•April 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I have done more walking in the past four months than I have ever consistently done before. I live about five miles from where I work, and in the coldest months I was walking 4-6 times, in one direction or the other. By the time the weather warmed up, I was in better shape than I had ever been at winter’s close.

In the past I had been annoyed with walking. It takes a long time to get decent exercise, and running felt more efficient. I enjoyed running more. But something took hold of me. I fell in love with long walking that ate up chunks of the day because it freed my mind, let it wander in a more relaxed way. I think while I run, but because I am constantly struggling against mild pain, my thoughts are more jumbled. With walking, my mind can wander with greater ease.

I find walking best–and running too–after I have read an interesting passage or chapter in a book. It serves as a stimulant for my mind.

Walking is the philosopher’s exercise. Patient, stimulating, but not intrusive on thought. It favors a mind that wants to reflect, roil a problem in one’s mind.

The affect of a few weeks of walking feels surprisingly excellent too. Stronger legs, a greater willingness to move about, a thinner waistline. Laying in bed feels healthier, which is a strange thing.

Yes, those benefits come with any exercise. But as I get older, my body more easily slips into sloth. Walking allows me to combine a number of different important activities in a way that is efficient in a way that it may not have been a few years ago.

There is also the benefit of exploration. In the mornings, when I need to leave early and be to work at a certain time, I walk as directly as possible. But in the afternoon, I look around. And I notice architecture and small bits of artwork that I have never seen before in this city. I see my fellow Chicagoans, get a better sense for how a few parts of Chicago move.

And the time invested in moving about and observing the city makes me feel much more connected to it. It makes “my Chicago” more than just my apartment, my workplace, and my social hangouts. I learn to understand the land of Chicago better.

I do of course still love running, and my favorite days have been when I do both a 5+ mile walk, followed by a 5+ mile run. And by mid-summer, I hope to take advantage of my flexible schedule to be trekking 30 or more miles on some days, and feel that sweet exhaustion.

•March 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I stumbled upon an art criticism piece today. It was written by an advanced graduate student who I knew years ago. My experience was mostly one of recalling humanities criticism papers from many years ago. I hated it then, but it felt refreshing today.

It frustrated me years ago, because I could not see it’s utility or it’s verification, and I was being judged through my school on whether I could see those things. But when I read it today, it felt refreshing, new, and enlightening.


•February 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Going round and round, without being sure we’re going anywhere.

I write that in respect to the blog. I wrote infrequently here now, and most of my few posts from the past few years have only been about waking it up again.

I have been thinking about it again, but it will it go anywhere as a result? Or am I revisiting a thought I’ve had so many times before.

Natural Causes. A paradigm that puts a certain demand on explanations. All things are caused, so accept no phenomena that cannot be explained through natural causes. This is the path to understanding.

This blog was about two things. Laying out the rudiments of my philosophy. Reflecting on how to teach. But the faucet has run dry, it seems.

Why has it run dry? Two possibilities I can think of, at this moment. The pessimistic possibility is that my mind has just gone dry. The optimistic possibility is that the first lessons are easier to learn than the later ones, and now I am working out the later ones. And I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing here.

But I know I am learning things, and I am writing about these things. I write about these things in random places, though: bits of text messages, margins of books, Facebook posts that get lost in the quicksand of the timeline.

I should return.

Preparing to Teach “Teaching in the Community College.”

•December 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This winter, I am teaching a class on “Teaching in the Community College.” In preparation for this course, I am collecting articles on education from the last couple years that have been influential in the discourse among teachers about what teaching is and the sorts of struggles that teachers are experiencing presently.

