Monday, December 31, 2007

Bidding farewell to 2007

I feel like I should write something to commemorate the end of the year, something that both acknowledges what transpired and looks forward to what comes next. My previous attempts to write that post over the last few days have ended up deleted. They felt too "emo," and strangely, too personal. For a blog. Yeah, go figure.

I tried coming up with one word to sum up the year and couldn't. 2007 was strange, I said. Draining. Overwhelming. Unsettling. Sobering. Exciting. None fit quite right, and to say it's been an ineffable year is a semantic cop-out. So I'll settle for this: 2007 was a year of massive change, both in terms of my professional and personal lives.

If I could have seen myself last year as I sit here, now, at the end of 2007, I'm... not sure what I'd have thought. Some changes I could have foreseen, like graduating. Others, the internal changes, not so much. Most days, I'm not even sure which is true: that I have changed in massive ways, or that I haven't changed much at all.

2007 seems like the year I turned a hell of a lot of energy inward, too much probably. I feel like I've had the strongest sense of who I am, where I've grown, and an all-too-keen awareness of where my defects still lie.

And in the midst of that existential mess, 2007 gave me a stronger appreciation of my friends. They've come through for me for so many ways, through their support and encouragement, even though I spent so much time caught up in a mess of negativity and had little to offer in return.

So, to rescue this post from the negativity that pervaded the previous attempts, I'm going to state, in vague terms, my new year's resolution: if I can't learn to embrace change, I need to come to grips with it and stop running the other way. I've already started moving in that direction, but keeping up the impetus is the challenge. This time 'round, it's one I think I'm up to.

And lastly, I think Scrivener put it best: "Happy New Year! And 2007? Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." Cheers!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Honesty in advertising?

I was out earlier, around dusk, on my way back home from the used bookstore downtown. It seemed to be my luck today to wind up at every other red light I passed through. At one intersection, brightly lit, with a steady flow of traffic, was a panhandler. I glanced at him, and admittedly, did not register much about him beyond my obligatory middle-class twinge of guilt as he stood outside in the cold while I was warm in my car.

What I did notice was his sign:

"NEED MONEY FOR ALCOHOL RESEARCH"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

War is peace.

My kid sister is in high school, her junior year. She's a pretty smart kid--runs in the family, clearly ;). She reads books for leisure and can usually understand by context unfamiliar words. She's a whiz with math. She can place most countries at least in their correct vicinity. She knows who some of the major candidates are in our upcoming elections, and she knows who Benazir Bhutto was. In short, she is not an illiterate ignoramus.

In her Social Civics course, she was reading about the executive branch of government and the President's Cabinet today (winter break can be significantly shorter for home-schooled kids). The book gave a brief overview of some of the different departments, noting that the Department of Homeland Security was implemented after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"There was no Department of Homeland Security before 9/11?" she asked, surprised.

And in other news, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia and allied with Eurasia.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Multimedia Friday: Stereophonics

In an effort to bring a little structure to this blog, I'm going to make Fridays a day for multimedia, whether it's an interesting Youtube video (the lazy way) or a music rec.

This Friday, it'll be music. I'm banking on my tastes being eclectic enough that every once in a while, at least, I can share a gem of a song or artist/band that someone will find listen-worthy. I make no promises as to the quality of my tastes; I only know that I like what I like.

First off is a band whose music I've only gotten into recently, Stereophonics. When I fall for new music, though, I can fall hard, and these guys are skyrocketing up my Last.fm charts. Genre-wise, they're indie rock or indie pop or the ever-ambiguous "alternative." What does that mean? A groovy, laid-back sound. I think what first drew me in were the vocals; singer Kelly Jones has an incredible voice, with just enough rasp and emotion in it to send shivers down my spine. When I listen to their music, the vibe I get is either a small blues club or coffee house, an intimate, laid-back setting, or a free-ranging road trip. It's moody and melancholy, but not negative or self-indulgently emo.

Admittedly, I only have one album of theirs right now, You Gotta Go There to Come Back, but it's a solid album, lyrically, musically, and whatever else constitutes a damn good album. The track that drew me in was "Maybe Tomorrow." It has potential to be gloomy ("I've been down / and I'm wondering why / these little black clouds / keep walking around / with me"), but the refrain has hope in it, "So maybe tomorrow / I'll find my way home." I mentioned the vocals earlier; I'll mention them again because they affect the delivery greatly. These lyrics look flat as I type them out, but they sound beautifully world-weary in the song. "Nothing Precious at All" is another atmospheric song; "I been people watching again / I think they watch me too / There's a new girl at the coffee house" opens the song, and the music makes you feel like you're there.

