Monday, October 27, 2008

Self-Medicating

Today is just no good for anyone. Not only did I have that mealy apple experience, but
  • I was in the office from 7:30-6:00.
  • Two colleagues (who are married to each other) spent the morning at a funeral.
  • I dropped in to chat with a different colleague, who burst into tears twice as the result of a campus-related subject that I brought up (note: I didn't make her burst into tears; I just inadvertently and unwittingly referred to a fresh wound).
  • A couple that the Minister is friends with are going through a terrible time [details withheld]. I've met them and they're lovely people. It's awful.
  • TM didn't get an interview for a job he sort of wanted, and hasn't heard anything from one that he really wants a lot. And the interviews will be held this weekend.
  • I may have opened a can of worms with the football coach.
  • I identified the semester's first case of clear-cut, unambiguous plagiarism. And I'm pretty sure that it won't be the last.
So I have a glass of whiskey and I'm downloading an episode of The Office. Yeah, I should be grading the 21 remaining midterms from last week, or reading the sonnets I got today (I made them write sonnets, yes I did!), or reading for tomorrow. But fuck it.

--Argh! While I was writing this post, I burned my dinner. Which is my very favorite, special pasta with onions, apples, blue cheese, and raspberry jam. Fuck it times two!

Bad Apples

A student brought me an apple today.

Seriously.

It was very sweet. Um, the gesture, that is--not the apple so much.

The thing is, I brought an apple in my lunch. And my apples are good apples: when the Minister's parents were in town, we went all apple-picking at a (mostly) organic orchard (they do spray a little early in the season, before there are any fruits) and got some amazing apples. Lots and lots of them.

So I went back to my office and ate my main lunch dish, then decided to eat the student's apple. It was a regular grocery store apple. In fact, it may have been the lesser cousin of the grocery store apple: the dining hall apple. It was mealy and dry and not very sweet. I got like 3 bites into it and thought, Screw this. Into the bin it went. I am now eating my own deliciously juicy fantabulous apple.

I feel a little bit guilty, though.

Friday, October 24, 2008

How, how, how

did the theme song from "Muppet Babies" get stuck in my head?

Here, if you'd like to share in my suffering:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I wrote a strongly-worded letter to my Secretary of State

I wrote this--yikes--more than a month ago. But my outrage is ever-present.

*************************************

Dear Secretary of State:

Today I received in the mail your pamphlet detailing the proposed referendum. Thank you for sending this information to the citizenry; I read it with interest, and I applaud your efforts to disseminate this material to the state’s population.

One thing concerned me about the mailing, however. The pamphlet that I received was addressed to “Residential Customer, [State].”

That word—“Customer”—has left me baffled and disturbed. In what sense am I a “customer,” either of the government or of the state? What services am I purchasing? What consumer decisions am I making by being a resident (and a voter, and, more importantly, a citizen) of [State]?

Semantics matter. The vocabulary of the marketplace is permeating our culture, and we need to ask ourselves whether this is a good thing. When the language of consumerism is applied to our political and educational systems, to social and civil services, what are the consequences? What are the costs? Although our government is elected, its actions are not “market-driven.” Citizens are not customers, consuming the product that the government supplies, their grievances dealt with by a department of customer service.

Not only does this language produce inapt metaphors, but we are not all equally empowered in the economic marketplace. Using the language of “customers” or “consumers” to describe the citizenry undermines a key tenet of our democracy: the notion that even individuals with little or no “purchasing power,” or who inhabit minority groups that do not “buy” the “product” approved by the majority, deserve recognition and a voice in our society. I therefore object strongly to your application of “customer” to the voting citizens of [State].

I truly hope that you will consider revising your mode of address in future mailings. We are not your customers. We are your citizens, and we deserve to be recognized as such.

Sincerely,
Heu Mihi, Ph.D.
Professor of English
Field College

************************************

And I don't think that it's just my increasingly curmudgeonly nature that makes me take offense at this. (I also think that this is a perfectly appropriate dropping of the "Assistant" from my title, no?)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fate: Tempted!

