Thursday, 15 June 2006

half-evil post

This is post 333 according to Blogger. The zygote of Satan.

I keep having these terrible dreams of late which always end the same way. Between 3 and 4 am I jolt awake, sitting bolt upright in bed, mumbling, "my blog is becoming a piece of crap I never update it...why?" I already knew I was short of time just at the moment, but I thought that having taken a decision to not try to uphold any kind of blog standard, I would find the necessary ten minutes or so each day to keep this place alive.

But here we are it's Thursday night and I was last logged in here on Sunday night - it feels like that was yesterday. Dear, dear, dear. And the sad thing is I haven't got any interesting adventures to relay. Just an enormous litany of complaints. (1) I have been marking essays and I am not very happy about some of them. In a fit of absolute rage with yet another essay based largely (and against very clear and explicit instructions) on Sparknotes crap I set about discovering who the cretinous scumbags are who write this garbage, and was not at all surprised to find out that they are mostly up-themselves young graduates, of universities like Harvard, who seem to think normal standards of scholarship and ethics don't apply to them....(I hasten to add that, crib-writers excluded, I have nothing but respect and admiration for alumnae of Fancy Pants University). And while I felt really cross and bitter for a little while this afternoon post-sparknotes outburst it might have been a useful exercise as I think students might be less inclined to trust Sparknotes etc if they have a clear understanding of who writes them and what the writers' stake is in their work. (Money.) (2) Another charming crisp early winter morning on campus was whiled away fighting with the IT department, because they say that as I only have one more year on my contract "it's not worth it" to stop dragging their feet, as they've been doing since last August, and just give me a staff email address, without which I cannot get into the payroll system to look at my pay & deductions or apply for leave, or ask for anything from interlibrary loans, or get at various other kind of essential services. (3) I have nearly thirty books to read before the beginning of next semester. The hard thing is reading the ones that are entirely new to me, & not caving in and reading the ones I've already read eight or nine times. Ok that is not too hard. I will cope.
I was going to enumerate a few more whines (office suffocatingly hot even with windows wide open, cat fur on every single piece of clothing, winter kilo stack inexorably setting in etc) but I'm beginning to bore myself and that's saying something. I worked most of the crappiness out of the system in the gym this evening anyway. When it's this cold and dark by six o'clock it's hard to make yourself go, but it's worth the effort.

All this angst makes it a little bit sad that I can't say to Zoe that the singing cat video (MA, language and fangs) she linked to in the comments to the last post is new to me. Those animations, along with the pelorian cat page assembled by a Canadian person called Brad, were the first things that really brought home to me the very great beauty and power and breathtaking potential of the Internet and gave me a glorious glimpse of what the future might look like (if we are very, very lucky and this potential disaster is somehow averted.) Still it was nice to be reminded of the joys of Rathergood (Gay Bar sung by flying viking kittens has always been my favourite) and if I hadn't succumbed to the urge to procrastinate I would have missed out on the profoundly stylish Charlie's Angels singing kitten t-shirt which is in the mail to me right now.

You probably are too sensible and good at time management to scroll down this page past the bottom of the uppermost post, but just in case I better tell you that every single one of the stupid cat links collected in the sidebar has been personally vetted and vouched for, at length and repeatedly.


Galaxy said...

Just think of the possibilities of merging &Duck's new toy over at Sarsaparilla with the Spark's Notes. Perhaps you could suggest to your students that if they're going to use Spark's then would they mind running them through Sternest first, so at least you will be amused while marking. Of course they will get the same appalling grade for cheating, but much laughter will be had by all : )

Ampersand Duck said...

I can also vouch for the ability of Laura's checklist to brighten the gloomiest day.

Grand idea, Galaxy. Babelfish is also a good way to have fun with text. Tell them to translate it into Korean and back for all the wacky goodness it will add.

kate said...

a friend mentioned the other day that her students were shocked to be discovered as cheats - they'd unknowingly swiped my friend's own work.

another student was surprised to realise that she knows how to google, so the fact that they'd copied something word for word was easily checked.

she's not sure whether to despair about how stupid they are, or how stupid they obviously think she is.

