Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Ain't Over Yet

This is turning out to be an exhausting week.

First, we had two job candidates on campus this week. We have made a decision, and really hope that our offer gets accepted. Otherwise, it's back to the application pile.

It's been interesting being on this side of the search. One thing that surprised me somewhat--although it makes perfect sense--was how much personality mattered. Because we're a very small department, we work together pretty closely and see a LOT of each other, so trying to figure out how well we could all work with these people was a big part of the process. The results were pretty clear in this case, although they were both lovely people and highly qualified. Oh--that's the other thing. I already knew that billions of excellent candidates are still out on the market, but this process has confirmed it. We've received well over 50 applications (I don't have an exact count) and many of them were outstanding. Even the ones who clearly weren't a fit for us were, for the most part, very impressive. I'm surprised that I got this job last year. I wouldn't have hired me, given my criteria.

Second, I'm in the midst of the grading. I will not be finishing today, by the way. I haven't even started my survey papers because I have spent untold hours already this week dealing with my plagiarism cases. I met with three students in the last two days, and it was awful. Awful. This is the first time I've had students deny their plagiarism, and they all did it in different ways: flat-out denial; declaration of ignorance ("What, I didn't cite that right?"); desperate pleading. The pleading was the worst: I actually started to cry when s/he left my office (don't worry--the student didn't see that). And now one of them is threatening to bring in his/her lawyer. I keep telling Said Student to go to my chair, who is next on the due-process list, but s/he just keeps sending me pissed-off emails. (Well, okay, s/he has sent me two, but that's plenty.) The defense? "I cited an article, but I did it wrong--so you're failing me for making a mistake." Um. As I said about 25 times in our meeting, you cited a different article. You can't just drop citations into your paper at random--especially when much of that paper is cut-and-pasted off the internet--and call that "proper attribution of materials."

Ugh. I hate this.

Because then I start beating myself up about how maybe I didn't really teach them how to cite and it's all my fault, and I'm a horrible vindictive person and I'm ruining their careers, etc etc. But I've been talking about citation all semester. If they don't get it yet, well....

And I've posted my comp grades, which means that I now have a couple of disappointed/angry students emailing me to know why they did so poorly. Their grades are perfectly justified, but I have to go back and look them up and email them and just generally face a lot of unpleasantness.

At least the utterly lousy weather of the last few days is finally blowing over.

Okay. I need to start thinking about facing my final batch of papers (which should be better and less plagiarized, thank God). And I need to think about next week, when it will all be over and everyone will be GONE and I can think about other things.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Save the Liberal Arts!

Read this post at New Kid's about the disturbing curricular changes at a major regional comprehensive university.

Even my little SLAC is getting some similar pressure, although with a different focus. The faculty is Having None Of It, but that doesn't mean that all is well.

Hell. Just as I enter the profession, it starts to fall apart? Ech!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Prison Bulletin

  • I am deep, deep in grading jail. If I'm very good, my sentence will be up by Wednesday night. I don't think that I'm capable of being that good.
  • Yesterday I caught 2.5 cases of plagiarism. The 0.5 is semi-ambiguous: the student did have a works cited list and did cite some of his/her sources, but the paper contains a number of unacknowledged quotations (i.e. with no quotation marks) and the works cited list is all websites--when I said at least 8,500 times that websites are not acceptable sources for this paper. The two full cases of plagiarism were just straight-off-the-internet papers. One of them was laughably obvious: I read a sentence from the middle of the paper and new instantly that it wasn't the student's work. The sad thing is that I was so tired grading by that point that I was actually glad--one less paper that I have to read! But the short-lived pleasure is, of course, outweighed by my dismay. Of course.
  • I exceeded yesterday's grading goal by one paper.
  • But that was yesterday. The tally starts all over this morning.
  • I can't bring myself to get started.
  • I think that I'll go to the grocery store instead, even though I don't really need to.
  • It's kind of cool out this morning, but beautifully sunny and clear after yesterday's heavy rains, so a walk to the store sounds nice.
  • Then, perhaps, I'll take a nap.
  • There's lots of time to grade in the afternoon, right?
  • I have 27 more comp papers and then I get my survey papers on Monday.
  • I am disheartened.
  • I dislike assigning grades. No--I dislike assigning most grades. I love giving a student a well-deserved A; nothing makes me happier, teaching-wise. I recently had a student who had been sort of in the B- range all year write a terrific paper in which it was clear that she'd really worked at some of the stuff that had been tripping her up; I took tremendous pleasure in writing that A at the end of my comments. Even better was the look on her face when I handed it back. I'm going to keep that memory in mind when I meet with the two plagiarists next week.
  • This summer is going to be lovely. I will spend many days doing whatever I want.
  • It's much easier to fantasize about being done with the semester than it is to finish. Sigh.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Four Months, Four Days:

