Friday, December 24, 2010

Bad blogger with good excuses

Yeah, I know, house pictures, etc. Whatever. After my last post I was hit with some kind of ghastly stomach bug that knocked me out for a couple of days (I spent two days in bed--I don't think that I've ever done that before), and then that was followed up with a cold that primarily attacked my throat and voice. Now I'm in Momtown, after a couple of Internet-less days in TMville, and my voice might be starting to come back--it hasn't been normal since Sunday.

Despite all that, things are good! The cold has been more annoying than debilitating, as I've actually felt fine since about Tuesday. My energy level is even getting back up to normal; I lost eight pounds over the weekend (vomiting and loss of appetite'll do that to you!), and my body is taking a little while to fully recover. But that just means that I get to eat extra seven-layer bars at Christmas.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

House, Part II

For some reason I had a really hard time photographing these rooms successfully. Well, you get the idea. Here's the dining room:

Like the living room, it has three south-facing windows. Since these pictures were taken, TM resurrected the French doors from our attic and put them back up in the doorway between the living and the dining rooms; they're quite lovely!

And we put our Icon in the phone alcove next to the kitchen door:

For reasons I won't get into (= not very interesting, but complicated), I am really tired and need a shower. Thus, that's it for today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

House, Part I

So the house pictures are going to have to come in phases, I'm afraid--a) because I have so very many of them (lucky you!) and b) because it's the only way to get me to post more than once a month, apparently.

All the pictures have been imported AND reduced to a manageable size, though, so I have no further excuses! Here goes.

Up for today: The Outside of the House and the Living Room.

1) Outside. Here is what my house looks like.

Isn't it darling? Isn't it sweet? Doesn't it have a striking front porch? (Ignore the aluminum siding, please.) Our little bungalow was built in 1900 and, in the '30s and '40s, was a grocery store/coffee shop. This means that it's almost certain that Field's Most Famous Alumnus drank coffee in our house at some point. This seems impressive, but for the fact that our offices are also in the building where he used to have swim practice or something. Anyway. I don't like FMFA anyway, so we can all just get over this bit of trivia.

2) The Living Room. The living room comes in many parts. First, the light:

The room faces South and West, so that's the sunset through our almost-brand-new windows.

Cats enjoy the view.

I love the light in this house. The living room, dining room, and kitchen all face South, so the light just glows across the hardwood floors all day. The windows all seem to come in twos and threes, too, so there's a wonderful feeling of openness in every room.

The living room is so big that we decided to have it house our desks as well as our "social furniture," and there's still plenty of space:

We just got the couch--which dates from the '20s--off of Craig's List at quite a good bargain. Despite appearances, the velvet is all the same color (there's some weird reflection thing going on in this picture).

Of course, there are also fabulous built-in bookcases, and yes, the fireplace works. (We're waiting on a framer to finish with the piece of art that will go behind the mantel clock.)

And while we're in the living room, take a look at the Morris Chair we just found and had reupholstered:

What really sold us on it were these guys:

We've named them after (very obscure) Arthurian knights from Malory. Ten points to anyone who can guess what they are! Also, check out those vents--the cats love them (hence the cat bed in front of this one). Next time, when we're in the dining room, I'll show you the cats' favored sleeping-place.

And I'll leave you with the view from the living room into the dining room. We painted both of these rooms (as well as both bedrooms and the bathroom); the walls in both of these two rooms were originally white with brown-beige sponge painting. Not particularly attractive.

Pardon me while I bask in the beauty of my home....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow festival!

It is a Snow Festival around here, folks. A veritable Carnival of Wintry Precipitation! On top of the 6 inches we got last week (which melted a bit in yesterday's torrential [rain] downpour), we now have lots more snow with 25 mph winds, which may or may not qualify as "blizzard conditions." It's very cozy to be in our new house (pictures are finally taken; soon they'll even be downloaded!) with the very big, new, airtight windows and watch the snow fall. HOWEVER, we need to spend the afternoon cleaning the old house. Alas.

The real reason for this post is to signal my re-entry into the blogging world (I've been away for almost a month! It feels like quite a bit longer, actually). So: Hello there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Pictures of the House Yet

But between the Wife of Bath and "Batter my heart, three-personed God," my Brit Lit survey has become an apologia for domestic violence.

(I actually prefaced my concluding comments last week with, "Ignore the justification for domestic abuse that is about to come out of my mouth." And, when a student said, "But I just don't like the idea of it; I wouldn't want to be raped by God," I at least had the wherewithal to add, "Good! I don't want you to want that.")

Monday, November 15, 2010

OMG paint. PAINT!

I've been painting walls.

Five rooms down. One to go.

We move in less than two weeks.


In related news, I now have the coolest bathroom EVER. Gothic cathedral theme, anyone?

(Apologies for incoherence. Once we've actually moved in--LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!!!--there will be pictures. And someday I might have a thought in my head again; right now, all I yearn for is an end to classes and an end to painting.)

(I do miss blogging, I think. There will be more of it in the future.)

Friday, October 29, 2010

On Money--or, rather, not

I can't write about money and higher ed.

I've been trying to post--here, and in a comment to squadratomagico's post--and I'm too afraid of incurring displeasure, I guess. I keep deleting.

But I'm going to bite the bullet and tell you why I appreciated squadratomagico's post, in which she states that she is not going to fight for a higher salary because a) she's happy with what she has and b) it would be pointless and dull (and some other, better stated reasons; you should read her post; I have not represented it very well).

Anyway. Here's what I started to write in the comments:

I make less than 40% of the salary that started the conversation ($43k, if you're interested-and I'm a fourth-year tenure-track assistant professor with a book, loads of service experience, and excellent teaching evaluations). Reading the discussion at TR's made me feel...well, to be frank, much worse about my income and generally resentful of pretty much everybody who makes more than I do. In fact, I couldn't get through the post/comments, it produced such negative feelings. Some of that's definitely my baggage; I feel deeply embarrassed about my salary when I hear what other people make, and angry that it's so little, although I know that Field couldn't pay me more right now (in fact, I just got a raise). But I do feel humiliated, and resentful, and--even though I know that this isn't the point (I know it! Don't remind me! I'm a petty bitch!)--a little pissed off that people who make so much more than I do trivialize their salaries.

That's not exactly a productive feeling, especially because I, like squadrato, enjoy a perfectly comfortable and pleasant life that is not visibly lacking in anything that money could buy. I work my ass off, it's true, but I genuinely like my job, and I'd still be working my ass off if I were making twice as much. Of course there are inequities, and combating inequity is laudable--but dude, *my* middle-class life is not exactly heart-wrenching--and yet, again, I make much less than that initial salary, and nearly all of the salaries mentioned in the comments.

I don't mean to suggest that everyone should just shut up and deal...but, well, I don't know. I don't think that faculty making over, say, $80,000 (unless they live in certain very expensive areas of the country) are necessarily hurting? --I'm kind of terrified of posting this, though, for fear of pissing everybody off. But...gah. Okay. Let's change direction. I can't change my salary (short of getting a new job). I can't. So do I compare upwards (and forget doctors and lawyers--that's waaay out of my league, and by the way, they have LOADS more debt than I do and are on call 12 months out of the year), or do I enjoy my actual situation as it actually is, rather than thinking about what it could be?

