Monday, November 24, 2008

Damn it.

Cool job that had asked for additional materials just announced that its search has been canceled.

On the other hand, I was much amused by the word "practacices" in a student's paper this morning.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wiki Irritation, or, How Everyone Is Wasting My Time

Is it really necessary for us all to record every single EOE card and application acknowledgment that we receive on the wiki? Separately? With additional notes specifying whether we're in or out of the country?

It seems like it should be enough to know that a school is sending out acknowledgments. It does not interest me if one person receives an acknowledgment on the 14th and another on the 16th, and two more receive them--with EOE postcards--on the 17th. That information does not help anyone.

Okay. Done. Back to work.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I am, I am, I am Superman

In a refreshing break from bitching about how much work I have, I am going to attempt to stir up envy by saying just how much I got done this weekend.

(Yes, it's obnoxious. Consider it therapeutic positive reinforcement. For me.)
  • Graded miscellaneous oddments.
  • Read EVERYTHING for the coming week's classes!
  • Prepped for tomorrow's comp classes (still haven't prepped the survey, but that's what 6 am is for).
  • Spent a good few hours each weekend day working on the Fatal New Chapter of my book. I actually have a draft now, and even imported the stuff from Old Conclusion into it (though it needs to be much better integrated). I also rewrote the last paragraph of the conclusion. Reviewer 1 was right: It surely did suck in its original form.
  • Swam my weekly 2k.
  • Made: Vegetable stock, granola, bread (I'm making an Irish soda bread lately--it's super easy and uses up the buttermilk left over from when I make butter), butter, split pea soup for this week's lunches, and a bok choy thing for dinner last night that has at least one good helping remaining.
  • Went to the liquor store and the grocery store and had a nice lunch out in Ordinary City with.
  • Cleaned the bathroom and did laundry.
  • Decided that vacuuming could wait until next week.
  • Figured something out for the Honors program--actually I'd thought this would be a big hassle, but it only took like ten minutes.
  • Looked at the hotels for MLA and decided to make up my mind tomorrow (besides, I need my roommate's travel dates.)
  • Did I mention that I read everything for the coming week's classes?
  • Got about halfway through the book I need to review this month.
  • Made up a handout for one of Tuesday's classes.
  • Balanced my checkbook and paid a couple of bills.
  • Fixed lunch for tomorrow.
  • Raked the yard.
  • Pollinated the jalapeƱo.
  • I'm serious about that last one.
I think that I've finally grown accustomed to the 5:30 wake-up I've been forcing upon myself. So this weekend, even, I got up early-ish and was productive--well, okay, on Saturday we somehow slept in until like 8, but then this morning the Minister's alarm went off at 6:30, but I was already awake, and I was at my desk and working by 7:45. It's not just that getting to work early gives me more time to do things, but rather how deeply impressed I get with my own productivity. Wow! I tell myself. It's only 10:15, and I've already done 2.5 hours of work! And then I think of all those chumps still lounging about at their breakfasts and I issue a scornful laugh. Ha!

Truth be told, though, I have about one of these weekends a semester. So thank you all for letting me indulge in my short-lived gloating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Good, One Bad

The Good:

I've started the project with my comp classes. Introduced it, anyway. To set the thing up, I had them poke around on No Impact [Fellow]'s blog, and next week we'll be reading selections from Judith Levine's Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. I'm not sure that this all quite qualifies as "good" yet, seeing as it's far too soon for any results, but I was greatly heartened by an email from a student this morning. Granted, she's a very bright and lefty sort of student, but nonetheless it cheered me. She was emailing me her assignment re. NI[F] because she was sick, and she wrote--to paraphrase--that she is so interested in his experiment that she couldn't stop reading his blog and has convinced her roommate to do an experiment next year to see how much a pair of students living in a dorm can reduce their negative environmental impact. Since the merest glimmer of evidence of an activist sensibility in my students delights me, this pretty much made my day.

The Bad:

I have a Committee Assignment, which is not, in itself, particularly onerous. However, this is the year in which the English department's relationship to this area must be Assessed--or start to be Assessed, for this is a three-year process--and it must be Assessed in accordance with State Standards. (For some reason euphemism sends me into eighteenth-century habits of capitalization.) So my job, this semester, is to work out which of our courses address which of approximately 8 billion indecipherable criteria.

