Sunday, November 30, 2008

The things people will do for goofy badges

30 posts, 30 days. I freakin' did it. What did it prove? Not much, really, save that once I get an idea in my head I will carry it through in letter at least if not in spirit. And the spirit was definitely lacking. I thought this exercise would snap me out of the writing slump this last year brought on. Again, only in letter.

I need to get my blogging mojo back, and I'm not sure how to do that.

If you've continued reading in spite of a lack of content, I thank you for your patience. I hope to bring it back up again eventually. If you left because of the aforementioned, well, thanks for having stopped by. Again, I hope to fix that. If you're a new reader, I promise you I am capable of better writing. I hope to prove it again soon.

Now playing: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Windows
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In other words...

I got nothin' to say right now. One more day after this, and Nablopomo's over. Whew. It won't be too soon.

In the meantime, here's a shiny toy I found online: Wordle.

It generates a cloud of words based on recent content. Here's what it made of mine:

Friday, November 28, 2008

*Really* now...

Stories like this are ridiculous: people getting trampled for sales. I don't know what this year's must-buy items are (and don't care to know, for that matter), but ye gods, what is worth trampling folks or, in another incident, pulling a gun on someone, to get? Can you still give a gift in good conscience knowing that someone died in order for you to get it?

Consumerism, for as much of a hold as it has on even my life, still baffles me. At the end of the day, folks, the things you buy are just things. They won't make up for 364 days of not being there for your child/significant other/family. Sorry.

Now playing: Alien Ant Farm - Smooth Criminal
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, November 27, 2008


This year, I am thankful for family who love me, friends who have been there, a break whose timing is simply perfect, a semester that is about to end, and overall a life that is perhaps starting to make something akin to sense.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Soviet Russia, sites load YOU.

I couldn't resist the subject line. One of my co-workers told me about this site the other day: English Russia. It's chock full of random, bizarre, mundane, and even ingenious glimpses into life in Russia.

Gems I've found upon a perfunctory exploration include: a new way to heat sausage, a pointed way to register discontentment with government, some photographs that are practically frame-worthy material, a glimpse into a shopping experience that could raise some awkward questions, and a series of photos that look like they are worth at least a thousand words apiece.

This one's definitely going on the sidebar under... hmm. Vices, I think.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mountains and molehills

People do get their panties in a wad over the goofiest things. Tonight on the news, there was a story about some downtown party zone that had what some considered a racist dress code. The contentious standards? No baggy clothing, no oversized, long shirts, and no plain white T-shirts.

Right then. In a day and age when the election of the nation's first biracial president has, among other things, shown a small spike in racial hate crimes, and when blacks still have higher poverty rates than their white counterparts, and when the black-white income gap remains persistent, we ought to be worrying about dress codes. Uh-huh. Gotcha.

The kicker, though, is that it strikes me as--dare I say--racist to presume a particular racial demographic holds a monopoly on poor fashion taste.

Now playing: Tori Amos - Winter
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lazy day

Not much to say today. Here's a picture of a pretty autumn tree instead, taken at a few weeks ago on campus.

Now playing: Thursday - Steps Ascending
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Belated Multimedia Friday

I woke up with a craving for the music of Rise Against today. Their music is a good blend of both personal and political lyrics, delivered in the raspy sort of vocals I gravitate toward. I had a specific song I craved this morning, though--"The Good Left Undone"--the lyrics were stuck in my head for some inexplicable reason:

"All because of you,
I believe in angels.
Not the kind with wings,
No, not the kind with halos,
The kind that bring you home,
When home becomes a strange place.
I’ll follow your voice,
All you have to do is shout it out."

Music itself is good, too, though--have a listen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good day

Joy can come from the simplest of places. Today, it came from several sources:

1. Taking a good book with me while waiting for someone. Even Wal-Mart's bustle and rampant consumerism become background noise when you've got your nose stuck in an Orson Scott Card book with a bookmark in hand to twirl about absent-mindedly. Eighty pages in, and I'm loving it. Wry humor and a good tale to boot.

2. I about started giggling aloud as I exited. The woman said, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart. Have a nice day." Immediately after that, to the person I was with, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart. Have a nice day." A second later, to the person behind us, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart. Have a nice day." Hardly remarkable, one might (rightfully) say, but it reminded me of a movie I just re-watched recently. If you haven't seen Idiocracy, you ought to. It'll probably make you laugh more than you'd be willing to admit to and then make you want to weep at the future it projects--a future whose seeds have long been sown.