Hell, when it comes down to it, I would gladly take a course release over a raise--time is quite a bit more valuable, in the end. I'd much prefer hiring more faculty (instead of adjuncts), keeping our salaries the same, and moving to a 3/3!

(I am not at all talking about adjuncts or postdocs with $22k salaries, by the way. Just the privileged tenure-trackers. To be clear. In fact, maybe I'm only talking about myself.)

All righty--before I delete this or edit it into oblivion, here I go. Don't hate me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Worst blogger ever?

Just a quick Hello, I'm Still Breathing post. Sorry about the blog silence. I've been pretty busy (who hasn't?) and avoiding the Internet, to some extent, when I'm home. It's nice. On the other hand, it means that I never blog.

Well, to be honest, there are no great and grand updates in my life; mainly I've just been deciding not to long on here and whine about how I'm sooooo busy etc. etc. I do that out loud, to everyone who listens, so I am filling my whine quota, even if you don't see it--never fear. Classes are fine but overly abundant; the house stuff progresses apace (we're just waiting to close in 2.5 weeks--oh, and we need to get homeowner's insurance); I have done no research whatsoever this semester, despite attending a fantastic conference (see "overly abundant," above); the weather's finally getting colder; the cats are exactly who and what they are. And now, it's time for bed.

How are you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Feminism in the Fields

Dulles terminal (1)

I've not been online much lately, other than for work-related emails. I do occasionally read y'all's blogs, but haven't even been doing much of that, to be honest. Here's the thing: I had bloglines bookmarked on my work computer. I have now switched to Google Reader (which I like less, but eh, who cares), and have not bookmarked it on my work computer. Lo! I spend a lot less time reading blog posts, and correspondingly less time writing them.

Although I would dearly love to muck around on blogs while I'm in the office, I think I'm going to maintain the current system for as long as I can stand to do so.

What I need to post about, really, is the whole committing-to-Field-for-real-at-least-for-now thing that buying a house seems to entail, but right now I'd like to just say a few words about teaching a course in feminist theory at a small college in the middle of the most conservative county in midwestern Field State.

It's weird.

First, a bit of context: My feminism seminar is required for senior English literature majors. OK, feminism per se isn't required for them, but we have a senior capstone course with a changing topic, and I have taught it for the last three years (and will continue to teach it until we either get a new hire or I decide that I don't want to teach it again and find someone else with the room to pick it up--hooray! I love this course). In the past, I've done gender in medieval literature and literature and technology (from manuscript to the digital age, essentially--I'm trying not to use my real course titles), and this year it's feminism. So the thing is, most students don't get a choice: They take what I offer in the year that they're up.

For the most part, feminism isn't a problem for this year's batch. We have five senior English (literature) majors this year who are required to take the class, and then two English (writing) majors and a literature minor who are taking it either because they need another literature seminar or because they just wanted to take it. All of them are seniors. And, of the eight, seven are apparently digging it (even though one is a little hung up on the whole thing of not saying she's a feminist because of all the mean feminists, despite the fact that she is SO A FEMINIST oh my god, she just needs to own it, seriously). Oh, and all of them are women, which was pure coincidence but probably does affect the course content (I had to talk about clitoral pleasure the other day, for example; I would have done so with men in the room, of course, but I can't pretend that the audience doesn't make a difference).

But there's one student about whom I worry. She's lovely--wicked smart and sweet, and about the hippest dresser on campus (I love her style). She writes beautifully, is kind and conscientious, and is a generally delightful person. And she is very religious, and quite conservative. And, oh yeah, shy--I think that, in the 2.5 semesters that I've had her, she has voluntarily spoken in class once.

I know from her response papers that the material in this course is problematic for her. She writes thoughtfully and well, but poses questions like, "Is the patriarchy really such a bad thing?" This, of course, from a bright, strong young woman (and she is strong, even if she's quiet). And she never says a word in class unless I call on her directly.

The other day I had her in my office for a different reason and took the opportunity to talk to her a bit about the course. I figure that this is the most I can do right now: I told her that I appreciated her comments, that she's not obligated to agree with everything (or anything) that we read in class, that she is welcome to push against them and measure them against her own views, and that she should know that she's not the only one who finds some of the readings troubling. In class, I try to present her point of view whenever I can (since she doesn't speak and I don't feel that it would be right, in this case, to single her out to voice her view--particularly because some of her objections are on putatively religious grounds).

It's hard. I worry about her when I prep.

And it makes me hyper aware of how much I do embrace feminist theory, even though some of it is, in fact, a little divorced from reality (ecriture feminine, I'm looking at you), and how hard it is to feign neutral objectivity when presenting material with which I am on board to a group of students who are--all but one--vocally in agreement with me on at least a majority of points.

Still, it could have been worse. English majors, at least, tend to skew progressive, whatever their professed political beliefs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Briefly, I am not behind

Dulles airport shuttle

It's funny how a week's worth of canceled classes can give you just a little edge. But only a little edge. I'm prepping for Tuesday morning's class right now, and that's as far ahead as I expect to get.

Of course, I'm punishing myself (and my students) for my conference by having assignments due in every one of my classes. Yep, I'll be collecting upwards of 100 papers and other miscellaneous thingamabobs over the next two days. This now seems like an appallingly terrible idea. What was I thinking?

But the conference was good. Coming home was good. The house inspector's report was good. Life, in general, is good. Mmmm.

--I am in fact terrifically excited about moving to our new house, even though that won't happen for at least two months. It is so cute! A little 1300-square-foot bungalow built around 1900, with a front porch and a back deck and a separate garage. Hardwood floors in every room (except for the finished basement room, but I can live with that). A working fireplace. Built-ins in the living room and the hall. A breakfast nook (tentatively renamed the Annex) with skylights. A retractable clothesline! Oh wonders. And it's a--yes, I timed it--2.5-minute walk to the office. Hurrah! And it'll be quiet, unlike our current Main Street address!

What's nice is that every time we tell a Field Townian which house it is that we bought, he or she says, "Oh, that one? The one on the corner, with the porch? That's such a cute house!" A few of them even remarked that, when they saw that it was for sale, they were tempted to take a look. It's all very affirming.

What's funny about Field Town is that it's--well, it's a small town. I guess this isn't funny if you're used to it. But to us East Coastal urbanites, it's quite strange how every single person volunteers some history of the house. "The college librarian lived there in the 90s." "That house held a grocery store when I was a little girl" (this from one of the oldest people we know here). "Didn't so-and-so do some work on that place a while back?" "You mean the old Whosits' place, right?"

It's all very charming. And exciting. And kind of scary, for this means that, lo, we're committing--to some extent--to Field Town and Field College. Yikes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Where's Heu?

Tucked away in a remote corner of Europe, in an austere but comfortable hotel room. Knitting.

Conference is going well. Paper went well. I actually got questions and discussion, which doesn't usually seem to happen for me; people even came up to me afterwards with further questions and comments. But the mark of true success? When a fancy person had a question, and I answered it, but sensed that he wasn't convinced--so, at the coffee hour, I went up to him (a first for me--success 1) and started talking. I think he's still not convinced, but I am perfectly fine with that (confidence, of a sort--success 2), and we had a perfectly lovely conversation about this and that (comfortable collegiality with a person who just might intimidate me--success 3). I'm pleased.

