Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles


February 28, 2009

More Bassily…

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 11:28 am

Another installment of the vissicitudes that mark the use of Bassily Hall.  This time I must laugh heartily at myself.

In the last writing, I was bemoaning the lack of equipment in the hall and then expressed my great relief that it was “worked out” in the Wednesday lecture.

So, in I walk for the next Monday lecture (23Feb) and what do I see????  A slightly larger portable screen and desktop projector set up – AGAIN.

ARRGH – where is the large screen?  Where is the big projector?  Why were these things worked out for last Wednesday and we are back to square 1 on Monday????

Long story short – The large screen that “magically” appeared last Wednesday was NOT FOR US.  The university technology people were setting up early for a Thursday lecture and we walked in and co-opted the set up!

LOL – we, apparently, confused the living daylights out of the tech guys when we walked in, took over the hall, the equipment and the sound, and shooed them away.  They had NO IDEA that the hall was reserved and thought that we were all insane.  :)

Now, after 2 weeks of lectures in Bassily Hall, we (supposedly) have the situation figured out.  We are: (1) renting the sound equipment from an outside, 3rd party company, (2) being provided the projection equipment (screen and projector) by university technologies and (3) using the laptop from the Center for Learning and Teaching because it has the lecture capture software on it.

Easy – right?  :)

February 27, 2009

University Sponsored Fun

Filed under: Friends — Kaddee @ 3:16 pm

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The Faculty Services Committee always does a great job of arranging for tours around the city sites, and social events such as dinner cruises.  This semester our dinner cruise was on the (fun and kitschy) Pharaoh’s Boat in Giza.

The boat is FULLY DECKED OUT with Pharaonic kitsch and schwag.  We were met at boarding by a “Pharoanic Guard”, the boarding pier sports a “golden” obelisk and a “solar boat” bar, and the 2 Pharaoh boats are all gilt and glyphs.  I have to admit that as much as I have laughed at the boats in the past, I had a great time being silly and enjoying the atmosphere.

Luckily I was accompanied on this adventure by two very good girlfriends, who had also decided to make this a marvelous and silly adventure.  Of course, the adventure started early, with the breaking of a wine glass “Chez Vorg”, because I poked the cat (don’t ask).

The food on the boat was better than I’d expected, especially the Indian options – yes, I said INDIAN, being served on the Pharaoh Boat.

The belly dancer was not excellent, but she was also not the worst I’ve seen – by far.

Video of the belly dancer.

The dervish was fun, especially terrifying everyone as he spun his ??top skirt?? above everyone’s heads as he wandered between the tables.

All in all it was a fun night out with friends, cruising on the Nile and being entertained – all subsidized by the University.  Does life get much better?

A few more PICTURES here.

February 22, 2009

All quiet in Zamalek

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 9:00 pm

In case anyone is concerned because they heard about THIS - Jack and I were eating Chinese food at home when it happened.

We are fine.

We were blissfully ignorant until we heard about it on the news feed.

February 19, 2009

Bassily Hall

Filed under: How it works,What the...? — Kaddee @ 2:26 pm

We now “live” on a huge state-of-the-art campus in the middle of the desert.  That is what the PR people tell us.  I’m still not sure what state they mean, nor which art.  And it is not just the whiny, soon-to-be-leaving profs that are wondering about the choices for this move.

All that, however is water under the proverbial bridge.  We are there and we have to deal with it – in whatever way we can.

My most recent “Dealing” was in relation to the Core class that I coordinate.  Each week, we have  a General Lecture – general in the sense that everyone in the class goes to this lecture.  It is given 2 times during the week, so 300+ students attend the each presentation of the lecture.

Last semester the “grand lecture hall” was not yet complete, so we were put into the “next biggest hall”.  That hall (Mansour Hall – for those who know AUC) is a raked lecture hall that seats 225 people.  For those who can do simple arithmetic, you see that there is a problem.

We spent the entirety of Fall Semester shoe-horning students into Mansour Hall for the lecture.  No-one was happy with the arrangement – but we had no other options.

At the end of Fall Semester, we got the OK to schedule into the “grand lecture hall” – a.k.a. Bassily Hall.  Il hamduli’allah!!!!!  This hall was designed to seat 1400 people – should be no problem for 300 at a shot!  FINALLY things are getting easier.

So Spring semester begins and…. guess what….. we can’t have the hall for the first of our lectures because it is being used for the inauguration of the campus and graduate student mid-year graduation.  So much for reserving the hall!  Ok, so we go BACK to Mansour Hall, but only for the first General Lecture, then….AHHHH… into the big hall.

An unfortunate glitch was revealed to me as we were preparing for our first lecture in Bassily Hall.  After talking with everyone regarding using Bassily Hall for the General Lectures, the numbers of students we would need to accommodate, and double/triple checking (and being ASSURED) that the hall would be ready and available, I was informed less than a week before our first use of the hall that….
“Oh, by the way, there is no sound system, projector/computer/screen or any other type of AV equipment in the hall.  It was never installed.  I hope that doesn’t cause you any inconvenience.”

WHAT!!???  How are we supposed to give a lecture in a 1400 seat hall without any type of sound system?  There isn’t even WIRING in place for a sound system.  HOW THE HELL DID THEY DO THE INAUGURATION HERE?

Answer: AUC rented all of the equipment from a 3rd party source.

When is Bassily going to GET the equipment for giving lectures?
“UHHH, we don’t know, the campus is over budget.  It won’t be this semester.”

OK – <breathe> – then we need budget authorization to rent all the equipment from the 3rd party company, twice a week until the end of the semester.

“That seems like a fine solution – go ahead.”

