My Daily Read: Dr. Carol Higginbotham

November 30, 2011

Dr. Carol Higginbotham is a Professor of Chemistry.  Dr. Higginbotham, received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Montana State University and has been teaching at COCC since 1999.


ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Carol: Honestly?  It’s typically Facebook.  I like to pick up personal messages before I get hit with the news.  But once I have seen what my friends have been up to, it’s the newspaper, online.  After that I’ll sometimes check a few favorite blogs, and by then I am usually draining my coffee cup and getting out the door.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Carol: I am an online subscriber to the New York Times, and I look at it at least once a day.  I also read local news at and, and I look at and  In print I’ll read parts of the Source on weekends, when I am a bit more chilled out and have the time to pay attention to the longer articles it contains.  I absolutely love reading The Atlantic as a Kindle mag, and I have subscriptions to Runner’s World and to American Scientist that come the old fashioned way:  in my US Mail box.

ConXn: What books have you recently read? Do any stand out?

Carol:  Each fall I try to take up a long classic book, so as the days get short I can curl up and read seriously.  This year I am trying to get through Moby Dick.  I also picked up and read both the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip von Winkle this Halloween season, because I wanted to get to know those stories in their original forms.  All these were basically free or one-dollar reads I got for my Kindle.  The best book I’ve read in the last six months was The War of the End of the World, by Mario Vargas Llosa, who won the Nobel prize for literature last year.  It’s an amazing, big, fat, epic book.  I have also recently read An Anatomy of Addiction, the Emperor of All Maladies, and The Poisoner’s Handbook.  All of these are popular science books.  Currently I am in the middle of two books:  the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Carol: Absolutely.  I used to read more in scientific research journals, and these days I read more education stuff.  I am a regular reader of the Journal of Chemical Education.  I keep an eye on advances in research through aggregator websites that sort and summarize scientific advances for me.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter? If so, whom do you follow?

Carol: I joined Twitter several years ago when it was new, but at the time it wasn’t very popular.  When the people I wanted to connect with weren’t using it, I lost interest.  My account is probably still out there but I haven’t used it in a very long time.

ConXn: Do you blog? If so, why?

Carol: I used to blog.  My students were hungry for connections between the chemistry we were discussing in class and their lives outside of school, so I developed a blog as a place to explore these connections.  It was great fun for a while, and I am glad I did it.  However I found that I really needed feedback to keep up my motivation to write, so over time a lack of comments caused me to drift away from blogging.  If you want to look at it, it’s

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Carol: I get more pleasure than is reasonable from reading blogs about sustainability, and bike commuter culture.  I like reading, the Daily Score from, and  These blogs are guilty pleasures for me because they mostly reinforce things I already believe in.  They don’t challenge my ideas, but they express things I already like in ways that make me like those things even more.

I also always come home from library book sales with cookbooks.  The more unusual they are, the more I enjoy them.  My collection includes a Finnish cookbook and a cookbook by Liberace.


My Daily Read: Dr. Karen Huck

November 16, 2011

“My Daily Read” is a new feature of ConXn, shamelessly borrowed from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Chronicle Review weekly feature, in which they interview famous academics about their daily reading habits. 

Our first “My Daily Read” featured academic is Dr. Karen Huck, Professor of Speech.  Dr. Huck, who received her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Utah, has been teaching at COCC since 1988.  She is the 2009 recipient of the COCC Faculty Achievement Award.

(factoid: Kake lives in a house of books – at least 7,000 volumes!)

ConXn: What is the first thing you read in the morning?

Dr. Huck: The Bend Bulletin or student work I need to hand back in a few hours.

ConXn: What newspaper and magazines do you subscribe to or read regularly? What do you read in print versus online versus mobile?

Dr. Huck: I hate hate hate reading off the computer.  I read the Sunday New York Times, New York Magazine, The New Yorker (hmmm, do we detect a pattern here?), Poetry, Bend Bulletin, Source Weekly, Harpers and Atlantic if I have a free subscription.

ConXn: What books have you recently read? Do any stand out?

