Friday, August 29, 2008

Pop quiz

Which of the following student behaviors in English class within the last two days are most likely to earn the wrath of a certain instructor?

a. Chatting via Facebook in an otherwise quiet classroom where the only audible sounds are the instructor's voice and the clattering of keys
b. Sitting in the front row directly in front of said instructor and surfing Facebook
c. Visiting quite animatedly with one's fellow students while the instructor is talking
d. Continuing to chit-chat after being shushed multiple times throughout the class session
e. All of the above

For the record, re: c. and d., the offending students have one-on-one tutorials with me next week, whereupon I shall warn them that if they continue to yammer in class, they shall find themselves separated, a maneuver I generally hate to resort to at the college level, and indeed, should not have to, having apparently held the mistaken expectation of some semblance of maturity or at least respect.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Know how women stereotypically are the ones to cling to anniversaries and significant dates? About that...

It occurred to me this evening that my one-year blog-a-versary (however the heck you spell it) should be coming up.

Um. Yeah. Missed it, actually.

Good thing this blog isn't, say, my lesbian lover, or else I totally would have had to buy flowers for that oversight.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movin' on

The university I teach at is my alma mater. I haunted their job postings for a time and pounced as soon as they listed a search for adjunct faculty in the department I now teach in.

The chance to return to my old stomping grounds excited me. I thought, even, before they told me I'd only get two courses and wouldn't be needed for the spring semester, that it might even entail a move to the town that I had become attached to in four years.

I realize now my attachment was not to the town, or even the university in particular--it was to a handful of people--some of whom the connection with has grown tenuous--and to the comfort of being in a department where I knew almost everybody. I don't actively dislike the job now, or the department, or the campus for that matter. But I'm no longer so infatuated with it all.

I think this job is good for me, giving me the closure I need to move on. I couldn't/didn't move on after my bachelor's, and after my master's, I gazed wistfully back. I'm back now, and the hallways aren't so high, the atmosphere no longer so glossy. I think I grew up in the intervening time.

My future's ahead, and I'm planning on doing what I need to blast my potential wide open. This involves ogling of graduate programs and dreading the math component of the GRE and dreaming of the possibilities a new degree will bring in terms of career and knowledge gained and new experiences.

Now playing: Hot Water Music - Another Way
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grammar silliness

My response to an article on punctuation on Salon was somewhere between rolling my eyes at the silliness of the discussion and reveling in the innate geekiness of the subject matter. In the end, the dry humor wins out over the absurdity of the initial question: "Is the semicolon girlie?"

This had me smiling:

Catherine Price: I'd never really thought of punctuation as gendered, though I suppose the wink of the semicolon could be considered more girlish and coy than the straightforward, masculine em dash.

Tracy Clark-Flory: Clearly, men find the em dash a reassuring phallic symbol, while the semicolon reawakens their Freudian castration anxiety. What better way to cope with penis envy than to make frequent use of the semicolon?

Stick with the article for the last line; it had me cackling. And note my use of punctuation in the preceding sentence.

Now playing: This Providence - Card House Dreamer
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 18, 2008

Long day--disjointed ramblings

Today was a muddle of information and acronyms--letters in triplicate, FEMA and FERPA, oh my. New procedures to take into account, a new department to acclimate to. New faculty to meet in an otherwise familiar department. Nothing is truly the same twice.

Tomorrow, new students to get used to as well. New class dynamics to marvel at, new names to memorize, new voices to watch struggle to emerge.

Each semester I teach, so many new things. I learn things--new excuses and antics to be wary of, new behaviors to despair of, new struggles--and on good days, triumphs--to witness, new information to learn of via research papers, new anecdotes to share with those who tolerate my teaching tales.

Each generation of faculty, too, has its own "new" things. Two years ago, I don't think that semester (college) orientations covered what to do in the case of a gunman on campus (with horrific consequence, I acknowledge). Building lockdowns would have been the merest of afterthoughts, and the follow-up questions about how to stay clear of the windows might not have been asked with all somberness. The refrain of "when in doubt, report. Better to be safe than sorry" is a disheartening one when you think about it.