WHAT!!?? Can you say “Penny wise and pound foolish”  Oh well, bottom line is that I get what I need for my class.  <WHEW> Catastrophe avoided.

Or not…

This week was the first time for us to get into Bassily Hall.  I was all atwitter to have the big hall.  Think of how much easier seating, attendance, and “riding herd” on the students will be when we can give each section a specific seating area that does not overlap with other sections!

I double checked with my secretary about the equpiment delivery, figured out seating for each section, made seating charts and went to Bassily to make sure everything was ready for the lecture.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear when I walked into Bassily Hall?  A tiny portable projection screen (you know the ones, your grandparents had them to show family movies on.  They fold up and stand in the front closet.  About 1.5 meters square – maybe) and a desktop projector.  FOR A 1400 SEAT AUDITORIUM.

I nearly had an aneurysm.

After my tirade in English to the equipment vendor, who spoke only Arabic, and frantic phone calls, and an Arabic tirade from my friend and close colleague, we settled what would be needed for Wednesday.

The lecture occurred with the tiny screen, an incredibly calm speaker who kept telling me, “Malesh, all will be fine” and a bunch of very confused students.

Wednesday was better – equipment wise, but Egypt happened in that lecture too.  That is for another post.

February 4, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 6:16 pm

And even some other adjectives!

I am in rant and ramble mode.  You’ve been forewarned.

The GOOD:
In my previous post about my Core Curriculum/General Education class, I was lamenting the amount of work, the likelihood of backslide in the curriculum, and the feeling of “Why am I doing all this?”.  I have been preparing this curriculum, keeping the faculty informed, and designing pages and pages (11 at current count) of “supporting” documents that contain links, activities, readings etc.  The thought is to try to get everyone on the same page and feeling comfortable (and not totally overwhelmed) with the curricular changes and some of the new topics we are introducing.

I had my first “all-hands” meeting for this semester.  I had girded my virtual loins for a complete blood-bath and evisceration regarding the changes.

It never came.  There were some questions and concerns, but, for the most part, people seemed resigned to getting to work to make the curriculum happen.  WTF!  Who are these people?  I walked out at the end of the meeting feeling relieved and TERRIFIED.  Relieved that I had not been flayed.  Terrified at not knowing when the explosion (or would that be an implosion?) would happen.  Because I am pretty sure it will.

The BAD:

That would still (even after the nice things people said to me after the last post) would be ME.  Or, at least, the impression that, in this case, students have of me.  The reason is because they don’t want to take this course, so they try to find the “easy” professors and avoid professors that they do not have positive (read: cake-walk) peer information about.  What this boils down to is, and I quote a student,

“I want to know what sections are being taught by Egyptians, because I am guaranteed an A in those sections.  I won’t take from Americans, they grade too hard.”

I shit you not.  A student specifically said this to me, the coordinator of the course, as justification to be overloaded into a course that was closed.

Needless to say, I said, “NO”.  I have burst the bubbles of  many students who sign up for sections randomly and then decide that they don’t like the meeting time, or they think another professor is easier, or… or… or… and they come to my office to get permission to get into another section.

I have explained innumerable (yes, I MEAN to use that word) times that MY concern is to get them into A section, ANY section that fits their schedule and the rest of the excuses are honestly not my concern.  They do not like that.  I am mean and insensitive (read: American).  Malesh.

The UGLY:

This occurred today, and nearly had me heading to the airport!  This semester I am teaching an upper-division biology course with lab that is required for all majors.  As we were preparing for registration (last semester – when students were signing up for classes for THIS semester), I changed the meeting time for the lecture so that I had 2 x 1.5 hour lecture blocks instead of 3 x 1 hour lecture blocks.  From a teaching standpoint, as long as the entire 1.5 hours is NOT blahblahblah, more can be introduced, discussed and evaluated in a 1.5 hour block.  I had it changed with the Registrar BEFORE the students began signing up for classes, and, I *thought*, we were good to go.

During registration, some students said that there was a conflict with a Chemistry course.  I tried to work it out.  We could not find a suitable alternative.  I said as much to the students.  Fast forward to today – the semester has begun, and drop-and-add period ends tomorrow.  There is a HUGE hullaballo because students have conflicts between the chemistry and the biology courses.

Loads of angst, hand-wringing and negotiations aside, it has now been presented to me that EITHER I change the course schedule back to a 3 x 1 hour and give it during the earliest possible lecture hour because that is the only time left open in the students schedules OR I am personally responsible for at least one student not graduating on time.

NOW HOLD ON A MINUTE – I used to teach Scientific Thinking, and now I coordinate the course and am responsible for rewriting the curriculum.  The above statement is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of a FALSE DICHOTOMY.  There are virtually NEVER only 2 possible outcomes for a situation.  What are the other possibilities?????

What it boils down to is that the Ethos in my department is that the students rule supreme, and the faculty must give up their lives, families, free time and personal freedoms to make the students happy.  In return, the students are free from all responsibility for their actions, need to plan or consider future implications of current decisions or in any way engage their mental faculties beyond the current moment and themselves.

The INCREDIBLE:

I can’t tell the story as eloquently as my friend.  I will simply preface this link with some background.  “Odd Man Out (OMO)” has been teaching in the Scientific Thinking course as an adjunct for many years.  I have visited his lectures and must concur with the assessments in the link.  Ilhamduli’allah, OMO is not teaching for the course this semester.

Read it and weep: The Arab Mind

And INCREDIBLE on another level – yesterday, coming home on the bus, I saw a scooter!
Doesn’t seem too interesting or incredible… there were 2 men on the scooter.
Still not so interesting or incredible… the man on the back was carrying….

Wait for it…

A FULL-SIZE sheet of plywood!  No kidding.

I *warned* you that I was in ramble mode.  :)