Dr. Huck: The Poisoner’s Handbook:  Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.  Best book of the summer.  I don’t usually read long books (novels and short fiction) when seated — I read by ear when dog walking and walking to school.  Right now I’m in the middle of reading three different books at those times when I’m sitting and not grading or watching.  I’m enjoying each —  No Vulgar Hotel:  The Desire and Pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin;  Blue Sky Dream:  A Memoir of America’s Fall from Grace (set in my home county during the time I was growing up) by David Beers; and Love Wins by Rob Bell, an evangelical Christian who doesn’t believe in hell.

And, on yeah, in the spring I reread The Mirror Cracked, by Agatha Christie — a classic in which the unpleasant murder victim is killed largely because she was an enthusiastic non-thinker and busybody.

ConXn: Has your reading of professional journals changed in the past 10 years? If so, how?

Dr. Huck: Yes.   I skim only the articles in which I’m interested, generally those which have “immediacy behaviors” or “gay” in the title.

ConXn: Do you use Twitter? If so, whom do you follow?

Dr. Huck: No.  I’ve decided that Facebook and Youtube are enough for me right now.  Plus, I think tweets are boring (well, okay, I did spend about 5 minutes following tweets from the supposed riots at Penn State).

ConXn: Do you blog? If so, why?

Dr. Huck: Rarely — generally when I have something to say and don’t care if anyone hears me say it.

ConXn: What are the guilty pleasures in your media diet?

Dr. Huck: I have no guilt about my consumption habits except on those occasions when English teachers send me nonverbal messages that I am not a serious person because I don’t read enough. Oh yes, and when I get similar nonverbal messages of concern from my students when I openly admit to enjoying Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Student Retention

October 20, 2011

By Tina Hovekamp, Library

Here’s a short article explaining some of the reasons behind the pressures for student retention:

Community-College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Nearly $1-Billion a Year, Report Says

Besides the article itself, I also found the responses at the bottom quite interesting!

This is certainly a great topic of discussion!

Write your own response by using the “Comment” link right below!

The Fishing Report

September 29, 2011

By Michele Desilva, Library

Summer and I have a love-hate relationship. I love many things about summer: sandals, ice cream, real ripe tomatoes, early morning sunrises. But, my main quibble with summer is that it creates the illusion of so much time. There are all those long days to fill with activities: running, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, and catching up on family visits near and far while the traveling weather is more beneficent than in December. At the same time, I’m supposed to be reading summer’s bestsellers and that stack of classics I’ve been meaning to get to for years, watching the summer blockbusters (which, admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever actually done), and listening to the summer’s new music. Oh, and it’s gardening season, a precious, short-lived time in the high desert (my husband, Dave, and I actually started our garden in March with tomato seeds, a heat pad, and a grow light, but that’s another story).

When this frenetic activity reaches a fevered pitch and I find myself longing for the comparative calm of winter’s short days, I know it is time to get to the river. Almost any river deep enough to float a boat will do, but I am particularly fond of the Deschutes. So, mid-July, when we were particularly exhausted from a session of pulling long-rooted grass blades out of the garden, we decided to leave the garden with a friend and disappear for a four-day fishing float trip on the lower Deschutes. An online fishing report indicated slow fishing, as few steelhead had yet to return over the Columbia’s gauntlet of dams, but we deemed it an exploratory mission and packed our gear.

The next day, we were driving out of town at sunset, into the desert north of Madras, where the Mutton Mountains meet ranch and farmlands, the checkered patches of green fields made more vibrant by the contrast of the browns all around. The sunset, a vivid, liquid gold and crimson light leaking across the sky to fill all of the space not occupied by clouds, appeared to be in the process of erupting out of and spilling down the flanks of Mt. Jefferson.

The dark followed us into the canyon. The rolling golden hills all around us, close up, broke into their constituent parts: tall tan grasses, reddish-purple and black lava rock, and the occasional dusty green juniper tree. The river, a dark ribbon in the dying light, was barely distinguishable from the equally dark road except for the hint of motion transmitted by the gleaming white froth of the rapids’ waves.