The album has a few pleasant surprises, too. "Madame Helga" opens with a neat little guitar riff; "Jealousy" has what sounds like a... gospel choir. Don't knock it; it worked for symphonic metal group Nightwish in "Meadows of Heaven," and it works for Stereophonics, too.

My favorite song was originally "Maybe Tomorrow," but in subsequent listens, I've fallen for title track "I'm Alright (You Gotta Go There to Come Back)" and the following song, "Rainbows and Pots of Gold":



Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Good times

I believe I've mentioned it before, but I have strange friends. I'd be the first to proclaim that strange is a relative term, and given a choice between normalcy being defined as following the misadventures of a washed-out pop star or collecting giant stuffed microbes, I'd rather have the latter. I do, however, recognize that my friends' obscure interests and personality quirks are not mainstream. It's cool. They're cool. And truth be told, I'm pretty sure I'm strange, too.

My break's been a glorious time to relax and recharge and reflect and dream, but now, mostly, I'm unwinding. Lots of crocheting, struggling with a monstrous 1000 piece puzzle, reading for leisure, socializing--I'm taking back my life. My close friend and sidekick, whom I've recently talked into joining the Dark Side Blogspot, was over for a couple days because she needed company. I was happy to oblige, and we spent a chunk of time just hanging out, talking, and crafting things together.

I had, of course, my crocheting. She was working on sock monsters. I include a link to a Google image search in case you haven't seen any of those darling critters. Of course, those sock monsters are all polished and smooth and such, but you get the idea. My dear, dear friend, whom I adore like a sister, has determined with good reason that surgery is not her forte. Her suturing would be... uh, lawsuit worthy. So, anyway, she's made a few of these critters before, and they're so rough as to be cute, frankly. Most of them.

On the second day, she attempted a more complicated pattern. It turned out... interesting. She's gotten better at sewing the smiles on the monsters, but this one fairly leered. And its massive tail turned out funny. At least, that's what the appendage was intended as. The result, with very little manipulation, looks very much like a pointy-eared, candy cane striped, demented African fertility god.

After many fits of giggles, we determined that instead of giving it to her intended recipient, she should give it to a mutual friend who is just as warped as we are.

Until then, the monster is leering at me from atop my bookcase. I'd rather have him there than in my bed, which is where she originally left him. Thanks a lot. I'd post pictures, but I understand my readers may have delicate sensibilities...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Roles

Words, for such arbitrary, flimsy, strange looking symbols, hold such power. Entire identities and truths can be constructed from words, and if that appears to weaken the validity of said identities and truths, frankly, it does.

"All the world's a stage," Shakespeare wrote, "And all the men and women merely players." Players, actors, small-scale frauds all. The people we think we know are not, upon further inspection, the people we really know. We put up our fronts as a matter of necessity because the entire world need not know us completely; to put forth certain attributes and to withhold others are vital skills to keep from being vulnerable or stirring waters, survival skills adapted from thousands of years of evolution.

And because we get lazy or tired or careless or even because we deliberately put the idea out of our heads, we lose sight of that and take the facades at face value. When the masks come down and the facts are revealed, we don't always recognize the actor beyond the role.

When the roles become difficult, it seems that it would indicate a need for change. And so the actor moves on, as actors are wont to do, but the other players and the audience frequently mistake the actor for the role and do not adapt well to the change. And they criticize, oh yes, they criticize when the new role does not fit the template of the old. From their detached positions of knowing superiority, they are ready to tear down the play, the actor, the setting, the whole shebang because it is different and therefore not right.

But most actors know themselves beneath the facade, and they know when to move on. The new play may be a flop, but it may also stretch their wings beyond what they knew they were capable of. But they can't know until they try. They've just got to tune out the critics' voices and go for it, a leap of faith.

If they play their cards well, the new identity, as equally selective and misleading as the old, will emerge and eventually override the old.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's over

These were my symptoms yesterday: slurred speech, impaired judgment, delayed mental response time, and then I crashed. Yes, I finally finished all my grading. I did not drink, although I understand the concept of being "driven to drink." I wish someone would do a longitudinal study on the effects of grading freshman work versus the effects of drinking; the results would probably be surprising to many.