I recently re-wrote the description for the course to focus on the problems we’ll be exploring:

“Students who attend community colleges are a diverse population by every measure, including age, socio-economic background, academic preparedness, long-term goals, and more. As community college educators, we often need to make choices that seem to either tailor to some students’ needs while dismissing others, or to pursue all students’ goals in equal measure at the expense of a more mediocre education for all. Is our goal to have the same expectations of our students as would be expected at a more selective four-year school? Or, should we “meet the students where they are” in the pursuit of our students’ growth, no matter where they may be? When teaching underserved students, do we have a moral responsibility to address social inequities, or should the professor avoid politically divisive subjects? To what extent are any of these questions false dichotomies? In this course, we will explore these problems, learn about the community college and its students, and how to be an effective educator in such an environment. Readings will include classical pedagogical theory texts, such as Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Dewey’s Democracy and Education, as well as recent empirically-driven arguments, such as Make it Stick and What the Best College Teachers Do, and contemporary articles from publications like “Inside Higher Ed” and “The Chronicle of Higher Education.””

This post will be one in progress as I add new articles to consider for inclusion in the course.

If you are reading this and have articles you think would be good for the course or interesting to read, please share them in the comments.

Taking a cue from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, I’ll number principal articles with a cardinal number, and articles that respond to principal articles with a decimal of that cardinal number.

1. “I am your professor, not your teacher.”

I disagree with the central message of this article, but I am sure it speaks to how many professors think. From the article:

“First, I am your professor, not your teacher. There is a difference. Up to now your instruction has been in the hands of teachers, and a teacher’s job is to make sure that you learn. Teachers are evaluated on the basis of learning outcomes, generally as measured by standardized tests. If you don’t learn, then your teacher is blamed. However, things are very different for a university professor. It is no part of my job to make you learn. At university, learning is your job — and yours alone. My job is to lead you to the fountain of knowledge. Whether you drink deeply or only gargle is entirely up to you.”

2. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me.” http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid

2.1  “I’m a Professor. My colleagues who let their students dictate what they teach are cowards.”

“I don’t have the luxury of simply changing my syllabus to make my students more              comfortable. You see, I’m also black and a woman.”

2.2  “I was a liberal adjunct professor. My liberal students didn’t scare me at all.”

3. “How a School’s Attendance Number Hides Big Problems.” This article covers chronic absence rates among students. It is geared toward k-12, but this has been a serious problem in my classroom too. The article defines chronic absence as missing more than 10% of classes. I generally teach 30-32 sessions per class, depending on holidays, so chronic absence would be anyone missing more than 3 classes. Right now, about half of one of my classes has missed more than 3 classes. Many have missed quite a few more.


4. Homelessness among Community College Students: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/12/07/study-find-homelessness-and-food-insecurity-among-community-college-students?utm_content=buffer93314&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=IHEbuffer

5. Quality over Quantity in Assignments:  https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/12/04/writing-study-finds-quality-assignment-and-instruction-not-quantity-matters


Tiny Note on Focusing, Wandering, and Wondering

•March 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

A mind without focus is barely a mind. To have one’s thoughts jump to and fro without purpose is not even to exist. It is the worst way for time to pass. Despite that, we still find our mind succumbing to that condition, and there seems to be little one can do to escape it, except, like a fever, to wait.

Wandering is at least a purpose-driven lack of focus. It is for enjoyment, mental ease, exploration, and play. Those are useful. But there are different qualities of wandering. Wandering is good when we are alert, curious, reflective, and/or inquisitive. It is the sort of wander that inspires wonder. But sometimes we wander because we are distracted, bored, anxious, tired, sick, or frustrated. That sort of wander doesn’t inspire wonder. I find myself in the second type more often than I would like.

Rule of Kamran. Intermission. Reflection on the Project. Habits good and bad.

•March 19, 2014 • Leave a Comment

It has been a few weeks since I posted the last set of rules. Rule sets I and II have been successful: nearly every morning since the first postings, I have been awake sometime between 5:00am and 5:30am, occasionally sleeping in until 6:00am. The coffee is always ready by the time I wake up. So all I need to do is trudge myself to the kitchen to grab coffee and breakfast, turn around, and crawl back into bed. Breakfast and coffee in bed every morning has been a wonderful new tradition in my life. I have then proceeded to study Latin for about one hour every weekday morning, with a couple days of exception. This morning, I have found my mind is wandering too much for effective study (which does not bode well for the rest of today), so I am making the best of it and returning to writing a new entry here. 

