Thursday, December 31, 2009
It hasn't been a great blogging year in these here parts. The more that goes on my life, the less I want to write about. Sorry. That said, here's what I consider to be highlights of the year... or lowlights, as the case may be.
I usually do poorly with new year's resolutions unless they're concrete in some way or quantifiable. So... I vow to blog more regularly in 2010. Catch ya in the next decade.
Now playing: Nina Simone - Feeling Good
Friday, December 25, 2009
I'm not sure how I would have been able to handle the idea of a man being able to come down our chimney--undoubtedly, I'd have been terrified, lest burglars could use the same entrance.
I was not brought up to believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or any other number of fictitious entities people seem compelled to make their children believe in. As someone who's grown up in this culture, but never quite a part of it, the phenomenon baffles me.
Why Santa? Why shouldn't kids believe that the gifts they received and loved were courtesy of Mommy and Daddy? Is it the leverage of "be good or else" that Santa provides? Why go to such elaborate lengths (Santa tracking via NORAD, seriously?) to convince the children of a lie? Is it just the nostalgia of how things have always been done?
I'm not being confrontational here, just genuinely curious.
Now playing: Evan Greer - Two Hands Touching
Monday, December 14, 2009
Since I graduated with my master's, I fell quite by accident into adjuncting. Before that point, I swore I wouldn't do it. It was poor paying, too much work, and too up-in-the-air. But I had a master's in a liberal art and little job experience, and the offer fell into my lap with the department chair practically begging me to work there. I took it.
I've sworn I'd leave it multiple times over. For one semester, I did. And I came back. This semester, midway through, I swore again that I'd leave. And I've resigned myself to not quitting, to keep teaching. I figured last time when I quit that it wasn't actually my job that was the biggest stressor but several glaring issues with my personal life. Granted, those factors affected my teaching ability, but I've learned to distinguish where the problems were and correctly identify what needs "fixing" through life decisions.
This time it's different. I was ready to teach and am willing to teach--but it may not be financially viable this time. I need a "real" job, one that doesn't leave me high and dry when budget cuts crimp the campus, one that doesn't leave me scrambling to find employment to supplement my current employment when I only get a couple classes.
One change at a time, I told myself. That may get me nowhere but the poorhouse. Onward with the job applications then. The market sucks, but if I get nowhere in the search, I'm still at least committed to two classes (one of which may or may not make...) and a bit of pocket change from my hourly, minimum-wage tutoring gig. And if the search is successful, well, I have no doubt that my department will find any number of willing, able, and under-employed workers to take those classes. My boss at the tutoring gig is more mentor than boss, and she's been very supportive in terms of "if you work for us, I'd love to have you, but if you find something better, great!"
No job will be perfect; I understand that. But a livable income and job security are not unreasonable expectations.
Now playing: Marilyn Manson - Tainted Love
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Yes, short of failing your portfolio requirements spectacularly, you are on course for a solid A. This is a good thing because you are a good writer and a great addition to the class. That said, your grade and exemplary marks have nothing to do with the constant, how shall we say, sycophancy. Seriously. You'd be making those grades without the appeals to my ego, and indeed, I'd prefer you not. Ah well. Our paths shall part shortly, and you'll do me proud in your Comp 2 class regardless.
Yes, you of the frantic, panicked e-mails, so worried about failing. Take a deep breath and then another. Now, relax a bit. Are you going to make an A? No. But you'll be darned close, and I'm proud of you. You've been struggling with the consequences of difficult life choices, and you work hard, and you write well, and I'm proud of all that. So give yourself a pat on the back for having made it through your first semester successfully. You did it.
And you. Hoo boy, where do I start with you?
You've been a pain in my ass all semester. I really don't care if you fail to turn in papers because, hey, it's one less for me to grade in any given stack. I also don't particularly care that you show up when you show up and don't when you don't feel like it. Again, this means less work for me. I do greatly despise it when you schedule yourself for tutorial times--and then do not show up. Not once, not twice, not even three times--but consistently, even double-booking times during the last paper when worthier students would have shown up. And now, you want short-notice accommodation for testing services to take your final. Fine. Enjoy it. I highly suspect that when I am on campus next to pick up the completed exam, it will be likewise not completed. And that's fine too. Know why? Your grade is going to be the same regardless of whether you take it or not. Cheers.
And you and you,
I've enjoyed having you both in class. Different classes, but you're remarkably similar--I see the same work ethic and constant attention in class, the regular if perhaps slightly unpunctual attendance. You're neither of you the brightest ones I've ever had, but that hard work and attention to detail and the drafting process makes up for a lot. You're right--that final paper sure did have a lot less inked-in corrections on it. Congrats. You'll do me proud in your next class, I think.
And last but not l--er. Nevermind.
You never turned in a single paper over the course of the whole semester that came anywhere near meeting the assignment criteria. Your quiz results were clearly pulled out of your ass in an attempt to bluff me, and while you were present in nearly all classes and had a most pleasant demeanor, you still are failing. And you know what the kicker is? I'm disappointed. You had an awesome semester's research topic that could have yielded some fascinating papers, and if you could just channel a bit of that strong voice into more appropriate academic writing, you could have produced some great papers. Perhaps you'll do so for your next Comp 1 teacher. I hope so for his or her--and your own--sake.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
"8:00," I groused, "which means I have to be out by 7 but should probably leave more time since it's snowing." No morning person, I was primarily griping about the hour.
"And make sure you have a blanket in your car."
"OK." Cue eye rolling here.
"Do you have a blanket?"
"And water and maybe some trail mix? You may need the calories to keep your body temperature up."
"Put some in your car."
