Write for two pages, doing your best to make every word you use scream from the page.

“I decided it is better to scream. This pitiful sound, which sometimes, goodness knows how, reaches the remotest prison cells, is a concentrated expression of the last vestige of human dignity. It is a man’s way of leaving a trace, of telling people how he lived and died. By his screams he asserts his right to live, sends a message to the outside world demanding help and calling for resistance. If nothing else is left, one must scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.”
Nadezhda Mandelstam

Thursday, May 10, 2007

One Layer Below: Invitation to Write #6

For Writers:

When we were in the market to buy a house, our Realtor didn’t plan to show us the small ranch-style house we eventually ended up buying. My wife saw a picture of it on the office’s bulletin board, and we had to convince Sam to take us out there.

After driving way out into the middle of nowhere, past graveyards and the local garbage dump, we finally arrived. The house was only six years old, but it hadn’t been lived in for three years. Layers of dust and animal droppings covered everything. What we were to find in the back bedrooms, though, was what certainly caught our attention the most.

The woman who had lived there before like to paint, and she had made the walls of the bedrooms her canvas. One mural was of the sword Excalabur rising out of the lake. In the room that would become our bedroom, she had painted a magical forest, with a huge unicorn as the central focus. It almost looked like it was running straight out of the wall.

After we purchased the house, we set out cleaning. Soon the layers of dust were gone, but what to do about the murals? They were cheesy, but it took a while to decide to cover them with a layer of light blue paint. The murals remain, but they were hidden one layer below.

Today, think about something that’s right below the surface. It could be something in the physical or mental realm. Would it be better for it to stay out of sight? What, if anything, would be gained by bringing it to the surface?

“Go where we will on the surface of things, men have been there before us.”
Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Habit Man: Invitation to Write #5

For Writers:

I find it difficult to change. For years I have told myself to stop biting my fingernails, but unless I wrap all of my fingers in bandages, nothing stops me from gnawing away. Although I know better, I seem helpless to stop.

From time to time, I convince myself to exercise and eat a healthier selection of foods, but it never lasts. Soon enough, I fall back into the habit of eating powdered donuts and watching TV all evening. The exercise equipment in the back room remains silent from disuse, and the apples in the refrigerator rot.

Human beings are slaves to routine. The daily grind of life wears us down after a while, and the way we cope is to fall into the security of habit and routine. Habit and routine don’t necessarily need to be bad things, but it’s a lot harder to break a bad habit than it is to break a good one.

Today, think about one of your bad habits. Can you pinpoint why you fell into that habit? Is there any way you could quit? Change your routine? Outline an action plan to quit the bad habit you’ve described. Think carefully about what security that bad habit gives you, and find ways to permanently remove that bad habit by removing the need for that security.

“To fall into habit is to cease to be.”
Miguel de Unamuno

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

You're Invited

You might have noticed that for the past few days I've been posting "Invitation to Write" posts. My belief is that some people would like to write, but the blank page can be more scary than a dentist's chair. The idea behind my invitations is to help people prime the pumps of their imaginations.

So, take me up on my invitation. Read my "opening remarks," and join the conversation.

And, I'd love to read what you come up with. Send your insights to bret.fuller@roch.edu

The Shadow People: Invitation to Write #4

For Writers:

Who are the shadow people? One well-known radio talk show host who specializes in the paranormal describes them as the ghost-like images of people we might catch glimpses of in our peripheral vision. To me, though, shadow people have little to do with anything we might consider paranormal. Shadow people are quite normal, quite real.

Whatever happened, for example, to the people you knew in high school? What happens to people we were once close to but no longer see? These are the people who live only in memory. They are the real shadow people.

Every once in a while, we run into one of these individuals in the flesh. Sometimes seeing someone we haven’t seen in years can be shocking. We might know they are still alive, but as far as their place in our every day lives goes, they might as well have passed on to the other side. Encountering shadow people can feel like making contact with the dead.

Today write about shadow people. Think about someone you’ve lost touch with, and allow your memories of that person to come to the surface. Visualize who they were, and imagine what their lives might be like now. Do you feel haunted by the memories, or do they simply stay with you like your own shadow on a sunny day?

“What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story. And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams.”
Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Life Is a Dream

Friday, May 4, 2007

The Power of Words: Invitation to Write #3

For Writers:

Writers must believe in the power of words, but where does the power come from? What gives words strung into sentences the force to change reality? Of course, some might choose to argue that words don’t change reality. Some might say that words can describe changes in reality, but reality itself simply “is.”

In an age inundated with constant visual images, some have claimed that the power of the written word is a thing of the past. Authors of the postmodern age believed that language itself was “exhausted.” And yet, without words to communicate their philosophy, how would we have ever known what they were thinking?

Words, of course, work on various levels. They can be spoken or written, saved or forgotten, true or false. Human beings have a natural ability to learn words at a very early age, and anyone who has ever spent any time with small toddlers must be impressed every time they hear them add a new word to their vocabularies.

Words are magical. Whole worlds are contained within each one.