Lucy Tartan said...

I sympathise with your friend, Kate. I hasten to make it clear though that the essays I am feeling sad about are not plagiarised or cheating in any way - they are documenting their sources properly, and I wouldn't mention a plagiarism case here, hell no - it's just that they are continuing to use sparknotes and essay mills in place of scholarly sources, and sparknotes is junk and very often wrong. I would almost prefer they consulted wikipedia. At least the quality of information on wikipedia varies.

Lucy Tartan said...

Continuing to use it after having been told often that they are not allowed to.

Galaxy said...

Oh they're using them in place of scholarly sources? Well, I'm impressed--the things they think of--it would never have occured to me to use Spark's in this way. I guess if Spark's et al published them, the essays have been refereed, right?

FXH said...

The first cat stuff I found useful was this tutorial usinga cat on using EAC and FLAC and burning CDs. There's even a video of Ginny Licking CDs if you search around.

pk said...

I'm gobsmacked. How can one not realise the terminally embarrassing ludicrousness of actually citing Sparks/Cliff notes. It's one thing to browse that sort of 'Readers Digest' material (which can be handy in a limited sense) but quite another to list it. They obviously have no pride.

'Researching' is a big area, particulaly these days with the internet - there should be compulsory courses to teach people how to search/judge/sift/retain/reject.

Get those kids of my lawn!

(Actually, I've heard that it is becoming somewhat acceptable to 'refer to' --as opposed to directly reference-- wikipedia in scholarly material. But as you say, quality varies greatly.)

Helen said...

And while I felt really cross and bitter for a little while this afternoon post-sparknotes outburst it might have been a useful exercise as I think students might be less inclined to trust Sparknotes etc if they have a clear understanding of who writes them and what the writers' stake is in their work. (Money.)

Why not do a whole post on it, similar to Teresa Nielsen Hayden's hatchet jobs on the self publishing and other publishing villains on "Making Light?"

David said...

I had never come across Sparknotes before I didn't know what they were/it was (I am still not entirely sure). I guess because I primarily work in Aust Studies /History and they don't cater for that kind of thing, it would seem, YET, there's no reason I would. I am not surprised students source it though, as some of them seem to think everything should be sourced just as some think nothing should be. I have had essays filled with quotes with no sources. I have in the past had essays referencing for instance 'conversation with father, 12 May 2005'. Or of course they reference something you (their teacher) have told them. A student has referenced something (I don't know what) as being by a prominent politician of days gone by (not Neville Wran but I'll use him as an eg) 'Neville Wran's Book Chapter 5'. No page numbers no nothing.

I am just a few inches into a large pile of exams, and am of course very quickly going mental. At least they don't have to reference (though I know some of them will try!)

Lucy Tartan said...

Helen...if only I were as brave and clever as Teresa N H.

Have fun going mental David. All over the city there are enraged zombies marking essays and exams at 10.12pm on Saturday night.

Lucy Tartan said...

Sparknotes is a site plastered with advertising for things teenagers are interested in. That's why it exists. Nominally it is a kind of cross of Cliff's Notes with essays-for-sale websites with homework q & a forums. It is pretty much just literature stuff which is why I forget other people mightn't have encountered it before.

Lucy Tartan said...

PK - there should be compulsory courses to teach people how to search/judge/sift/retain/reject

bloody amen to that.

Zoe said...

I can't believe the IT department. Can you make your bosses go nuts at them?

(I have a meeting with the Big Uni IT man on Monday - my boss has told me to expect great oddness; the dude once told him in the middle of a meeting "You do realise I make more money than you?")

tigtog said...

FSM wept - how hard is it to set up an e-mail address? Even if it involves cross-data-entry on another database or two as part of the Uni's oversight systems, it's ten minutes tops (and if it doesn't, it's two minutes).