--That's how long I have until I teach another class. I knew there was an upside to starting our spring semester on Jan. 7.

Less thrilling is the grading, which awaits already, and there's more rolling in on Monday. I have a few appointments with students scheduled for today and tomorrow (re. the Monday papers); we have job candidates coming in early next week; and yes, things are still a little busy. But none of that interferes with the delight of being done with the teaching!

I'm excited about this summer. I want to get back to my own work, I can't wait to move into my laughably small house, and I'm planning to visit a lot of friends and the usual family over the next couple of months. But what I really want to do is sit in a chair in my new backyard and read a novel. With a gin & tonic. Or three.

And then I'll go write that article I've been thinking about for the last six months, of course.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This Is Not a Porn Site

Here's a way to increase hits: use the words "n@ked" and "l0cker r00m" in a post. Bonus points for "s0ftb@ll."

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Two things this last week have left me feeling very exposed. I need to process this and move on, so here goes.

1. My fear was realized: students have seen me naked. Yes. I do not kid. Remember how I swim sometimes? I've been swimming a lot more this semester, which has produced some lovely new muscles and reinstated my former shoulder definition--originally the result of lots of sun salutations, they'd started to fade away in the yoga desert that is Field Town. The swimming is great; I like it more and more. I'm even okay with the fact that all of the lifeguards are students in my classes. The downside is the locker room, which is basically one not-so-large room with a row of lockers dividing it in half. In theory, one could obtain moderate privacy by ducking behind the dividing lockers; in practice, the door to the gym hallway opens off of one-half of the locker room, so you don't want to be stripping down over there. Oh no. In fact, that door is often propped open (???????). Basically, therefore, there's a narrow little gully where everyone has to get dressed.

Normally this is no problem because no one ever uses the pool except for a couple of very old people who just sort of float there while I cruise on by (yes, I'm getting a swimming ego. Please forgive). But on Thursday when I went in there after my swim I heard voices...I entered...the entire women's softball team was gathered around my locker (not deliberately, of course, but simply by virtue of being in the tiny locker gully). I don't know any of them, luckily, and I don't think that they even identified me as a faculty member. Nonetheless. I took as long as I could putting in my contacts and doing other non-naked things, then very quickly got my bathing suit half off and put on my bra. Then I sort of stood there with my swimsuit around my waist and my towel around my waist too and pretended to rearrange my clothes or something for a while. But they weren't going anywhere, these women, and the longer I waited the more ridiculous I felt. So finally I just did it--I completed the change--they weren't paying any attention to me but still, it was not where I wanted to be. Naked with a bunch of fully-clothed undergrads.* I am not a modest person, normally--I used to be an artist's model and my college dorm had co-ed open showers--but you know. Power dynamics, boundaries. Whatever. And naturally the instant I was dressed they all took off, so another 30-second wait probably would have bought me privacy. Alas.

*I just reread that--it would not have been better if they had not been fully clothed. Just to clarify.

