Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

January 19, 2009

Perception and Praise

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 2:47 pm

I have mentioned in the past that I am currently the coordinator for a general education course. This course is mandatory for all who will graduate from the University. It is supposed to give them the tools to think “scientifically” (a.k.a. critical thinking). Each semester we offer about 20 individual sections of the course and serve about 600 students.

The curriculum for this course was conceived about 10 years ago, the delivery mechanism was modified about 5 years ago, and the organization/implementation has NEVER been established for either the students or the faculty.

As faculty are brought on-board to teach the class (usually kicking and screaming, and only agreeing because they need credits to fulfill their contractual agreements) they are given the titles and general topics that will be covered in the weekly “General Lecture” and set free to figure the rest out on their own.

This was my introduction to the course. Now I am managing it!

As you might guess from the above description, I do not think highly of the mechanics of the course and its instruction. I like the *concept* of the course, but in its current state it does not, IMHO, come close to its conceptual origins. My opinions are shared by some others in the faculty, and the majority of the students (as indicated by their course evaluations and desperate efforts to avoid the class).

Administrative “perception” – We are giving the students the necessary tools to be critical thinkers, assess science and technology as it pertains to their lives, and be informed citizens.

Faculty “perception” – We are giving the students an appreciation of science and its paradigms by chronicling how science has learned from itself and evolved as a discipline. This appreciation will OBVIOUSLY instill the importance of science and a desire to understand more about themselves and the universe.

Student “perception” – This is a useless course full of information that has no relevance to me or my life. It is a “hoop” through which I must jump (and suffer) in order to graduate.

My “perception” – This course has potential to show the relevance of asking and answering questions, whether in the realm of “laboratory science” or assessment of claims in advertising. This course is NOT A SCIENCE COURSE, it is a course about evaluating and concluding from whatever claims/evidence are given.

All that said, I opened my mouth about the problems in the course and got appointed the coordinator of the class. As such, I felt obligated to start “revamping” the curriculum in a manner that I felt worked better FOR THE STUDENTS. Of course, this is not what the faculty wanted. Although they might not be happy with the current curriculum, change means work on their part. BAD KADDEE!

For the last semester, I’ve been working to find consensus (OY VEY) about how to change or rearrange the curriculum. Finally, at the end of the semester, I simply presented my way. Now I am attempting to formulate a working “outline” with readings, activities, links and other professional support materials for the faculty.

Everyone thinks this is great! Kaddee is doing all the work! “But could you add [blah]?”, “How am I going to present [blah]?”, “Are WE going to do [blah]?”

All the questions are presented after praise about what a great job I am doing – NOW DO MORE. I am only one person. I am teaching other courses. (As a matter of fact, I am not even teaching in this class, just coordinating and doing the entire curricular review)

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – I am leaving at the end of the semester to go home! There is only so much I can (and am willing to) do.

I suppose I got myself into all this, and I will get myself out – in about 6 months!

The sick-and-twisted part of all of this is that the University has not figured out who will replace me as coordinator of this HUGE general ed class. This (to me) means that all the work I am doing right now will backslide to the previous state as soon as I leave. It takes effort to move forward. Is there anyone who will put in that effort after I am gone?

January 14, 2009

Wine is NOT why you come to Egypt. It is why you LEAVE Egypt.

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 2:44 pm

The beer in Egypt, as dear gozi has said, is merely bland and flavorless. The local beers (Stella [NO, THIS IS NO RELATION TO STELLA ARTOIS], Sakkara and Luxor) are weak, fizzy yellow beers that are best consumed super cold, in large quantities on very hot days. Sounds like Egypt.

Thank you to Stone Brewing for this logo!

The wines, however, are actively toxic. The French were, apparently, not in Egypt long enough to impart the art and alchemy of wine making. The Egyptians use French names (Chateau de Reves, Jardin du Nil), but the wine inside the bottle is, more or less, rot-gut solvent that should never be ingested by a living organism.

The Lebanese, however, learned well from the French – their wines are LOVELY. The Lebanese also have the advantage of a hilly, rocky, Mediterranean geography, which is FAR better for growing the vines and storing the wines. So for Middle Eastern wine, I highly recommend Lebanese. Ksara is one of our favorite vineyards.

Egypt has a hot, dry climate that is not suitable for growing grapes. Egypt has imported the grapes or the juices from some great wine-producing areas (Lebanon, S. Africa), and yet the end-product is still horrible. The magic doesn’t exist here. And the intermittent electricity means that wines are kept at constantly variable temperature. They don’t like that. They’ve told me – in the form of intense gastrointestinal distress upon consumption. Also, Egypt is not really a “wine culture” – Muslims self-impose varying levels of abstinence from alcohol, and when they DO consume, it tends to be either the beer (see above) or liquor.

A friend recently posted a link to this wine blog talking about Egyptian wines. We both got a number of laughs out of the tasting notes. For those of you who have tried the wines while here you will probably recognize and/or viscerally remember and agree with the assessments.

For those of you who know me you know that I LOVE to drink wine. Egypt has nearly cured me of that. The trip to Paris (and our lovely guests who have helped supply our coffers with decent, imported wine) has given me faith in wine again. Il hamdulil’allah!!!

January 12, 2009

Paris Photos

Filed under: Travel — Kaddee @ 7:18 pm

They are, by no means, masterpieces (although some of them are works of art!) but I put together 3 pages of Paris photos. Click on the links below to see each batch.

  • Paris Walks – loads of photos of all kinds of things we saw while meandering the City of Lights.
  • Paris Museums – most of these are from the Rodin garden and the Louvre. The light for the photos in the Rodin garden was awful, and these photos are as good as I could get without completely “retouching” them.
  • Paris Cathedrals – Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, mostly vista and detail shots.

The photos are a mixture of point-and-shoot and XTI, so some are better than others (All the ones from the Catacombs are terrible, but I like them anyway!). Hope you enjoy a little of our view of Paris.