Today write about words. Explore the sensations you feel as you write. Where do the right words come from, and why do we feel so frustrated when we have a word on the tip of our tongues that remains hidden? Count to five and start with the first word that enters your head. Write until you reach the end of the page.

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Do Not Remove: Invitation to Write #2

For Writers:

We’ve all seen and joked about the tags on pillows that warn us not to remove them under penalty of federal law. When I was young and ornery, I would tear the tags off every pillow I would run across. Secretly, I thought about federal agents kicking down my door, catching me with tags in hand. These “pillow police” would throw me in a cell with only a pallet for a bed – and no pillow.

No one on pillow patrol ever came knocking on my door, but my mom was never happy when I would tear the tags off her favorite pillows. She knew the practical reason for leaving the tags alone: tear off the tag and risk tearing the lining of the pillow. It never stopped me, though, and soon enough I had graduated from pillow tags to tags on T-shirts. More than one shirt developed a peep-hole that allowed others to see the back of my neck.

Unlike pillow or shirt tags, other things cannot be so easily ripped off without serious consequences. These are the things that really need warning tags.

Think of a person, place, or thing of you choice. What would happen if it were removed from your life? Would you be able to continue, or would the hole it left be too big? Would your lining begin to fall out as a result? Today, explore the meaning of removal for 2 full pages without stopping.

“Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and fans flames.”
Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Clouds: Invitation to Write #1

For Writers:

On lazy summer afternoons in the park, I like to look skyward at the friendly, puffy-white clouds. Something about cloud gazing centers me, making me feel as though the world and I are one. Sometimes the imagination wanders, and clouds take the shape of animals, faces, or other objects. Sometimes clouds are not puffy white at all. These other kinds of clouds are black, mean, and menacing.

What I remember most about my first airplane ride as a child is the unique experience of looking down on the clouds. Clouds, as I found out, are not the top of anything at all. They simply rest between the earth and eternity.

Write about clouds today. What is the most unusual cloud you have ever seen? Why does the image stay with you? Do you tend to remember the “friendly” clouds or the “mean” clouds more? Explore why that is.

“Is there no pity sitting in the clouds,
That sees into the bottom of my grief?”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Do you remember 1977? I was 4 years old, and the one event that stands out in my memory is my family's nightly watching of the miniseries "Roots." It must have been on every night for a year -- at least that's what it felt like to me back then.

It's 30 years later, and it's now being released on DVD. To tell you the truth, I'm excited about it. I never really watched it when it was first aired, but I can't wait to watch it now.

In a related note, I just finished watching Carl Sagan's 13 part "Cosmos." Awesome stuff. Just awesome.



Monday, April 30, 2007

Disc Golf (aka Frisbee Golf)

Don't call it frisbee golf. That's the first thing to learn.

Now that you know that, anyone care to play a round? On my way home from work Friday, I ran into a couple of the pyschology instructors, just back from a game. Well, this raised my interest, and I went out this weekend and bought a few discs.

This could be fun. Let me know when you're free to play, and we'll head out. If you don't have any discs of your own, I'll even let you borrow mine. :)


Friday, April 27, 2007

Kitty Litter Zen Gardens

It took me a while to figure it all out, but I now know why my wife decided to get herself pregnant. She hates with a passion having to clean out the kitty litter box. Now that she's pregnant, guess who gets to do that for at least the next six months?


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Internet Traffic

Ever wonder where people "go" on the Internet? Here's a site that keeps track.


You can search popularity by country, by language, etc. Pretty cool.

Where are your students going? Based on the top sites listed for the United States, here's my guess:

3. Myspace -- http://myspace.com
6. Youtube -- http://youtube.com
7. Facebook -- http://facebook.com
8. Wikipedia -- http://wikipedia.org

Knowing that these sites are among the most popular on the Internet is one thing; figuring out how to tap into that popularity for an educational purpose is quite another. Thoughts on how to do that?

No Cell Phones in Class, Please

Have you seen this clip? Does a better job than just stating a policy in the syllabus, don'tcha think? :)


Name That Kid

What are some good names for a new kid? Here's what's at the top of my list right now:

If a boy:

First name
Ziggy or Dante

Middle name

If a girl:

First name
Portia or Octavia

Middle name

Books Weighing You Down?

We made a trip to Illinois this weekend, and we helped a friend of ours unload about 150 of her books. It seems that she had so many books that her house was literally collapsing. Anyway, she was getting rid of most of her collection so that she wouldn't have to deal with the hassle of putting everything in storage while her house gets repaired.

As a result, my library has just jumped past the 1400 book mark. In the past, I've always tried my best to keep it at a maximum of 1000. But what's a booklover to do? Remember that you can go through my personal library, if you're at all curious... and if I know you and you live close by, you can even borrow a book from me. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up, so it's time to consider how big our footprints are.

My footprint is 27 acres, which apparently means, if everyone lived like I do, we'd need six Earths to sustain us all. (The average American footprint is 24 acres).

What is the size of your footprint?