2. More seriously, I spoke up in a meeting last week. And I said something critical. I cannot, of course, blog at all about the particulars of this meeting, but it was confidential and no records were kept of whom said what. And people were saying much more critical things than I was; I knew that the majority was behind me, and for various political reasons it was sort of important that I speak. But this was the first time I'd said anything substantive in one of these meetings, and it was scary. More scary were the multitude of congratulations on my "courage" that I have received since. You know that thing about junior faculty shutting their mouths for a while? I guess I'm not doing that anymore, and even though there weren't records made of the meeting I've obviously made an impression on everyone who was there--including, I assume, those who had an opposing position. I'm not worried about my job, exactly, but in a place this small people really talk a lot (I know so much, so much more than I should, already), and discretion isn't exactly...what You know? I don't know. My fears are nebulous and I don't think that anything bad will happen. But it seems likely that, even if the substance of my criticism doesn't get back to the higher powers, my position will be known. Which is kind of scary, 'cause I'd played it pretty close to the chest up until then.


So yeah. Nudity and academic politics. That's my world.

Actually, my world is pretty fabulous right now. The trees are just on the cusp of bursting into bloom; they've reached that cheerful puffball stage. Classes end on Wednesday and really we're not doing much of anything else in any of them. The days are lengthening. My personal life is enjoying various positive developments. A bird is attacking a squirrel outside my window. The Minister** is bringing me some organic produce. What more could I want?

**It's time some of my colleagues/friends here acquire pseudonyms: here's the first.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Panic! Anxiety!

Not for me, fortunately. No, but it's that time for my students! The comp classes have a major research paper due next week (on the last day of school! Whoo!) and the survey has a paper due in about a week and a half. The survey folks haven't started worrying yet, but I've been fielding emails from my comppers ALL day.

So here's the thing. I admit that I compressed this assignment a bit more than I meant to; in the future, I'd give them another week to work on the things. But most of our class time for the last two weeks has been dedicated to working on their topics or papers, in one way or another, and I've designed a series of graduated assignments to prepare them:
  1. Brainstorm possible topics.
  2. In class, come up with "issue questions" based on your topics (in groups).
  3. Bring your final issue question to class.
  4. Class in the library: learn about resources and begin researching.
  5. Turn in an annotated bibliography.
  6. Turn in an intro paragraph + outline (due tomorrow) for workshopping.
  7. Final paper due in the middle of next week.
According to this schedule, they were to have their topics a week ago, use the weekend to do preliminary research, and bring bibliographies to class on Monday. Okay, a lot of them fell apart on the biblios, and perhaps I've been too permissive about letting them hand them in late (but the library is barely open on the weekends, so I felt some sympathy). However! I am astounded by how many students have contacted me today to ask if they can switch their topics to something completely different. Many, many. Bear in mind that I met with each of them individually in class one day last week, made myself available to anyone with questions on the library day (I spoke with many of them then), and spent half of class yesterday--while they were working out their theses in groups--talking one-on-one with the ones who were stuck.

It's their funeral, of course, but I'm just scared that I'm to blame for not giving them more time to do preliminary research. Which is why I'm checking my email all the time and responding as quickly as possible to their desperate questions. I'm also a little worried about some of the topic switches--"Instead of writing about feminist approaches to Hamlet, can I do gene therapy? I think that I could get a good outline on that done by tomorrow"*--because it leads me to suspect that they're just trotting out old papers, or at the very least old research.

[*This isn't a real example, of course. The thing is, I've given them a fairly long leash in selecting topics; this is something that I do when I'm hesitant about an assignment, I've noticed. I also want them to write about things that interest them. But anyway some of the topic switches really have been this dramatic.]

Argh. Whatever. I suspect that many of the papers will be a mess because I'm not reading their drafts. (Seriously--I gave detailed individual comments on the first two major papers and then minimal individual comments + generalized comments on the third, and the grades plummeted. This worries me. In my desire to nurture, have I given them too much help?) Some of the papers are going to be terrific--a good handful will probably turn out really well, as I have some stellar, hard-working students in all of my sections--but I'm kind of dreading reading the others. I know that some of my students don't work all that hard, but I know that some of them really do, and it breaks my heart when they still can't hit a very high level of achievement.