3. I pulled out a coloring book and markers this evening for the first time in, well, quite a while. The picture was a Celtic-knotwork-type design, and the markers were new, an impulse purchase a few months ago. There is no simpler joy than sitting on the floor, coloring book in lap, markers spread out so you can see all the colors. Slowly, the abstract line art transforms into a colorful work of art that might not turn out exactly how you intended but usually ends up striking all the same. It's the closest a non-artistic type like myself will ever come to creating art, so I enjoy it all the more.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A brief review

I shan't do much more to hype an already over-hyped movie. The movie, like the book series it's based off of, is overall "meh." The actors and actresses couldn't do much with characters who weren't written well to begin with, and when one of the main characters' beauty and perfection pretty much knows no earthly precedent, well, it's nigh on impossible to convey that in a human actor. Instead, he must resort to wild hair, intense, brooding stares, and uh, *sparkling.* Cheesily, I might add, if it even needs to be stated. I swear, I think I snickered through about 75% of his screentime, so it was entertaining in that respect.

My overall verdict: wait for it on DVD.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I've followed Postsecret for quite some time now; every Sunday, I check in to see what secrets others have posted. The idea, as people quickly figure, is that the postcards show so many facets of just being human--having fears, frustrations, joys, and many a quirk. It only updates once a week, though, and there are only so many secrets.

LJ Secret, though, takes up some of the slack. The mature concepts warning is largely a precaution implemented to avoid lawsuits, I guess, from parents who don't supervise their children's online activity and get upset at what kids can find. The secrets here tend to be more computer generated imagery, but the concept still stands--people confessing secrets in absolute anonymity. Livejournal has a reputation for being a haven of drama and teen blogs, and sections of it can be, but it's got a varied, thriving community of different people, so the secrets display a similar range of identifiable sentiments.

It may be voyeurism, but I find others' secrets fascinating. I would like one day to work up the nerve to submit one of my own, but it feels so personal all the same. *shudder* No, not there just yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cosmic concordance

I don't normally hold much store by horoscopes, but I skim across them from time to time, usually for a chuckle. It's a load of crap, I'd say, as a horoscope told me, in vague terms, that I should do something risky or would be lucky with romance or ought to invest time in valuable things.

Pfft. Complete and utter tripe, I said.

I stand corrected. Today's horoscope on Yahoo convinced that they must indeed have some secrets to my life.

After all, how could they know that I am in the throes of grading pain (soon to be over, but painful nonetheless)? I offer evidence:

How could they possibly know that grading makes me want to vacuum, dust, shoot, even do my ironing as avoidance tactics? It has to be more than coincidence.

Now playing: The Crash Engine - Weary Anthems
via FoxyTunes

Tomorrow's horoscope says tomorrow I should be completely honest about how I feel. I'm giving back papers to two classes. I think they'll find the grades completely honest. Brutally so, some may say.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On a light note

I had been avoiding Sinfest before the election because I got tired of the politicking. I went back a couple weeks later to see if it had gotten better; it hadn't. Tonight, on a whim (and as one last diversion before heading back to the grading stack), I checked again to see if what had been one of my favorite two web comics was back to its old self.

Ah, yes, much better:

Puts things right in perspective :).

Now playing: Brand New - The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 17, 2008


I don't know how long I've used the word "meh." Like "shiny," I think I picked it up off the Internet without even knowing its origins. It is quite the handy word, to indicate apathy. "Meh" is about to have its day, though--it'll be included in next year's HarperCollins dictionary. Apparently, it came from the Simpsons. Ah well, I shan't hold its origins against it.

It's cool to see language adapt and change.

Shoot, once upon a time, people probably wondered how come we started using words just invented by some scribbling hack.... Words come from the darnedest places.

Now playing: Tom McRae - For The Restless
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Learning curve

Teaching means learning, and so help me god, am I ever. I inherited my current course syllabus from my supervisor, and it worked swimmingly last time I taught this course. This time around, not so much, if this batch of papers I'm agonizing over is any indication.