We turned off onto the gravel road along the river and the darkness increased until I could no longer see the grasses, rocks and trees around me. I could feel, however, if not see, the huge walls of the canyon reaching high into the clear night sky studded with stars. On the car stereo, Bob Dylan sang “Desolation Row.” I began to think it was the longest song I had ever heard. I turned the music up very loud to drown out the noise of all of our river gear shifting, bumping, and clanking as we drove down the rough road. Caddisflies swirled in my headlights like snowflakes immune to the force of gravity, staying suspended in the air rather than falling to the ground.

On the other side of the river, an occasional translucent green light pierced the darkness. The lights hovered in the dark, seemingly without source or design. I had been here enough during daylight hours to know that they were traffic control lights on the train tracks. It seemed that any train coming down the tracks tonight would not need to stop.

We passed boat ramps and campgrounds: Buckhollow, Pine Tree, Jones Canyon, Beavertail, and Rattlesnake Canyon. We passed Grumpy’s and the Hogline, favorite fishing holes. Finally, we arrived at the nearly empty Mack’s Canyon campground at 10:30 pm and set up a quick camp to catch a few hasty hours of sleep. We were well away from the lights of any towns, and I fell asleep under the glow of the visible Milky Way and thousands of other stars that I probably hadn’t seen since my last river trip.

Come morning and the sun has risen early, though its warmth and full light hasn’t yet reached completely into the canyon. As we wake, a train loaded with lumber and an unidentifiable substance in tankers rumbles by slowly, as if it, too, were still drowsy.

At the boat ramp, we inflate our raft, a beast of an old commercial gear boat that we purchased used and discover a small air leak that needs a quick fix. That, in turn, leads to a discovery that our repair kit is woefully understocked with shore adhesive, which we need to make the vinyl patch stick to the raft. We make do with duct tape, which, remarkably, stays on for the entire trip and greatly minimizes the air loss.

While we are packing the boat – strapping the metal frame on and dropping in the large cooler and watertight kitchen boxes and dry bags of clothes and sleeping bags – a falling rock on the opposite shore gets our attention. There are six big horn sheep standing comfortably on what appears to be an almost sheer cliff face. They have stopped and stand still, facing us, probably trying to sniff out whether or not we are a threat. There is a young one with the group, and it is noticeably more careless of our presence than the adults are. Eventually they decide that we are harmless and continue walking their steep path, grazing at the sparse grass as they go.

It is our first steelhead fishing trip of the season, and my casting is noticeably rusty. The first few casts crumple into ineffective piles of line on the water, tangled messes with a fly in the middle. Even in this mess and the messy process of reawakening my muscles to the motion of casting, there is beauty in the sunlight glinting on the water droplets as they slough off of the line, making prismatic, liquid gemstones. When I straighten my casts out, the line snaps through the air and the fly knotted to the end of the transparent leader arcs gracefully through the air to the middle of the river, where the steelhead might be swimming.

The fishing report we read online seems to have been correct. But, the advantage of poor fishing is fewer people on the river. We have a quiet day and find most of our favorite spots unoccupied. We close the afternoon by landing, if not a fish, then one of the best campsites on the river – one with shade, a flat spot for the tent, and easy access to an outhouse, all fronted by some beautiful water that we will fish when the light exits the canyon again in the evening.

Early the next morning, Dave catches a wild steelhead, so fresh from the ocean it is still mostly silver. Its thick flank is scarred from a previous encounter with a net of some sort, in either the ocean or the Columbia. What steelhead do out in the ocean, besides grow larger, is a bit of a mystery. Unlike populations of salmon that have been exhaustively studied and tracked in both the rivers and oceans, steelhead have received relatively little attention. When released, the fish swims away strongly, intent on fulfilling the purpose that drew it back to its home river.

It takes the morning light a very long time to work its way into this part of the canyon. The sun chases the shadows down the sloping hills behind us, then across the train tracks and finally to the river’s edge, where the shadows have no escape except to sink into the river, where they will bide their time until the evening. Then, they can safely reemerge and will bring with them the coolness they’ve collected at the river’s bottom during the day.