Students have long been afraid of faculty; times change, and the tables turn. Are we safer now than we were, or just more frightened?

...Seriously, I'm more petrified at the sheer bulk and quality of their prose than the remote prospect of their violence...

Now playing: The Mountain Firework Company - the exit's at the back
via FoxyTunes

Friday, August 15, 2008

As summer winds down

This week hasn't been a good one, but yesterday I took matters into my own hands and went out to my second-favorite patch of greenery for a bit of nature therapy on the way back from running an errand. We had a nice cleansing rain earlier in the day, and the temperature was comfortable. I grabbed my camera, figuring if nothing else, I'd have blog fodder.

It was close to sunset, and I had it in the back of my mind that maybe I'd get some awesome sunset shots. Not quite. Last time I went down that particular direction of the walking trail must've been spring. (February, actually, now that I look it up.) The branches were bare and the sky was a brilliant blue. Yesterday, by contrast, between thick greenery and a dimming sky, it was dark beneath the trees, like something out of a Grimm's fairy tale. My imagination could've had a field day with the atmosphere, from the dark tree trunks to hide murderers to the creepy spider-web wrapped branches overhead. To add to the suspense, I hadn't counted on the rains earlier making the path muddy, and I nearly slipped a few times. Rivulets trickled through the mud, down to a stream swollen by the day's precipitation.

Few of the pictures I took were decent because of the lighting--the flash was too bright and the trees too dark to do without. The few decent ones came in the clearings.
Like this one. I'm partial to it, for some reason. I've got sort of a "thing" for bridges, I guess. Also, if you embiggen it, you can see the imprint of suburbia in the near distance. Contrast, that's it.

The other decent-ish pictures were trickier to get. I was in the midst of the trees and could see glimpses of some interesting clouds, hovering dark grey in a pink sky, just over some apartment buildings. I was composing the shot in my head, waiting for an opportunity. Finally! A small side path. My hands were already on the camera and I was ready to--Problem. I couldn't figure out how to get my dream shot without either a) capturing the teenagers making out at a picnic table or b) making them think I was being a creepy voyeur, although it's quite conceivable that c) neither of them would have so much as registered my presence.

Ah, well. I never did get my perfect shot of the twilit sky. Next time, maybe. I definitely want to do the evening ramble again. It was peaceful. Just enough trees to mute the sounds of traffic nearby, just enough distance from the stresses of everyday life, just... right.

Now playing: Sundowner - One Hundred Resolutions
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm flattered. Really.

During my first year of grad school, I worked as an administrative assistant, meaning that I did any number of duties around the department from copies to sorting mail to proofreading a couple profs' manuscripts to processing rejections for our literary journal.

One afternoon, one of the young-ish, shaggy-haired philosophy profs leaned over my desk, flashed me a brilliant smile, and said with all appearances of sincerity, "[Twit], did I ever mention that you're my favorite person?"

"Oh?" I asked absent-mindedly, half pre-occupied with whatever task I was doing. "Why's that?"

The answer came in a huge stack of books with selected chapters marked for photocopying.

Flash forward a couple years and a master's degree later.

I've accepted two teaching gigs* teaching two separate courses at two different campuses for a total of four courses**. The two campuses are about an hour apart, so I teach at one on MWF and teach (and tutor) at the other on TR. It works out pretty well, in theory. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

So, a few weeks ago, I got my schedule hammered out for MWF. TR courses hadn't been assigned, but I had the other department chair's word that she was "working on" the course schedule. MWF promises to be good--neither class is too early, which is good for the students and good for Ms. I'm-no-good-without-a-pot-of-coffee-in-my-bloodstream Twit. By the way, my supervisor-to-be told me, we had to open one more section of the class than we anticipated, due to enrollment demands. You come highly recommended, so we thought we'd offer it to you first, since we couldn't give you any other sections before. Peachy. It'd actually work out better in terms of pay, only... it was TR. I thanked her profusely, explained that I had other scheduling conflicts, and gas prices to consider, but again, thanks.

