Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Final Diagnostic Essay Draft

Natalie Berger


Final Diagnostic Essay Draft


We Were Glad It Wasn’t Real

My family has vacationed with my Uncle Randy and his family for years. We were in a remote part of the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to a cabin we had never rented before. It was late in the day and we weren’t sure how far away we were from our destination so everyone was plastered to the windows of the van looking for signs of the cabin paradise my dad had rented for the combined family tribes. Our imaginations were running wild with ideas about what our vacation was going to be like. We made up interesting stories about some of the cabins that we could see from the road. The funniest fiasco we imagined was set in a red shack that was down the road from the cabin where we actually stayed.

We agreed that it all began when we arrived in front of the red shack with a hand pump out front. Everyone gave my dad and uncle sly smiles when they announced, “This is it, everyone out.” We figured that they were tricking us. We were still hoping that they were pulling our leg as we entered the cabin and noticed a funny smell. There was an ear piercing scream when my Aunt Lynne discovered the infestation, which turned out to also be the source of the smell. In front of the fireplace belly up, lay the infestation, which was a small, dead field mouse with a smell that was not in proportion to the size of its remains. Airing out the cabin took no time at all because most of the windows worked. Everyone was pretty unhappy with their first impressions of the place but only a few of the younger kids let out their feelings that night.

We all woke each other up at about the same time. The supply of water we had brought in the cars was only getting lower so we all walked what must have been 50 feet from the front door to the pump to see if it actually worked. First my brothers tried to get the handle to move, and then my uncle tried his hand. It wouldn’t budge. I gave it a try and I could have sworn that someone was pushing right back just as hard as I was shoving down. Finally, after what could have been twenty minutes, my mom decided that it was time to make breakfast. The aunts and kids headed back to the cabin and soon everything was ready to eat. My mom yelled that the pump should be abandoned and washing up should commence and use as little water as possible. Near the end of breakfast someone noticed a piece of paper in a drawer that had been bumped open. The content of the note follows,

Dear Renter,

Hello and welcome to the cabin. Hope you make yourself at home. The pump is strictly ornamental. Although, it did work at some point in history it no longer draws water. When I stay up here I either filter water out of (the word ditch was crossed out here and still legible) the stream up the hill or buy it at the tourist gouging grocer down the road. Hunting season is not respected so watch yourself in the woods, and keep any dogs tied up. That is everything I can think of at the moment; hope you have a nice stay.

All ten of us ran outside immediately to look for Hoover our dog in order to tie him up. After a while a few of us returned to the cabin exhausted and dogless to get a drink because all of our shouting for Hoover had made us hoarse. We found him passed out on the floor and all of the abandoned breakfast plates were licked clean.

About three o’clock gunshots were heard so close that we were looking at our clothes for bullet holes. All the kids ran inside the cabin and lay down on the floor. Frank, my dad, and Uncle Randy grabbed bright clothing: Aunt Lynne’s hot pink night dress and an orange tee shirt. They went around to the side of the cabin facing the woods waving the pink night dress and came face to face with the biggest buck this side of Canada. It was the largest piece of painted styrofoam that they had ever seen. There were targets painted on the side facing the cabin, but none were on the other side facing the woods which must have looked too good to be real from far away. They knocked the target to the ground and hollered for the firing to cease in the direction of the cabin. Apologies did not drift out the woods but the firing stopped short. By the time dad and Uncle Randy got back inside the cabin my mom and Aunt Lynne had everything packed that had been taken out of the car the night before and ready to be loaded. We were down the mountain and on to a major highway before dark: so ended our 24 hour imaginary stay in the red shack. We were glad it wasn’t real.

We didn’t have time to come up with a better ending because right as we were finishing the story we arrived at the cabin we were actually staying at for the week of our vacation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Review of Class: Reflections

Eng 111-63
Review of Class

Reflections about English 111 Course

This semester at Tidewater Community College (TCC) I attended an evening English 111 class that was taught by Paul Gasparo. The class for the most part was interesting and even fun at points, but that is not why I am recommending it. I am recommending this course because the information is useful and the instructor and resources were helpful and for the most part well coordinated. If the work is done on time and turned in correctly a student will not only have an excellent chance of passing this course; they will learn many important things about writing and formatting papers at a college level.

Paul Gasparo, the professor I had for my course, is someone I think many people could get along well with because he a sense of humor and a sympathetic, balanced attitude toward his students. He is fresh out of school himself and under thirty from what the class could gather. Throughout the semester he related some experiences from his school days that were for the most part amusing and some of them were extremely inspiring. Paul is an adjunct professor. There were a few nights when he appeared to be tired, underfed, or under prepared, but what adjunct professor isn’t one or all three of these at some point in time. On the nights when he was tired, he could still lecture coherently. Having a sympathetic professor, such as Gasparo, can be encouraging but it is not necessary. The students got out of the class what they put in, which is true in almost every learning situation.

The students that attended this night class all seemed to have full plates in and out of school. Many of the students worked more than twenty hours a week on top of attending school. There were a few single parents that seemed to have a hard time staying up with the pace of the assignments but I think that they made it through the course. I believe that the majority of the people who stayed through the whole semester had a very good chance of passing the course especially with the help provided by the course materials and texts we had.