And tired. I've convinced myself that I'm not jetlagged, but that's probably false. Off I go to bed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Whiny whiny whine whine

Denver airport.

I know that I can't complain too much of fatigue, not having twin babies or anything, but dude, I am tired, for reals.

This semester is unusually...involved. That fifth class, despite being only one credit-hour, is awfully time-consuming. Plus I've made all my courses really complicated (response papers! daily quizzes! words/concepts of the day! collecting homework! blah blah blah!), so there's a lot of paper shifting in and out of my hands on a regular basis. Plus we have a record number of Honors students, which means a record number of individual appointments and advisee management and whatnot.

And there's, you know, this unexpected house thing, which it turns out will take some time. We don't close until November, but early Thursday morning we need to meet with the banker to get our loan approved, and then there's the inspection, etc. So, you know. Tired.

And I'm leaving for Scandinavia on Friday, so there's that.

Anyway, I don't really have much to write about here--well, I do, about a minor course-related puzzle, but I'm too tired to do it and it's hardly urgent. So this post is primarily intended to provide an excuse for the carpet picture above. Enjoy the little rectangles of colorful wonderment!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nothing in my life is realistic

Country club in Doylestown, PA.

Last Friday, my book came out.

On Saturday, we square danced all over our colleague's deck. (It was a blast.) Then we drank Tennessee moonshine and swam in her lap pool till late.

This Friday, I fly to a remote Scandinavian country for a conference. I'll be gone for a week.

And today? Today we apparently bought a house. Or at least had an offer for a house accepted.

It was a bit of a lark, in fact, to look at the house on Saturday morning. The realtor told us that an offer had already been made. We liked the house--a lot--and it was priced really well (details in a later post; we've got time, here). So we made an offer on Sunday night. And today, it was accepted.

This is all quite strange. What's going on?

On the other hand, all of this stuff is really really good.


Readers of Maude:

Her new blog can be found here.


(Posted by request of Dr. Maude.)

Friday, September 10, 2010


Las Vegas airport (5).

I held my very own, first published book in my hands.

I smelled it.

And it was good.

(And I think that I'm now done with the Vegas pictures, which is also good.)

(OH! And as we speak, TM is being addressed by two young missionaries out in the driveway. Hee hee! I shall hide indoors, watch through the window with the cat, and anticipate his account of it. A good day all around.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Times Change

Las Vegas airport (4).

Tomorrow night my husband and I will be dining at our minister's home.

No part of that sentence would have made sense three years ago.

I do sometimes enjoy imagining what my fourteen-year-old self would make of my current life--and have imagined this since I was eighteen or so, so that younger me has had a lot of shocks over the years. Now, of course, I have dozens of younger selves onto which I could project an impression of my present life, but for some reason fourteen remains the magic number. It probably has something to do with puberty, no? That terribly awkward switch between childhood and existing as some new kind of creature, a "woman"?

Oh, them were tricky years, them were.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When you don't really see your students

Las Vegas airport (3)

You know how, sometimes, you're looking at a student in class and listening to what she's saying, and then you realize that you're not really listening at all? And yet you're doing all the nodding and eye-widening and everything else that goes into managing a class discussion?

And you know how, sometimes, your eyes cease to focus at all? Sometimes you can't even make your eyes focus, which is a little troubling--with the result that you start thinking more about how there should really only be one Cody instead of three than about what Cody is actually saying.

(No offense to Cody. I find that this is more typically the result of fatigue than it is the result of anything that Cody may be saying.)

Well, I can do you one better.

Last year, I had a student in Comp named (for the sake of argument) Susan. Susan was a hard-working but fundamentally unprepared young woman who struggled quite a bit with the basics of writing--her papers had a lot of grammatical errors and tended to be rather ponderous, heaving along without ever saying very much. But Susan was conscientious about meeting with me to talk about her work.

One day, I was headed over to my office for a meeting with Susan. It was very bright and sunny out, and--a propos of nothing, of course--I had just started taking a new heart regulator (this was prior to my surgery--I'm no longer on any meds). I stopped in at the mailroom first; the building that it was in was dark compared to the brightness of the day outside, so I wasn't too surprised when, as I looked at an envelope from my mailbox, I saw one of those little squiggly sunspots that you sometimes get when you've been looking at a bright light.

I went back outside and entered my building. The sunspots were still there, but whatever--they happen.

Susan is waiting for me, and we enter my office. She sits down opposite me. I'm having trouble seeing her clearly, what with the sunspots and all, but they'll pass, right? She gives me her paper and I start to look at it.

[I just noticed that I've just switched to the present tense, but fixing it would be such a bother. Please bear with me--it's been a long day!]

Something is wrong. The sunspots are growing and seem sort of...striped? In a vibrating, zig-zag way? It's hard to describe. I'm having a tough time reading her paper. I look at Susan, and I can't see her face.

Now, despite the fact that this is something I've never experienced before, I don't actually panic, because my mother gets ocular migraines pretty frequently and has described them well enough that I can immediately identify what's happening. I know that it should pass in about twenty minutes, and there's no discomfort--but it's so weird; it's like my brain isn't registering anything where her face is. It's a gap, a hole, a shimmery...deflection. Susan is talking about her paper; I listen to her, sort of, but I'm also pretty preoccupied with marvelling over the nothing that is where her face should be. I can see her hair; I can see everything else--at least, in my peripheral vision; wherever my eyes focus, there is nothing. Just a...lack, a lack that is also somehow full of vibrating light.

I look back at the paper. Obviously I can't read it. Well, I mean, I can read the words at the edges of the pages, but only where my eyes aren't focusing. I can't read the middle of any lines. I can't read where I'm looking.

Clearly, what I should have done at this point was to tell Susan that I was experiencing a bizarre neurological phenomenon and could she please come back in fifteen minutes. I should have said, "Although I appear to be completely normal and am, in fact, entirely calm, I can no longer see your face nor can I read. But I'll be fine in a quarter of an hour, so can you hang on until then?" But it seemed so preposterous and above all alarming that of course I said nothing and somehow managed to piece together enough of a sense of the paper out of the corners of my eyes (which is really hard, if you've never tried it) to give her some kind of advice (God knows what I said) and send her on her way.

The ocular migraine passed in a predicatable fashion, and I was fine.

I then promptly called the doctor and he changed my prescription.

(It really is a coincidence that the carpet looks like some kind of crazy eye.)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yikes! I am really bad at this daily-posting thing.

Las Vegas airport (2).

I almost forgot. Egads! And here I am, with about a hundred things that I could write about (e.g. the horrible, unpleasant, necessary task of discussing pressing social issues with first-year students. Why is it that, of 18 papers, 15 of which are totally right-on, I'm-learning-so-much and this-is-really-making-me-think, the ONLY ones that stick with me are the hysterical screeds? and that these make me feel ill and want to run away from teaching altogether? Feh. Clearly some of this is my own issues. And no, this is not in Comp, where we do not talk about anything topical. Ever. No, we discuss summarizing. A lot. Forever), and yet I am exhausted. Dude, this semester is killing me, and it's only day 9. Siiiiigh.