"OK, I'll have trail mix. But seriously? Water?"
"Just do it. Get a bottle from the garage."
Goodness. It's just a snowy day. I've done this before, multiple times over, thanks to a campus that wouldn't cancel for the apocalypse itself. Still, I suppose that tomorrow morning I will be sure to have everything on hand I may possibly need in the event of a breakdown, car-in-the-ditch, or snow-in scenario.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
In other words, I crossed to the dark side.
140 characters is an exercise in brevity. It's also quite manageable a way to capture those flitting, fleeting thoughts that go through my head over the course of a day. I'm ashamed to admit I kinda like it.
Now playing: Rise Against - Blood To Bleed
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I nixed several responses like "Are you freakin' kidding me?" and "He has never been on course for a C in my class" or the short, sweet, "WTF?! Seriously?!" and definitely bypassed the flippant "Oh, good one" that crossed my mind.
I settled on opening the e-mail with the more tactful, "Unfortunately, that information is NOT correct," followed by enough info to convey that this student has all but flunked already.
Now playing: Thrice - All That's Left
Monday, November 30, 2009
They hate me, I tell you, hate me. I practically felt the daggers from one student during her conference today.
But then in class, as I explained that the last in-class assignment would have less direction from me and less intensive editing unless they had specific questions about specific sentences or words, etc., I told them that once they got to the composition classes, they'd get a lot less one-on-one direction on their papers.
"So can we come bring them to you to look over for us?" one student asked.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
My fears have been laid to rest. I saw The Road tonight, and it was good. The acting is spectacular, and the atmosphere captures the harshness of the world Cormac McCarthy has presented. The occasional voice-over narration even captures some of McCarthy's prose... not necessarily the best examples, but enough to make rabid McCarthy fangirls (i.e. people like me--nerds) sit up and squeal with delight.
The movie is not, as many reviews love to point out, a happy one. And that's a good thing--the novel is so achingly bleak that a happy movie would do it a disservice. But it is also beautiful--the relationship between father and son that likely landed the novel its place on Oprah's book club list is present and well-developed in the movie.
I could rave all night about it. Was it a 100% faithful adaptation? No. It played with sequencing and filled in a few gaps from the novel, but it was true to the tone and themes. Go. See it. Take some tissues.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
What you have is one of three likely things: a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection. It is not the end of the world, and many people get through them just fine without moaning about it every five minutes. Geez.
You're right, it has been a while. I miss you--and I don't. Sorta. Maybe. I'm still not sure how I feel about what's been going on with our friendship. I miss the old easiness we had, and I'm not sure we can go back. You're trying to, though, and I will try to let my pettiness go a bit. Bear with me because lord knows I'm trying too, but I'm an obstinate bitch sometimes, especially when I feel hurt.
You! Yes, You!
Would you just make up your freakin' mind already? Do it, or don't. It's that simple. The odds are 50% for either failure or success, but you won't know until you try. All I can say is... what you've got right now, well, it ain't workin' so well.
Not so sure what to say here. I think there's water under this bridge, but I don't know how deep it is, and you know I can't swim. I'm probably too stubborn to break the silence from my end, but... I hope life's looking up for you. And that shot at a fresh start? Go for it.
And last, You,
Know those plans we've been batting around? Let's do it. It'll be badass.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I gave myself an hour and 1000 words to run with it; I got it--1000 on the nose, after a smidge of editing.
“...and the thing is,” he said, eyes wide behind bottle-glass-lensed glasses, “is that you just can't know the future until it's just, just right there, and you're experiencing it.”
She tapped a manicured fingernail against the door jamb impatiently, waiting for the rambling philosophical treatise to end. “Mm hmm. And so far, you've told me absolutely nothing I couldn't figure out on my own.” She glanced behind her into her apartment, where her laptop and approximately fifty creative writing portfolios sat, waiting to be graded. Time was ticking away; didn't take an oracle to see that much. “What are you trying to sell? Pot or salvation?”
He looked indignant. “Ma'am, I'm not trying to sell you anything but comfort,” sounding for all the world like a bad pick-up artist.
“That's it.” She started to push the door shut, but he put his foot in the way, a ragged Converse sneaker with the laces untied. She had seen the same fashion sensibility in the freshmen she taught and quickly learned to typecast. Were he in college, he would be a philosophy major, a rambling would-be poet, or some other specialization that prepared him for a lucrative career in food service or retail. Or door-to-door sales. She'd never considered that possibility.
“Ma'am, listen to me. Just listen. I've got no sales. I've got no bad intentions. I've got nothing for you but answers—if you want them. Here.” He backed up, hands in the air in the universal language that said, “See? No harm.” In his left hand was a business card, looking for all the world like a home injet-and-cardstock production. It probably was.
Suspiciously, she took it. “What's this, a psychic service?”
“No, ma'am. Look Forward to the Future Enterprises is a service, free of charge for your first visit—”
“You are trying to sell me something.”
“Not technically, ma'am.”
She snorted but was by this time curious about the spiel.
“As I was saying, Look Forward to the Future--”
“You come up with that name?”
“No, ma'am, my friend did.”
“Ah. Continue.” She studied him over her own glasses, a stare that she knew to be effective in the classroom setting, a look that said, “get to your point, and stop holding up class with your inane chatter.”
“Ahem. As I was saying, we at, well, our business, will ask you a detailed survey of questions regarding important life decisions, restaurant-ordering habits, daily routine details, and such--”
“So I give over all this important information for what?” She could just see the details being turned over to a kindly Nigerian gentleman, the same one who had offered to deposit $1000 dollars in her bank account just the other day.
“We input all of this into a computer program that I've written.”