(Gee... and I thought I was just a size 12!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007


I just discovered librarything last week, and I spent most of Saturday keying in all of my books -- all 1300 of them.

Librarything is a site that allows you to catalog your books online. Pretty cool, actually.

If you look over to the right, you can go through my entire library, if you are so inclined. So go ahead. Find out what I read.

And if you ever need a book, and I have it, I'd be happy to lend it to you.



Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Quick Announcement

Okay, let's see if I can type this. The due date is October 6.

Here's a brief background for what led up to this:

Blissful Ignorance, March -- Linda feels tired and nauseous all the time, but she never stops to consider that she might be pregnant. She's a nurse, but the fact never crosses her mind. In fact, she goes to the doctor to check on the possibility of ulcers...

D-Day, April 6 -- We had talked about driving home to Illinois for the weekend, but in the end, we opt not to. That evening, Linda discovers the truth of her new reality. She estimates that she's probably 8 weeks along.

Denial, April 6-12 -- I choose not to believe that my life is about to change.

Acceptance, April 13 -- We go in for the first ultrasound. Is this an elaborate hoax? There's something on the screen. Maybe it's just a big tapeworm? Nope, that's a future baby alright, and 15 weeks along.

Change, April 15 -- Cancel the cruise plans for October, and see how non-refundable, non-refunable airline tickets really are.

More updates to come...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Happiness Needs a Lot of Practice

One of the books I'm reading right now is Families and How to Survive Them by Robin Skynner and John Cleese. Pretty interesting stuff. The line that stands out thus far is: "happiness needs a lot of practice."

Why must we work so hard to be happy? Is happiness something that must be earned?

Monday, April 9, 2007

What Happens in Vegas...

I have news, but I haven't announced it to anyone yet. If you want advanced notice, here's a clue -- Genesis 1:28.

Basically, what happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Questions Workshop

The link below is the icebreaker activity for my Questions workshop tomorrow. Watch it, and if you don't laugh, I'll give you your money back!


As my wife would say, "Freakin' hilarious!"

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Warning: Political Posting

I'm reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and it's a compelling read. He has apparently pulled in 20 million dollars for his presidential campaign, which is just a few million behind Hillary...

Last week Rev. Jesse Jackson endorsed Obama, and I thought, hmm... the endorsement solidifies Obama's Democratic credentials, of course, but in his book he discusses the importance of being above politics, and not falling victim to the "right vs. left" dichotomy. Jackson's a pretty polarizing figure, but what's Obama to do? Could he refuse the endorsement, and if he did, would that show that he's rising above politics or surrendering to the very dichotomy he claims to oppose?

Obama is for real, and I humbly predict that he will be the next president.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Human Animal

We went to the Farmer’s Market in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, and the place was amazing. If you ever have a chance to visit San Francisco, I would highly recommend that you add it to your agenda.

All big cities have a problem with homeless people, but San Francisco seemed to have a bigger problem than most. On the plus side, all of the homeless people we met on the street were very nice, and it was interesting to see the relationships some had developed with businesses. For example, I just happened to be standing on the street corner outside of our hotel for a few minutes one night, and I noticed a sack of take-out food just sitting there… right outside a Thai restaurant. How weird is that? I thought. Shortly thereafter, a younger black man came walking down the street, picked up the sack in one swift movement, crossed the street, and went along his merry way. By the way he moved, I understood this to be a nightly event.

More sad was the sight I witnessed at the Farmer’s Market. As I ordered my lunch from a little stand, I noticed a middle-aged white man hanging over the side of a trash can, his butt exposed for all of those unfortunate enough to be looking in his direction. While I was ordering a fresh meal, he was helping himself to the “leftovers” that others had thrown away. And while I watched him, I have to admit to you a scary thought. It was this: he looks human, but he’s not. I thought this just for a second, but it scared me to be able to look at a fellow human being and “see” something less than human.

Then I found a secluded bench and enjoyed my lunch. But now I wonder, who ate my leftovers?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Got Stress?

Hello fun seekers. I promised to blog while on vacation, but I guess I was having too much fun. Then, it took me a week to catch up with work. Anyway, I'm back if you missed me.

This Thursday I'll be running a workshop on Helping Students Deal with Stress. If you're free and in the area, I hope to see you there.

As my gift to you, here are 101 ways to cope with stress, courtesy of http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/101ways.htm