In the meantime, the second in the Las Vegas series. Talk about Yikes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Brush your damn teeth

Las Vegas airport (1)

I tried a few new things this summer. New-old things. The first was meditating; as I said, I'm keeping this up into the school year, as far as I can.

The second was to take my diary more seriously. I chose this goal rather than the grander one of writing, say, a page a day; basically I wanted (and want) to have a diary that says more than "Long day I'm tired" and that actually describes or discusses at least one small thing every day (or so).

I've kept a diary regularly since I was fourteen, so--wow, about exactly twenty years now. In my youth, I wrote nearly every day, and often at length; once I started having relationships in which I didn't sleep alone in my bed every night, that regularity weakened. I still wrote often, but not daily, and occasionally a week would pass (and still passes) in which I wrote/write nothing. I don't usually reread my diaries, although I do consult them now and again, so detail and a thrilling narrative aren't exactly important. But I decided early this summer that "taking my diary seriously" meant giving serious space--if not daily, at least often--to reflection and absorption. So that's a thing that I'm doing.

A week or so ago, I came up with a new one: When I brush my teeth, I am to brush my teeth. That's it.

That sounds silly, I know. The thing is, I started noticing how the instant I had the toothbrush in my mouth I would start rushing around and doing something--turning on (or off) my computer, checking my email, straightening up the cushions on the couch, whatever. This was not only weird, but it was hard on my toothbrush: if I got absorbed in an email, say, I would find myself absently gnawing on the bristles whilst contemplating a response. And then the toothpaste might start to...manifest itself--it was gross, and weird, and honestly, I am not losing productivity by taking a freaking minute to brush my damn teeth. Besides, can I not relax and just do a thing now and again? Why must I let myself be so constantly distracted?

So that's the latest resolution. When I brush my teeth, I stare at myself in the mirror and brush my teeth. If a cat is in the room, I am allowed to pet the cat (and even to sit on the edge of the tub and place her on my knee, if I like)--but that's it.

Just brush your damn teeth. The world moves fast enough on its own.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sorry I missed yesterday. And now, I am sick.

National Airport (in DC), which I refuse to call Reagan.

Or, if not sick, then beset by wicked allergies. Either way, I am a sniffly, fatigued mess.

I have, however, managed to get a lot of course reading done, and tomorrow I intend to grade and prep, so as to have a reasonably okay week, despite the whirlwind of student conferences I have scheduled.

OK. I'm going to go sniffle myself away now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is about all I have in me at the moment

Logan International (Boston).

I am very, very tired this evening. The three-day weekend will be a positive balm.

Posting of light substance to resume tomorrow.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Little Brothers

Image: Carpet at Atlanta airport. I've never visited Atlanta, but I've been laid over there on more than one occasion.

I have come to identify a particular type of male student, whom I call the Little Brothers. Does anyone else have Little Brothers? I don't really see any of my female students as Little Sisters, but perhaps that's because I have a little brother and not a sister, and the Little Brothers certainly remind me of my brother, who will always be little to me.

I love Little Brothers. I really do.

Here's what a Little Brother is, for me:
  • He is plainly young. Not the fresh-faced, can-you-possibly-be-older-than-sixteen? kind of young that occasionally passes through my composition door, but young in a gawky adolescent way.
  • He is awkward. Smooth-talkers and the super-confident are never Little Brothers. I also don't think that I've ever had a serious athlete as a Little Brother; those guys are a little too comfortable in their bodies to fit. Sometimes they also have bad skin. They might dress a little strangely, and I imagine that their rooms smell a bit like socks.
  • He has certain distinct physical characteristics: a bony face, usually with pronounced cheekbones, and hair that's either distinctly long or just in need of a trim. This is definitely a legacy of my own little brother, who still has a very pronounced bone structure (and really long hair).
  • He is not the best student in the class, but he tries. The examples I'm thinking of also come (or came) to my office hours more than average.
  • We don't actually have a particularly strong rapport, but it seems clear (sometimes just by the more frequent office-hour visits) that he trusts me and perhaps likes me, in a totally non-creepy, perfectly appropriate sort of way.
The Little Brothers aren't big-time fans; they typically aren't majors, and sometimes I don't see them much after Comp (which is where I seem to meet most of them). But when they're sitting in my office, talking over a question about one of their papers, I feel such a tenderness towards them and a desire for them to have a nice life--well, it's almost like pity, my compassion for these guys. I don't think that they deserve these feelings any more than my other students--in fact, put that way, they certainly don't; all of my students are entitled to my well-wishing (until I have a real reason to withdraw it), right?

But that's no reason to diminish my compassion for the Little Brothers, especially because there are other types of student--mostly first-years, who are so much more on the surface and young than upperclassmen--who tug at my heartstrings for different reasons. I think that perhaps I shall attempt to articulate a highly subjective typology.

(And yes, I'm aware that this makes me sound like a Universal Mother sort of professor. I'm not that, I don't think--but I do inhabit a rather nurturing role with my students, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn't because I'm a good feminist and that's playing to stereotype. But fuck it--I'm comfortable encouraging and nurturing and getting along with my students, and it makes my days so much better than being all exacting and harsh, especially given how much time I spend with students. Plus, the latter is very much not the culture at Field, for men or women.)

What about you? Do you perceive your students within your own set of arbitrarily defined categories that make you love them even without knowing much about them? (And let's focus on the positive, here--no fair trouncing whole groups, which is also a lot less interesting, I think.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here's a funny hobby

I take photographs of ugly carpets.

Particularly airport carpets.

Because I've been such a lame blogger, I'm going to post my collection of ugly carpet pictures here, perhaps (if I'm very good) doing one a day (but don't count on it; I promise nothing). And maybe this will get me to actually write about something interesting? If it doesn't, then at least I'll know that I've cluttered up your feeder a little bit.

So, first, here is the carpet of Paris' Charles de Gaulle. It's actually one of the cooler ones in my collection--perhaps not even ugly at all? You decide! It's a Choose-Your-Own Aesthetic!

Now, for something possibly less boring.

Perhaps you're wondering why I get up at 5:30 for an 8 am class, when I live about a 7-minute walk from my office?

Well, as I may have mentioned previously, I started meditating in the mornings this summer. While my half-hour of sitting every day is largely taken up with daydreaming and planning things, I do occasionally manage to observe my thoughts as thoughts, to recognize their unreality, to witness the discursive action of my mind and to briefly break out of an identification of that action as myself. Briefly, for a moment here and there.

And I think that I've been happier. Calmer. Able to see more clearly.

Now, of course, this was summer, so there might have been other explanations for the calm and happy. But I don't want to stop this practice, not now when I've finally--finally! After years of intentions!--managed to establish it. So I'm waking up early enough to get my sit in before heading off to class. And, on MWF, this means getting up at 5:30: I shower first, then sit while TM showers or reads, then we eat breakfast and make the bed and whatnot from 6:30-7:00, and I'm in the office by 7:10--plenty of time to put together last-minute handouts, check email, review my notes, etc. It's working well, except that I come home absolutely annihilated and have to fall asleep immediately after lunch.

On TTh, with an 11:00 class, I'm getting up at around 6:30--not because I want to, particularly, but because somehow this is the habit that I've gotten into. TM is a really early riser, too, and let's not pretend that that has nothing to do with it.