Interesting, she thought. Not a philosopher but a programmer, or perhaps a new hybrid—the philosophical programmer.
“Once the data is in the computer, you can ask questions about future concerns—job security, relationship prospects, even financial security. This gets factored in with other data, computing your general demographic statistics and relevant details like overall regional and job market trends to predict, with approximately 90% accuracy, the probable results.”
“That's a very confident assessment.”
“Humans are creatures of habit, ma'am. Even when they seem to fly off the cuff, it's usually part of an overall pattern of thought and behavior.” He straightened up, and without the slight slouch and downward stare, he passed for a confident young man. An eccentric one, but no longer likely a pothead. “A man doesn't just wake up one morning and stab his wife for no apparent reason; he's probably a passive-aggressive person, prone to letting the small things like a nagging wife, a soul-sucking job with tenuous security, a receding hairline—all those little stresses—just build and build until it has to go somewhere. He wakes up one morning, she says it's about time he rolled out of bed, and WHAM, he snaps. It wasn't random; it was inevitable.”
“So it was his fate, then, to become a murderer? Could your computer tell you all that?” Fate or free will—that timeless question so many of her students tried to grapple with to varying degrees of sophistication in their writing.
“Not precisely as such, no,” he admitted. “However, we could have calculated a high likelihood of violent behavior based on a series of small incidents, marital habits, job market fluctuations that lead to more intensive demands of employees, and even factored in health issues like his rising blood pressure.”
“That's... intriguing.” And frankly, a little disturbing, and even a little, dare she say, futuristic—no doubt, given the remotest possibility of accuracy with such technology, law enforcement agencies would love to have access to the findings, all, of course, in the name of the public good. “Interesting,” she said, more to herself than to the persistent salesman.
He returned to the original pitch. “Yes, many people find it so. And many of them don't like our findings. But we don't intend to sugarcoat the future. In fact, you'll find that a major feature separating us from the so-called psychics and fortune-tellers is the very way we don't shy away from unpleasantries. Should someone decide to proceed with the full services, we consider it our highest duty not to mislead. What we predict isn't a fate that is wholly inevitable—in fact, by making people aware of the possibility of their future actions, we sometimes found that we could avert the more... violent possibilities. A recent client recently sought treatment for bipolar disorder after having been off meds for six months, based on our findings.”
“Fascinating. I will consider it.”
“Thank you, ma'am. That's all we ask.”
With a nod, he turned and left.
She returned to the empty apartment, discarding the flimsy “business card.”
A minute later, she uncrumpled it, tucking it in her purse. Maybe.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Rather than have to come up with something new each night, I can build on what I've already written, tucking in a bit more description in this scene and playing with the tension in that one and finding my characters settle into more of a routine and even do new things I hadn't expected them to. Last night, they got into a squabble that I wasn't planning for them to have, but that has turned out to be something that they needed to do in order to, well, grow. And Nanowrimo truly is teaching me the wisdom of drafting--this draft sucks, and I'm OK with that because I can edit later.
It still feels pretentious as hell to call this glorified bit of scribbling (all 35 pages of it so far) a "novel," but I'm feeling a bit more comfortable with the idea that I may have a bit of writer in me yet. You see, this thing about making myself write every single night even if I'm 1000 words short of the 1666-words-per-day goal is... well, it's having unexpected effects. It's becoming as much a habit as my afternoon cup of tea.
My little head is starting to spontaneously generate new story ideas, ideas that I would love to run with and see what comes of them. And I intend to, yes, but it's not happening until the end of November--I have a bad track record of beginning a bazillion new things and abandoning the original one for six months or even indefinitely. If you want proof of it, I can show you my list of started crochet projects...
Anyway, I just wanted my audience of three to know that I've not fallen off the face of the earth--just a bit busy with other projects :).
Now playing: M. Craft - Dragonfly
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
That means the kiddos who were new freshmen when I taught in my first semester of teaching are getting ready to graduate and head out into the world. It's kind of a funny feeling. And a daunting one.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Which begs the question--why did I do it in the first place? Because I never felt I had the time or inclination to do National Novel Writing Month. November is never a good time of year, especially in academia as I struggle to finish everything that needs finishing in the last quarter of a semester--the papers get longer, the grading gets more intense, and the accumulated stresses have, well, accumulated. November is probably, honestly, never going to be a good time to decide to write a novel...
...which is exactly why this year is as good a time as any. I've had ideas for a post-apocalyptic tale knocking about my head for a few years now. Might as well run with it a bit. If it absolutely blows, or if I lose interest, so be it. At least I tried, and hopefully, I'll get at least a few thousand words more on it than I did when I started.
So, here's to writing, and more specifically, embracing the idea of what Anne Lamott gleefully calls the "shitty first draft."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This place may not actually exist anywhere, now or at any point in the future, but I have a cabin on a mountaintop. It's small and sparse--I built it myself, see. With my own soft-palmed hands. Heck, while we're at it, I felled those logs myself. Yeah, that sounds good. The walls have bookshelves in them, and the main room has a huge fireplace in it. Between that and the piles of blankets all around, I stay bundled up. The fireplace is perfect for curling up in front of with a book and a hot cuppa. I'm not sure if I've got cats yet; it's probably a good idea lest small critters decide to take shelter with me. I stock up on supplies in the winter, and then I don't see anyone until spring thaw; oh, that's the best part.
Friends and acquaintances have asked if they can come to my mountaintop cabin. A select few have been granted visiting permission. The rest get threatened with a shotgun.
It's cold. It's lonely. It's sounding more lovely by the day.