Well, now I seem to have a cold. It's still in its early stages. But you know? If I don't feel well tomorrow morning, I'm going to do something that I've never done before: Cancel my classes. Logical fallacies and Shakespearean sonnets can wait until Wednesday. And I'm pretty sure that my students won't mind an extra two days to work on their papers.

Besides, how nice would it be to spend another day lounging around and reading research-related materials? (Followed by two weeks of stuffed-up-ed-ness, of course, but I'm seeking the silver lining here, not the cloud. And really, it just might be worth it.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Apologies for All of the Crankiness Lately

Actually, things are fine. Busy as--well, various expletives come to mind--but OK. I finished the weekend's grading this morning (clearing the slate for the 54 papers that will come in on Monday) and just finished reading for all of Monday's and Wednesday's classes. I plan to get through Tuesday's reading by tomorrow morning and spend the bulk of the weekend on Book Stuff.

--Insofar as I have time, that is. The Minister's parents are in town this weekend, and I spent the afternoon meeting them; we're having dinner out tonight; and I believe that I'm slated to eat all three meals with them tomorrow. And TM and I would actually like to have some time alone this weekend, which basically means tomorrow night (Sunday is always a dedicated work day*).

But being so ridiculously busy this semester has made my usually pretty well-organized self into some kind of hyper-organized, efficient being. I have lists all over the place and I'm constantly crossing things off. I get up at 5:30 and don't take naps. My office desk has virtually nothing on it because papers simply fly through my hands. I've been writing up handouts and paper prompts in advance. I prioritize, and I do my class prep last--often early in the morning. I read through meals (except dinner). My house is clean and orderly, my freezer well-stocked with homemade soups and bread. It's like I've moved to some whole new level of efficiency, and I firmly believe that if you took away, say, two of my tasks (e.g. one course and the impending book review), the whole carefully balanced system would fall apart.

Of course, it's also entirely possible that I've completely forgotten about some monumental task with an immediate deadline, and everything is about to come crashing down on my head.

*There's this administrative assistant across the hall who asks me every Monday whether I was "at least able to take the weekend off." I need to tell her that look, I never take a weekend off during the semester. Does anyone? I hear rumors of such things.... Of course, this is probably just her form of small talk, now that I have a car. Last year, every Monday morning's question was something about how I made it through the weekend without wheels. I should add that I really like this person. I think that I'm just not used to her Monday morning conversational habits.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Only Have One Thing to Say

I was in the office before dawn this morning.



The moon looked very pretty outside my window.




At least I have a window this year?




Thank God tomorrow is our [one-day] fall break.

******************

Oh, and I watched the debate, for some reason. This election season can't end soon enough. "Women's 'health'"? Um, WTF, JMcC? Yeah, women don't actually have health problems, ever--certainly not any related to pregnancy; that's just a screen thrown up by all the wacko pro-abortionists. Which is a real position, you know. I am all about giving everyone as many abortions as possible. And all the smug, sputtery fuming--it was dreadful--argh--must fight off images of squishy pale men--think of happy things, think of midterms, think of lovely Beowulf essays and papers about how Middle English came about when the Anglo-Saxons defeated the Normans, bringing with them the culture and language of Old English! In 1380! You know what else? ------Okay, I won't say what else, in case anyone from Field ever finds this blog. But it's funny: during our midterm review days I feared that I was giving away all the answers to all the questions. Turns out that two thirds of the class wasn't listening, so hey!

[John McCain effectively wiped from my consciousness. Hurrah!]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Declaration of Human Rights



I don't know exactly what it is that makes this so effective, but I find it really quite moving.

Best line of the day

I'm in draft-commenting jail (slightly lower security than grading jail)--nonetheless it has its rigors. The following speaks for itself:

"Culture has now become an important aspect in our society today."

O it has, has it?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Plan

A few posts ago, I wrote something about how I was going to read for my revisions for the next 6 weeks and then write feverishly through November and edit for the first two weeks of December. I have decided that that was stupid. That it was a stupid, terrible idea. The Path to Anxiety is Paved with Exactly That Plan. It would've been way too much to keep in my head with way too little to show for my work on a week-by-week basis.