I think that it's important to keep sitting. I want to complain less--that's my goal for the year; not to not complain, but to complain less, because so much of the bonding that we do around campus is based on complaints and that doesn't always make me feel good--and this first week has gone pretty well on that front. I think that it helps. I really think so.

...I have thoughts about why, but maybe I'll save those for another time.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Still alive, really

Classes started last Wednesday, which means that we're through an entire week now (if Wed-Tues = a week). Actually, one of my classes--this one-credit course that I'm teaching as an overload--started last Sunday, which is pretty lame if you ask me, but at least I'm teaching the Honors section and truly the students are delightful, thus far. But a Sunday afternoon meeting, especially at the end of two solid days of moving into dorms and orientation activities, is no one's idea of a good time. (I am earning this $600, which is the pay for a one-credit overload around here. And yes, that's dreadful pay. I am not doing this for the money. [Nor am I doing it for love, exactly.] I'm doing it for the Honors Program, to which I have pledged my soul.)

One thing I forget is how tiring it is to get back into the teaching routine. All of my classes are fine--even great--so far, but I find that I'm exhausted after each one. My schedule is a little dicey, too: MWF I'm on deck at 8, 9, and 11, so the early afternoon has been (so far) pretty much a loss--I can hardly stay awake after lunch. TTh is much lighter--only one class on Thursdays, and two on Tuesdays (the overload being one)--but I still had to nap on the couch between my two classes today. Sheesh! And I'm barely on top of things for this week. The long weekend will be good for just reading ahead a bit and getting things under control. Complicating matters, our offices are being recarpeted this week, so we've all been kicked out for a few days. I'm very excited about the new carpeting and the general cleaning out/redecorating that it's inspired us all to do, but I'm also feeling rather off-kilter and keep realizing that I put things into boxes that I would really like to have at hand. Oh well--it's only until Thursday, if all goes well.

So this is not a particularly interesting post, but I felt the need to break the silence around here. I've been writing posts in my head for the last two weeks but never actually sitting down to compose them (obviously), and my hope is that at least re-entering Blogger will give me a bit of a boost back into blogging. (Can you tell that we've been talking about alliterative poetry in Brit Lit? Heh.)

OK, anyway, must read for comp before passing out. I wake up earrrrly tomorrow--5:30, in fact, for reasons which I'll disclose at a later time. (And with that--which makes my reasons sound far more interesting than they are--I bid you all Good Night!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goody-Two-Shoes, That's Me

Having just read Dr. Crazy's recent post on higher ed reform, and having also just come from the first day of our faculty retreat (via a colleague's house--sorry; I'm a little drunk; I'll try to make this coherent or at least typed well) has me feeling...dare I say, good about my dinky little college.

Here's what's what.

First, yesterday we got raises. Or rather, we had a meeting with the president and AND (Awesome New Dean, for those just joining us) in which the current financial priorities were explained and we got our new salary envelopes. Now, okay, our salaries really suck pretty deeply, and the board was recently made aware of just how badly off we all were compared to other institutions in our state. So it's not like we started off strong and this is just icing. No; even with my (quite modest) raise, I'm way below equity. But it's a start, at a time when most colleges and universities are doing no such thing. Moreover--and more importantly--full professors were given priority in the new salary scheme. Many of the fulls have been here for ages, working away for like $50k--more than I make (let me be clear: my salary still kind of sucks, like a lot)--but quite a terrible salary. And they got the big bumps. And this was explained to us, by rank, quite fully, such that I'm okay with my modest raise and really pleased that the college is looking out for its more senior folk, too--folk who, in this profession, could not get other jobs at this point and who could, therefore, safely be screwed over if the administration so chose.

Now, there's a more cynical reading or two of all of the above, but I don't think that there's any reason to pursue it.

Second: for like the fifth year in a row, our enrollment is at a record high. And, because we are tuition-driven and have NO endowment or state funding, this means that we're doing okay (by our piddly standards). Benefits are secure. All retirees were replaced last year and we have one new tenure line. Our new hires have stellar records and great degrees. And with the large number of new faculty that we've hired over the last few years, there's a lot of energy--a lot of positive change. (Our senior faculty ROCK, by the way. But many of them are tired. It's good to have new people to push us forward, too.)

Our priorities this year involve, essentially, assessing how well our curriculum integrates and advances our liberal arts mission. We have a lot of pre-professional ideology to push against, but I like the direction of our agenda--and that pushback is not from the administration, and that's a good thing.

And we discovered this summer that somewhere in the range of 60% of our first-year students are first-generation; it seems to me that this is relatively high for a SLAC, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's good to know. It will surely affect some pedagogy, but it also has helped me, at least, think differently about our mission and what exactly we're doing here.

I hate to be a Pollyanna. And so I'll admit that, yes, this job is rotten on a number of days: we do too much, we are too small, and have I mentioned that our salaries are lame? But at least I feel like we're pointed in the right direction (and doing better financially than we have in a long time, apparently), and that everyone is pretty much on board. I hope that there are other colleges out there in the same boat, and that the outlook on Higher Ed need not be as bleak as it so often seems.

Monday, August 9, 2010

You know what is NOT a useful document title?

"Maybe useful for a footnote."

Especially when that document is in a file called "Research" and dated October 2007. What on earth was I even working on then, anyway?

(I'm in end-of-summer organizing mode: this morning I handwashed all my wool sweaters. The wrists are aching, so on to the virtual cleaning!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Universe! Enough with the paleography already!

Today I sort of hit a wall. I know, it's only been three days--and when I hit said wall, it had only been two and a half. But sitting quietly in the manuscript room fussing over fourteenth-century Latin abbreviations for two and a half days is not exactly relaxing, trace or no trance.

Essentially, I was tired: I slept badly last night, having been kept awake until almost 2 am by the irrelevant ranting I was doing in my head. Really--I was having long mental arguments over trivial things with people I'm unlikely to even speak to in the next three months, anticipating all kinds of disasters in the upcoming semester, worrying about money when I have no business doing so (chiefly regretting committing to an overseas conference of which the College will only be able to pay half, which means that my savings account will be depleted by about 8%--horrors! Really. Just tell me to shut up), etc. Evidently I have some kind of stress or something. Or perhaps my body is overcompensating for the jetlag? The point is, I was tired.

I also kind of lost direction by mid-day. I'd answered my immediate questions and was casting about for another one; in practice, this meant staring off into space a lot and then idly flipping through a few pages.

At 3:00 or so, I decided to take off. This isn't helpful, I thought. I vowed that I would regroup tomorrow and do something productive.

So, having dropped off my laptop etc., I went to the used bookstore to pick up a novel, since I'm almost done with my fun reading. I settled on Zola's Le Reve, because I had enjoyed Germinal (which I read in English) and it was relatively short.

Off I went, to wander, drink a beer, etc. I was doing quite well with the French and enjoying the story, which--so far--is about a young girl named Angelique who is taken in by a couple, Hubert and Hubertine Hubert (or so I enjoy calling them, to myself, because the characters are individually called Hubert and Hubertine and collectively called les Hubert).