There is no time I love to fish so much as the early morning. It feels like being at the border of something – the border between dawn and day, maybe, but also more than that, something like the border between a suspended state of timelessness and the point at which time begins. I always think I will be able to hold onto that feeling of complete calm, even when we have returned home from the river, but it slips away, just as the shadows do when the sun comes out. I don’t know why other people keep fishing (especially when they catch as few fish as I), but I know that I keep at it because I can’t think of any other excuse to stand in the river and watch the light and shadows trade places and the world wake up to another day.

Neither one of us caught any more fish that trip, but I can’t say that it mattered a great deal. Whether or not the fishing is good, the fishing is always good.

Enjoy your summer reading!

June 8, 2011

Yep, summer is finally here!

Looking for some good summer reading? Thanks to Stacey Donohue, we got a list of great recommendations:

• Stacey’s annual ritual: rereading Richard Russo’s Straight Man, an academic comedy, before the start of fall term. Other academic comedies that amuse me include Moo, by Jane Smiley and Murder at the MLA by D.J.H. Jones
• For beautifully crafted short stories, read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies or Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
• More beautiful writing: Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves.
• Memoir, in the right hands, can be a pleasure to read. I’d recommend Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life; Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood; Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies.
• Another ritual is rereading one of my all-time favorites, John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany
• Summer plans: The stack of books next to the bed include William Deresiewicz’s literary memoir A Jane Austen Education; Heidi Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky; Mary Gordon’s The Love of My Youth.

Also, in case you missed this announcement by Karen Roth, Director of Multicultural Activities, next fall, campus faculty in partnership with Multicultural Activities will offer Conversations on Books and Culture “for an occasional discussion of books representing various world cultures. Read the book ahead or just come and hear about it during the conversation.”  The proposed schedule for next year includes these books:

October: Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros, conversation facilitated by Robin Martinez

November: House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday, conversation facilitated by Neil Brown

January: Book Thief by Markus Zusak, conversation facilitated by Lura Reed

February: A Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou, conversation facilitated by Tina Redd

April: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, conversation facilitated by Chris Rubio

May: Typical American by Gish Jen, conversation facilitated by Annemarie Hamlin

They’ll be dates and times for each conversation determined by the fall.

Have a wonderful summer!

A new experience in reading?

May 25, 2011

By Tina Hovekamp, Library

First, I want to start with my favorite quote from a recent article  in The Chronicle of Higher Education in which the author, Randall Silvis, explains how he approaches a discussion about reading with his students  – this is a truly wonderful article everybody should read, and I would be more than happy to email it to you:

I do not tell them that being a human is a lonely, lonely business and that only a couple of things can assuage that loneliness. Loving someone is the best remedy, I do not tell them. Making music is good medicine too. And so is reading, another form of love-an act of faith and trust and desire, an act of reaching out and of coming together.

Silvis’ argument about reading as a way to experience and connect to the world is quite powerful and an inspiration to those who teach in the Humanities or in Writing.

In its latest report, Bowker, the company that does research and provides information on publishing trends in the U.S., is projecting that despite predictions and the popularity of e-books, traditional print publishing in 2010 grew by 5%. This 5% increase follows another 4% increase from the previous year. But if print is far from being dead, what are the reading trends such a growth represents?

Based on the report and continuing the trend seen last year, computers, science and technology were the leading areas of growth with major increases added to those subject areas from last year as people purchased information specifically for business and careers.  Categories that suffered double-digit declines include Literature (-29%), Poetry (-15%), History (-12), and Biography (-12%). Fiction, which remains the largest category (nearly 15% of the total) also dropped 3% from 2009, continuing its steady decline since 2007.