That's OK; lesson learned. I'm taking notes about how I'm going to re-structure the course next time I teach it. There appears to have been too big a gap between the early papers and the big research paper, so I think I'm going to break the process down into a few more short papers before the research paper. I'm also going to give students more leeway with topic choices; they'll have to pass the topics by me, of course, but I hope that by tapping into subjects that they already know at least something about or have some interest in, I'll receive better products. I realize that even I would've struggled to drum up an interest in some of the topics offered in their reader (I'd also have found a way to make a given subject work, but that's a topic for another post...).

I'm also going to spend more time addressing issues I didn't think had to be addressed in Composition II... Thanks, education system; don't worry, I don't mind playing the role of triage nurse. Gah. I really do wonder if I wouldn't be better off trying to staunch the grammatical bleeding from within the system. Can 9th through 12th graders really be much worse than the 13th graders I already teach?

This batch of essays is painful and depressing to grade; I hope for their sakes they take me up on my optional revision opportunity.

Now playing: The Mammals - Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A paradox

On the one hand, finding in an unexpected place a book by a favorite author whose works are not typically available in major chain bookstores is gratifying; it's like finding a diamond in an unexpected place.

On the other hand, it seems a bit insulting to the substance of the book itself when it only costs 33 cents and is on the same shelf as a score of paperback romances.

Not that I objected, mind. I actually let out an audible squeal of delight when I found Derrick Jensen's A Language Older than Words at the thrift store, but I felt a bit like a bandit for having gotten it so filthy cheap, especially since it initially took me months of waiting on the library list to get it the first time I read it. A twenty-dollar list price, and I got it for 33 cents. Thrift stores rock.

Now playing: Dustin Kensrue - Consider the Ravens
via FoxyTunes

Friday, November 14, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Dustin Kensrue

I've loved the music of Thrice for a while now, but I only recently explored the solo work of frontman Dustin Kensrue. Ah, be still my heart; I have a new musical crush. I have a weakness for acoustic music side projects released by punk band members; Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry, and Sundowner all fall into this category. Like the former musicians, Dustin Kensrue, capable of writing ear-crashingly yet articulate punk rock goodness, turns that gift to stripped-down, heartfelt songs.

One song, "I Knew You Before," speaks of the loss of innocence and purity of a young woman who has been taken under the spell of "magazines and media...with their plastic protocol." The song concludes, "And all I can say is I knew you before / You were beautiful back then. // You could be beautiful again."All together ladies, please, a wistful sigh. Another song, "Please Come Home," addresses a prodigal son with the plea in the title.

The song that grabbed me and made me hit re-play more times than I ought to admit, though, is "Pistol," a loving tribute to his wife. She sounds like quite the woman; I'm inclined to envy her, actually...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What happened to responsibility?

I've been following with morbid curiosity the saga of the Nebraska safe haven law; the way the law was re-written parents to drop off "children" without penalty. "Child," however, was not explicitly defined, so hosts of parents of teenagers have decided after 12+ years that they weren't up to the task of parenting. In anticipation of the law being re-written, more parents are dropping off teenagers to get in before the law changes and abandonment becomes illegal again.

My inner bleeding heart says I can't understand fully the circumstances that would lead parents to such a measure. That said... How does a person raise a child for over twelve years and then one day decide s/he can't do it anymore? That it's become too unmanageable? Children don't become monsters overnight, not even with the onset of maturity. I know teenagers are difficult; even this goody-two-shoes pitched her share of tantrums. But how does a person turn away from a blood relation so many years in the making? Some of the parents dropping kids off drove across quite a few states to do so, a time in which they had ample opportunity to think about their actions. What will that knowledge do to teenagers who were apparently already troubled enough?

It just saddens me.

Now playing: Jeff Black - Higher Ground
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Never thought of it that way

The next essay in the remedial class is a "snowflake essay" of sorts, about an influential, role-model-type person. I went over what types of people they might consider, and I generated a few on-the-spot examples of how I could set up those ideas in an essay if I were to write one myself. I mentioned, without specific details, my mother, a good friend, an inspiring professor, and, uh, someone else.