On Wednesday night, when I, exhausted, was shouting furiously and shaking my wineglass at my computer screen, an apt description of this project occurred to me. I was inspired--I saw it perfectly: It's as though a patently crazy person, perhaps one with severe paranoid delusions, had contrived an elaborate and patently crazy scheme, and I was being forced to carry it out. Yes. This is exactly what it's like.

Fortunately, my little breakdown and shouting fit seemed to have shaken something loose, for later that evening I was able to approach the document with a sanguine calm hitherto unknown to the process. Perhaps I will actually get it done.

{The picture strikes me as doubly appropriate: Even as I scheme to impose my elitist liberal values upon my students, so does the madman of the State compel me to carry out his preposterous directives.}

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm so linear

For a reason that I can no longer recall, I recently took my ipod off of Shuffle. So now when I listen to an album I listen to it straight through, in the order that God--er, the artist--intended.

This gives me a feeling of tremendous virtue.

Perhaps I'm wound even tighter than I realized.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A teaching experiment

Ortho has requested a "not boring" post. It's a tall order, but I'll see what I can do.

First, I would like to say that I had an extremely modest book-related breakthrough today (on the New Semi-Chapter that I'm sort of writing), and I'm therefore feeling pretty good about things. I'm also startlingly on top of my course-related reading for the week, and we're moving into what I think will be fun territory in a couple of classes (mitigated by the Milton and Kempe that I'm teaching in two other classes), so things are looking up.

Perhaps I'll take a stab at being interesting by doing something that I don't normally do, which is to talk about something that I'm doing in my classes. This is an experiment that I'm conducting in comp. We're just about to start it, and I'm nervous, but in the idealistic haze that I was apparently inhabiting in late August I decided that this was a really exciting idea.

So. This idea came out of some frustrations that I've had with the culture at Field--not so much with the individual students, whose personalities and interests (naturally) range all over the map, but with the ways in which I've felt that students are Expected To Be on this campus, and how very different that is from the culture at my undergraduate institution. I've blogged before--somewhere--about coming to terms with the differences between the elite SLAC of my formative years and Field; I understand those differences better now that I did last year and I'm okay with some of them. But sometimes, especially in comp--where we talk a lot about current events and issues and suchlike--I've been frustrated and alarmed by what I perceived as a deep apathy in my students. Now, they may not have been genuinely apathetic; for all I know they just hated comp and didn't really want to talk to me. That's fine. But there's so little activism or global awareness of any kind visible on this campus. There isn't even a recycling program (although that seems to be changing, finally. Welcome to 1993, Field!). Earlier this semester, some students put up fliers about the importance of voting, and they were taken down because they were "too political." These were nonpartisan fliers, people--they were just reminding students how important it is to vote. But apparently we all must pretend that nothing in the world exists outside of this campus of under 1000 students, or something. It's very disturbing.

And then I think about my incredibly idealistic and exciting and quite likely irritating college years, when I felt that everything! could! change! and I could live exactly the life I wanted! and I'm so much more aware of global problems and their solutions than my parents! and so forth (did I mention irritating?), and it makes me sad that there's so little room for that kind of excitement here.

We have the power to change our lives. (I swear, I'll get to comp soon.) I don't mean that the poor can simply will their way out of poverty or any of that Secret crap. I mean something much more basic--that our habits are our habits, and we can change them. That we can choose (in my case) vegetarianism, or to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store, or to quit watching TV. Not life-changing stuff in itself, but realizing that power can lead to the recognition of more and more ways of actively choosing the manner in which we live in the world.

And we can choose, in at least some ways, who we are. For example: One really powerful moment in my life came about when, at the age of 20, unemployed and just out of college, I was invited by a friend to leave the next morning for a cross-country drive with no projected return date and nothing in particular for me to do when we got there. I stewed about it all day. I wrote in my diary that I wished that I were the kind of person who could just take off for a cross-country trip at a moment's notice, with no plans and no expectations. And it hit me: The only thing that was distinguished me from "that kind of person" was that the latter would say yes to my friend's invitation. And that's what I did. It was a really fun trip, too.