One day, twelve-year-old Angelique stumbles upon--seriously--a 1549 edition of a French translation of Jacobus de Voragine's Legenda Aurea. Seriously.

She likes the pictures, at first. And then she confronts the text. I translate, loosely:

The two dense columns of text, whose ink had remained very black upon the yellowed paper, frightened her, because of the barbaric appearance of the Gothic characters. But she got used to it, decoded its characters, understood the abbreviations and the contractions, figured out how to decipher the ancient words; and in the end she read fluently, enchanted as though she had penetrated into a mystery, triumphing over the conquest of each new difficulty.

And then, I kid you not, Zola blathers on for twenty pages about the lives of the saints.

The revisiting of Juliana and Vincent and Stephen and Christina etc etc I can take. But a twelve-year-old reading a sixteenth-century Gothic hand? Please. And, universe, I know that I'm not very good at this--stop rubbing it in.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010



Why do none of my TV-watching programs work in Europe? And why is the woman who lives across the alley from my room (actually like 6 feet away) on a Tom Jones (the musician, not the fictional character) binge? And why is she not bingeing on the character instead, since that would certainly amuse me more? Or perhaps at least be quieter? And why, for that matter, does she spend all of every day sitting either in the window or at the desk right in front of the window talking?

Seriously--every time I'm in this room, she's over there, talking. Until about 11:00 at night. Starting at about 8:00 in the morning. It's weird. But this is her home, not mine, so I suppose I can't complain. Much. A little, maybe.


I've been reading for my Particular Subset of Theory seminar (Fall '10) this week, usually while I'm drinking beer in sidewalk cafes. You know what? Difficult Theorist is better with beer. All theory is better with beer. Yay beer!

*Unrelated, of course, to the question.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Apparently I am capable of intense focus

First day at the library. I'm here to look at one manuscript, and I wasn't even sure whether there would be anything of interest therein--I knew that it contained the oldest version of a vita that I've been working on, but knew nothing about this variant or what else was in the codex. Kind of a gamble, eh, for Field to spend upwards of $3000 for me to look at this thing? Sometimes this profession seems beyond absurd.

Anyway, so I get to the library right when it opens, figure out how to get a card (easy), and gain access to my codex. It shows up at about 9:30, after only a 10-minute wait; I use the time to review my edition of the vita and psych myself up. The codex is small and fat, elegantly rebound at some point--not recently, I'd guess, but certainly not in the fourteenth century. I start in.

First: I copy out the table (or rather paragraph) of contents on the first page, trying my best to decode the Gothic rotunda Latin. It's been...a long while since I engaged in anything approximating paleography. I am Rusty. However, it's not too hard to recognize actual Latin words as opposed to the monstrous mistranscriptions I sometimes concoct, so at least I know which words I'm most likely to have misunderstood.

The excitement begins when I spot my vita listed in the ToC. Then: another medieval woman's life! And a bunch of other random vitae and orae, as well as a totally indecipherable name.

Step two: Start looking through the book, page by page, writing down where each text appears. Blah blah blah. No pictures, occasional decorated initial (nothing fancy), plenty of red ink. Finally I reach my Vita. It's not terribly interesting, visually, but does have one intriguing bit of marginalia--intriguing because it suggests an interest in similar vitae, vitae like the unexpected woman's life. Hm. Okay.

Something I can't identify follows my vita. Ho hum.

A few pages later: WHAT IS IT??? I think. Something crazy! A drawing with a big red mandorla-shaped item in the middle, surrounded by words. Later, I come back to this, and figure out that the red splotch is a wound, and that it is made of blood flowing off of the cross above and into a little spindly, flower-decorated cross below. Coolness. And it contains a prayer of some kind that keeps referring to wounds (I need to translate it--can't be more specific yet. My Latin sure does suck, although I'm doing better than I would have expected ). Alas, the writing to the right of the wound is cramped and hard to make out, and the writing surrounding it is virtually illegible. I do my best.

A few pages later: More visual craziness! One page in a totally different hand lists what appear to be numbers of days associated with individual people (Pope So-and-so three years and twelve days, pope such-and-such sixty days, etc.). In the right-hand column are labeled drawings of, for example, a torch, a bleeding heart, and ten footprints in little boxes. I haven't entirely figured this one out yet. Actually, I haven't figured it out at all, but I'm looking forward to doing so.

Oh, and [indecipherable] turns out to be another contemporary female saint. Some kind of pattern might be emerging. Not sure what yet. Something else to follow up on....

"Madame." The librarian is standing in front of me, whispering. "On ferme."

What? No way. They must be closing early, I think. I emerge: It is ten minutes to five. I've been at it since 9:30 (minus the enforced one-hour break for lunch: the library is closed from 1 until 2). How did this happen? My hand, back, and shoulder ache. Good lord. Why can't I work like this all the time? Or at least one day a week?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I am here

I have arrived!! --in Brussels. (Since there is virtually no chance that revealing my mysterious researching whereabouts will expose my identity, given that I haven't actually published on anything in this region, I might as well tell you where I am, right?)

I got here this morning. I thought that I was doing pretty well with the jetlag--I checked into my hotel at around 11, unpacked, walked around a bit, had lunch at the lovely vegetarian restaurant Den Teepot, then wandered through the City Museum in its entirety--but when I got back to my room it was only 2, and my legs ached so badly that I decided to nap. Then, magically, it was 4. I had some chocolate (I had wisely, but without actually thinking about it, bought a chocolate bar) and overcame my desire to just stay in bed until morning. I emerged into the beautiful (like 70-degree!) afternoon, wandered, checked out the cathedral and a park, called TM, and found an outdoor restaurant where I ate quiche and drank two high-alcohol beers.

It's about time for bed (8:30). But, because I am marvelling at it, I will share with you some pictures of my hotel. If you need a Brussels hotel recommendation (it's cheap and centrally located! And will blind you with its bling!), please do let me know.

Love the Obama poster in this one, especially since it looks like it dates from about 1967. -- Below is my room. Yes, the painting is STRANGE.

Oh! And I must mention Thursday's visit with The Rebel Lettriste & Babies. It was lovely to see Rebel L, who is funny and smart and awesome as always. And the babies, my friends, are, first of all, real (I was charged by The RL with verifying their authenticity, though I wasn't aware that there were any doubts). Second, they are little sweetikins, and I love them. If you're ever in the Lettriste's territory, I highly recommend taking one out for a walk; while they're heavy as hell, they're also utter sweethearts, and everyone who sees you will smile. It was a lovely afternoon.

(I must add that I thoroughly enjoyed watching TM, who joined us a little later, cuddle and charm the contemplative Bede. Meanwhile, active Caedmon attempted to paint my face with spit. But lord, the dazzling smiles on those guys! Even the spit--copious as it was, and goodness was it copious--couldn't detract from their charm.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

So we looked at the house.

It's gorgeous, actually. But too small; the kitchen is cramped and would be hard to expand, and the upstairs bedrooms are all tiny and put together in such a way that it would be difficult to make any of them bigger. But that's okay. We're still kind of toying with this whole property-buying idea, anyway.

And then today we went to an open house at a good-sized place quite close to campus. The pictures online suggested that it was not exactly decorated in our style, but you know, we like the idea of painting and we swung by.

