Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh, Midwest!

Field College, in wee Field Town, is, well, in the Fields. We are rural.

I say this up front so that you will better understand this weekend's Big Plans.

First, there is a Quilt Show at the Farm Bureau Administration Building on Friday night and all day Saturday. I will be in attendance, because it's to benefit the non-profit on whose board I sit. I will also very likely be paying for all of the tickets that I was supposed to sell but was too passive/embarrassed to push on people.

Second, TM and I have been invited to have dinner with a few other "young couples" on Saturday and then to join them at the Square Dance Fellowship Event at the church. I have not square danced since elementary school (although I confess that I loved it back then).

And finally, on Sunday afternoon, we will trek out--well, it's not so much of a trek, being less than a mile away--we shall wander out to a local farm for a hayride and "wiener roast" (oh, poor vegetarian me). We're going because we've been curious about this farm, whose owners we know; well, the hayride might be fun, if my allergies subside by then.

So while my mom goes to gallery openings (many of them showing her work) and my brother and sister-in-law perform original songs on avant-garde public-access TV, I get hayrides, square dancing, and quilts.

I like my life. But sometimes it's very hard to recognize.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Week 6

So: I have emailed Journal Editor with a variation on Notorious' message. I am not as blithe as she suggests, but am working up the confidence angle. I'll let you know what happens; it's making me nervous.

In other news, it's Week 6. What is it about Week 6? Either I get cranky or a small but visible portion of my students gets obnoxious. Example 1: In my 10 am class, one student was pretty clearly doing the homework in class, and then handed it right in to me at the end (it was comp; we discuss the homework before the handing-in. I will change this policy as much as I can immediately. Much as I hate walking around and checking off the homework for completion--hello, eighth grade!--I hate being taken for a sucker even more). Example 2: In my 1:00 class, one student told me that another was in the hospital. At 1:50, on my way back to the office, I spotted said student sitting on the floor OUTSIDE MY CLASSROOM waiting for another class to start. I sort of double-taked and vowed to deal with it later, in a stern email. (As I said to TM, "I might be all nice in the classroom, but I am one cold bitch over email!")

So I guess that's only two incidents. There's the sleepiness, of course, and the sauce of a student who casually dropped off his homework in my mailbox a few hours after class ended (Example 3). I shall be discussing this practice with him.

What annoys me is that I try so hard not to police every little stupid thing in my classes. As Dr. Crazy recently argued, such practices can turn into a massive time-suck. (Those were not her exact words, of course, but this is what I recall of her general point, probably mistakenly. I'm tired.) So I got rid of "excused" and "unexcused" absences, and now say that you get three, and after three, no matter what, your grade starts to go down (barring extraordinary circumstances). When you've missed 20% of the class sessions, you fail. So I don't care if Example 2 was skipping class or actually sick; the penalty is the same. But when ze lies to me (and has another student lie to me, too), well, that's kind of disrespectful and insulting, and I feel like I shouldn't let it go. But I don't want to deal with it.

If I only have three Examples (one of whom--Ex. 3--is generally a pretty charming student, otherwise) out of my 60-odd students, I guess I shouldn't complain. But maybe Week 6 is just the point in the semester when these otherwise really little things start to get...just...super annoying.

(On the bright side: My seminar is going pretty well, though only 2/6 are really on board with the blog. Kittenfoot (also known as the Mayor of Kittentown--yes, I am awesome with the cutesy names!) is doing well: she still pees outside the box, for some reason, but otherwise is doing well, eating lots, and racing around the room, and she went to the vet last week. She can't come out of the attic bedroom until she's had her leukemia test on the 13th, though, which means that we have to spend a lot of time in the room with her. That's kind of tiresome and makes me feel guilty for neglecting the other cats! Our Chaplain might consider taking her in, which would be okay with us--as fond as we are of the little stripey-face.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Publication dismay/query

I am disheartened and need advice.