Now playing: Richard Shindell - Waist Deep In The Big Muddy
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My response: "Not my problem."
It would be a shame if a silly thing like a 100-point exam got in the way of college partying.
Now playing: HIM - Wicked Game
Monday, October 5, 2009
A: Write a difficult question like, "After you have printed out this quiz, write your name and draw a smiley face."
Now playing: Mae - Suspension
Friday, October 2, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Yes, I agreed, and as far as I'm concerned, it could go right back where it came from. One of my returning students agreed.
Another student, however, piped up, "I like that stuff. I think it's cool. I wish I'd been a kid in the '80s."
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Hush. I know I am young yet.
This particular song stuck with me at the time, and I was surprised to find how powerful the words were when I re-visited it:
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
However, since autumn is now here, I most frequently found myself keeping vigilance in another direction: up.
Let's just say my reason has something to do with a recent Traumatic Experience involving Eight-Legged Carnivores (so traumatic, indeed, that it warrants capital letters. Yeah, that bad; also, click that link at your own risk). No incidents this time, save a large buzzing insect that threatened to dive bomb into my head. I credit the lack of web ensnarement tonight to my constant vigilance.
Now playing: Shinedown - Heroes (Album Version)
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Now playing: Muse - Sing for Absolution
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The third day of class, she came in and looked around blankly, unsure whether she was in the right place. I asked her the name of the class she was supposed to be in; it coincided with mine. I asked if it was supposed to be at 10:00; it was. She was still unconvinced until she looked around.
"The big guy!" she said, spotting the guy she'd been sitting next to for the previous two class sessions. "I remember you!"
I should have taken it as a sign. And I did take it as a sign... of her ditziness.
What I missed was the sign of no brain-mouth filter. Bless her heart, she likes to call out answers. They are frequently wrong answers or requests for information that she would have received had she been listening to my directions, but she does have great spirit. However, she rarely stops at the answers, rambling into whatever other thoughts flit through her mind--an aside or request for confirmation from her classmate, a personal question that I don't care to answer, and other irrelevant bits of fluff.
Of course, the conference will not be a "talk less for the sake of my sanity" talk. We will discuss how as much as I appreciate her enthusiasm, it is important for other people to get a chance to talk. I expect frequent reminders will be in order though...
Now playing: Brandi Carlile: What Can I Say
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
From this weekend's jaunt to the botanical garden I'd driven by for five years without ever having stopped by. Suffice it to say, I shall go back.
Now playing: Live - The Beauty of Gray
Saturday, August 29, 2009
There once was a blogger named Twit
Who fancied herself quite the wit.
When told to write a poem,
She let her mind roam,
And the result was this verse of shit.
Limericks are fun :).
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Even the more egregious student behavior seems blase after you've seen it a few times.
That said, never before yesterday have I been in the middle of the class, lecturing, no less, writing on the board, and been interrupted by a student coming into my classroom asking for directions. From me.
At first, I thought she might have been one of my students, straggling in very, very late, an hour into a 75-minute class. She looked at me expectantly, like she had a question, and granted, I do not readily recognize student faces yet, so I asked what she needed. She asked where to find a location for a room and building I did not recognize as being on the campus. I was a little surprised by the interruption of class for directions, so instead of telling her we were in the middle of class, I instead said I didn't recognize the location. She pulled out her planner and showed me the class name, room, and time she was looking for.
"Oh," I told her. "That's this room. In half an hour."
"OK," she said, and walked right back out.
I have to give that class credit for not bursting into laughter as I would have been tempted to do were I watching the proceedings. Still, this incident is one of several signs I've been seeing that seem to suggest a more oblivious student population than previous semesters. I may have more stories yet.
Now playing: On The Last Day - At The Breaking Of The World
Monday, August 24, 2009
Turns out I could have one if I wanted, thanks to the creative folks at Etsy.
Oh man. And there's "FAIL" and "epic FAIL."
I dare not. I have nothing near tenure and might actually use them...
Now playing: Bayside - Kellum
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I'm also starting to wonder if three is an unlucky number for me, which is a bit saddening. It could be a bit of identification, but I've always been partial to odd numbers. Until this week, I quite liked three.
The first three-related mishap pertained to my syllabi. I had campus #1's syllabi copied off and was beginning to staple them when I realized I had run off too many copies; no sweat, thought I. I shall put the extras in a separate stack. I was proud of myself, even, for having caught and corrected my mistakes.
Until I realized that on my way out in the morning, I had grabbed one class's syllabi... and the stack of unstapled extras. That one took a bit of last-minute sense-talking and reassuring from my mentor to correct the problem, but I got over it and had a more or less decent day after that.
My second three-related woe follows a parallel track. The item in question this time was a set of keys. On Monday, I picked up my keys from campus #2; at the time, I was borrowing my mother's car while mine was in the shop. Once I had my car back, I left her the keys on her dresser. It was one of three sets of keys that were in my purse--my car and home keys, my office keys, and the borrowed car keys.
Yes, by this time you probably guessed it--I left my mom the office keys and still had her car key. Luckily, I was able to throw myself upon the mercy of both the department secretary and my officemate to get around the inconvenience, but I sure felt dumb. The car keys, also, were a spare set and so caused no inconvenience there.
I swear, I am developing all the scatter-brained professorial tendencies and none of the accompanying wisdom and stature.
Now playing: Death Cab for Cutie - Someday You Will Be Loved
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Aherm. Classes start again. I am eager and enthusiastic to mold young writers. And get paid. And have a more concrete schedule and purpose to dress in clothing nicer than merely jeans and T-shirts. And get paid. And, aw heck, I'm really trying to get myself excited here, and all I've managed so far is a "meh."