A couple weeks ago, I talked with the department chair for my TR schedule. We set it up with few hitches, and she seemed quite glad to have me back on board. Today, a voicemail. A couple courses were still in need of instructors, "and I want good instructors--would you be able to take the 102 on MWF at...?" Barring that, could I recommend anyone else, other instructors, people I know from grad school, etc.? She entrusts both my teaching and my judgment. A little daunting, there.

It's flattering, that they both have faith enough in my teaching abilities. And I know it's nothing to sneeze at, being offered more classes than I could possibly handle (or schedule, for that matter) whilst still maintaining my sometimes-fragile sense of sanity. But egads, this adjunct life is a strange one. I'm getting better at knowing my limits, and I also know that if I had a family to support, I'd be scrambling for every class that was available to me. Right now, though, I've got the same course load as a member of full-time faculty***--I don't need to add to it.

* - If it'll help you, dear readers, not to make the rash assumption that I am utterly insane, I will not mention that I still work part-time as a tutor. So ignore this tiny print, and stop brandishing that straitjacket at me.
** - Total enrollment count: 86. Course type: composition. Sanity prognosis: poor. Again, away with that straitjacket. I don't need it. Yet.
*** - Heavier, actually, I would argue, given that full-timers get to teach literature courses, which have lower enrollment caps and different grading demands.****
**** - I'm really not whining right now. It just sounds like it. One degree or another, I will get my butt back in grad school for a terminal degree. And dude, my asterisks have asterisks. How meta is that.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Pure awesomeness

As the stress of an approaching new semester starts to hit me, I've been gravitating toward certain favorite songs. The following is one of them, and no introduction I write can possibly do justice to it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I wanna dance!

I probably shouldn't admit it, but in spite of my principled derision for "reality TV," I do have a soft spot for the dance ones--whether they're celebrities or regular folks, I admire and envy the ability to express so much in so few words. From their faces to their postures to the routines that've been choreographed for them, those folks know how to convey such emotion--unfettered joy when they're in their elements during solos, ecstasy when they know they've nailed a brilliant routine, heartbreaking sorrow when the routine's dramatic arc calls for it, even rage--it radiates. It's quite energizing to watch, almost makes me want to get up and dance myself--and I can guarantee the results would be nowhere near as pretty. What a gift they have.

Musicians, also, make me envious. Real musicians, when you see or listen to them in their elements, can both with and without words, convey energy and sorrow and love--passion, I guess. And when you listen to singer-songwriters--it's intensified. Listen to early Jewel--her voice practically cracks with emotion in places, to the point where only the coldest hearts wouldn't break. Or in one of the live recordings of Chuck Ragan, one of my favorite musicians, you can hear the smile in his voice as he feeds off of the music and the fans. (His love songs, also, oh man. They make me melt. His wife is surely a lucky woman.) Even some of the more produced, mainstream music has something in it--a catchy beat, an infectious rhythm, something that makes the day just that much better from having listened to it, something that puts a hum on your lips or the urge to just belt it out.

Dance, music, all forms of art--wordless expressions of the same passion. Writing and words are their own form of expression, and I won't deny that when I'm in my element, when the words practically trip over each other in their race to get to the keyboard, my face is probably as joyous as the dancers I admire, my fingers swift (though not necessarily as graceful), my body taut with so much pent up energy as I try to get it all down. It's more solitary, though, and I rarely see the audience for whom I am performing. And it doesn't have quite the same flair.

I'll keep writing, though, as much for myself as for any recognition. Words are my passion, and, with work and practice, one of my strengths. Sometimes, though, I wish I could just let go, and in the words of Chuck Ragan, "dance like nobody's watching, oh, and sing like nobody cares."

Now playing: Chuck Ragan - Do You Pray
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Packrat? Whaddaya mean?