So. Back to comp: here's what I'm doing. The whole course is about how we interact with the world--how it affects us, how we affect it, what our responsibility is. And in the last month of the course, each student will have to undertake a "life experiment": to change something--dramatically--about how he or she lives in the world and to sustain that change for at least one week. (And to write about it, of course.) It could be, for example, to commit to not buying anything made using sweatshop labor (perhaps during Christmas shopping), which would involve research into which companies treat their workers humanely; to eat only locally produced foods; to produce no garbage at all, composting and recycling everything (except toilet paper, of course); or maybe even to practice unconditional kindness all week.

I really don't know how this is going to turn out. I have a terrible fear that they'll all pick something super easy (despite the fact that they need to clear their projects with me) and then fake the results. Well, I can't control the latter, I guess. But I hope that at least a few of them will start to recognize the incredible power that they, as new adults, have over their very own lives.

Too idealistic? Probably. And it might just baffle the hell out of them (I'm not always the clearest explainer). But I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Just 2.1 Things

1. I know that this blog has become incredibly boring and almost entirely focused on my workload recently, and for that I apologize.

1.2. (1), above, implies that this blog was once not boring and not almost entirely focused on my workload, and I realize that this may be false. For that I apologize.

2. I cannot prep for my 2:30 class (it's 2:05) because I'm too distracted by the election. Even though I haven't seen any results. So today we will all think up discussion questions and structure the class around those, and I'm not apologizing for this one.

Oh, dear God, I hope that it all turns out okay. (And I don't mean my class--although I hope that it's okay too.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Accidental InAdWriMo (& a Recipe)

Okay, I don't really know what the acronym is, and I'm too lazy/busy/distracted/hungry to go look it up.

But here goes. I need to write a concluding chapter-esque-type-thing to my book this month. I'm thinking 20 pages (for this part, the part that has been stressing me out and keeping me from sleep lately), so we're looking at about 5000 words, plus footnotes. I'm starting today, and I plan to have a draft by the 16th (2 weeks) and to have revised it by the end of the month. Because, you know, my revised MS is due in 6 weeks. (I think. I can't really remember what I told the publisher; I may actually have 10 weeks. But from mid-December to mid-January I will have no time, so those last four weeks wouldn't count anyway.)

I've written 895 mediocre words today, and I plan on hitting 1000 very soon. Of course, I don't really have my scholarship lined up yet, so I have a lot of other stuff to get done, like, now. I think the reason that this really rather brief piece of writing is keeping me up nights is that it's feeling so incredibly half-assed, which is really not the way that I want it to be. This is a good thing to add to my book; I want to do it right. But I have no time. And I'm rather terrified.

Anyway! More cheerfully, here's the Special Pasta Recipe mentioned in the previous post. I don't think I've posted it before. Yes, the jam sounds funny, but it's quite delicious.

Measurements are inexact: I just made this up one day and re-invent it every time.

-About half a good-sized onion, chopped
-An apple (I usually use Golden Delicious, but whatever you've got should be fine), chopped
-A bunch of blue cheese (to taste; I like a lot of it)
-A goodly dollop of raspberry jam (Bonne Maman is the best)
-About half a pound of pasta (shells work best; spaghetti is not so good)
-A tablespoon or so of olive oil
-A tablespoon or so of brown sugar

-Commence the boiling of the pasta.
-Whilst the pasta boils, heat the olive oil and add the sugar in a skillet. Toss in the onions and caramelize them a bit.
-Once the onions start to soften, add the apple. Stir it around a little, then cover the skillet and let it cook until the apples are soft. Once everything is sufficiently cooked (I usually start the onions when I put the pasta in the boiling water and the apples are generally soft by the time the pasta is done), turn off the heat.
-Drain the pasta. Drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over it to keep it from sticking together.
-Put the pasta into a bowl or back in its boiling-pot.
-Toss with the apples and onions.
-Mix in as much blue cheese as you want. Stir it all around so that it gets gooey. Here's where shells are great--they catch and hold the blue cheese and apples. Yummmm.
-Add the raspberry jam and mix it all around.
-Taste to determine whether you'd like more jam or cheese. If you've somehow overdone it with either one of these ingredients, well, you're out of luck--although it's worth noting that I've never found this dish to have too much jam or cheese.
-C'est magnifique!