Country Scribe : Eric Bergeson's Weblog

October 01, 2004

Giving tests

Just finished correcting the 45 American history tests I gave this morning. Nobody aced the test. There were 8 A's and 12 F's. About the balance I expected. I was surprised to find who the good students were.

In ten minutes, I go give the test to the World Civilization bunch. Only 25 of them. Then the 27 American Government students.

CHANGING THE WORLD ONE EMAIL AT A TIME: On my satellite dish, there are music stations. Some of them are from SIRIUS, a company which specializes in satellite music for cars. I enjoy listening to their classical station, but was disconcerted that they didn't have the composer's name on the TV screen as the song played. "Piano Concerto #2" doesn't mean much if you don't say who wrote it.

So, I emailed the company. I received back a canned email assuring me that my input was highly valued and that the email would be looked at by the proper individuals. I expected nothing.

Well, last night, I turned on the satellite radio after the Twins lost, and sure enough, there was the composer's name on every piece.

So what do you know. We can make a difference.



September 30, 2004

Turning colder

After a few sterling fall days, it sounds like we are going to get some cold. Today there was some mist. Tomorrow is supposed to feature a high in the forties. Oh well.

They are scheduled to pour the slab in the morning. I won't be there. I will be giving tests up at UMC. It will be fun to come home and see what they got done--if they are able to pour.

THE TWINS are tied with the Yankees at the moment. It is the eighth inning. Yesterday the Twins dropped a double-header to the Yanks in excruciating fashion. Santana pitched six innings and gave up only one run, but the bullpen failed.

Some concerns going into the playoffs: Both Radke and Santana have been a little off in their last two starts. Santana walked four against Cleveland. Radke even walked a couple tonight. That's unheard of for him.

J. C. Romero has been ineffective in his past few outings. Generally speaking, the bullpen has gone backwards in the past week. Before that, they were unhittable.

Well, you never know what is going to happen. The team always lets up a bit after they clinch the division. Torii Hunter said he came down will all sorts of ailments he didn't even know he had--he let down after the clinching, and Gardenhire gave him five days off to rest. He'll be back in fine form when the playoffs start.

Otherwise, I think the Twins have a leaner, meaner look to them than they have had the previous two years. They look confident and professional. I think getting rid of the loquacious Doug Mientkiewitcz helped a great deal. He talked too much. And Eddie Guardado is gone--he always trembled with fear when the playoffs came.

Poor Eddie. Left Minnesota for a little more money and ended up injured and in last place with Seattle. I think the Twins are improved without him, although I did enjoy him a great deal.

LaTroy Hawkins is finishing games for the Cubs. He isn't doing as well in that role as he did as a set-up man for the Twins. He doesn't like the pressure. Hawkins left a bigger hole than Guardado, but it was filled by Rincon and others.

AM GIVING THREE tests tomorrow. Scheduled all three tests for the same day. That works out well. I got a little break from preparing lectures. A couple of students had to take the test early for various reasons, some good, some not. They did pretty well. It was obvious which days of class they missed by examining which series of questions they missed. The weekend will be spent correcting tests.

One student took the test early due to an athletic commitment. She has been attending regularly and showing so much interest--and I happen to know she has struggled with school in the past. So, I was pulling for her. I think she might have gotten a C. I would love to have seen her get an A.

WENT OUT TO THE Swamp Castle tonight. The tubing is coiled around atop pink styrofoam in preparation for tomorrow's possible pouring of concrete. Whoa, do I ever have a huge living room! I mean, it is huge!

Too late to change. I'll enjoy it, I am sure.



September 29, 2004

Willmar

Yesterday, I left at about 2 pm to drive down to Willmar to speak to a garden club. What a beautiful day for a drive. It couldn't have been more perfect. The colors were good, the sky was an impossible blue, the waters were pristine, the temperature was cool and the air was clear.

I arrived an hour early, ate some Burger King, and then walked around a historic park in Willmar. The park is situated on an island on one of Willmar's lakes. Trails ran through enormous old woods. It seems that the bur oak there grow 30 feet taller than they do up here.

Just 215 miles south, and such a difference in climate. They can grow several trees that far south we can't up here. Their soil is not so alkaline, and the minimum temperatures aren't so low.

Willmar is stretched along a string of lakes. I spoke to the garden club at the Senior Center on the north edge of town. It was an enormous, sprawling tin building that could have held more than a thousand people.

After speaking an hour, I headed back north, arriving home at midnight. I brought some good music along, and I was busy composing history lectures in my head, so the time went fast. So did the night. The went off way too early, and now I am in Crookston teaching.

Teaching will be easy today. We have a test on Friday, so we are reviewing today. So, it is the students' responsibility to come with questions.