Recent cleaning finds:
  • An index card with cheat codes for Descent, a game I haven't played in at least 10 years. I still remembered one of them: GABBAGABBAHEY, but I didn't know what it did: it enabled cheats. Never did beat that game without 'em.
  • "Sorry we didn't hire you but yadda yadda yadda" letters from the first couple jobs I ever applied for after finishing my undergrad degree.
  • Stationery I haven't touched in nearly 10 years.
  • A word search puzzle book.
  • A homemade card in my sister's blocky childish print, telling me she was proud to be my sister.
  • Two started Sudoku books.
  • A dorm address of a friend who has since graduated.
  • A picture drawn by a then-first grader whose classroom I volunteered in about 9 years ago.
  • A card from my grandfather, written in English (which was not his first language, either).
  • A started blanket I set aside because the yarn I bought was a close-out bargain and I didn't have enough.
  • More emo poems.
  • Countless sets of driving instructions to people's houses.
  • Letters saying I made the Dean's list.
  • A note of apology from my sister for making me mad, begging my forgiveness, complete with a "yes" and a "no" for me to circle.
  • (Costume) jewelry I forgot I had and probably only wore once.
  • The Phi Theta Kappa cords I earned but never wore (didn't go to the commencement for my associate's degree).
  • Floppy disks with old documents and MIDI files on them.
  • A "contract" I made my sister transcribe and sign, with witnesses, stipulating the terms under which I would go out with her. (...She was an annoying kid when she was younger... as was I, in my own way...)
  • A pearl necklace my grandmother gave me, which needs to be re-strung.
  • Boarding passes for various flights I've taken over the last 11 years or so.
  • Toy mice for the cat.
  • ...More books.
After an industrious afternoon of cleaning, I sat down to resume one of my started crochet projects. I'd been using a cheap-o plastic hook, which was starting to crack. Fixed it with Scotch tape, then remembered I found the steel hook in that size earlier. I couldn't help but lament, before I chucked the broken one in the trash, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an I [hook]." Response: "OK, now you have absolutely no room to criticize my sense of humor."

Now playing: Amy Winehouse - Some Unholy War
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 4, 2008

SS: Do I have to?

Winter is my favorite season, 9 months out of the year, and especially in the months of July and August. This summer weather (upper 90s and 100 degree weather with a higher heat index and high humidity) is making my list of "Do I have to"s much longer than it otherwise would have been.

It reads something like this:
  • Do I have to go out of the house? It's hot, and my car's A/C is, um, less than cool right now, unless I'm on the highway, or you know, if Saturn is in Venus's orbit during the waning moon or some such luck.
  • Do I have to get up in the morning? The humidity gives me a headache.
  • Do I have to deal with other people? The above two factors make this one cranky twit.
  • Oh god... my syllabus needs to be tweaked. Do I have to use my mental faculties to do this?
  • But really, do I need to do anything outside, anyway?
  • Sanity--fraying indoors. I apparently do need to go outside. But do I truly have to? (See first two bullet points.)
  • Do I really have to think about everything that needs to be done before the semester starts in two weeks?
  • Screw this all. I'm going to go take a catnap on the couch.
The air is oppressive, I swear. It settles heavy and thick around you, fogs up glasses if you step outside, and is not the least bit cool when a breeze stirs. It's turning my brains to mush, and I think it's that above everything else that bothers me.

Now playing: Bayside - A Synonym for Acquiesce
via FoxyTunes

Friday, August 1, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Flobots

A ways back, my friend told me about a band. "I think you'd like them," she said. "They're kinda political." The the Flobots are political, yes (their debut album is called Fight with Tools, and it's a call to fight the injustices that exist), but more than that--I'd never heard a combination of hip hop and violin before.

Now, their first single, "Handlebars," is all over the radio. It's cute and catchy to start, but it builds to a dark ending, and I hope its overexposure doesn't blunt their message or, over time, their originality. (As an aside, blast you, Universal Music, for disabling embedding of your videos. Hint: embedded videos link right back to the original Youtube video...)

Pfft. I liked "Stand Up" better, anyway. The violin really adds to the music here, and the lyrical content is a bit stronger. See for yourself.