A couple of students were awed by my spur-of-the-moment composition, but then one student made this observation:

"You know some really interesting people. I don't know many people like that."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Counting down

There's nothing to cast a damper on one's spirit like a stack of composition essays. Two classes' worth of research papers left me staggering under their weight this evening. I only accept late papers (with penalty) a class session after the due date, so it may grow by a few papers by Thursday. In the meantime, my remedial kids' first forays into essay writing will hit my desk tomorrow with another few stragglers on Friday.

And yet, when I stopped to talk with the division secretary, she remarked that "It's four weeks to the end of the semester, and you're still smiling."

"Why do you think I'm smiling?" I responded.

I did tell my students as I eyed the stack, "There goes my weekend," and yes, it will be painful. But I shall overcome. I have not let work consume my entire life and every last shard of energy this semester, and I shall not in the last quarter.

Now playing: Murder By Death - A Masters In Reverse Psychology
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is my nerd slip showing? Sorry.

I always make sure to have some time to read even if it's only a few pages before bed or a chapter in a stolen pocket of time; a period when I haven't even that much time and energy to spare is truly a stressful one.

I can tell the semester is getting stressful, though--I've cast aside the Jane Austen in favor of, um, fluff. Yeah, I couldn't quite get into Sense and Sensibility, so I picked up Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard. I would say, "Ahhh... much better," but that seems like blasphemy. So I'll just say this: the latter is much more satisfying and entertaining a read at this moment in time.

She's a woman of my own heart, I think. This description of a library made me smile and nod in delighted agreement: "The library had been a private home once, and it hadn't lost the look of one despite the crowding of all its rooms with bookshelves. The walls were paneled in mahogany and oak, and the place smelled warm and brown and booky."

"Warm and brown and booky." I believe I now know how I am going to give my instructions to the builders of my dream country home when I am an old, contented woman.

Now playing: Jason Reeves - In Between The Rain
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Embracing the random

Dear reader(s), after a little over a year in our writer-reader relationship, I feel comfortable enough to let my bloggerly vulnerability show. I shall leave last night's last-minute post as is as a demonstration that I am willing to let you see me at my less-than-best and as a token of faith that you shall not hold that against me. In fact, in my mental best-case scenario, such a post would then be interpreted as a bold and confident move, leaving you more in awe of my vivaciousness.

On the subject of blogging, I've wooed another over to the dark side. My dear, dear friend from high school has this habit of frequently posting news stories and videos and whatnot on her Facebook profile, accompanied by some commentary that frequently sparks a discussion amongst her friends. I nagged her intermittantly to start a damn blog already, and about six months later (a conservative estimate on my part, actually), she has started one.

I am happy to be the first (or at least one of the first) to welcome Sayida Siyasa of Arabia to the blogosphere.

Now playing: Hot Water Music - Moonpies for Misfits
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I'm posting for today, November 8. See? This is a post.

Or. A place-holder, at any rate, until I decide what goes here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A tragic week

Bad things seem to come in waves. My poor students seem to be facing an inordinate amount of personal strife--family deaths, deaths of grandmothers, unbearable menstrual cramps, and an infected piercing...

Goodness, but I don't remember my own freshman year being so traumatizing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Diving in

Most people have two sets of grandparents; I was fortunate to have three sets, the extra one acquired not by remarriage but by proximity.

When I was about 9 years old, my family moved from one end of our block to the other; the move, though hardly remarkable in distance, was a vast improvement over the lower-income, high vacancy rental section we previously lived in. The end of the block we moved to was more stable, for the most part, comprised of retired couples who had lived in their homes for well over 30 years.

Our next door neighbors introduced themselves to us well before we even moved into the house; they fussed over both me and my deceptively cute two-year-old sister. They only had one grandson, and they looked forward to having two little girls to spoil. They loved seeing us play out in the yard, acting out small dramas and picking flowers and later playing with our cats. Even if our parents hadn't raised the two of us to be courteous to our elders, I don't think we could have done anything that wasn't precious. They encouraged us to come over anytime, and we did; my sister would frequently go over to swing with the wife on their front porch, sitting on her lap and practically melting in her arms.

The coolest thing they ever did, though, is probably part of why autumn is my favorite season. Because the neighborhood was an older one, many of the trees were massive; three such massive trees were in the stretch of front lawn our homes shared. The husband one fall brought out his leaf blower--not to clear the lawn of all the fallen leaves, but to condense them into one central pile. After doing so, they invited us to come over and play in it.