I have been excellent at following a few of the preparatory rules, such as emptying and cleaning the coffee filter in the morning, so that I can prepare coffee hassle-free in the evening. Small habit changes like this have proven to be effective in instilling other, more significant good habits into my life. This was the intent: I was working under the Spinozistic concept that I lack free-will, that I am totally governed by passions (to which ‘I’ am the passive effect), that passions and actions operate in a strictly non-free cause and effect relationship, and that knowledge is the most powerful cause that brings me to the good. My knowledge of my own habits, that I am slow until I have coffee, that the thought waking up and then making coffee and waiting for coffee, that the waiting is such a frustrating idea that I simply lie in bed mindlessly surfing the internet on my phone–my knowledge of these things brought me to the knowledge that if the coffee was ready when I woke up, removing the cause of my morning frustration, enabling me to get the coffee and begin that morning–my knowledge of these things effected a more productive morning, with stimulating Latin lessons followed by a strenuous exercise: this is a clear case of my rules project working as intended.

I have not obeyed my Sunday rules very well. There have been three Sundays since my post about the weekend, including the Sunday on which I wrote the post. On the day I wrote the post, I did everything precisely as planned. My week benefited from it. But the second and third Sunday were interrupted with social plans and a trip to Seattle. This disrupted my weekly maintenance. As a result, my apartment is currently a mess, my laundry is off-cycle (forcing me to do laundry during the week, which is exceptionally inconvenient), and my grocery shopping has been limited. With limited grocery shopping, I am spending more money than I should on eating out for lunches and dinners. Nor is it as healthy or as fulfilling as purchasing groceries and preparing my own food.

Of course, being distracted, engaged, and spontaneous with the world is both the necessary condition and worthwhile boon of living in the world with people. I do not live in a monastery. And despite being a relatively solitary person, I treasure my friends and my job, and wish to be a good brother, son, and uncle to my pacific northwest family. So I can be okay with adjusting and adapting to disruptions in my routine: I must embrace that. One challenge is to clearly understand how to adapt to those disruptions to my rules, enjoy them, and get back on track when the disruption has passed: or permanently change my rules if certain long-term life-conditions change. 

Bad Habits that have Abated

Since beginning my rules program, I am much better at using my morning productively. My breakfast+Latin studies are a budding routine/ritual that I hope lasts a long time to come. I have been excellent at getting a morning workout: better than I have been since my Marine Corps days. I feel healthier, stronger, and even younger than I did just two months ago. At first, the new morning exercise exhausted me so much that I frequently felt exhausted, hungry, and distracted throughout the day. But I think that was a sign of my body readjusting, for now I have more energy than I have ever had in my thirties.

I have not wasted nearly as much time on the internet as I was doing before I wrote these first rules. There are exceptions: yesterday, I was in a daze, and realized I was doing nothing in front of my computer for literally hours into the evening. Fortunately, I stopped myself in time to get a good sleep. This is a case where I could write it off as simply needing a break: some time to relax and unwind. But frankly, there are more productive forms of leisure, since there are video games, television shows, movies, and fantasy books that I want to play, watch, or read. When I finish those things, I feel some sense of accomplishment, and they are worthwhile as far as leisurely activities go. The only problem with those things is when I become addicted and it starts cutting into my work or routine. But if I keep those activities moderate, and if I needed rest anyway (a frequent occurence), I might as well use it on something relatively more productive than mindlessly wandering the internet for cat pictures and stupid gossip.

Fortunately, the amount of time I have spent on video games and television shows has been drastically reduced in the past few weeks. I have not exhibited any addictive behavior toward those things, and have played and watch them in moderation.

Persistent Bad Habits:

My mornings are excellent. But as the day wears on, I become less and less focused. Yesterday, for example, I got home with the intent to do laundry, clean my apartment, and grade papers. I accomplished precisely nothing. For some reason, perhaps because of the recent trip and lack of a truly restful weekend, or perhaps because of the 11.5 mile run from that morning (a new record, and frankly, only accomplished because I underestimated how far my route would be).