Get up 15 minutes earlier
Prepare for the morning the night before
Avoid tight fitting clothes
Avoid relying on chemical aids
Set appointments ahead
Don't rely on your memory ... write it down
Practice preventive maintenance
Make duplicate keys
Say "no" more often
Set priorities in your life
Avoid negative people
Use time wisely
Simplify meal times
Always make copies of important papers
Anticipate your needs
Repair anything that doesn't work properly
Ask for help with the jobs you dislike
Break large tasks into bite size portions
Look at problems as challenges
Look at challenges differently
Unclutter your life
Be prepared for rain
Tickle a baby
Pet a friendly dog/cat
Don't know all the answers
Look for a silver lining
Say something nice to someone
Teach a kid to fly a kite
Walk in the rain
Schedule play time into every day
Take a bubble bath
Be aware of the decisions you make
Believe in yourself
Stop saying negative things to yourself
Visualize yourself winning
Develop your sense of humor
Stop thinking tomorrow will be a better today
Have goals for yourself
Dance a jig
Say "hello" to a stranger
Ask a friend for a hug
Look up at the stars
Practice breathing slowly
Learn to whistle a tune
Read a poem
Listen to a symphony
Watch a ballet
Read a story curled up in bed
Do a brand new thing
Stop a bad habit
Buy yourself a flower
Take time to small the flowers
Find support from others
Ask someone to be your "vent-partner"
Do it today
Work at being cheerful and optimistic
Put safety first
Do everything in moderation
Pay attention to your appearance
Strive for Excellence NOT perfection
Stretch your limits a little each day
Look at a work of art
Hum a jingle
Maintain your weight
Plant a tree
Feed the birds
Practice grace under pressure
Stand up and stretch
Always have a plan "B"
Learn a new doodle
Memorize a joke
Be responsible for your feelings
Learn to meet your own needs
Become a better listener
Know your limitations and let others know them, too
Tell someone to have a good day in pig Latin
Throw a paper airplane
Exercise every day
Learn the words to a new song
Get to work early
Clean out one closet
Play patty cake with a toddler
Go on a picnic
Take a different route to work
Leave work early (with permission)
Put air freshener in your car
Watch a movie and eat popcorn
Write a note to a far away friend
Go to a ball game and scream
Cook a meal and eat it by candlelight
Recognize the importance of unconditional love
Remember that stress is an attitude
Keep a journal
Practice a monster smile
Remember you always have options
Have a support network of people, places and things
Quit trying to fix other people
Get enough sleep
Talk less and listen more
Freely praise other people

BONUS: Relax, take each day at a time...you have the rest of your life to live!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


My wife and I are leaving for Hawaii on Monday, if the weather cooperates. When my wife and I go on cruises, which is what we're doing on this trip, we often times invite family or friends to go with us. To this point, no one has ever taken us up on the invitation. We went through the motions of inviting my parents, and to our pleasant surprise, they decided to go. :0)

And, they've already spent a week in Hawaii thus far. Cross your fingers that we are able to join up with them on Monday as scheduled.

On the way back, we'll be stopping in San Francisco for a few days. This is my first time, and quite honestly, I'm starting to get more excited about San Fran than Hawaii. After all, I've been to Hawaii once *yawn*

I'm crazy enough to keep the blog going on vacation, so check back in, and I promise to provide regular updates. Taking time off is important, and it's amazing how many people don't take the time (or save the money) to go on a much-needed vacation. Going to Hawaii is nice, of course, but even getting away to a local bed and breakfast can do the trick.

Take care of yourselves, and recharge those batteries!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top 10

I promised my top ten, and here it is. This is my Top 10 in the fiction category.

1. Don Quixote – Cervantes
2. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
3. The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer
4. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
5. Crime and Punishment – Dostoyevsky
6. Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
7. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
8. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
9. 1984 – George Orwell
10. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

Honorable Mention:
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
Cathedral – Raymond Carver
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

Care to share yours? Send it to me: fish1861@aol.com

Don't forget that you can post and compare here, too: http://www.toptenbooks.net/


I don't fear much, but I do fear the dentist. The last time I visited one was in 1998, and I like to tell myself that I have good teeth and don't need regular maintenance.

Well, one of my teeth chipped yesterday. Just a little, but it was quite unexpected. It didn't chip to the nerve, but now my tongue won't leave it alone. Will it chip again? What happens if I go on vacation next week and I don't have easy access to a dentist?

Be sure to take care of yourself. My wife finally convinced me that we needed to take our cars in every 5,000 miles for preventative maintenance, so why have I been so loathe to taking myself in for my own 5,000 mile check-ups?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Time and the Soul

"Worrying is not thinking."

This is a line that really stood out to me in Jacob Needleman's Time and the Soul. Why do we allow ourselves to get so stressed out? Often times, perhaps we spend more time worrying than we do actually thinking. Worrying focuses on the negative of what might happen. Thinking, however, can lead to an action which will avoid a negative outcome. This isn't necessarily what Needleman's point is in his book, but that's the "truth" I took from it.

The book also suggested one "trick" to try. Assume that the event has already occured. Whatever it is you're worried about, just assume it has already happened. As you go through a stressful time, don't worry about it. Just tell yourself that it is happening as it must, and work your way through it.


Friday, February 16, 2007

The Top Ten

Everyone loves lists, don't they? What if you had to come up with a list of the top ten books that have affected you the most? How would you develop such a list?

Peder Zane edited a book called The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. Actually, I just started thinking about the top ten concept, and then while at Barnes and Noble, I stumbled across this book. As far as I can tell, and I only had a chance to flip through it, this is a book of fiction writers listing fiction, though.

As an English major, all I cared about was fiction. But these days, I find myself reading everything. My list would be more inclusive than just fiction, and I would also be more concerned with how the book affected my life rather than just how "good" the book was, if you catch my meaning.