--------I just reread this post, and there's really clear theme here: I'm blaming myself for my students' failures/difficulties/anxiety/stress/etc. Codependent much? How much more obviously insecure could I be? And I don't think that I do this in my literature classes. Interesting.

Well, this is tiresome

My phone just randomly stopped working when I was in the middle of a call to my mom. Now I'm waiting for my "live chat" customer service person to check on something. She's been gone for a while. It's boring.

At least I'm in charge of the hold music.

ETA: Don't worry! Because I know you were worried. But my phone is okay. I don't know what happened--this was all very strange. At least Natavia was able to fix my problem somehow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Whole Kalamazoo Thing

Hey, so, I commented on someone's blog about being up for a Kalamazoo meet-up with drinks since I won't be there in time for the bloggers' breakfast, but I can't remember whose blog it was. (Dr. Virago, perhaps? I'm too lazy to check--) So. Anyone remember? Is this a thing that has been organized? (I'm arriving on Friday afternoon/early evening--thank you very much, post-commencement faculty workshop!--and would dearly dearly love to see the people I know, even if I haven't actually met you IRL yet.)

Let me know via comment or email at heumihi AT yahoo etc.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I did something.

Over the weekend I emailed Top Choice Publisher # 1 and asked them a question about their proposal submission procedure. I got an email back bright and early this morning telling me to send X, Y, and Z. So now I have to do it. Like, now.

NB: This is not an indication of interest on the press' part. I have told them nothing about myself or my MS. So we shan't get excited. But I don't feel that I can reply with "Oh, yeah, I'll do that at some point when I've actually finalized my ToC and got a sample chapter together" since my initial email made it sound like I was ready to submit.

So tonight I must buff up the sample chapter and try to figure out all of my chapter subheads so that my table of contents looks semi-reasonable. And revise the proposal itself for the billionth time. This after 4 hours of teaching with corresponding prep (approx. 2-3 hours this morning) and a 2-hour search committee meeting--basically I was working solidly from 7 am to 5 pm, and now I've got more than a few hours ahead. Eep...

...and I'm also supposed to be finalizing my top-5 candidate list, reading and prepping for Wednesday (that can, and will, wait), grading 57 annotated bibs and various straggling papers, and doing fuck knows what else. Guess what--all of that can be done tomorrow. Well, the grading will be tight. I'll just have to rock it.

I'm a little stressed.

This is a good thing. I've been sitting on this damn proposal since like January. Or actually October, when my advisor told me that it was ready. No, my MS is not as prettied up as I'd like it to be, but when I was working hard a couple of weeks ago I was able to get through almost a chapter a day. That would have slowed down if I'd reached the later chapters, which are more complicated, but still--I can get this work done if I just do it. And my incentive has been low. But now, well, it isn't.

In sum: Pressure = good.


Now, for visual variety, and because I meant to do this last month, I give you a Picture from China.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why I'm Glad to Be Moving

From 1:30 to 4:30 this morning, my neighbors argued over whose turn it was to plunge the toilet.


How do I know this?

Because, owing to paper-thin floors/ceilings/stairways, I was AWAKE.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"oh well that class"

Yeah, it's that thing that everyone's doing.

okay and i'm sure
this isn't original
but it's also

once in a day or
two off the cuff i have a
tendency to ask

hours to prep for a
t t job at this kind of
thing oh well that class

that i'm living here
maybe that's just an
inherent problem

they've published in
my head which i'd been doing
on and off for years

oof here we go what
am i doing teaching
4 classes and showing

Each one sort of takes on its own special significance, no?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Think I Know the Answer

OK: I'm pretty sure that I know what to do here. But I'll ask anyway.

I got an email today from an acquisitions editor at an academic press expressing interest in the book I'm "working" on (not having worked on it in about 3 weeks). It's pretty clear from the email that this person came across my profile on Field College's website, where I briefly describe my work in progress, and is emailing me based on that.

This is not--I don't think--a disreputable publisher; I've often used books that they've published in my research. It's not one of my top choices, but it's fine. (I think. There's some press out there that consistently publishes horribly edited books, and this might be it--I'm not sure; I kind of think it's a different one, but I can't remember, and don't have anything around to check.)

