Monday, October 27, 2008

Ho ho ho

My remedial writing class has drafting and conferencing built into the course format. I have my boss's encouragement to use red ink on their first drafts, scare 'em a bit.

I sit down with them and mark as I go, a flurry of red. I grade final drafts in other colors--sometimes blue, sometimes purple. This time it was green.

While handing back papers today, I overheard this comment:

"It looks like freakin' Christmas all over my paper."

Now playing: American Steel - There Could Be More
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 24, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Greensleeves

It's been a long week of lots of grading--not a bad week, per se, just a long one. A nice peaceful song is a good note (pun fully intended) to end on.

Have a good weekend, folks, and in the meantime, enjoy an oldie but goodie: Greensleeves. This has been my favorite rendition so far, both in terms of the music and the video.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

They say write what you know.

The university I teach at is located in a... rural area. For goodness' sakes, I drive an hour through (some admittedly lovely) relative emptiness to get there. And there are stereotypes about such places, oftentimes derogatory ones. There's some truth to them.

Each semester, I get at least one essay on two recurring topics:

Hunting (and the benefits thereof)


Football (see above).

The former I don't mind so much; I learn interesting things from those, whether it's different weapons and methods or even facts about the animals' survival instincts that help them avoid being dinner.

But the football essays just... Some of them are solid enough essays. They're clear, explanatory, and meet the criteria of the assignment. They all run together... Next semester, that's going on my "no-no" topics list.

On the topic of "writing what you know," I've decided to go for National Blog Posting Month in November. I made it last year, so I'm hoping to do so again with similar success. Wanna play along?

Now playing: Nick Cave - Into My Arms
via FoxyTunes

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm a bad, bad girl.

Forgive me, bank account, for I have sinned.

I knew it was a bad idea to go to that place of dubious repute so soon after payday. I knew temptation would only be a heartbeat away, knew that before I could so much as register it, my pulse would commence to racin' and my will would weaken, and yet--I pursued temptation anyway. The first lapse was egregious enough, but to abandon all pretense of moderation in an episode that could only be described as hedonism--well, there is no penance great enough for that failing. I know my weaknesses, too--a glimmer of intelligence, a provocation of thought, a beauty that emanates from a homely, sometimes battered-looking source--

Damnit, I have no defenses against the wiles of a used bookstore that offers special sales to educators.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Congratulations are in order.

I crossed paths this morning with a colleague whom I went to grad school with and sometimes have lunch with.

He held out a hand for a shake. "Congratulations," he told me, apropos of nothing.

"For what?" I asked, puzzled.

"Oh, I don't know. There must be something worth congratulating."

"O... kay." I returned the handshake. "Congratulations to you, too, then."

"I just finished grading 40 essays," he said.

Finally, I got the idea. "And I finished another round of paper tutorials with my students," I said.

"The thing is, this time I can see improvement. It's the time of semester for that." A worthy feat for congratulation indeed.

I thought about that a second. "You know what? Me too. They are improving. This coming batch of papers is a little better than the previous ones."

The thought sent me off to my first class with a smile. A little perspective is useful sometimes.

Now playing: Able Baker Fox - October
via FoxyTunes

Monday, October 13, 2008

Much too young to feel this damn old

Thanks,, for the inspiration for a post title and a point from which to begin my tirade.

My family's kidded me for a while now about being a 40-something at heart. It started with innocuous things at first--my tendency to drink hot tea in the evening, a love of crocheting. When I started tutoring writing, they ramped up the harassment. You see, I had been complaining about the things the "kids" I tutored did. The "kids," I note, were not much younger than me, chronologically speaking.

And if I started feeling alienated from my fellow youth by virtue of tutoring, teaching completed the process. The constant phrase on my lips these days is something along the lines of "I never would have done that as a student." I never would write phrases involving the word "booty" in a proper academic paper, and wouldn't have dreamed of using the word "asshole." For that matter, I wouldn't have missed class two weeks in a row and wondered why my quiz grade was pulling down my overall average so much. I wouldn't have sent e-mails with a complete lack of punctuation and capitalization (and yes, we did have computers when I was a wee undergrad).

I wouldn't have surfed the Internet and played online games while my teacher was talking. And if I had, I wouldn't have done it again, much less in the same class period. And if I were to do it, I wouldn't have harbored the delusion that my slowly tilting the monitor away from the center of the room would go unnoticed. And if my teacher were to have called me out on my antics, I would've scrambled to close the game window. Stat.

And, and, and... I tell you, the kids these days... They have no respect for time, their own or others'. And by "others'," I here mean their instructor's. If I had an appointment with one of mine, I'd make darn sure I made it on time--early if possible, on time at least, and if I were late, I'd be genuinely repentant. I'd be especially cordial if I knew I was one of 42 such conferences to take place over the span of three academic days, outside of the allotted time--

Is a little courtesy and consideration so much to ask for? I swear, those "millennial kids," they'll herald the end of civilization as we know it, what with their slackerdom and misplaced priorities and overall slovenly ways. They're nothing more than fondling fops and scurvy sneaksbies.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get a cup of tea to ease the tension of the day. This stress isn't good for my blood pressure.

Now playing: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 10, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Gaslight Anthem has had the great wisdom to recommend some great artists to me. One such artist is The Gaslight Anthem. I liked their first album on first listen, and I later caught some snatches of their new-ish album.