I still drink a little too much. In the evening, I routinely have two or three glasses of wine. Not awful if done occasionally. But nightly? This is too costly, dulls my mind and judgment, destructive to the long-term health of my mind, and frequently inhibits deep sleep. It is therefore an activity that not only sacrifices the excellence of an evening, but resonates into the quality of the next day. And if the quality of one day is inhibited, the chances that I will resume bad habits and further inhibit future days are further inhibited. I have absolutely no wish to remove alcohol from my life. But except for social outings, this needs to be limited to one glass of wine during the weekend. And beer, despite how much I love thee, needs to be removed entirely except for social outings and the rare exception.

The degree to which I am behind in grading papers, and my incredibly slow progress in completing them, is a disaster. This terrible habit is the thing I need to fix the most. I would be most productive if I sacrificed my morning Latin ritual and exercise routine for the sake of grading papers. But then I will become resentful toward school, and the lack of exercise will make me anxious and unhappy. And I have decided that is not what my solution can be. I need to pursue my own goals and be a good teacher. I cannot sacrifice one for the other.

I want to make leisurely reading a bigger part of my life. My recreational time has been devoted more to electronic entertainment than literary ones. I have decided that perhaps all I need to do is go back to the addictive reading habits of my youth, in which I read fantasy novel after fantasy novel. It has been years since I’ve read any fantasy novel other than the “Game of Thrones” series. Fantasy novels are not, usually, high literature. And certainly, there would be more educational or stimulating things to read. But if I simply admit that, at the end of the day, my mind is too exhausted to concentrate and think, and that if I recognize reading an addictive fantasy novel is at least better for my reading habits and imagination than watching television or playing video games, then it makes sense to replace my more costly electronic habits with cheap literary ones.

Rule of Kamran. Part III. Weekends

•March 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Foggy headed today, as I’ve come down with a cold. I can already tell I will need to return to edit this post.

The previous rules are primarily about the default workdays, Monday through Thursday, and sometimes Friday. These cover the general outline for weekends. This is obviously more flexible, as I make time for social plans, etc.

Friday and Saturday: These two days present me with the best opportunity to do my own interesting work, or get caught up with paper grading. Unfortunately, I often feel so exhausted by the work week, that my bad habits rule through these days. Laziness, distractions, and drinking erode my will to work.
1. Set goals. Usually, I do not explicitly write down goals.

2. Get out of the apartment and read. The best and most consistent way I break my bad habits is simply leaving the apartment in the morning with a bag of some books and journals and hunkering down in a big coffee shop with decent food. At the very least, I will complete a couple hours worth of reading and having a god walk.

3. Once a couple hours of reading have been complete, do whatever I feel like doing. If this means more reading/writing, then do that. If I need rest, then rest.

Sunday: Sundays are days for rest and resetting. The most important things to accomplish are:

1. Laundry

2. Purchasing groceries for the week

3. Cleaning the apartment and organizing.

4. Rest and relaxation.

Preparation: It is important to get a good night’s rest without much alcohol so that the day can be appropriately appreciated. I will also need $5 worth of quarters for laundry.

7:30am: By around 7:30, all laundry needs to be ready to go.

7:55am: Bring laundry to the laundry room. Given the size of my apartment building and limited availability of machines, it is critical to be at the laundry room when it opens at 8:00am. If the machines are already filled, laundry can take many additional hours

8:35am: Dressed for the grocery store, move washed clothes to the dryer, and go grocery shopping.

Begin cleaning

9:20am: Collect laundry

Make sure the apartment is neat and clean by the end of the day, since I’m generally a bit more productive when the clutter isn’t distracting me. Rest for the rest of the day. Have no more than one drink, and get to bed by 9:30pm.

This is a day of sabbath. I will not work for school on Sundays. Sundays are my own. If I work, I find that I’m resentful come Monday, and am unproductive then.


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