Today I emailed the editors of the two journals in which I have published/had work accepted for publication, verifying that the publication of (different, revised versions of) those articles in the book would be okay. My understanding is that my doing so is largely a courtesy, right? I should note that the book is eight chapters long, so two previously published bits--one of which is only half a chapter--is not excessive.

Haven't heard back from one yet, but I'm not terribly worried about it.

Got an email from the second. This is Big Fancy Journal, and they accepted my article almost two years ago, but it's not in the pipeline yet. Editor writes (very nicely) that ze could push publication ahead so that it'll beat the book, but is there a point? Maybe I should withdraw the article with a note in the book about how it was going to be published in BFJ but would have appeared too close to the book for that to be worthwhile?

I see where ze's coming from, but...I really want to publish in this journal. Of course, it's a nice line on the CV. But more importantly, I think that it will reach a much wider audience--not to mention being available through JStor, Ebsco, etc.--through the journal than through the book.

The article is not identical to the chapter, by the way. It's about half as long and, while the argument is similar, the emphasis is different. It was changed quite a bit from the original chapter in order to stand alone, and then even the original chapter was revised quite a bit for the book. Now, it's not an altogether different thing, and I couldn't make a strong argument that it contributes to the field in a substantially different way. But the journal did commit to publishing the article (right? I think? maybe?), and, well, see the point about being made available to a wider audience, above.

I haven't written back to the editor yet, but I'm wondering: What's the protocol here? Can I (politely, acknowledging that it's ultimately up to the editor) indicate that I'd really prefer to have the article published in BFJ anyway? Or would that be out of line/simply not done? It's a bummer to be sure.... I was pretty psyched about that acceptance (and have been waiting impatiently for publication, too!).

(Kittenfoot is fine. Updates to follow.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meet Kittenfoot

Yes, I know. The cat-blogging really must stop. But it's like I've opened a valve or something....

Actually, it's just been a really cat-intensive week. Here's what happened.

On Wednesday night, TM was on his way home from a late meeting (he's the faculty rep to the Student Senate, a thankless task if ever there was one). We live across the street from a graveyard, and the easiest way to get to campus is to cut through it. So he was walking home, through the graveyard, when he heard a peculiar chirping noise. And sitting on a tombstone was a tiny little kitten, squawking away.

He approached and she scampered. Of course he followed; she led him to a bush in which she promptly curled up, allowing him to lightly pet her back a little bit.

TM came home and got me, the cat carrier, and a bag of treats, determined to rescue her and take her to the shelter the next day. But the kitty was spooked and led us on a merry chase around the darkening graveyard, squawking all the while. At last we abandoned her and decided to come back the next day, leaving a few treats on her favorite headstone (where TM had first seen her).

Thursday morning, TM left for the office before me. When I was getting ready to go, he called: The kitten was in her bush and he'd been able to pet her. He suggested that I bring treats; she's really thin, he said. "Bring your camera, too," he said. "I think that we could find a home for her if we showed her picture around."

Behold: the kitten in her natural environment.

I gave her a few treats. She was really hungry, and also uncoordinated, so I had to hand her the treats to get them into her mouth. Annnnd of course one fell down and she mistook my finger for a tasty tidbit and bit down. Hard. It bled. Lots.

Now, did you know that cat bites--rabies risk aside--are actually incredibly dangerous? Really. You can get staf infections and need amputations. They are Not Good Things.

I gave her a little more food (just to prove to myself that it was an accident and she wasn't vicious, nor had I personally offended her) and took myself off to campus to clean up and call the doctor's office. And the vet's office. Long story short, I decided to cancel class (reluctantly) and go to the ER: Waiting until an afternoon appointment just didn't seem wise, given the rapidity with which these infections can spread.

They soaked my finger in a solution for 10 minutes and gave me a tetanus shot and five days' worth of antibiotics. I was able to make it to my afternoon office hours, at least.