Anyway, if you care to share your top ten, I'd love to see it. Post a comment here, or email me at fish1861@aol.com. And if anyone is interested, I'll post my Top 10 list next week.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wisdom from President Hill

Why do we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives? Why are we so concerned about our ego?

On Friday, I had the opportunity to listen to former RCTC President Charles Hill (1953-1982) share his experiences. He's 92 years old now, and it was interesting to hear him talk from the perspective of wisdom.

What does he remember? It's not the stupid little day-to-day things that stress so many of us out. Instead, he remembers people. He remembers the fun he had along the way. At no time, though, did he merely list his life's accomplishments. Ego wasn't involved in his stories at all. And that, I think, is how it should be. How many of us remember and acknowledge that on a regular basis?

There's a big difference between making a difference and being self-important.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith

Anna died. Why do we care? What did she ever do to make us care?

Every death is tragic, I suppose, but when the famous die, are their deaths any more tragic than anyone else's?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Netflix, anyone?

I've been using Netflix since 2003, and the service is great. Every so often, I ask my friends and colleagues if they use it, and over the years, only a handful have indicated that they have.

If you like movies, this is one of the best ways I know to keep up with everything that gets released on DVD. Keeping track of all the new releases can feel like a full-time job, and it's easy to let that movie you were meaning to watch on DVD slip though to the dark pit of your memory.

Anyway, if you don't watch that many movies, Netflix still has a plan that would fit your needs. At one point, I was on the eight movies out at a time plan, and that was a lot. Right now I'm at four out at a time, and that's about right for me.

If any of you are Netflix members, I'd love to add you to my Friends list. Just let me know. :)

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Banning Toy Guns

How absurd is this? I heard on the radio this week that politicians in the Cities are interested in banning replica guns. They can, after all, be used to "intimidate" people. Real guns, on the other hand, are just fine I guess.

I did some more digging, and apparently these toy guns do fire bullets, just plastic little pellets -- non-lethal. So, we're banning non-lethal "toys" and allowing the lethal weapons to remain legal? I wish I was a stand-up comic, because here would be the place for the punch line.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Foot Binding

I have worn a size 12 shoe since high school. No matter how snug the shoe was, if I liked it, and if it was a size 12, that's what I bought.

Then, about a year ago, I had my first experience with gout. Boy is that painful. Even then, it never dawned on me that moving up in shoe size might be a good idea.

Last week I went to a shoe store that still uses salespeople -- ones that still measure your feet. And I learned sometime. In length, my foot is indeed a 12. But other parts of my foot measure out to 13.

The salesperson said I might be binding my feet. That image stuck with me, and I decided to buy a size 13 as a test.

So far, so good. I'm now in the process of throwing out all of my "snug" size 12's. Don't ever get too attached to a number.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Top 10 Keys to Unlocking Student Motivation

Below are notes from the Student Motivation Workshop I facilitated today. I can't post the Powerpoints, but if you're interested in them, just send me an email, and I'll be happy to shoot them your way.

10. Limit/Manage Stress

This is the topic of the 2/22 workshop. Please attend! :)

9. Promote Active Learning

• Use in-class activities to reinforce newly presented material. After a new concept or subject has been presented via text reading, lecture, or class discussion, allow the students to put the concept into action by completing an in-class assignment. These assignments can be short, but they must be developed to ensure that the students understand the critical concepts underlying the new material.
• Typically, the most learning takes place when the students are permitted to work in small groups, to refer to their text and notes, and to ask questions of the instructor while completing the assignment. If these in-class assignments are part of the course grading scheme, class attendance also improves.

8. Make Intentional, Explicit Connections

Help students create a “link” when teaching something new. If the student can “link” the new material to something already learned, the odds of learning the new material are greatly increased. Examples of possible “links” include: prior material learned in this course, material learned in prerequisite courses, and “real-life” experiences of the students outside the classroom.

7. Recognize Learning Styles

Provide students with a "visual aid" when possible to explain abstract concepts. A significant proportion of today's’ students are visual learners. For these students, a simple diagram or flowchart truly can be more valuable than a thousand words in a text or a lecture.

6. Be “Mistake Friendly”

• Tell your students: “The next time you feel confused or awkward, instead of telling yourself ‘I can’t do this. I’m no good at it,’ affirm to yourself simply: ‘I’m learning.’”
• We’re all learning. As young children, we didn’t worry about falling down when we learned to walk or making mistakes when we colored outside the lines. These feeling came later.
• Learning is what life (and college) is all about, not grades.

5. Listen (Develop Inclusiveness)

• Inclusiveness creates new possibilities and greater understanding.
• Students want to be included. Don’t give people a fait accompli, but include them in the planning process. A fait accompli makes people feel that they have no choice or power, that their needs and opinions don’t matter.
• On the first day of class, ask students about their goals and expectations to help set the tone for the rest of the course. At the beginning of each class, write the goal for the day on the board. Make time throughout the semester to ask the students to assess how the class is going (Classroom Assessment Techniques).
• Take time to listen, observe, and discover the spark of greatness in your students. Inspire them by making that spark come alive.