Thursday, August 6, 2009
We got there to find a closed library.
I was absolutely correct in my memorization of the library's hours, and I can recite from memory my library card numbers for two of the public library systems; however, I had missed the memo that it was not Thursday, as I had thought, but Friday.
Now playing: Emilie Autumn - Misery Loves Company
Friday, July 31, 2009
- The only way to get anywhere to to get out there. Sitting on the sidelines and watching people fly by is unsatisfying at best.
- You may fall, it's true, but more likely than not, you'll wobble, adjust, and move on, pride the only injury.
- Let the glide take you, as scary as that feels to relinquish the illusion of control. You may not go in exactly the direction you wanted, but fighting it is an invitation to stumble or unbalance yourself.
- Don't think; do. Skate, and don't stop to over-analyze because that too is an invitation to falter.
Now playing: Soul Asylum - Runaway Train (live)
Monday, July 27, 2009
On these walks, I started seeing some familiar faces--the mother and father with the child carriers on the backs of their bikes, the son on dad's bike, daughter on mom's. The joggers. The husband and wife; he never waves, but she waves in spite of the walking stick she's got propped behind her head with her arms drooped over it.
They come and go. I don't see them every night I go out there, due in part to a number of factors--sometimes I only get out a few nights a week, sometimes I rush at the last minute and finish just at the cusp of dark, and other nights I head out early. But I see one guy just about every night I'm out there. He's a bit of an older gentleman, greying hair, always in the same almost-uniform--white T-shirt, black shorts, black sneakers, sunglasses and baseball cap. He seems grim, or perhaps just determined, perhaps out walking to ward off the threat of a heart attack. He never waved back when I did as we inevitably passed.
Until a week ago or so. I've been trying to build running into my routine. 45 seconds, and I'm winded. On a good spell, I can hit a bit over a minute before I have to stop. On one such evening, we crossed paths, him walking steadily, me running and running out of steam at that. I raised a hand in acknowledgment as I passed. I don't know what changed things, but now when we pass, he raises his right hand in a half wave.
Now playing: Ani DiFranco - Everest
Monday, July 20, 2009
I can only hope the forthcoming Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters will be as delightful. I shall find out when I purchase it in September.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Now it's back to more practical things. Still, it was an interesting experience and not a painful one as I half expected it to be.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
It was a simple, small affair, white top, black metal legs and shelves underneath. It wasn't much, but it was mine, and I got quite a bit of use out of it. For years, I did my homework on it--the last of elementary school, the bit of middle school I did under my mother's tutelage, and the high school I did through correspondence. In the high school years, I think, I moved my desktop PC onto it, still getting quite a bit of use out of it. High school became community college, which led to university and grad school. Still my desk was there, ready for use. I eventually moved the tower to the floor, leaving some room to sprawl my papers out as I worked. At the end of grad school, I got a laptop, conserving more space and allowing for greater sprawl and spreading out of papers, both my own and those of the students I was beginning to teach. Grad school ended, I continued teaching, quit teaching, then went back to teaching, and I did a bulk of my prep work and grading at that same desk I got as a child.
And mind, it is a child's desk. My knees haven't fit comfortably under it for a long time, resulting in some not-so-pleasant knocks if I got up too fast, and the scant cushion on the chair has long worn thin. I've been thinking for a while to upgrade to a larger, sleeker model. I made up my mind to do so, changed it, and reversed course yet again. I half-heartedly skimmed ads and perused floor models when I saw them. Nothing shrieked at me, so I let it go.
Until today. I found a desk worthy of my patronage. The chair isn't the first one I fell in love with, but it's cushier than the old one by far. I hope I get a good 13 (or 14) years out of this one too. And I also hope, given that there's a lot of life still in that old, small desk, that someone else will love it as I have.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The art of conversation lies not in how much you can say but in what you do say. In fact, the less you speak, the better.
The art of conversation lies in turning all your conversation toward the other person. Few people really want to get bogged down in the banalities of what you've been up to or what you think on an issue, regardless of whether they ask for said information. Do not assume that "How are you?" is an inquiry of your general state of wellness; it is merely the set-up for "Fine. And how are you?" which is an infinitely more suitable conversation topic than your domestic stresses or flare-up of rheumatism.
Listen with rapt attention to how poor Fluffy had to be put down, how your acquaintance's boss is an ass, and how his or her classes are going. Ask about his or her fondest Fluffy memory, the details of said boss's ineptitude, and whether acquaintance's profs are difficult. Follow up with appropriate croons of sympathy, appropriate righteous indignation at the gall of some people, and appropriate reassurances that you're certain this will be the semester to regain that 3.5 (or 2.5 or 2.0) GPA.
Does the above sound taxing? No worries; you needn't respond with full questions to each and every question or piece of trivia. Nod, smile, or even make noncommittal responses that suggest rapt interest. As a rule of thumb, consider the 37-1 rule. For every 37 words your acquaintance utters, supply one of assent or encouragement. They needn't be spaced at exact intervals; use your discretion to determine when response is required, and if you're damn good, when such prompts assist in the dramatic arc of the unfolding life saga.
Use the above advice, and I guarantee that your social acquaintances will find you a wonderful conversationalist. Just be careful lest they seek you out. Greatness has a cost, and the cost of conversational greatness coupled with cautious politeness is the danger of many lost hours. People can talk for hours about themselves*.
Now playing: Thrice - The Lion and the Wolf
* - Says the blogger. At least I admit to it.
Friday, June 19, 2009
And there went my relocation and new career goals.
Honestly, that is such an imposition. My armpits are my own business, and geez, but do they plan to do a monthly underwear inspection to follow up?