Know the joy of crunching through a build-up of crispy, crunchy leaves? Multiply that at least tenfold in order to understand the excitement of flinging yourself bodily into a huge pile of leaves, laughing with abandon, and heaving yourself out from underneath them to do it all over again. It's a full sensory experience--the feel of crackling leaves, the smell of them in the crisp air, the chilly nip that you only feel when you pause long enough to register the mild discomfort, the sight of the sky filtered through leaves above you and bare branches further above... There's nothing like it in the world.

It's one of my top favorite memories of childhood.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Show me the candidate who...

...abolishes Daylight Savings Time...

...figures out a way to make 18-year-olds straighten up and act like the young adults they should be...

...creates essays that grade themselves...


...finds a way to fit more than 24 hours into a day that would otherwise be to short to get everything done...

Do that, and I will vote and campaign for that person, bartering everything up to my soul to get him/her into office. I'm bushed. Can't believe it's only Wednesday and I'm already this tired...

Now playing: Hot Water Music - The End Of The Line
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


"You're college students--you could totally get your meals free today," I told my class. "Play your cards right, and you could have coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, have a late lunch/dinner of a chicken sandwich, and then have ice cream for dessert." I was talking, of course, about the freebies places were offering for people who voted. They laughed; I think they thought I was joking.

As I wandered about campus for this and that, I could feel a humming sort of energy. Shoot, in spite of my pessimism, I felt a bit charged after penciling in my scantron ballot. And it occurred to me: voting is as much social as it is political. It's a way of at least feeling like one is part of something bigger, like one has done what one has been obligated to do.

It's... a cynic might call it brainwashing.

That said, I bought into it, voting across party lines and voting on a couple issues in a way that my 18-year-old-self would've been surprised to see. And I got a free, bitter cup of coffee that was worth every penny I paid.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Flip sides of the same coin

I've been accused of lofty idealism, and I've been accused of dour pessimism. Which is more accurate? Both, probably.

I have ideas of how the world should work, how it could work, could be better. I believe, remote though the possibility is, that a better world is possible. I once harbored the idea that I could even have some say, some contribution to that betterment. I think part of me still hopes that's true and hasn't entirely given up on the notion.

And, as they say, the higher you walk, the farther you fall. The zeal that led me to joyfully participate in my first presidential election in 2004 met head-on with the reality that I could vote either for a candidate who could be elected or a candidate whom I could believe in. That realization stung, and the pang has stuck with me. As with 2004, this year I am faced with a choice between two candidates, neither of whom I can in good conscience support--and neither of whom I want to legitimize with a ballot cast.

I will vote on state matters; I realize, pragmatically, that the local and state levels are ones I have some say in. But I'm leaving the presidential spot blank because my idealist wants a candidate she can believe in, and my inner pessimist thinks the whole process is a sham.

Now playing: Thrice - Cold Cash and Colder Hearts
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 2, 2008

On a positive note

I can't help but notice the trees lately as they've burst into their splendorous colors. The university I teach has a lovely variety of trees and accompanying colors--red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and blends of the aforementioned hues.

As painful and painstaking as yesterday's weekend excursion onto campus was, the quiet of a weekend enabled me to prance about and take pictures of the autumnal beauty once the torture was done. Only one shot turned out decent, and I realize it's one of those shots that one sees in a college catalogue, usually adjacent to the one with the smiling group of students sitting on the grass with notepads on their knees and sunshine in their hair.

See? Looks quite lovely from this angle.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

[Insert anguished sob here]

I have seen the future, dear readers, and it en't pretty. I didn't see Orwellian dystopias or other totalitarian regimes. What I saw is far worse, and there's no going back once you've seen such nightmares.

I shall never be able to erase that imagery of the brutally maimed English language from my mind. The wanton mutilation and perverse lack of regard for propriety were heart-rending. I fancied myself hearing, within those endless pages of tortured prose, the death cries of a language violated beyond recovery. Much as the experience appalled me, I could not look away, could not remove myself from the scene of the crime, could not...

In spite of some attempted resistance from some of us few brave souls, our fight, we learned, has been for aught. In the end, we were overtaken, forced to admit that our attempt at rebellion was only triage at best.

I truly hope I do not ever have to participate in remedial-level, department-wide writing assessment again.