What have the last few days held for me? Hours of seemingly endless agony, tempered only slightly by hot tea and chocolate. There was a brief diversion, though--a note from a student. College freshmen, at least the classes of '10 and '11, have an apparent oblivion to tone. This, I believe, was one such instance.

To backtrack momentarily, I have a policy that allows anybody to revise an essay for a possible higher grade if they take the essay to the writing center. It could create more work for me, and it does a little, but few people actually take it up. It's voluntary, so the onus is on them if they want it. One student apparently found it a burden to do so. In a note attached to an unrevised essay, he informed me that he "did not have time" to go to the writing center, as he was going on vacation to a warm sunny state. Curious, I read on. He wanted me to re-read the paper because he already made one set of improvements based on my feedback on his rough draft, and it still got the unworthy grade of a C.

Last note of the letter, before he signed his name, he asked that I reconsider my grade, as he believes I may have been "over-critical" in my grading.

How did I respond? With it being so late into my grading mad dash and given my already mellow temperament, my response was, "Huh." My colleagues at the writing center were much more indignant over it than I was. They saw it as flagrant disrespect, and it could have been, but honestly, I've seen enough freshman behavior to lead me to conclude that they just don't know how they come across. Where that comes from, I don't know, but we seem to have a generation that doesn't understand how to adjust communication styles for different situations; it results in incidents like this one (same student, different paper, not surprisingly).

Ah well. The semester's over and grades are in. I left the grade as it was.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Curiouser and curiouser

Sitemeter touts itself as a way of seeing how "customers" get to sites and what interests them. Bull. I'll bet the majority--of free users, at least--just use Sitemeter or similar services out of morbid curiosity and vanity. How many people visit this thing? How long do they stay? What blog posts are popular?

And the burning question: How the hell are they finding my blog? The answers can be quite revealing.

Take this one, which just left me scratching my head:

But that's nothing in comparison to this one:

I try to understand the trends. For a spell, I had a bunch of hits from Delhi about being overeducated for a job. Several visitors recently came in search of the Tim O'Brien "How to Tell a True War Story" excerpt I posted for Veteran's Day. It's a trend. It fits.

But "catharsis in my arse" baffles me. Firstly, if one were in search of catharsis, said orifice would probably not be the best place to start looking. And if someone were googling said search string with the conviction that said person had said catharsis lodged in aforementioned orifice, well, frankly, I'd recommend googling proctologists instead.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quality? Pfft. Out the window.

I don't jump on every meme bandwagon, but my Livejournal friends started passing this around and I could not resist. It's all spontaneous and borne of a mind frazzled by finals grading . Thanks to being an English major, I can BS like no one's business, and given the chance to lampoon one of my favorite genres of music, I just had to do it....

1. Go to Wikipedia
2. Press random article - THIS IS THE NAME OF YOUR BAND
3. Press it again - go on, you KNOW you want to - right, THIS IS THE NAME OF YOUR ALBUM
4. You get to press it 10 - 15 more times to create your tracklist!
5. Share!
6. Add commentary, or not.

Band: Bayfield River (man, you know this is totally an emo band, right? Boys in eyeliner and tight jeans? Oh yeah.)
Album: James Taylor (title is an ironic nod; they're like totally screamo, but packed with the same emotional intensity of the '70s songwriters)

Track 1: "Time War" - About a failed relationship, but the video's got all sorts of cool Dr. Who clips in it. Again, ironic nod to pop culture delivered with passion and a healthy sense of the absurd.

"'I love you, baby, but I need more time,
more time,' more time to hurt me more,
you use time as a medium to wage your heartless war."

Track 2: "Spanish Constitution of 1978" - This has little relevance to the song, except that it toys with the idea of a transition from tyranny to democracy, in an abstract, yet heartfelt way. That, and the lead singer was stoned when he thought it up. Incidentally, this is the song the critics quote most frequently in their critique of the band.

"My eyeliner bleeds just like my heart,
trickling down, almost molting.
But just you watch out, baby,
'Cause this proletarian's revolting."

Track 3: "Ryan Ferguson (footballer)" - A pain-filled anthem to the hypocrisy of the high school pecking order. A soccer player is an apt stand-in for all high school jocks. Bayfield River has nothing against Ferguson; it's just that "Ryan" is so easy to rhyme, as opposed to say, David.