This week, I finally purchased The '59 Sound. I consider it an investment; it has barely left my car CD player this week. What is their appeal? Well, they're either a punk band with a bluesy feel, or they're a blues band with punk sensibilities. Whatever the case may be, they write heartfelt and catchy tunes. More than once I've caught myself bobbing my head, drumming the steering wheel to the tune, and singing along (and this in the midst of mid-term grading stress!). They have a sensibility I can identify with--the songs go from bittersweet, older-sounding reminiscing ("Here's Looking at You, Kid"), to youthful exuberance ("Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"). More than that, though, their references don't date them as a young culturally oblivious band; allusions include Elvis, Tom Petty, Audrey Hepburn, and even Charles Dickens ("Great Expectations"). And the vocals, like many of my favorite bands, are distinctive--a little gravelly, a little wary sounding.

My absolute, absolute, hands-down favorite song is "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." The opening chords grabbed my attention immediately, the opening lyrics made me nod in wistful agreement, and the chorus had me tapping my foot and singing along with joyful abandon. Give it a listen, or two, or three, or... Just leave a comment. Let me know what you think.

Now playing: The Gaslight Anthem - Film Noir
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Take a hike!

Nothing's gone right this week. Nothing in the least. At least, I told myself, there was the Renaissance Festival for the weekend. Right? Right?

Murphy laughed right in my face, the bastard. I had no one to go with. I had to find an alternate plan, so I reverted to an old stand-by: a rambling walk in the park. Ramble here is an operative word: the park I planned to explore was really more of a riding trail than a walking one, so I followed a couple winding streets through some rural stretches, ending up in my old suburb, which I knew had a great walking trail. Indeed, the trail I strolled was within walking distance of my old neighborhood.

A good stroll it was, too. Follow me, and I'll take you through it. We can skip the rec center parking and the crossing of a back road to get to an entrance to the trail. It's an open area to start with, a few trees, a trash can, a bench. Road behind you, trail ahead. Some trees. And wait, something's crashing through the trees. Several loud somethings--several big somethings, the silhouettes indistinct. Suddenly, there they are in the clearing--four deer. Before I can even grab my camera, they're gone, in and out of the trees, across the trail, seeming to play in the sunny early afternoon. I follow in their general direction.

The leaves are still mostly green, and many trees are festooned with spiderwebs. Thistles grow here and there, along with a few black-eyed susans. The trail goes in and out of the trees, over a couple bridges. When a bike rider approaches from across the bridge, I hear the clatter of wheels over boards.

This one bridge had all sorts of writing on it: names, dates, logos, and the following message that clearly means something to someone:

Just past the bridge, more trees. Rain has started to fall, and I briefly have to weigh my choices: continue in the hopes the rain ceases, or turn back? I decide to gamble on the rain ending. It pays off, slowing from its gentle patter to an end. Ahead, too, a consolation prize for an earlier missed opportunity:
The others enjoying the trail with me were silent and cautious. For my part, I moved slowly when I was aware of their presence. The one in the forefront was the most expressive, craning its neck to re-examine me, trying to discern my intent. I clicked away, snagging a few shots before they scampered away.

I watched them until I couldn't see them, which, er, didn't take long. So I go on my merry way. Spider webs dangle across the path from time to time, some of them snaring leaves so they look like flashes of red suspended in mid-air. One strand had a spider dangling from it, leaving me to dodge it abruptly. Shortly thereafter, I hear some crackling noises from the trees. To my side, within ten feet, I see...
Lest you think this post nothing more than a series of en-deer-ing shots, I did also take some pictures of other nature-y things. Not all of them turned out to my satisfaction; few do. This one did, though. I'll be darned if I know what the vine is, but it is spiky, and spiky things are nifty by my book.
Shortly after the vine-draped bridge, I turned around to head back, aware that the further I went, the further I'd have to walk back. My legs by this point were starting to register complaint. Pacing across a classroom just isn't adequate exercise to prepare for a 45-minute walk. The occasional bench tempts me to sit down, but I decide not to--getting back on my feet will be that much more work. Onward, then. Goodness, but I've gone quite a ways, following a fork here and a turn there. My inner compass remembers which turn I took where, though.

It's less exciting this time around. Until... until I hear a sort of...crunching sound...
I really don't know how many deer there were in the park today total, but on at least three separate incidents, I saw deer. In the middle of the day. I thought that was pretty nifty. I do not think they were so impressed. Ah well.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Books Week

I've been remiss this week: the ALA's Banned Books Week started on Saturday and ends October 4. I've written about it before, last year around this time, coincidentally.*

I try to take the opportunity to read, or re-read, a banned or challenged book in its honor. This year it's Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass. The first time I read it, I was 13--a very sheltered, conservative 13. I squirmed as I read it, sure that lightning would strike me down at any moment. But I read it anyway, intrigued, and no well-intentioned adult tried to take it out of my hands, a notion I have only in the last few years realized was radical. I'm not sure what censors are afraid of, but I was at the time quite grounded in religion, and as heretical as what I was reading was, and as thrilling as the aspect of reading the ideas was, 13 years of strong guidance weren't so easily discarded upon the fleeting fancy of an author's fictional conceit. Is it so radical a concept that children will encounter new ideas and sometimes ideas that are more mature or radical than what they may be ready for, whether those ideas are in book form or otherwise? Seems to me the route to go would be to encourage healthy inquiry and, as a parent, be willing to discuss those ideas with the child, not run around trying to eliminate them entirely...

My response to Pullman now? Well, I'm only in the first book of the Dark Materials trilogy, so I'm not yet into the deeper stuff, but I'm enjoying the tale all the same, and I'm definitely not waiting for the lightning this time around. Circumstances, encounters with new ideas, and the intervening years have quelled that original conservativism--some of which came in the form of books, but many from life itself. The Golden Compass is a tale of adventure and growing up--a timeless combination, and I'm enjoying it for that reason.

What about ye gentle reader(s)? What challenged or banned book will you be reading?

Now playing: Bayside - Have Fun Storming the Castle
via FoxyTunes

* - Goodness, but I'm tired. That sentence actually entertained me.