4. Provide Vision (Serve as Role Model)

• Role models are powerful motivators.
• “Most people look at things the way they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say ‘Why not?’” – John F. Kennedy

3. Focus/Aim

• Do you notice that your students talk about how late they stay up, how many hours they work writing a paper or studying of a test? Do they talk about how long they’ve worked more than about what they’ve learned?
• Do you and your colleagues talk about how many hours you spend grading papers or working on projects?
• Success is more than keeping score. To be effective we must be focused. Our intention, like an arrow, must be aimed at one target, one goal at a time.
• Emphasize the most critical concepts continuously. Reiterate these concepts in lectures and assignments throughout the course. Include questions relating to these critical subjects on every exam, thus rewarding students for learning, retaining, and, hopefully, applying this knowledge in a variety of contexts.

2. Smile

• The energy of joy differs greatly from the energy of compulsiveness, anxiety, and fear that motivates so many people.
• Research has shown that a smile not only results from positive emotions, but it can cause them. Smiles sends a message to our brains to stimulate positive emotions. When people smile, they naturally feel better.
• Smiles are contagious. When you smile at someone, chances are that person will smile back, beginning a whole new cycle of positive emotions, which reduces stress and improves his or her outlook on life as well.

1. Respect

• Put the word respect where you can see it. Tape it to your office door, a wall in your classrooms, your bathroom mirror at home.
• Treat students with respect. Patronizing behavior may be expected in primary school teachers, and “drill sergeant” strategies may be effective in military book camps. However, most college student will not respond well to these techniques. Give students their dignity, and they will give you their best efforts.

*** These are my notes (reorganized into a Top 10 list) of Diane Dreher’s The Tao of Personal Leadership (1996). This is one of the better books I’ve read on leadership, and I would encourage you to read it. ***

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Motivating Students

Tomorrow I'm running a workshop on How to Motivate Students, and I'm creating a top ten list. What do you think is the most important?







If you have any thoughts, feel free to email them my way: fish1861@aol.com

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Arrested Development

Attention: Fun-lovers

Not all of my blog will be work-related, unless you believe in the philosophy of Tao Te Ching, which states that all things are related (I kind of like that).

I finished off the 3rd series of "Arrested Development" last night. If you've never seen the show, you're not alone. Only 4-6 million people tuned in each week when it was on.

Let me tell you, though, it was simply too good for a mass audience. I believe MSN is starting to show the series for free on the Internet, but I would encourage you to go out and buy the DVD sets. You're going to want them, I promise. :)


Monday, January 29, 2007

49-Up: Best in Series

To follow up from Friday's posting, I did watch 49-Up over the weekend, and it might be the best in the series. Actually, I think each one is better than the last, and it's probably just because each one provides more information.

Following the lives of these people is addictive. This is, in essence, real "reality TV." My wife said, "I feel like such a voyeur when I watch," but she can't help herself. She wants to watch, and you will, too.

The tone in this one is different, too. Most of the people are happy and content with their lots in life. This wasn't the case in 35-Up, for example. Now, some of their children are grown -- and some have grandchildren, and their lives, for better or worse, are established.

Friday, January 26, 2007

7-Up Series

Attention Psychology Instructors and "Nature vs. Nurture" Lovers

Have your heard of the 7-Up documentary series? About 42 years ago, some British psychologists began to follow the lives of a group of children -- male, female, rich, poor, black, white. Every seven years, then, they do a follow-up interview to see what's going on in their lives.

This, year, the 5th follow-up documentary was released, entitled 49-Up. I'll be watching it over the weekend, but I have previously viewed the other documentaries in the series -- 7-Up, 14-Up, 21-Up, 28-Up, and 35-Up. Good stuff. Do you need to watch all of them? Probably not. They repeat some of the same footage in each of the follow-up documentaries, so I wouldn't recommend watching them all at once... However, it's good to watch the earlier ones to see how the documentary style has changed over the past 40 years. Also, some of the people in the study have dropped out, and you need to watch the early ones to see who they were (and to speculate on why they might have elected to drop out. :)

Thursday, January 25, 2007


What motivates you? How do you make sure that your students are motivated?

I'll be leading a workshop on motivation in a couple of weeks, but I'd love to incorporate your ideas, too.

Drop me an email -- fish1861@aol.com


The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten

Attention: Philosophy Instructors and Armchair Philosophers

I don't know if you've heard of this book -- The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten: 100 Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher -- but I'm currently reading it, and it's pretty darn good. I'm thinking it might be a cool way to introduce students to some of the most important philosophical and ethical questions ever analyzed by Western philosophical minds.

There are 100 questions, if you will, and the book is only 300 pages. So it's good for those with ADHD, but it would also be a cool way to start a class discussion on a topic. Each "question" or section is also cross-listed, so you can easily refer to related questions/sections.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

CATs for All Occasions

(Note: CATs that require more time and/or energy for 1) faculty to prepare, 2) students to respond to the assessment, or 3) faculty to analyze the data collected are in red italics.)

Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skills Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding

Minute Paper - Instructor asks students to respond in two or three minutes to either of the following questions: "What was the most important thing you learned during this class?" or "What important questions remains unanswered?" Used to provide a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on student learning.

Muddiest Point - Technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: "What was the muddiest point in (fill in the blank)?" with the focus on the lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play, or a film. Used to provide information on what students find least clear or most confusing about a particular lesson or topic.

Focused Listing - Focuses students' attention on a single important term, name, or concept from a particular lesson or class session and directs them to list several ideas that are closely related to that "focus point." Used to determine what learners recall as the most important points related to a particular topic.

Empty Outlines - The instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class presentation or homework assignment and gives them a limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces. Used to help faculty find out how well students have "caught" the important points of a lecture, reading, or audiovisual presentation.

Background Knowledge Probe - Short, simple questionnaires prepared by instructors for use at the beginning of a course, at the start of a new unit or lesson, or prior to introducing an important new topic. Used to help teachers determine the most effective starting point for a given lesson and the most appropriate level at which to begin new instruction.

Misconception/Preconception Check - Technique used for gathering information on prior knowledge or beliefs that may hinder or block further learning.

Memory Matrix - A simple two-dimensional diagram, a rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize information and illustrate relationships. Assesses students' recall of important course content and their skill at quickly organizing that information into categories provided by the instructor.

Assessing Skill in Syntheses and Critical Thinking

One-Sentence Summary - Students answer the questions "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" about a given topic, and then synthesize those answers into a single informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence.

Approximate Analogies - Students complete the second half of an analogy for which the instructor has supplied the first half. This allows teachers to find out whether their students understand the relationship between the two concepts or terms given as the first part of the analogy.

Word Journal - Students first summarize a short text in a single word, and second, the student writes a paragraph or two explaining why he chose that particular word to summarize the text. This technique helps faculty assess and improve the students' ability to read carefully and deeply and the students' skill at explaining and defending, in just a few more words, their choice for a single summary word.

Concept Maps - Drawings or diagrams showing the mental connections that students make between a major concept the instructor focuses on and other concepts they have learned. This provides an observable and assessable record of the students' conceptual schema-the patterns of associations they make in relation to a given focal concept.

Invented Dialogues - Students synthesize their knowledge of issues, personalities, and historical periods into the form of a carefully structured, illustrative conversation. This provides information on students' ability to capture the essence of other people's personalities and styles of expression - as well as on their understanding of theories, controversies, and the opinions of others.

Annotated Portfolios - Contain a very limited number of selected examples of a student's creative work, supplemented by the student's own commentary on the significance of those examples.

Assessing Skill in Problem Solving

Problem Recognition Tasks - Students are provided with a few examples of common problem types and are asked to recognize and identify the particular type of problem each example represents. Faculty are able to assess how well students can recognize various problem types, the first step in matching problem type to solution method.

What's the Principle? - Students are provided with a few problems and are asked to state the principle that best applies to each problem. Instructors assess students' ability to associate specific problems with the general principles used to solve them.

Documented Problem Solutions - Prompts students to keep track of the steps they take in solving a problem. This assesses how students solve problems and how well students understand and can describe their problem-solving methods.

Audio- and Videotaped Protocols - Students are recorded talking and working through the process of solving a problem. Faculty assess in detail how and how well students solve problems.

Assessing Skill in Analysis and Critical Thinking

Categorizing Grid - Students sort information into appropriate conceptual categories. This provides faculty with feedback to determine quickly whether, how, and how well students understand "what goes with what."

Pro and Con Grid - Students list pros and cons of an issue. This provides information on the depth and breadth of a student's ability to analyze and on their capacity for objectivity.
Defining Features Matrix - Students are required to categorize concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features. This provides data on their analytic reading and thinking skills.

Content, Form, and Function Outlines - Students analyze the "what" (content), "how" (form), and "why" (function) of a particular message. This technique elicits information on the students' skills at separating and analyzing the informational content, the form, and the communicative function of a lesson or message.

Analytic Memos - Students write a one- or two-page analysis of a specific problem or issue. Used to assess students' skill at communicating their analyses in a clear and concise manner.

Assessing Skill in Application and Performance

Applications Cards - Students write down at least one possible, real-world application for an important principle, generalization, theory, or procedure that they just learned. This lets faculty know how well students understand the possible applications of what students have learned.

Directed Paraphrasing - Students paraphrase part of a lesson for a specific audience and purpose, using their own words. Feedback is provided on students' ability to summarize and restate important information or concepts in their own words; it allows faculty to assess how well students have understood and internalized that learning.

Student-Generated Test Questions - Students are asked to develop test questions from material they have been taught. Teachers see what their students consider the most important or memorable content, what they understand as fair and useful test questions, and how well they can answer the questions they have posed.

Human Tableau or Class Modeling - Groups of students create "living" scenes or model processes to show what they know. Students demonstrate their ability to apply what they know by performing it.