Therefore, the actual revising revising begins today. I have two major points that I want to start to address. They're kind of complicated, but they're both pretty much in the introduction, so I think that it'll be manageable. (Manageable to address by mid-December, I mean. Not manageable to address them entirely today.)

Luckily I have NO grading and NO class-related reading to do this weekend. How on earth did that happen? Magnifique! Also, in a whirlwind of domestic activity, I cleaned my whole house, made bread, and did the laundry yesterday afternoon. I'll probably have to set up a batch of yogurt tomorrow, but that's nothing.

(I'm trying not to think about next weekend, though. 31 comp papers + 9 senior midterm papers + 11 seminar journals + 23 survey midterms, dear God!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Have Arrived

Today, I taught a complicated passage from Judith Butler.

We spent 45 minutes on 4 pages.

But I think that they understood something by the end.

Yes, this was my first excursion into theory-teaching. How I got a Ph.D. in comp lit without ever teaching theory is a mystery. Well, no it isn't. One word--strategy. And medievalist. So, two words. Actually, wait--here's six more--little support for graduate student teaching. Eight altogether. Never mind.

What's kind of sad is that I felt really chuffed that I could make sense of this difficult text and that they, at least initially, couldn't. It meant that I'd actually learned some skillz in grad school. Pathetic that I'm comparing myself to undergrads to remind myself of that, isn't it? (Even if they are seniors?) Evidently the Academic Impostor Syndrome that I thought I'd managed to get over is still hanging on around the edges.

Ah well! It was a good day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching Block

I think that my teaching is faltering a bit. Well, in one class, anyway. Or maybe it was just today. I can hope?

We're starting Twelfth Night in the survey. A fun play. Reading it brings up very fond memories of seeing it performed with my family about 8 or 10 years ago; we were at the Folger and had seats right up on stage, and the performance was lively and hilarious. I like the play--much better than some of the Shakespeare I read for the independent study I directed last semester, by the end of which I was heartily sick of The Bard. But for today they'd read Acts 1 and 2, and I couldn't for the life of me think of a way to teach it.

Does that happen to other people? I was like, yeah, okay. Viola is in disguise. Um...disguise is important here? There are a lot of double meanings and irony? What do we do with that? Um...wait and see what happens?

Yeah, it was rough. I ended up lecturing for a while on the period (we're only just out of the Middle Ages, in week 7, for that is how I roll), then waffled around with them for 20 minutes trying to find something to have a discussion about. I had notes; they were just kind of dull and disjointed. I don't know if this is because we'd only read two acts, because there's not a lot of thematic depth to the play,* because I'm a lousy teacher, or because I was just mentally worn out this morning. All I know is that this is the only new text I'm teaching in the survey this semester, and apparently that's thrown me for a total loop.

I'm tempted to go with "mentally worn out." Teaching 5 classes--even if two of them are the same class (comp) and one only meets for an hour a week--might be catching up to me; I feel like I'm in a constant teaching rotation where no sooner does one class end then I've got another one to gear up for. And, to be perfectly honest, I haven't been devoting all that much time to my teaching. If I'm going to get this revised manuscript back to the publisher by mid-December (= the goal), I have to make that a top priority. I'm reading a lot of new stuff for the revisions; my plan is to read like crazy through October and then start working in the actual changes to the MS in November. That seems like a manageable plan--but only if I keep up with this thing of doing virtually all of my course reading for the week on, like, Saturday, and then doing all of my prep in the mornings (which is tough when my MWF schedule starts at 9 am).

With the possible result, of course, that I'll be punting a lot in my classes.

Hm. At least Comp and the senior-level seminar are going well (the latter in particular--I heart it). But it's funny--I loved the survey last year, and now I feel like I'm just sort of waiting it out. Part of that might be the dismal black hole of a classroom they stuck me in--way too big for the enrollment and in a basement with no ambient sound so that when I stop talking the silence presses in on all sides; one can only hope.

Sigh. It's 9 pm; I suppose I ought to read for tomorrow's class (the one I didn't get to on Saturday).

*I am not saying that this is the case. It is merely one possibility. In my weakened state, I am incompetent to judge.