But. This strikes me as weird. I assume that the acq. ed. is just trolling academic websites and emailing everyone with a topic that remotely fits their lists, and that therefore being published by these guys (just let me get ahead of myself for a moment) wouldn't be the best way of placing my manuscript. So my question is the following: Is this something that's "done"? Is there any reason at all to reply? I assume that the answer is No, but I might just be overly cynical and/or timid. Thoughts?

Thursday, April 10, 2008


(Time to bump the maudlin down from Position 1, I say.)

Thing I am happy about.
  1. Although it's currently 41 degrees out and rainy with no foreseeable improvement in the near future, and although the leaves have not yet begun their unfurl, there are little flowers here and there, the grass is noticeably greener, and the birdsong these last few weeks has been phenomenal. I have, on my own, learned to identify the warble of the cardinal, and I am infallible in my cardinallocation. Having lived in urbanish environments for so long, I hadn't realized just how happy birds' singing makes me. The coinage "cardinallocation" is also pleasing.
  2. School ends in just under 2 weeks. What with peer workshop days and a library resource day, I only have 11 preps to go. And two of those won't really count because they'll be for the last day of class, when we don't have to do much of anything, and 2 more will be negligible because of course evaluations. So there are really only 7 discrete preps to go.
  3. I'm teaching some truly awesome courses next year. One is the senior capstone seminar and I get to do whatever I want, so I'm doing some serious medievalist shit which will be awesome, according to me. I don't know how the students will feel, but since they're all senior majors and I know most of them and they're mostly quite good (and they mostly like me, I think), they'll deal and should be fun to work with. The other awesome course is a one-credit honors seminar--it only meets for 50 minutes/week and shouldn't be too taxing--on a topic that I've sort of fantasized about teaching for a long time. So while this means that technically I'll be teaching 5 classes in the fall, I think that I'm okay with it.
  4. I'm being semi-groomed to take on an administrative-type post next year which would give me a course release. Plus it would be interesting and pretty great on the CV. It might not happen, since I'm so ridiculously new to the college and it's ultimately up to the dean, but apparently no one else wants this position (or any other position--the senior folks here are seriously overworked), so it might happen.
  5. I've been reading the application packets for the search committee that I'm on, and the process is fascinating. It's a creative writing search, which helps--I get to read a lot of wonderful short stories and poems without having to think about how I'll teach them. I'm a little worried about getting the search wrapped up before my anticipated Fleeing the Scene date; however, I'm choosing to be optimistic.
  6. And finally.... I'm moving! At the end of May! Into the Smallest House in the World! Yes--it's a house! A tiny little guest house. Approx. 650 square feet. TINY. But I thought it would go well with the Smallest College in the World (okay, not the smallest, but pretty damn small) and Tiny Field Town. It's all about miniaturization. What's great, though, is that it has a basement and a garage and a yard. And it is quite seriously adorable and hobbit-house-like (I will post pictures when I move, I promise!) Also, I will be driving all of my furniture and books and things out here in May, and it'll be great to have all my stuff again. I miss my stuff. Lately I've been thinking about my books--for some reason, I keep getting flashes of yearnings to pick up my Proust again; I'm about 5.5 volumes into a beautiful old edition that I've been reading on and off for years--and this makes me acutely conscious of how much I love having my little library around me. I also love setting up new living spaces; I'm quite good at making them nice and homey, if I say so myself.
  7. Oh, and the Summer Trip of Mystery is still in the works, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet.
That's that. Now: Off to grade!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I suppose it's time I tell you

I've been putting this off, but it's time I break the news:

The Boyfriend and I broke up last week.

I'm not going to go into detail; there's no reason. Obviously this is related to the unbloggable mess that I was blogging about a few weeks ago, as anyone surely could have guessed. The upshot is that it's sad, we both behaved well, and it was amicable. It's sad. But the relationship--I hate to say this, but I have to admit that it's true--had grown impractical. There was virtually no way we could ever end up in the same place; best case scenario would have us together in two years minimum, and that would only be if we could both have our pick of fabulous jobs, which never happens. (This is more than just the two-body academia problem--believe it or not, his career trajectory is even more complicated.)