"I can't believe the things you do, Ryan,
Hottest girl in the school--
Does she know you're lying?"

Track 4: "Nashville Confederate order of battle" - No relevance to the song whatsoever, which is about a haunted house.

"And I can feel the ghosts, I swear
They're lingering close.
Look, can you seen one there?
He's lamenting those he misses most."

Track 5: "Korinthou Street" - The found this one through Google earth and used it as inspiration for a song about the difficulties of a long-distance relationship.

"You're only five hours away,
But it feels like Korinthou Street,
yeah, it feels like Korinthou Street."

Track 6: "The Magic Pills (ballet)" - Last song released before the guitarist went into rehab for substance abuse. The song builds in intensity and then softens to a whisper in these last few lines:

"Here and now,
it feels good.
Come fly my magic carpet,
Nothing can hurt us now. Nothing can hurt us. Nothing..."

He OD'd six months later.

Track 7: "Christopher Chalmers" - An instrumental piece with some kickass guitar riffs.

Track 8: "The Cosmic Game" - If athletes, Dr. Who, and historical events are fair game for inspiration, so too is music from other genres. The drummer's brother is a fan of Thievery Corporation; to date, the drummer himself has never listened to the album.

"If this is all a cosmic game,
I wanna know who makes the rules,
'Cause they're all mean and cruel and lame,
Clearly designed by and for the fools.
But I've got your number,
You cosmic shyster,
And that number's up soon."

Track 9: "Egypt at the 1960 Summer Olympics" - "Egypt" is a recurring fantasy figure in Bayfield River discography, the exemplification of an exotic feminine ideal, removed from the tyranny of the band members' immediate existence. Instrumental song. The subtle harmonics offer a temporary refrain from the in-your-face shredding of the rest of the album.

Track 10: "The Hard Way (album)" - This was intended to be the title track, but then they got wind of the fact that it was first a hip hop album. That, they decided, would be neither ironic nor countercultural.

"The only way I know's the hard way.
The safest way's the hard way.
That way I'll never take love for granted."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"You're so cold, but you feel alive"

I am so lucky to work for a college that actually consults the weather to decide whether to close. Have you heard about the winter storm across the Midwest? Yeah. My alma mater still didn't close today. Bastards. But my current campus did, so I got to have a warm, stay-inside day, except to go out to take pictures, after which I went inside all shivery to get some hot coffee.

Here's what I found.

The leaf fell away, leaving this behind, like a butterfly abandoning its chrysalis.

Pretty good coating of ice all over everything. Pretty good fence, too; we rarely talk to, much less see, the neighbors.

The tree branch was ready for its close-up.

How quickly things change, within the span of a few weeks, even. The fallen leaves I so loved crunching through have given way to a thin sheet of ice over the grass. How do I know this? Well, it certainly wasn't by stomping through the grass and taking childlike pleasure in the satisfying crackles beneath my sneakered feet as I wrought havoc on the lawn's ice blanket, godzilla-style. Nope. Not at all. And for the record, I would never stomp in a puddle or kick up a pile of leaves. I'm too dignified.

* Subject line courtesy of this song, "Cold" by Breaking Benjamin, or as my friend and I call them, Baking Brenjamin.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Give the gift of...

I'm going to sound like an ungrateful ass here, but only, I hope, momentarily.

We're getting into holiday season and its requisite gift giving. Bah humbug. Sometimes I wish people wouldn't even bother.

And by "some people," I have specific family members and a few acquaintances in mind. Allow me to demonstrate. This summer, I visited my extended family on my father's side, and they place a huge emphasis on symbolic gift giving; what is given is less important than the actual act of gift giving--except, of course, that the gifts must be appropriately showy. The perfumes and jewelry they gave me? I passed them right on. And then there was the family who gave me... books. Hey, they figured, Twit likes books, these are books, it'll be great. They were religious tracts (first mistake), written in French. No hablo francaise. In the interest of luggage space and weight, I passive-aggressively "forgot" them there. I guess it was a step up from the Dollar tree soap baskets they used to give. Still. If the act of gift giving was what was important, perhaps we could've all pantomimed and smiled and pretended to be thrilled; it would've had the same emotional worth.

