Wednesday, November 30, 2011

End-of-semester evaluations

Here's a post from the Hack Library School blog about evaluating your professors and courses at the end of the term.

Professors want specific feedback on the negative AND positive elements of their class. If you didn’t like the syllabus—tell them exactly why. If a paper led to an epiphany about your career goals—say so.

If you're a SLIS student at SJSU, here are the instructions for filling out the Student Opinion of Teacher Effectiveness Survey (SOTES):
1. Log into
2. Look under Self Service or SJSU Campus Solutions in the left-hand taskbar.
3. Click on OnLine SOTE Ratings.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ahead of Schedule on Cyber Monday

Continuing in my tradition of finishing things long before they are due (why can't I apply this to school papers?), I am now 100% done with Christmas shopping.

First, like Santa, I made a list. Last year I used this spreadsheet from Lifehacker, and it worked so well that I added a new sheet (copying over the formulas from Gift List, and then changing the name of the sheet referenced for the Gift Info formulas) and brought it back this year. I wrote down all the people that I wanted to give gifts to (and also tossed in the three birthdays during December and January -- I refuse to make a holiday gift do double duty) and ideas for what to get them.

I also set a budget. Your budget is up to you -- what you can afford and what you think is appropriate. As a student with many savings goals, I found it best to minimize spending, so I discussed having a small Christmas with my sweetie a couple months ago. We'll still travel to see my family, but we skipped decorating our place this year. (The apartment really doesn't have room for a tree, anyway.) It's also understood that we'll give each other one or two smaller gifts, and nothing extravagant. This is a tradeoff for having the wedding we want next year -- and living debt-free in general.

The next step was to select gifts for each person. There are two basic approaches -- knowing exactly what to get someone and searching for the best price, or seeing what is out there and deciding whether a good deal would also make a good gift. I looked at my family's gift lists, which was easy because my cousin created a database that catalogues each person's wishes and who (if anyone) has signed up to give that gift, and keeps that information hidden from the recipient (but visible to others so there's no overlap) until after delivery. As I come across things I covet during the year, I add them to my eGiveIt list (making sure to update before my birthday and before the holidays). Others on my list had Amazon wishlists (like this one I'm shamelessly plugging for my Read Aloud program). I subtly (and not so subtly -- some of them were tough to hint to!) quizzed friends who don't have such a list. And I looked at a lot of the holiday promotional emails -- more than I usually would -- to see what was on sale. Although I'm in the demographic that doesn't take kindly to stores pushing Christmas decorations and carols before Thanksgiving, I'm up for a deep discount any time of year!

You've still got time, and the sales have just begun. Next weekend is actually a great time to shop, because retailers will have an excess of stock that wasn't sold on Black Friday. Why not make a plan and get your own list out of the way?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Year's Resolution Equivalent

Yes, I'm already thinking about this sort of thing. Around Thanksgiving, I start taking stock of the year and "cleaning house". I think it helps to spend the holiday season thinking about change -- I use it as a period of adjustment.

So here are some new goals for 2012:

Read 100 books in 2012.
The reading isn't the challenge so much as finding new titles, recording my progress, and reviewing each book. I'll be keeping up some lists with LibraryThing.

Exercise for 90 minutes per week.
Step away from the computer! Strength training, stretching, and cardio apply.

Get rid of (sell, donate, recycle) 80 items from the house by the end of the year.
Some people have enough stuff that they do a 365 challenge. I think I'm pretty light on stuff already, but my wardrobe could use some thinning.

Write 70 posts for this blog in 2012.
I'm going to be more active over here!

Volunteer 60 hours in 2012.
With work, school, and church, I don't have a lot of free time. But I can take an afternoon a month to help out.

Save or donate 50 percent of my take-home income.
Between emergency savings, our wedding, a house fund, Xmas club, grad school, 401(k), church pledge, and assorted charitable giving throughout the year, I'm already pretty close on this one. Two goals are to be able to pay off all school loans during the 6-month interest-free period after graduation and to have a debt-free wedding, so any payments to the school or for the wedding/honeymoon count even if I don't have the cash on hand at the end of the year.

Distribute 40 business cards by the end of the year.
Most of my networking is done online (especially through LinkedIn), so this will encourage me to get out and meet people in real life -- perhaps at SJSU events. Business cards will be ordered soon.

Spend 30 minutes per day in meditation.
Life is busy! I need to remember to sit back and contemplate things quietly.

Be able to do 20 pushups at once by the end of the year.
When I was working with a personal trainer last week, I think I got up to a dozen. I'm thinking of doing the one hundred pushups plan.

Write 10 recommendations on LinkedIn in 2012.
People have been very generous with me! I hope I'll be able to pass the favor on to fellow students and coworkers.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, everyone -- and a break from homework if you're in school. See you next week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Read Aloud Roundup: November 2011

This month's questions are brought to you by my sweetie, who saw how buried in schoolwork I was yesterday and rattled off discussion questions as a favor while I went off to choir rehearsal. Themes include Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving.

All Families Are Special! by Norma Simon
-Did you see a family that looked like yours in the story? Which one?
-Do all families enjoy all of the things we heard in the story? What things does your family like to do together?
-Do all families love the same?

Namaste! by Diana Cohn
-Nima greets everyone by putting her hands together, bowing and saying Namaste. What do we do?
-How does her greeting make other people’s day a little brighter?
-What can you do to brighten people’s day?

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
-What was the hardest part for her parents?
-Why do you think they wanted to learn how the other one ate?
-Are there special things you do regarding food in your house?

Cherries and Cherry Pits by Vera B. Williams
-Why does Bidemmi tell so many stories?
-Do you think her cherry pit idea is a good one?
-What do you think will happen after she has cherry trees on her whole block?

Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen
-Who makes things hard for Molly at her new school?
-Why does her Mama make the dolly to look like her?
-What did the other kids learn about Thanksgiving from Miss Stickley?

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous! by Leslea Newman
-Why does Roger get in trouble the first time?
-What do his parents learn about him as they visit the town?
-Do you think more people should have this ability to see things as fabulously as Roger does?

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco
-How many different uses did the quilt have?
-Why was it so important to stitch the quilt with the old clothes?
-How did they keep the traditions going?

Nobody Knew What To Do by Becky Ray McCain
-Why was it hard for the kids to say that bullying was NOT okay?
-What would you do in that situation?
-How would you help a kid like Ray if you saw him being bullied?

America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven
-Why did Katie's mother make sure to explain the importance of the White Table?
-How did that make her Uncle John feel?
-What would you put on the table?

The Wall by Eve Bunting
-Why was it important to find his Grandpa’s name?
-How would you feel if you had a relative’s name on that wall?
-How would you honor a relative who was a soldier?

Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig
Why do you think it was important to Jake to make sure he was the best at everything?
Do you think it’s important to be proud of your accomplishments?
What are some ways that you can share what you’re good at with others without bragging or boasting and putting others down?