A COUPLE OF DAYS ago, I received a package from my cousin Roy in CA. In it was a disc by the Anonymous 4, a quartet of women who sing old hymns accapella. Wonderful stuff. I listened to it several times on the way to Willmar and back. When I turned on the radio after a round of the 4, Mozart's 16th Piano Concerto was on public radio. I had never heard it before, and it was wonderful.

Mozart is the very definition of genius. Everything he wrote has his fingerprints all over it. I suppose some music theorist could quantify what made Mozart's music so unique--but I doubt he or she could account for all of it--otherwise, there would be imitators.

Bach was a genius, too--but he worked at it. His effort and craftsmanship is evident in his music. It is sometimes laborious and usually challenging. Mozart, in contrast, composed effortlessly. His music floats and flutters.


September 27, 2004

Long Monday

Taught one class this morning, then drove from Crookston to Thief River to speak to a group of retired teachers, then back to Crookston to teach government class. A rushed day. I had agreed to speak to the retired teachers some time back, then forgot about it--until they wrote to remind me. In between, I took the teaching job.

So, I hope they don't mind me missing a class. It seems quite common for teachers to cancel class. The students met anyway to review.

Like an idiot, I scheduled tests in all three classes for this Friday. Well, Friday is a day when the athletic teams take off for their various competitions. Those absences are "excused," if there can be such a thing in college, and so I am obligated to give them a test at an alternate time.

It doesn't have to be the same test, but I'll be jiggered if I am going to write a new one. So, we are negotiating, the athletes and I, over when and where their tests will be taken. Those negotiations are conducted by email. And their email isn't working.

Technology is great, when it works.

THE FOUNDATION of the house is coming along nicely. Good thing I am teaching--the pace of the project would drive me bonkers otherwise. I mean, a lot goes into a foundation if it is to be done correctly!

You really have to rely on the integrity of the people you hire--I would have no idea if they tried to cut a corner or two. The people I have hired won't, I know darn well. The Swamp Castle will be set on the mother of all foundations.

Tomorrow, I travel to Willmar to speak to a garden club. They asked me to speak last spring. I set my fee quite high because it is a four-hour drive one way. They agreed to the fee, much to my surprise. Now I have to stand and deliver. I think I'll show slides just to add pizzazz.

TONIGHT I went over the tests I have written for the classes. I think they're easy, but then again, I wrote them. All multiple choice. I don't want to struggle to interpret chicken-scratching. I hope the dedicated students get A's. I hope the slouchers and slackers flunk so I can chew them out good and proper.





September 26, 2004

Porcupine

Drove in to the house today and saw a big furry thing on the driveway. Decided it was a porcupine. Friend Lance, always ready with his Nikon, snapped several photos of it as it climbed high into the oak tree. Didn't know they climbed, and I didn't know they live around here.

As it climbed the oak, the porcupines spines scratched against the bark. You could tell it wasn't fur.

THE SWANS have disappeared from the swamp! Sort of sad. The babies hadn't even turned complete white yet. One blue heron did swoop in for a landing this afternoon when we were out there snooping around the foundation of the Swamp Castle.

Looks like good weather for concrete work this week--they have to fill in around the foundation walls, put in the plumbing and water tubes for heating, and finally pour the slab.

THE WEEKS FLY BY! I have never been busier in my life, and I love it. I enjoy teaching. Friday was a good day. In informed my World Civilization class that I couldn't be there Monday because I had agreed to speak to a retired teacher's banquet in Thief River Falls that noon. Well, they decided to have class anyway. They're going to review for the test.

Earlier in the day, the classroom where the American History class meets was still in use as our class-time approached. My forty-five students crowded the hallway. Turns out, the class before us was finishing a test. One big football player from my class yelled out down the hall, "They're eating into my history time, and that is completely unacceptable!"

Gotta love that. Also, I waived the daily quiz in World Civilization because I didn't figure we had enough time for the entire lecture--and many of them groaned! They were ready, and they WANTED to show off on the quiz. So, things are moving in the right direction.

This weekend, I wrote their first tests. Three of them, fifty multiple choice questions on each. The multiple choice questions are designed to be easy for those who study and a nightmare for those who don't. We'll see if that's the way it shakes out. I hope somebody does well, at least. And of course, it wouldn't be too good if everybody aced the test either--although I suppose I shouldn't complain in that event.

I had the American History class look up the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware on the internet. I told them they would be asked to share what they found out about the painting on their quiz card. It was amazing what some of them came up with, especially about how inaccurate the painting's depiction of the event is.

By the way, if you are curious about any artworks in the world, it takes only a second to find them on the internet if you have the title of the painting. It isn't the same as viewing the painting in person, but it is a lot easier than traveling to a museum, or attempting to look up a painting in a book or encyclopedia.

TWINS WON today. Good thing. I don't like when they skid after clinching. Silva won his 14th game today.