So, what do these trends actually mean in regards to our reading habits the way Silvis defines them? As he describes, “Reading Michael Ondaatje’s novel, …, puts me into that world, allows me to feel the desert’s desiccating heat, the sand fleas and gritty sand in my socks; sucks the moisture from my tongue and nostrils, stings my eyeballs, and sears the soles of my feet.”  If this is the type of reading that’s in decline, the one that actually stimulates our senses and even transforms our emotional state, then based on the reported publishing trends, we seem to be moving to an experience where reading is growing but is becoming more of an application-driven tool to help everyday skills and careers. Yes, technology and the new media are helping in this evolution and the shift in consumer interests, but clearly it is not the sole driving force in the publishing market. And although I do not wish to diminish the significance of such reading in helping us improve the practical aspects of our lives, I can’t help wondering if the evolution of our habits take us away from the thrills of a literary voyage into a more sterile world driven by the need to get “information pieces” rather than enrich our experiences in human nature and the world.

Have some book favorites to recommend?  Send them to me and I will post them on our blog for summer reading before the end of the term.

A Folk-Revival Without All the Juice

April 27, 2011

By Tom Barry, Sociology

Two months ago the 53rd Grammy Awards took place.  The best performance of the night, in my opinion, happened when Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers joined stage with Bob Dylan in a rendition of Dylan’s 1965 “Maggie’s Farm.”  If you did not watch it live, watch this youtube clip compilation of some of the tunes these bands played that eventful night.

Bob Dylan will be 70 years old in May.  Even though his vocal chords were shot and the sound system experienced some technical problems, I was delighted to watch Dylan passing the proverbial baton to these younger folk-rock musicians.  I was also intrigued by how this reinvigoration of folk music reflected the political and economic climate we are currently experiencing but at the same time is turning it’s back to the legacy of the earlier 1960’s revival. Or is it?

The 1960s was a tumultuous time.  Students were protesting against the war and fighting against the military-industrial machine.  The Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and other freedom marchers were resisting a system of racial bigotry and advocating for racial justice.  Activists mobilized to advocate for services for the poor.  This included social justice-minded students and other organizers participating in sit-ins in urban welfare offices to bring attention to the lack of government response to addressing a limited and demeaning social support system.  Women activists were raising gender consciousness, drawing attention to oppressive patriarchal forces.  And by the close of the decade, the gay rights movement gathered momentum, especially after the tide turning Stonewall Inn riots.  These movements were held together by charismatic leaders, concerned citizens, academics, and songs.

Coinciding with the 1960’s march for change was a folk-music revival.  Youth and other politically-engaged citizens were drawn to music which both spoke to power and inspired group cohesion.  And musicians were delivering.  Working in the shadows of their populist predecessors, such as Woody Guthrie and Henry Ledbetter (a.k.a. Ledbelly), songwriters used their instruments to carry a message.  Bob Dylan was one of these musicians.

Many Dylan songs of the 1960s were, depending on which side of the political aisle a person sat, confrontational or affirming.  In his1962 “Oxford Town,” Dylan told the story of James Meredith, a young African American and Air Force veteran who was denied admission to the University of Mississippi.  Dylan’s 1963 “Masters of War” forcefully critiqued the abuse of power of industrial, government, and military leaders.  Because of the ability of Dylan and his songs to mobilize people, he was recruited to be a leader of the folk protest movement.  Regardless of the reasons, or what people make of them, he rejected wearing this hat.

As with many songs, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible to know an artist’s original intent.  And with many songs, they are various potential meanings, some more valid than others.  This is the case for “Maggie’s Farm.”  Some people interpreted, and there continues to be debate about the validity of this interpretation, “Maggie’s Farm” as the song where Dylan came out against the protest movement, stating that he would not be a pawn in the counter-culture’s game.  Others have interpreted the song with a more activist frame.  For these individuals, the song speaks to Dylan’s refusal to engage in oppressive institutions.  Regardless of how people interpret this song, the folk music of the 1960s – at least until sell-out musicians and money hungry producers counterfeited it – was political.

Fast-forward to contemporary times.  A folk-music revival is currently underway.  The listening public is once again drawn to folk music for its more organic production and collectivist spirit.  People are seeking engagement, understanding, and connection.  But whereas the political spirit of folk music was a central part of the 1960s revival, it appears as if much, but not all, of the current revival provides little in terms of raising political consciousness and challenging power. But that’s why the Grammy’s were entertainment and not a message.