Righteous indignation aside (the mayor apparently feels the underwear rule "takes away freedom of choice"), my response is one of wry bemusement. The mayor has a point in that choice bit. However, it's clear that this would never have become an issue if it weren't for people abusing that choice. If you wanna go commando, by all means do. That doesn't mean you should go around flashing folks. As much as this pains me to admit, the apparent need for stating the obvious in dress standards fits with this generation's obliviousness to etiquette.
And as a college instructor who has seen her fair share of thongs and boxers*, I hereby suggest all college and university campuses endorse a similar rule.
Now playing: Chuck Ragan and Austin Lucas - Hold My Bed
* - I have seriously had to repress the urge to tell said fashionplates to resist the ultra-low-rise jeans and/or just hitch up their britches. In one case, my fingers were twitching to fix one young lady's shirt as she leaned over her (male) classmate's desk. I did not need to know just how color-coordinated her outfit was....
Friday, June 12, 2009
Last week or so, nothing was on the radio, and I was bored with the CDs I previously had in my car. I rummaged around for something different, came up with Lacuna Coil's, and that's been that. It's been "stuck" in my car's CD player since. Any day now I should be getting bored with it, but the first track "I Survive" draws me in, the dual male-female vocals are used to great effect in "Not Enough," and by the time the last track, my tentative favorite, "Shallow Life" comes around, I'm hooked, a goner. The following video is the first single from the album, "Spellbound." Enjoy.
* - Incidentally, Lacuna Coil (along with Within Temptation, Evansecence, and the like) was great for midnight grading. In spite of that connotation, I still enjoy their music.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
"Twitter is a site for people who believe the world cares about their every move," I said crabbily. I still stand by that assessment.
I have no problem with social networking. I have a book for my face, a space to call mine, and a couple other sites I belong to. And yes, I blog, the ultimate narcissism--I actually believe I have something to say with an audience to pay attention to me. But I really don't believe you care what I had for lunch, who I hobnobbed with, what my kitty cat did just now, and who I'm giving shout-outs to. Seriously.
It's a bizarre mish-mash of the mundane and social posturing, from what I've observed on a few acquaintances' Twitter pages. The mundane is just, as my post title indicates, a matter of "Who cares?" The shouting out and such is akin to those folks who friend every person they ever met gazes with simply for the purpose of showing off how many "friends" they have. In the case of the former, a bit of nondisclosure can go a long way (you just had your first bowel movement in a week? That's, um, congratulations...?). And in the case of the latter, well, I just don't see the value of determining my worth by how many people I've rubbed elbows with. I'd like to think I have some innate value in my own individuality, not something accumulated by sheer chance and contingent upon how many people I've run into ("OMG i think i just drove by bill gates lol").
Now playing: The Bravery - Tragedy Bound
Friday, June 5, 2009
A few thoughts: I am a bit apprehensive, as any person should be when a beloved book is turned into a movie. It seems to be putting a bit more emphasis on the "end of civilization" bit, but that may be for marketing purposes; the focus really is on the father and son in the book, and it looks like they're capturing the closeness. (You might not tell from the trailer, but the mother is barely there in the book....) Another nitpick: the father seems to be shooting quite a bit in that trailer; in the book, he has two bullets. Again, I hope they're just playing up what they think will get people into the theatre. Ah well. On a tangential note, I hope they maybe use a bit of voiceover or something to capture McCarthy's prose a bit. Like this:
He walked out into the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the intestate earth. Darkness implacable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe. And somewhere two hunted animals trembling like groundfoxes in their cover. Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.That passage sends shivers down my spine Every. Single. Time.
That said, I can't wait for the movie. Guess I'll just have to re-read the book in anticipation until then ;).
Now playing: Todd Thibaud - Finding Out
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Bohemian made me think hippie. What might be hippie-ish? Hmm, how about something green or eco friendly. A plarn purse might be good. I used the Recycled Mini Shoulder Bag pattern over at My Recycled Bags. But most plarn is dull, and these bags were a boring white. Still needed work for that "bright colors" bit, so I had a skein of rough, scratchy, irritating Red Heart acrylic yarn that I got for a steal at a garage sale. Bingo, and it used up some of my stash yarn when I worked it along with the plastic bag yarn. For the flap of the purse, I also used yarn that was already on hand, a bit of eyelash novelty yarn that I picked up for no better reason than that it was on clearance, and it was very shiny. It now had a project. The last touch, the button, was also from my existing stash.
Here's the finished product:
I hope she likes it; I had fun making it.
Now playing: Flyleaf - Sorrow
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I should know; I was her classmate, and I deliberately moved seats away from the ADD-inducing screen rotation to my left. Tomorrow is the last day of a workshop I've been attending to familiarize faculty with the online class platform. Yes, in this case, the faculty were students. While the aforementioned behavior would be unsurprising in a classroom of college freshmen, I found it more than a little ironic in this scenario. I wonder how that instructor, should she have the misfortune to find herself teaching in a computer classroom, would treat that behavior from a student? Hmm...
Now playing: Okkervil River - A Glow
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
I am relieved to dispel that notion, or at least grant that not all book clubs are like that. Based on a certain book and movie tie-in, a good friend of mine started her own Jane Austen book club. It's a casual affair with minimal soul-spilling. For that matter, it's a casual affair, period. Not everyone reads the book, or reads it all the way, but we talk a bit about the book, eat nice food, then watch a version of the book for the month, and sometimes talk a bit more either about plot or how the movie was or wasn't faithful to the book. It's like a once-a-month social gathering with people I might not otherwise spend a weekend day with, and I'll miss it when we run out of Austen-ly goodness.