And GOOD LORD. This house is officially The Ugliest House in the World. Each room worse than the last! Heavy, awful curtains over every window; thick pink carpeting and pink walls; drop ceilings in places where they have no reason existing; shiny white linoleum; heavy awful curtains AROUND THE BATHTUBS; wall-length slat-doored closets; insane "Western"-themed fake-stenciled wallpaper bordering the kitchen ceiling; shiny silvery patterned wall covers (what is that stuff?); CARPETED WALLS in the stairwell--I could go on. The mind boggled. And it wasn't just the ugliness; additions had been tacked on willy-nilly so that, for example, the master bedroom was only accessible through the kitchen and the dining room was nowhere near the kitchen. To make it worse, the realtor was a relative of the owner's, so we had to hold in all of our incredulity until we were back in the car.

Oddly enough, it turned out that the owner also recently married the (elderly) father of a co-worker and friend with whom we were getting together immediately after our viewing. She confirmed the unbelievable ugliness.

So we're still thinking about what exactly we're doing here, and until we figure it out, we have a nice place with a month-to-month lease.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fretting, Uselessly

(Is there any other way to fret?)

There's a house for sale. A nice-looking house, right next to campus (which would be great--not a problem at all; it's not too close to the dorms, but it is across the street from our office and close to the gym!). Three bedrooms, two baths, new roof kitchen heating AC etc. It costs...$129,000.

We haven't looked at it yet. I picked up the flier with the specs this afternoon. Seems good, in general. The rooms are quite small (I'm guessing that's why the price is so low?), and it has one weirdly enormous bathroom (twice the size of the bedrooms!!), but it has a big enclosed front porch, a screened-in back porch, and a patio. The porches would be perfect for prepping seedlings, and the yard is the right size for a garden, reasonable lawn, and minimal mowing.

The bedrooms are really small, though--8.5 x 11 (plus walk-in closets). The dining room and kitchen seem smallish, too.

OK, but here's the source of the fret (because, again, we have not looked at this house, and whatever, there will be other houses). At what point should one buy a house? I don't mean in terms of affording it (because at that price, I expect we could easily be paying less in a mortgage than our current rent, if we wanted to, and I have some savings that could make a small down payment), but rather in terms of life-planning. Especially in academia, because, let's face it, if we (both) got some kind of nice deal elsewhere, we'd take it. (The "both" makes that more difficult, of course.) But I don't want to keep wafting around noncommittally because I might one day get a job somewhere else. On the other hand, what's with this sudden urgency? We've been talking about looking for a house next spring, but neither one of us wants to move RIGHT NOW. And obviously we shouldn't just look at one house; so, if we look at this house (which we've agreed we ought to do, if only for kicks), shouldn't we look at others, too? And what if it's too small? In principle I'm okay with small rooms, but I don't want to buy a place that we'll "outgrow" in a few years (although I guess that's not the end of the world.... I just like the idea of stepping outside of the whole buy-buy-buy thing that seems to be our national home-owning culture). So, ugh, maybe I just need talking-down?

I'm sure that this enthusiasm, or whatever it is, will blow over in a day or two. In the meantime, I need to go measure my bed.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Little and Much

Not very much has been going on over here, in the grand scheme of things. I'm busy, naturlich, but not with anything worth noting--going to the gym, eating, sleeping, reading, writing this or that little thing that (I hope) will one day join up with other little things and produce something bigger. On the other hand, there is The Garden.

The Garden is truly three gardens (East, South, and West), and it is truly the province of The Minister, though I contribute here and there. (I made a triple batch of pesto today, for example. We now have more than 50 tablespoons of pesto in the freezer.) It is a lovely and densely packed garden, or gardens, chiefly because of some vines (melons and a mystery squash) that have filled in every empty inch and would willingly tear down the other vegetables if allowed. Tonight, inspired by the beauty of our lettuce going to seed, I took some pictures. For your pleasure:

First, the lettuce. It's almost in flower! We're hoping it'll reseed the patch.

Our chard is frankly out of control. This is one of like five rows (albeit the healthiest one). Chard, chard, chard. It'll produce until November, too.

Plenty o' poblanos.

You get two pictures of the eggplants viewed through the jalapeno leaves, because I think they're pretty.

And now for the jalapenos.

The ever-bearing strawberries are trucking along; we've got about three gallon-bags worth in our freezer already, and they'll keep rolling in into the fall.

Raspberries! The bushes are still pretty tiny, though.

A single blackberry flower.

The mystery squash! It grew out of our compost. It's huge. It wants to conquer the world.

Oh--and of course, there will be tomatoes.

I love summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hey Fatty Boom-Boom

I only wish that I were so happy to be at my computer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Literary Dream, Loosely Speaking

The other night I dreamt that I had come up with an idea for a brilliant, best-selling-novel. Here it is--aspiring writers, take note!

It was to be called Various Ways of Describing a Prince's Title.

(The title was an awkward nod to Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which was in fact the inspiration for the title within the dream.)

It would be a collection of monologues. I was really inspired. I started writing one right away (still in the dream), then had to stop at one point to make some notes about the second one.

In the dream (just to be clear), I wrote the better part of one monologue. It was supposed to come from a churlish perspective, possibly that of a laborer ("churlish" and "laborer" were the words used within the dream). And it was in Middle English.

So yes, I was composing in Middle English in my sleep (likely much better than I could when awake!).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

But on the other hand, so what?

I've been thinking on and off this summer about goals and ambition. I'm a pretty ambitious person, and I'm good at setting and reaching goals. So, for example, I have this big pompous pre-tenure goal--and now that achieving it is actually a real possibility, I'll share it here: I aim to have published an R1's tenure-worth of stuff before getting tenure. I've decided, somewhat arbitrarily, that this means a book and six peer-reviewed articles--of which I currently have four accepted (not all at equally fancy places, but some lack of fanciness is all right. After all, I teach 4/4; this is one concession I can make). So that gives me three years to get two more PR articles out. Doable. And it makes me feel all fabulous and important.

The downside to all of this ambition and achievement, though--well, there are several downsides. The most obvious one is that it's painfully ego-centric. Everything is about MY achievement, MY accomplishments, etc. Focusing so much on the self and the self's own importance is, first of all, selfish and not particularly conducive to a more compassionate, charitable, humble, or service-oriented state of mind. The second (and more selfish) problem with ego-centric ambition is that it's very fragile. What if my book gets a bad review? My ego, my sense of self, suffers. Identifying heavily with one's accomplishments only works when one's accomplishments are clicking along very well, and that can't happen for ever. It's ultimately a stressful and unsustainable way to live.

I've been thinking about these things because it's summer--and despite what various people are saying, it's STILL JUNE and summer IS NOT almost over--and I have a long list of Things To Do Before School Starts. These include:
  • writing a conference paper for September
  • planning my classes (two new preps each semester next year, plus comp needs its annual retooling)
  • drafting up a research plan for the Next Big Thing
  • reading a mess o' books
  • brushing up on my Latin in preparation for my July research trip
  • reading a pack of Chaucer, whom I know remarkably ill for someone in my field.
I'm making pretty good headway on all of these, and I've finished up my index and page proofs--the other big To Do item for early summer. But, at the start of the summer especially, this list was stressing me out. Contemplating it, I was haunted by the feeling that summer was over already, and I had had no time to actually rest.