I actually enjoy finding gifts for people, gifts I know they'll like, and more importantly, use. There's nothing quite like seeing people's faces when you give them something made by hand, whether it's a scarf or baby blanket or scrapbook (not my thing, personally, but it's a craze right now). Or something that shows you know them and have been listening even when they think you weren't paying attention, like a book mentioned off-handedly or something in a favorite color. One of my best graduation gifts was from a close friend who gave me one of the most mind-blowingly awesome books I've read in quite some time based on a comment I'd made in an e-mail about it being on my "Books to read before I die" stack. And to top it off, she included some tea and a music download card. This friend, by the way, always gives such well-thought out gifts, including one gift set that included a bell, a book, and an old-fashioned candle holder. Her gifts are always the perfect blend of her personality and an awareness of the recipient.

Heck, if you don't know much about a person, you should know enough about his or her general interests to find an appropriate gift card. I am of mixed opinion on this matter. On the one hand, it's a bit impersonal, but on the other, it's a safe bet if the person is, shall we say, difficult to buy for (as people seem to think I am...) or the acquaintance is not too deep. Coffee fiend? There's a gift card for that. Craft addict? Plenty to choose from. Young couple renovating a house? Get 'em a Lowe's card. The point is, it's not brain surgery to put a little thought into things.

Even a card is something, with a hand-written note of thanks or acknowledgment of a person's worth (as some faculty did when I was an administrative assistant). Don't just sign your name to it; write something. Think, pause, mentally revise, compose--once upon a time, people wrote whole letters crammed margin to margin with things to say to their intended recipients.

These things take time, I understand, and time is money. But a boxed set of whatever or a watch or a make-up kit or a soap kit is only worth as much as the price sticker says. That value won't last and will in fact only degrade over time. In the end, it's not about the gift itself; all that is, as Kansas put it, "dust in the wind." What it is--or should be--about is what you put into it, showing that you've paid enough attention to understand, at however superficial a level, what has value to other people, or at least, how their minds function. It's one way to connect, and if that occasion only comes around once a year, it'd be a shame to pass up the opportunity.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sometimes poems come along at just the right time

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.
--"The Laughing Heart," Charles Bukowski

[Bio] [More poems]

Only in freshman comp

Perk # 17 of teaching freshman comp:

Coming across the phrase "shit or get off the pot" in the middle of an otherwise serious research essay, followed by an extension of the, ahem, shitty metaphor.

I'm not one to laugh aloud when I'm by myself, but that one had me in giggles once I got over my initial "does that say what I think it says?" response.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Downfall of the English language?

I was on Craigslist for a bit today, skimming over job listings. (Note to self: update the resume posted on Monster and Hotjobs.) And... I like Craigslist, I do--there's a lot there, from sale listings to real estate to "missed encounters" that are great for a laugh ("Our eyes met in the produce aisle of the grocery store. I was wearing a blue baseball cap, and you were gorgeous. I felt there was a connection. E-mail me.")

I make it sound disreputable, not my intention. People place stupid ads in the classifieds, too, only they pay money to do so. While I would not use Craigslist as my primary job search site, it's good resource to widen the net in a job search, which is why I was on to begin with.

If a listing is riddled with typos, I pass it over on principle--might as well stick with teaching freshman comp if that's what I'd have to look forward to dealing with. Sometimes, the issue is more than just careless editing. One listing I looked over was searching for (I believe) an editor or copywriter. I remember nothing about the job description except the word "impactful," as in, I guess, impactful prose, prose that is full of impact.

Ugh.

Impactful is not a word
.

I am willing to accept that language is a living thing and that my educational background leads me toward sometimes antiquarian tendencies. I've used words in casual conversation that I probably picked up in some Romantic-era tract, that are still valid but no longer commonly used. Pity, really, that so few people use the word "wont." It's so useful.... But I digress. At the same time, in the course of my studies, I learned to ignore spell check in writing papers with literary criticism because critics and scholars like to coin words on a whim (oooohh... "masculinist discourse" sounds good. Hey, what about "phallogocentrism?" All those syllables... size matters, you know). Those words at least sound impressive, and they do convey what the authors intended. Sure, they could as easily have found an existing word or combination of words to make the same point, but their alternatives work within a given discourse community. And when I write the occasional verse of poetry, I sometimes take liberty with language in the interest of scansion or simple wordplay. Language can change. It does change. It should change. People, cultures, societies change and evolve, and language will inevitably reflect that. "Google" is now a verb, and I suspect "to friend" will, with a bit of resistance from the old schoolers, wend its way into the language. I have no problems with those and few real issues with the lit crit folks' additions, much as I adore mocking them.