Monday, May 18, 2009
- Read voraciously, whatever I can get my hands on--fluff, substance, and book club books. I will have Sense and Sensibility read before the next meeting. Or, y'know, at least 2/3 of it.
- As a subpoint to the above item, I shall try reading more of the books that have been gathering dust on my bookshelf. That way I can determine what's worth keeping and what can be sold back or passed on or Bookcrossed.
- Work my yarn stash down. This means not purchasing new yarn willy-nilly, and furthermore, using up what I do have. I should be able to at least make a dent, I think. Also, I need to do more with the plastic bags people have given me to work with. Those things multiply in the closet, I swear.
- Along the lines of using my craft supplies, hack up and make things with those old, half-felted thrift store sweaters.
- Give more attention to learning how to knit.
- Update ye olde blog more frequently, preferably with posts of substance.
- Fuss with my syllabi for fall as well as working on handouts.
Now playing: The Shins - Caring Is Creepy
Saturday, May 16, 2009
One key goal was to remember to keep time for myself. As goals go, it's a bit abstract--so I made it quantifiable--vowed to keep crocheting a part of my life during the semester and not just between semesters. Successful? Yes. I crocheted in evenings, I crocheted between classes if I had no grading stack, I crocheted during down time at my tutoring job. Creating something--whether it's as small as a bookmark or as big as a tote bag or as incomplete as a row on a long-in-progress blanket--is... soothing. And I felt the difference from other semesters.
I also had a goal to try a new way of structuring my Composition II course. It had some success and showed me a couple things that still needed adjustment. What I got right was breaking down the research process into smaller steps. What needed adjustment was the sequence. Duly noted. I also spent more time on MLA. Some students still left me baffled by their works cited pages, and enough still struggled with in-text citations, but they seemed improved over previous semesters' work.
I also had a goal to keep from taking things personally. It's still a struggle, but I'm getting there. It smarted when a student took her parents to my department chair over a grade issue (and, frankly, rattled me a bit in spite of a supportive chair), but the sting faded eventually. Again, I looked over my students' evals only once. One thought I swayed when I talked, another thought I was in the job for the money, and one thought my lectures weren't useful. I remember those, but I also remember that each of those is generally offset by at least one claiming exactly the opposite. I won't be every student's favorite instructor, and that's fine. There is always at least one I can get to.
Am I a great teacher yet? Not likely. I'm still young and relatively inexperienced. But I've got potential, and some day I may be a good one if I can keep my sanity and continue to refine my techniques and approaches. So far, so good.
Now playing: Chiodos - If I Cut My Hair, Hawaii Will Sink
Thursday, May 14, 2009
A - Exceptional! Damn, but you rocked your instructor's socks off!
B - Pretty good. Better than most, but could've used more effort.
C - Average. You did the work competently, but little snowflake, you didn't go much beyond that.
D - Not passing, but you didn't quite flunk.
F - FAIL.
As a student, I had the niggling sensation that my "A" work wasn't really exceptional. I knew how little work went into those essays I dashed off at the last minute; if anything, I felt that I deserved lower grades than what I got. The grades I feel the proudest of are those few Bs from professors who didn't accept my half-assed work as exceptional, and the even rarer As that I had to work for.
As an instructor, I strive to hold my students to a higher standard. I want my A students to know that they earned that grade. Unfortunately, I just don't seem to get many students like the kind I was...
Now playing: Tom Waits - Saving All My Love for You
Friday, May 8, 2009
It was some sort of action-packed nightmare involving my having been kidnapped and then having escaped, rather narrowly, I might add. Like any sensible person who reads a bit of sci fi, I knew it was some vast conspiracy with perhaps even the government behind it. In spite of being out of shape in real life, I kept up a good run in my dream, across town, in and out of neighborhoods I wouldn't otherwise venture into, through shops even, dodging and swerving to avoid my captors. At some point, one person on my tail caught up to me and made it clear that they were letting me get away, but I'd have to keep a low profile so that the evil corporate and/or government entity wouldn't find me.
As I went off, I remember thinking over all the things I'd have to give up in my fresh start, including my blog. Clearly they would be monitoring my blog, so I'd have to start a new one and find some way for my readers to be able to find me.
So if I vanish, it's not personal, 'kay? It's just my past catching up to me, and I'll give some notice for you--and only you, dear readers--to come find me.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner
First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.
Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.
To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.
Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.
Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.
When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.
If more poems were like that, we'd likely have fewer people having allergic reactions at the prospect of poetry. My stance toward poetry is a lot like my perspective on any genre literature, like sci fi or fantasy--there's a lot of crap out there, but the good stuff is very fulfilling and makes up for the lesser quality dreck. It also, ideally, shows a slightly different way of thinking of the world and at its best, illustrates the many-faceted thing that is human nature.
Now playing: Strung Out - Vampires
Sunday, April 26, 2009
One trip was quite successful: a bag of colorful cotton threads. Didn't quite have a plan for them, but hey, that'd come later. A bargain is a bargain. It turns out I had just the right pattern on hand to use the thread. I'll definitely be experimenting with more color combinations.
Here's what I have thus far:
I'm thinking the next will be a tri-color one--inside to outside, pink, orange, and yellow. So many possibilities. Hmm...
* - Hey, dangerous is a completely subjective term, OK?
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I made a couple of bookmarks from crochetroo's Fan Bookmark pattern, which was easy to master and had beautiful results with my rainbow thread, which practically patterned itself:
I'm definitely going to try this one in other colors, too. I made one for myself, and a second just to keep busy. Now I need to find someone to foist a bookmark upon :).