Meanwhile TM caught the kitten and put her in our attic guest room, where she is now living. She is, quite simply, a delight. Squeaky-voiced, clumsy, frisky, scampery, etc. etc. She likes to sleep on our laps and rub her face against our noses. We're trying to find her a home (ideally we'd like not to be outnumbered by the felines), but as the days pass...well, you know how it goes.

So here is Kittenfoot, in all her bug-eyed glory:

Look how wee she is!

Any takers?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Absorbent Unconscious

Yesterday I did my thing in Brit Lit where I chant the first 18 lines of Chaucer's "General Prologue" at the class and they repeat it back to me, first as a whole body and then in groups (I read line 1; they all repeat line 1; I read line 1; Group 1 repeats line 1; I read line 2; etc.). I kind of like doing this, as silly as I (and they) feel: I always joke that it's my day to pretend that I'm a 19th-century schoolmaster.

So then, at 3:30 this morning, AS HAS BECOME COMPLETELY TYPICAL, Darling Kitty # 1 (aka Priss) awoke me with her plaintive mews.

Unable to get back to sleep, I found my brain dwelling on the line, "The droughte of March hath perced to the roote," perhaps because I spent a while emphasizing that it is toe the rota, not too the roooot. And then I found myself reconstructing more phrases...and more...and it turns out that I have, inadvertently and without even realizing it, memorized those first 18 lines.

It was funny to watch myself reconstruct them, too, because sometimes a word would evade me or I would have to visualize where on the page a certain line is in order to bring it back. But this morning, at breakfast, I was able to recite the whole damn thing from memory to TM over breakfast.

Ah, blessed kitties. Their enragingly ungodly early morning calls serve some purpose after all. Or perhaps she's simply like the birds who maken melodye And slepen all the night with open ye. Hath Nature so perced in hir corages? I had no idea.

(I have another cat story coming--a totally absurd story--that actually involves my canceling class today. But that'll wait. And isn't it remarkable how a single cat photo series has redirected this entire damn blog towards Teh Kittehs?)

Monday, September 14, 2009

In which I become one of those cat-posting bloggers!!!!!

I am posting to post, because I've just sat down at my computer and have nothing to read (get crackin', yo!), and I do not want to get back to work right now. No, I do not. Not that today was particularly hectic or exhausting or anything, although I am exhausted, in part because Darling Kitty no. 1 (let's call her Priss) came a-knockin' at 4:35 this morning and I had a hard time getting back to sleep before the 6:15 alarm. (Luckily, Darling Kitty no. 2--henceforth Pertelote--has the fond habit of mewling loudly at the door for breakfast approximately seven minutes before the alarm goes off, thereby ensuring that we do not oversleep.)

When Priss wants in the bedroom, it is a pathetic thing. Oh, the languishing, pale mews! The tiny paw scratching so softly, oh so softly, against the base of the door! How easy it is to picture her swooning away, her voice so weak from the effects of being left out in the cold, cold (actually rather warm) hallway! Oh! Priss!

Pertelote, on the other hand, bawls insistently, as she is demanding breakfast, not the special bathroom cuddles that Priss favors. Yes, what Priss wants to do is to race you into the bathroom, thrust her head against your foot, and purr like a maniac. Pertelote is all for the cuddling but would really prefer some food, now please damn it (only Pertelote would never say "damn it," for she is the picture of innocence, if it is a peculiar brand of self-absorbed innocence. Truly,Pertelote has no guile).

So, since this has turned into a cat post (the first ever on this blog!), I shall now append some pictures of the cats, which were a part of TM's dowry. First, though, I will have to find batteries for the camera, download the pictures, and shrink them so that they will not take thirty minutes to upload to the blog. Hold on a minute.

Computer crashed. Please continue holding.
We thank you for your patience.

OK. This is a little series that I call "Conquest," in which Priss (the black one) and Pertelote (the tabby) vie for the coveted study window.

Pertelote has taken Priss' favorite spot, but Priss manages to wedge herself into it regardless.