Our main text for the course was The Little, Brown Essential Handbook 6th ed. by Jane E. Aaron. I enjoyed every reading that the we were assigned. Other materials in the course were readings selected by Gasparo, which were posted on Blackboard or handed out in class. Some of these readings were great, others not so much. All were informative and Gasparo had a point he was trying to get across in all of them.

One group of readings was centered on Bruce Springsteen. We watched a documentary about the production of the album Born to Run and Springsteen’s writing process. We also read his lyrics, which I did not care for at all. It seemed to me that the points Gasparo was trying to make from observations of the lyrics were sublimated or possibly invalidated by the effect that the profanity in the lyrics had on certain students in the class. If you are a Springsteen fan this is the course for you. If the reader is similar to me and has heard his name seldomly in the conversation of their peers, they could be bored out of their mind on the nights these readings are discussed in class. There was something to be learned from these materials because they let the audience inside a writing process that produced a product which was successful. However, I think there are other widely appealing authors that could be examined by the class that are more nuetral in the moral quality of their content.

Another Group of materials used in the course were TCC Writing Center handouts. All of these handouts were necessary and helpful. There were a few large assignments towards the latter part of the semester that the writing center handouts helped me to understand. A few important ones were about MLA formatting, MLA citations, and other good writing skills like outlining and structuring a research paper properly. All of the assignments had handouts that were applicable to them and that explained them in coordination with Gasparo’s lectures.

There were ten major assignments during our 16 week course as well as some extra credit opportunities. All of the assignments could be handled by someone fresh out of high school or someone who is returning to school after being out of an academic environment for a while. This course states that computer literacy is required. I agree that this is an absolute necessity for this course. Some of the assignments would be unnecessarily time consuming if a student were not comfortable with the technological aspects that are involved.

One assignment that I particularly enjoyed was the large research argument paper at the end of the semester. I learned so much throughout the process of planning, researching, and writing it. This is one assignment that work can be started on early and I highly recommend doing so. A couple of the other assignments fed into this one so doing them in order and on time is a must for the full benefit to be had out of this section of the course.

I really enjoyed this course and I know that I will use everything that I have learned in it. I haven’t taken many classes at TCC yet, since this is my first semester, so my advice should be taken with a grain of salt. I recommend this course for its informative content and because Gasparo is a capable instructor who is willing to assist his students to succeed.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Diagnostic Essay

The Worst Vacation
A Fiasco
The worst vacation my family ever went on was mercifully short, we had planned a week. My mom got a call from my Aunt Lynn, two hours later when mom finally got off the phone; we were told that a vacation in the mountains for our whole family and our uncle’s tribe too had been planned. We were ecstatic! We hadn’t been to that part of Virginia before but we were sure that any part of the Blue Ridge had to be beautiful. My dad called a real estate office and rented a cabin.

We finally arrived after more than eight hours on the road. That we actually found the place was miraculous. We got inside and with the help of a flashlight we found a string for the light bulb that lit the kitchen/living/dining/ kid’s sleeping space. When one of the kids started crying we discovered the infestation. In front of the fireplace belly up, sprawled and shrunk up because it had been dead for while lay the infestation. It was the cutest dead field mouse ever, but that only made it worse. All of the kids were inconsolable until sleep finally hit the place.

Running water was 50 feet from the front door. In order to get water you had to carry a bucket to a hand pump. We all walked to the pump in the morning because there was nothing else to do. First my brother’s tried to get the handle to move, and then my uncle tried. It wouldn’t budge, finally after what must have been twenty minutes my mom decided that the gas station combo grocery mart twenty minutes back up the road would have water that was drinkable and breakfast. The aunts and kids piled into the car and headed down the road. When we got back my Uncle Randy ran out of the cabin and whispered something about a shiner in my mom’s ear they both started chuckling. Then my dad walked out the door and they stopped laughing fast. He announced that the pump after much ado was broke. I only learned later what gave my dad that black eye. He hadn’t given up on the pump when we left and somehow during his Spartan effort to get it going, he whammed himself right in the blinker. Poor dear old dad bore the mark for at least a week.

After lunch we walked around and sat on the porch and did other cabin in the middle of nowhere activities. About three o’clock we heard gunshots really close by. All the kids ran inside the cabin and lay down on the floor. My dad and uncle have retold the story that follows hundreds of different ways: this is the main gist. They grabbed bright clothing: Aunt Lynn’s hot pink night dress and an orange tee shirt. They went around to the side of the cabin facing the woods waving the pink night dress and came face to face with the deer. It was the biggest piece of painted Styrofoam they had ever seen. It had a target of red and white painted right where the heart would be and the blue and white half moon that marked a spine shot. The targets were on the side facing the cabin the other side looked rather realistic from far away. They knocked the deer to the ground and hollered for the fire to cease in our direction. Apologies did not drift out the woods but the firing stopped. By the time dad and uncle Randy got back inside the cabin mom and Aunt Lynn had everything packed and ready to be loaded into the car and we were down the mountain and on to a major highway before dark: so ended our one day stay in the shack.

When my family looks back on this vacation we all laugh pretty hard; though there were plenty of tears when it took place. “We should have just gone camping!” was the constant refrain for a few months afterwards. The main reason it is put down as a bad vacation is because it was just such a disappointing fiasco.