Now playing: Chuck Ragan - Geraldine
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Now playing: Death Cab for Cutie - Stable Song
Monday, April 13, 2009
Or was it? Something was missing, a niggling sense that the routine wasn't quite complete.
And then the cat emerged from wherever she'd been hiding to begin her morning routine, weaving around my chair legs, purring and chirping, butting her head against my outstretched hand. When I neglected my humanly duties, she put one front paw up on the arm of the chair, the other batting at my arm, a message that said, with a clear accompanying chirp, "Here I am. Why are you not worshiping? Hel-looo!"
Much better. My morning breakfast routine was complete.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Here's one of the things I captured with the former:
Saturday, April 4, 2009
In one class, my students were wondering why exactly they had the day off. So, in a voice meant to drum up false enthusiasm as much for myself as them, I blurted out a little too loudly and a little too enthusiastically, "Remember those essays you wrote a couple classes ago? A bunch of us instructors are gonna get together and score!" By the time I could hastily add "essays," the class was dissolved in giggles, and my composure was gone as well. (It didn't help that that was the day we were talking about dangling modifiers...)
This semester, even though I am not teaching there, my former boss called and asked if I'd be interested in the scoring. After a bit of hesitation, I decided on it. That was today, and it was actually not as painful as the first time. I got paid, got a free lunch, and got to catch up with Awesome Grad School Cohort in the process.
It was, indeed, quite... satisfying.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
So here's a picture of a tree.
Its bark is certainly worse than its... you know.
Now playing: Austin Lucas - Bruiser
Saturday, March 28, 2009
So far, my favorite is this one from 1900:
The story behind it is thus:
This city letter carrier posed for a humorous photograph with a young boy in his mailbag. After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.
Now playing: Rumbleseat - restless (hidden)
Monday, March 23, 2009
"I wonder what the job market is like... Think I'm gonna look into that. Surely they could use English instructors," I mused to my friend.
"You should! You could move in with us, and we could split the rent three ways."
I was only half joking. Can you imagine seeing this view every day?
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Sometime between when I finally settled down to grading and when I looked up in need of a distraction, I noticed a young, shaggy-haired man, standing off by himself, juggling three pins intently. He wore a white sleeveless top, the better to show off well-tanned arms, kakhi shorts, and a black fedora with a feather over his right ear. Up went the blue and green pins, followed by the orange, which detoured behind his back before becoming airborne, followed in turn by the blue, and so on. They'd stay up a bit, then come clattering to the floor with hollow thuds. Then he juggled them all in front of him, until again, some would clatter to the floor.
I went back to my grading. When I looked up again, he had four pins: the green, the orange, and two blue pins. His companion, whom I hadn't noticed before, made an attempt at a backflip that ended with him sprawled on the floor. Having decided to give up on the acrobatics, he joined his juggling friend, a yellow pin somehow materializing in the process. They juggled pins back and forth after a couple false starts when they were negotiating how far apart to stand. I don't know if they were trying to provide entertainment for anybody else, or just themselves, but I enjoyed the show, and several people wandering by stopped to observe them. The second juggler finally wandered off, bored, leaving the original entertainer to goof around, less enthusiastically, with the yellow and blue pins.
I finally decided to grab paper to capture my impressions of the scene before me. When I glanced up after three paragraphs crammed onto the back of a half-page grading rubric, the juggler seemed to have vanished. I could see neither his shaggy, emo-haired head nor his jaunty feathered fedora. One last glimpse, and I was ready to assume he's gone, off to catch a flight or a shuttle, when I see what looks like a musical instrument case standing on end by a pillar. The juggler has one more trick up his sleeve--he pulled out a banjo and begins picking out what sounded like an improvised tune.
All told, I may not have gotten much grading done, but the grading will be there, waiting for me to pick it up again. When you've got an impromptu show in front of you, it seems a shame to squander the opportunity.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
And closer. I hope you can see a bit of the cerulean in the center portion:
Start to finish, it took one week. Yes, I work best with deadlines :).
Also, if the pattern looks mildly familiar, well, you've seen it before.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
- More sleep
- Self-grading papers
- Inspiration and time to write
- An exciting new crochet project. Or two. Or...
- ...New yarn?
- My current book club selection to get more interesting, faster, preferably
- Patience to deal with the semester's first plagiarist
- Self-grading papers
- Money, either in the form of a paycheck or the selling of crafty things
- Self-grading papers
- More time than even the day off I got mid-week
- Self-grading papers
- Self-grading papers
- Self-grading papers...
Now playing: Cursive - May Flowers
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I don't much fancy their coffee--once you get used to buying it locally roasted, the watered-down stuff that coffee shop likes to pass off as coffee doesn't taste like much. Besides that, my morning cuppa aside, I've not been much for the coffee lately. That left tea as an option.
What I ended up ordering was what they grandly dubbed a "black tea latte." Whatever. It was basically tea with a bit of sugar to cut the bitterness and some milk. It was wonderful. It was sheer nostalgia.
Tea has always been a key fixture in our house. My mom would make us all tea on the weekends; mine was generally more milk than tea when I was younger, with a lot of sugar and some hot water to dilute it further still. Sometimes Mom would add a bit of cardamon to the pot, other times fresh mint. The tea was the constant, though. As I got older, the water decreased, but I still drank it with milk. And a lot of sugar.
Finally, when I decided I was Grown Up and wanted it without milk, I wheedled for plain black tea, and I got it. In time, the three teaspoons of sugar winnowed down to one spoon, still black. I still prefer it black.
But today, with that bit of milk in it? Pleasant memories made the tea all that much richer.
Now playing: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Another Day Full Of Dread