But "impactful" is just... it's wrong. Impactful just grates on the ears like nails on a chalkboard. The word "impact" alone has been so overdone, so overused as a buzz word, it's lost its, well, impact. Try "effective" or "masterful" or "clear" or "powerful" or "memorable." I came up with those off the top of my head, but if need be, you can use a thesaurus, oh poor, struggling, job ad writer. It's got all sorts of nifty words in it, ones that have been proven impactful effective over time. There's no need to bastardize the language in a failed attempt at profundity.

Needless to say, I'm no more applying for the "impactful" job than I am for the one seeking an "edutainer."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Beginning of the end

I don't know how it is in other industries, but December's a crazy busy time in academia, for students and faculty alike.

In spite of that, I love it. Sure, I'm usually stressed, sleep-deprived, and cranky, but there's an underlying eagerness to have it all done with. No matter how much I like a given set of classes, I thrive on novelty and the prospect of an upcoming new set of classes. I loved the prospect of new books, new material, new professors, and even a fresh batch of classmates as a student; now I look forward to the beautiful honeymoon period of a new semester, where students do their reading and assignments, but I also like having fresh slates to work with (even if the first set of writing I get always startles me with its... uh... roughness around the edges).

But I also like December for the same reason I love autumn--the end of a year and the prospect of a new one. I go through the motions of new year's resolutions, and like most, rarely accomplish them. I think they're just too ambitious. One of last year's ambitions was to find a balance between work and personal life; clearly, I haven't accomplished it. I thought I'd come to terms with God, but that relationship's still on the rocks. I thought I'd stop looking back at the what-ifs, and clearly, I haven't.

Such is life.

But I'm formulating next year's ambition. And it's simple. Oh, there are accompanying, unspoken goals that I would like to accomplish, and those are certainly bolder and more ambitious. But I think if I carry through with the relatively minor act I've been pondering for over three years, something that most people would probably do with little thought, the other things might just fall into place. It's a small act, but, I hope, a symbolic one. If--no, when I carry through, I'll blog about it ;).

---

I've heard it said that once you do something regularly for about two weeks, it becomes habit. After a month of blogging every day, I actually started twitching to write this morning. I may become a more regular blogger after all.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wireless weekend

Wasn't completely wireless; twice, I had to use the computer to do things, but I kept those times brief. There were so many times I thought to just pop in and check my e-mail, just briefly, ever so briefly, but I didn't. And let me state, living in a house with three other people and five (functional) computers makes going computerless hard because the temptation is always there. So, what'd I do to counteract that?

I...

...crocheted a bit on a blanket
...beaded a necklace and bracelet
...raked leaves (and wafted a few over the fence into Mr. Obssessive Leaf Blowing Neighbor's yard. Hooray for juvenile pleasures)
...took my mom out for coffee
...saw a movie with my family
...got together with a friend
...read two books before bedtime, trading the 3 a.m. glare of the computer screen for the soft glow of a bedside lamp
...gathered up books to sell back to the bookstore and reordered my bookcases
...went through my stuff to get rid of things I don't need (ongoing process)
...got lost in my own head (daydreams, really; it's been a while since I indulged them)
...bundled up went to the park
...cooked a decent dinner (like, using the oven and everything)
...started a fire (in the fireplace, the first fire of winter)
...did a smidge of grading

And that's the kicker. I thought I'd free up that time to grade, but I chose to do other stuff instead, living stuff. That's the constant trade-off, it seems. Work, and personal and social life suffer. Socialize, and work suffers. The best I can do is see-saw a bit and try to make it all work out somehow.

Sorry, that was a bit depressing. Not fair to the spirit of the weekend. I realized, in spite of my not using the computer, it was impossible to disconnect from technology, from the car I drove to the cell phone I carried to the TV going in the background to the camera I took to the park (and umpteen other little things that I have no doubt taken for granted and ceased to register). I'm no luddite--far from it, actually--but I don't know that our reliance is a healthy one. We're so busy, so multi-tasking, so efficient, we miss important things, like human connection and... hippie talk here, nature.

I'm no Disney, skip around, singing and conversing with the animals type, but the time I spend in a park and outdoors makes me happier than the hours I spend on the bloody computer. I think I need to disconnect more often, and re-connect where it counts. And if that time involves getting out, living, doing things, and work has temporary set-backs, well, I think I can deal with that.