So I don't need lots of pity. I'm okay. Of course, I've barely seen him in the last three (or even eight) months, so it's not really a change day to day. And I've had plenty of time to process this over the last month, so really, I'm okay. I'm not even blaming academia anymore.

There. Done. Let it never be blogged of again.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

All Hamlet

As I may have mentioned, I'm doing--teaching? conducting? overseeing? not sure of the verb--an independent study on Shakespeare this semester. The student is a theater major who's studied Shakespeare before and is particularly interested in the translation of plays to film, so we've been reading plays (obviously) and then watching cinematic versions of them. Fine. So but now we're watching a couple of different versions of "Hamlet," since there are so damn many and it's a play that s/he likes a lot. Again, fine.

Only! I am evidently inept when it comes to Netflix, which means that I have fallen behind and we've had to schedule a double meeting for next week--I had to cancel a meeting when a film didn't get here on time. (Actually, it's even more complicated than that--stemming from at least three different Netflix failures--but I can't reconstruct the whole sequence.)

Which means that I have to watch two Hamlet movies this weekend.

And of course they are the LONGEST Hamlet movies.

So I get to have a seven-hour Hamlet-a-thon between now and Tuesday morning.

I watched Hamlet last weekend, too.

Is it okay to be kind of sick to death of Hamlet?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Reasons Not to Be a Teacher

No, I'm not actually listing reasons not to be a teacher. But that might be one of my favorite of the Google searches that have brought people to this blog--disturbing as that thought is.

In lieu of substantive blogging (is there ever substantive blogging around here? Anyway), I bring you Recent Searches, organized by Category.

First category: THE WINNERS
These are by far the most popular searches. So popular that I am baffled. What are these people looking for?
  • Let the cat out of the bag (image search)
  • age to perfection (once again, it is age of perfection, or aged to perfection, but fine)
Second category: SARTORIAL
My one post on interview clothing has proven to be by far the most popular thing I have ever written, in any genre or medium. Scary.
  • is it ok to wear the same pants
  • same clothes different tie
  • can i wear black suit jacket with stripe pants
  • can you wear a solid
  • can you wear the same sweater two days in a row
  • black suits different shirts
  • how to wear pinstripe pants
Apparently there are a lot of people out there wearing the same damn thing day after day.

Third category: ACADEMIA
This one's rather thin, I admit--perhaps owing to the scantiness of genuinely academic writing on this blog? However, the searches (few as they are) do suggest a very particular category of angst. I unfortunately didn't copy one of my favorite (sad) searches, which was something along the lines of "Not writing dissertation sad."
  • skipping grad school classes sick
  • gradcity complaints
  • FRESHMEN BOYS (okay, so right, this one doesn't really belong, I know. But I appreciate the all caps. It suggests a great deal of enthusiasm, no?)
Fourth category: PHRASEOLOGY
I just like the sound of these. I'm glad that they led their searchers here.
  • metamorphosis perfection
  • ahem. le sigh.
  • there are moments when
  • i am rather
  • all knowing all mighty
  • ah there you are, do i know you?*
*Any guesses? What could this possibly be? At any rate my blog seems to be the #1 hit.

Fifth category: PARTY TIME
These just go well together, I think. They suggest an intriguing narrative.
  • party time looking forward to it
  • one minute dance party
  • fucking strange things
  • i'm sorry for drinking
Sixth category: MISCELLANEOUS
These last ones are just too good to leave out, but they can't be categorized.
  • why we need stress
  • ugh like slippers
  • eyeballs falling out.
A thought: Has anyone yet written a story (or poem) entirely in Google searches? Because if you read through the entries in categories 4, 5, and 6, they kind of make up paragraphs of a sort.... And I'm tempted to reorganize all of the entries to make a narrative out of the searches, but frankly I can't be bothered. Maybe tomorrow. Which means that I won't do it. I am nothing if not self-aware.