Priss tries for some revenge. This has got to be annoying, she thinks.

Unfortunately, Pertelote's girth overpowers her.

Still, Priss has a few tricks up her sleeve.

The efforts at expansion seem to be working!

--But again, Pertelote proves an unstoppable force, and Priss is wedged into smaller and smaller spaces.

They consider a compromise...

...and an uneasy, probably short-lived peace is achieved.

The End.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A genius confined to an office chair must either die or go mad.*

Some of what I love:
  • Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
  • George Eliot, Middlemarch
  • Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (love love love)
  • Flaubert, Sentimental Education
  • Maugham, Of Human Bondage
  • Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time
  • Isak Dinesen
  • A.S. Byatt
  • Nabokov
  • Proust
  • Rilke
  • My husband's hazelnut ice cream, just served in a small brown dish.**

You look at my reading list and think that I went into the wrong field.

And yet I'm in the right place. Hi-ho, European Lit Seminar, Spring 2010! Hurrah for Brit Lit/European Generalist jobs! I never thought I'd like you, but I do. (And why am I thinking about next semester's courses now? What possessed me to order my books this afternoon? Lest you think I'm on the ball: I'm not, otherwise.)

These novels, they make me weep. I am in love with them. Deeply. Reading them is like reading back into my younger self, my 20-year-old wild poet self, my self of desires and resistance, my buzz-cut braless barefoot savage self--o God, how am I going to teach these books [some of them; not all: Proust and Mann are too long; Byatt, Maugham, and Eliot too English; I'd have them read Nabokov's Ada but it's too too] if my students fail to love them as deeply as I do?

*The quote's from Lermontov. The sentiment is universal.

**Also married to the right man. Yum.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shake it, baby

A propos of nothing:

Last night I had a dream that TM and I had formed a two-person improv troupe that would go to inner-city schools and perform in order to try to keep kids off drugs and out of jail. We had both done some time and apparently knew what we were talking about.

As a part of this program, I was repainting a gabled attic room with a large, rather ugly purple pine tree motif. While I painted, I practiced freestyle rapping, since that wasn't a skill that I had yet developed particularly well, but that was going to be an important component of our show. I was working on a song about walking around the city and going into different buildings; most of my lines were pretty weak. But I was delighted when I came up with the following little couplet:

You walk into the Y and put on your bathing suit-y;
It was in your backpack, now it's on your booty.

To emphasize the final word, I intended to point at my butt. And I distinctly recall the divine realization that adding a "y" to "suit" opened up startling new rhyming possibilities.

I woke up at about 3:30 this morning with the words still in my head. Of course I had to awaken TM to share them; what if I hadn't been able to remember them later? He would've missed out on so much!

Honestly, though, I'm kind of impressed. Not because this even approximates good hip-hop, but because the lines actually do scan, more or less.

Monday, September 7, 2009

This has nothing to do with anything, but

I just got off the phone with my mother, and it has me feeling very slightly low.

This often happens when I talk to my mom--and my mom, don't get me wrong, is fabulous. Truly. A wonderful, warm, funny, smart woman; a very loving and supportive mother.

But why, why do I pick these stupid fights? Tonight I could see so clearly that it had everything to do with me telling her not to tell me how to live my life. It's such a cliche. I actually raise subjects simply to assert that I'm going to go about X thing my way and she'd better not tell me otherwise. It's ridiculous, especially because she's actually pretty good about not telling me how to live.

She never seems too upset by it, either, and I'm left feeling even more ridiculous.

I know that I have to let go of any fantasy I have about The Perfect Relationship With My Mom (or with anyone, for that matter). But I would also like to simply not do that. Or at least, not do it so often. I think that I can make that happen, most of the time. I think that I'll try, anyway. Because I love my mom, and I don't want to feel sort of baddish about talking to her.

You'd think that you'd outgrow this kind of thing, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There is the smallest of possibilities...

...that I will be teaching only two classes next semester.