Paper or Project Prospectus - A prospectus is a brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper or term project. The Paper Prospectus prompts students to thin through elements of the assignment, such as the topic, purpose, intended audience, major questions to be answered, basic organization, and time and resources required. The Project Prospectus focuses on tasks to be accomplished, skills to be improved, and products to be developed.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness Assessing Students' Awareness of Their Attitudes and Values

Classroom Opinion Polls - Students are asked to raise their hands to indicate agreement or disagreement with a particular statement. Faculty discover student opinions about course-related issues.

Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys - Students answer a few simple questions aimed at getting a rough measure of the students' self-confidence in relation to a specific skill or ability. Faculty assess their students' level of confidence in their ability to learn the relevant skills and material and can more effectively structure assignments that will build confidence in relation to specific tasks.

Double-Entry Journals - Students begin by noting the ideas, assertions, and arguments in their assigned course readings they find most meaningful and/or controversial. The second entry explains the personal significance of the passage selected and responds to that passage. Detailed feedback is provided on how students read, analyze, and respond to assigned texts.

Profiles of Admirable Individuals - Students are required to write a brief, focused profile of an individual - in a field related to the course - whose values, skills, or actions they greatly admire. This technique helps faculty understand the images and values students associate with the best practice and practitioners in the discipline under study.

Everyday Ethical Dilemmas - Students are presented with an abbreviated case study that poses an ethical problem related to the discipline or profession they are studying and must respond briefly and anonymously to these cases. Students identify, clarify, and connect their values by responding to course-related issues and problems that they are likely to encounter. Faculty get honest reactions and information on what students' values are and how they apply them to realistic dilemmas.

Assessing Students' Self-Awareness as Learners

Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklist - Students rate their interest in various topics, and assess their levels of skill or knowledge in those topics, by indicating the appropriate responses on a checklist which has been created by the teacher. These checklists inform teachers of their students' level of interest in course topics and their assessment of the skills and knowledge needed for and/or developed through the course.

Goal Ranking and Matching - Students list a few learning goals they hope to achieve through the course and rank the relative importance of those goals.. This assesses the "degree of fit" between the students' personal learning goals and teachers' course-specific instructional goals, and between the teachers' and students' ranking of the relative importance and difficulty of the goals.

Focused Autobiographical Sketches - Students are directed to write a one- or two- page autobiographical sketch focused on a single successful learning experience in their past - an experience relevant to learning in the particular course in which the assessment technique is used. This provides information the students' self-concept and self- awareness as learners within a specific field.

Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning - Students describe their general approaches to learning, or their learning styles, by comparing themselves with several different profiles and choosing those that, in their opinion, most closely resemble them. This provides teachers with a simple way to assess students' learning styles or preferences for ways of learning.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Reactions for Instruction Assessing Learner Reactions to Teachers and Teaching

Chain Notes - Students write immediate, spontaneous reactions to questions given by the teacher while the class is in progress. This feedback gives the teacher a "sounding" of the students' level of engagement and involvement during lecture.

Electronic Mail Feedback - Students respond anonymously by E-mail to a question posed by the teacher to the class. This provides a simple, immediate channel through which faculty can pose questions about the class and students can respond to them.

Teacher-Designed Feedback Forms - Students answer questions on feedback forms which contain anywhere from three to seven questions in multiple-choice, Likert-scale, or short fill-in answer formats. These forms allow faculty to quickly and easily analyze data and use the results to make informed and timely adjustments in their teaching.

Assessing Course-Related Learning and Study Skills, Strategies, and Behaviors

Punctuated Lectures - Students and teachers go through five steps: listen, stop, reflect, write, and give feedback. Students listen to lecture. The teacher stops the action and students reflect on what they were doing during the presentation and how their behavior while listening may have helped or hindered their understanding of that information. They then write down any insights they have gained and they give feedback to the teacher in the form of short, anonymous notes. This technique provides immediate, on-the-spot feedback on how students are learning from a lecture or demonstration and lets teachers and students know what may be distracting. And students are encouraged to become self-monitoring listeners, and in the process, more aware and more effective learners.

Productive Study-Time Logs - Students keep a record of how much time they spend studying for a particular class, when they study, and how productively they study at various times of the day or night. This allows faculty to assess the amount and quality of out-of-class time all their students are spending preparing for class, and to share that information with students.

Process Analysis - Students keep records of the actual steps they take in carrying out a representative assignment and comment on the conclusions they draw about their approaches to that assignment. This technique gives students and teachers explicit, detailed information on the ways in which students carry out assignments and shows faculty which elements of the process are most difficult for students and, consequently, where teachers need to offer more instruction and direction.

Diagnostic Learning Logs - Students keep records of each class or assignment and write one list of the main points covered that they understood and a second list of points that were unclear. Faculty are provided with information and insight into their students' awareness of and skill at identifying their own strengths and weaknesses as learners.


Original Source: Classroom Assessment Techniques, 2nd edition (1993) – Angelo and Cross