So what I decided to do about a month ago was to recalibrate my goals. Of course I'll work on the above--for one thing, I have to, and for another, I'd be really bored if I didn't have some work to do; I do actually enjoy most of the above, as long as the pressure's off. But the actual goals for the summer--the priorities--changed. They are now the following:
  • meditate daily (except while traveling)
  • exercise regularly, because it makes me feel good in my body and makes me more attentive to the physical world
  • enjoy myself, and not fret when doing so means that I haven't completed a daily To Do list.
What's remarkable is that, once I made that switch, I started enjoying my summer a whole lot more. And I'm still getting my work done (even if it's not always at a lightning pace).

A few weeks ago I read an article in a Buddhist magazine that I used to subscribe to (the subscription ran out in May, but I have a stack of back issues that I'm reading through whenever I'm on the elliptical). In it, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talks about accessing the goodness in ourselves and in the world--and how our ego-centrism can get in the way of that. He describes a scenario in which someone has achieved something and wants praise. Of course, he says, such praise would be nice; you want recognition and congratulation, and it hurts not to have it. "But on the other hand," he goes on, "so what?"

That stopped me right there. What a beautiful way to put it--yes, of course, you want these things, but you don't have them, and so what? So what if I don't achieve my arbitrary and self-important publication goals? So what if I'm not The Very Best Professor Ever (or whatever my small-minded ego tries to convince me that I have to become)? So what if I don't finish my checklist? Maybe, in the time that I'm not completing all my personal little goals, I might do something nice for TM, or make the cats purr, or call my brother. The work goals are nice, but they don't matter.* So what?

So here's to a happy and equanimous summer!

*Of course, I have the questionable luxury of teaching at an institution where extensive publication is not required or expected (or really supported). Ultimately, I guess, the "so what?" would also apply to not getting tenure--so what?--but I admit that that would be a hard pill to swallow. I acknowledge here, therefore, that the choices I'm making are less about external requirements and more about my own pride and ego--along with love of the field etc., they're what drive a lot of my desire to accomplish--and are not identically applicable to everyone. But if we were all truly enlightened, then we would be able to greet every situation with the same equanimity: So what, after all?

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I've spent the last three days checking each one of my index entries. Yes. Each one. Looking it up and making sure that it's correct. This was simple enough for the names and big obvious words, but things like "epistemology" are not exactly easy to spot on a quick look-over.

Talk about double-plus un-fun.

Was it necessary? Good question. On the one hand, I did find some errors, inconsistencies, and weird items, and some pagination changes from the first to the second proofs had to be dealt with. On the other, the vast majority of the listings were correct and it was not particularly likely that anyone would ever find the mistakes.

Whatever. It's done. I am not rereading the second proofs, though. I've checked to make sure that everything I marked in the first proofs was fixed (not all of it was), and I am calling it a motherfucking day.

So I'm...done with the book? Well, I do need to make some corrections in the index document, but that'll take like an hour.

...Oddly, the hell of indexing has made me almost not particularly care. Whither excitement? Oh, I know: I now have an Amazon listing and a gorgeous cover--which is, unfortunately, not yet viewable on Amazon. Oh well! I know that it's gorgeous (and it'll turn up soon enough). Whee!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things I Do Not Want to See Right Now

1. Emails from students with the one-word subject line, "Help."


That's about it.

In other news, I'm off to visit family for a week. I know--I promised some kind of substantive post a while back, and have yet to deliver. It's possible that I'll blog from the vacation, but not necessarily likely, so it may be that you hear from me again in a week or so.

Have fun! (And I just can't bring myself to open the email right now. I'm off contract, people!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ZOMG (and I never say that).

I have just found my summer procrastination.

All seven seasons of Buffy are on Netflix Watch Instantly.

I have been waiting for this day.

It's a good thing, actually, that TM doesn't like the show.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


You've got to love that article-acceptance-from-fancy-journal feeling.

*this is me, basking*

Anyway. I have an actual substantive post brewing about more or less the exact opposite of this feeling--well, okay, maybe not the exact opposite. I guess that there are various opposites here. The brewing post is not on the opposite of the yay-acceptance feeling (which would be the sad-rejected feeling, obviously); rather, it's on the opposite of goal-oriented-hyper-productive-grandly-planned-doomed-to-be-disappointing summer agenda. And I can't really build that into a "Yay! Accepted!" post, which really is all about the accomplishments. So I'll just leave this one as it is and be back later with some musings, if that's all right with y'all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Well, That Was Disgusting

In the gym today, I was treated to a little show called "Young, Beautiful, and Vanished: 15 Unthinkable Crimes." As the title suggests, it was a parade of stories about pre-adolescent blond girls who were kidnapped, raped, and eventually found. But not recovered--oh no. As the show's TV psychologist (whatever that is) smugly remarked of one of the girls, "Elizabeth will never get over this."

Get over being raped by your father and confined to a cell for however many years? No, I should say not!

And of course we only want to watch re-enactments of young, beautiful girls being kidnapped and raped! Nothing titillating about an older woman, or one of only middling attractiveness. Or, God forbid, a boy. That would be, like, gay or something.*

The worst, though, was that this bit of hideous misogynistic trash was on the Entertainment network.

And that's why I like to pretend that 21st-century pop culture simply does not exist.

*I don't mean to imply by this that the viewership was necessarily straight men. In fact, I expect that it was largely female. But the sexual objectification of women means that women, faced with sexual imagery, frequently inhabit a masculine perspective: Sexualized women typically signify (hetero)sex, to men and women alike; sexualized men typically don't, or at least not as readily. In other words, I think that straight women could be as titillated as straight men by the stories in the show, and that both sexes would find a re-enactment of the abduction and rape of a young boy more jarring than the same story about a young girl.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Path of Destruction

is what I'm on.

So we're about a week into summer. A week? Two. I don't know. Kalamazoo makes things complicated.

And I have Agendas.

For lo, I cannot possibly actually spend a few minutes relaxing. No, I need to work! For I have ambitions incommensurate with a 4/4 SLAC!

Thus, I am: reviewing three chapters of Wheelock's Latin per day (actually dropped that down to two/day today, because as the chapters get higher they take longer); reading two work books per week (until that ceases to make sense--which might be immediately); writing for half an hour every morning; engaging in some form of exercise every day (mowing counts); meditating daily; making headway through the list of fun reading I've backlogged; and--eventually, not yet--reading ahead for the fall and spring (because I have two new preps each semester, huzzah). Oh, and there's the bibliographic essay I'm writing; that'll be a lot more reading, but it'll help me to prep a course for the spring, too.

All of this is actually not a good idea. I know myself. I'll embark on this for a few days, then get angry and tired and reject ALL work, and wind up equally dissatisfied with myself.

The Middle Way that I am attempting to walk is one in which I make a sort of schedule just for the week (M-F), then come up with a new, different one for the next week, etc. So far, I'm three days into this system, and it's going pretty well--but I know that I a) need weekends to be completely flexible and b) will want to redo my schedule for next week. Boy howdy. Because I'm getting a little bit sick of being So Damn Productive All The Time.

Seriously, people. Somebody teach me how to relax.