Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm trying to find an unsearchable, anonymous way to blog about this.


I'm going to a conference in A Foreign Land later this year.

The program is online.

The program looks completely normal.


There is this one paper.

Well, the paper looks normal.

But the speaker's name...I'm just not sure.

Now, of course, there are many speakers whose names are outside of my usual frame of reference, since this conference is in a part of the world where I have never traveled and whose languages I do not know. That isn't the issue. This one name is different.

It consists of: A title (such as "Miss") + the name of a small, rather cute animal. It's a Wind in the Willows type name. Like "Miss Goldfish," only even cuter. And no, nobody else on the program has a title. They're all just firstname-lastname.

I have googled this name, and found articles authored by Miss Goldfish. So this can't be an error. Could it be that ze only has one name, and the title is there to indicate that it is a name? That's my best guess. And it's just [bad/good/adorable] luck that the name happens to be the word for a particular cute animal in English.

I am intrigued. The conference just got a lot more interesting. (Well, no, it already looked plenty interesting. But now I have a mystery to solve!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Props to Me

It's not terribly remarkable, but nonetheless I feel rather proud that a reader was brought to my blog (for 14 minutes 59 seconds!) by a Google search for "revised the hell out of."

Oh, and yo, my blog is the FIRST hit when you search on that business.

And now, with this second iteration of the phrase, I have secured my Google-DOMINANCE of those particular words. Aw yeah. I am a hellacious reviser, my honeys.

(But also, I'd like to know what the searcher was seeking?)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Working Weekend

I'm just back--well, I came back last night, technically--from the annual undergraduate conference to which we always take 12-20 of our majors. This year we had about 16, I think, although a few drove up on their own just for Saturday (we drove the majority up in a couple of big vans Friday night; it's only two hours away). Three of them were reading papers that they'd written for my seminar in the Fall; of these, two are currently student teaching, and it was really nice to catch up with them, since they're not on campus this semester.

This is my third trip to the conference, and it's an exhausting affair, with an early Saturday morning, a lot of stressful driving, and meals taken in dining halls and fast food restaurants. I only went to the panels where our students were presenting--for really, I do not need to hear any other papers--so I was able to spend a good chunk of Saturday afternoon reading a novel that I'll be teaching soon, and the plenary speaker (a creative non-fiction author) was excellent, but it's still an event that inevitably wears me out. There's a lot of talking. That's a big part of it. Because many of our students--and I love them for this--like talking to us. They're comfortable. They'll sit around and chat.

It is a thing that I love about Field, the way that students and faculty get along. I know my students. Even in the survey, I know many of them pretty well by now (all 22 of them or whatever it is). Yesterday I had lunch with a very quiet first-year who's in that class and now I know about her reading interests, her cat, and how she feels about cities. I had a long talk on the drive back with a junior transfer that made me much more sympathetic to her grad school aspirations and the difficulties that she'll have to overcome to get there. And I found myself, in many of these conversations, forgetting that they're the students and I'm the professor and thinking of them just as people--as friends, almost.

This is what I love about teaching here: that, while I am teaching and grading and guiding and so forth, I also get to care about and even--in a non-creepy way--love my students, love their individual humanity and their brand new thoughts and their difficulties and enthusiasms. It doesn't hurt that the culture here is overwhelmingly nice; my students are nice people, for the most part, too.

It's a good thing, this conference. It shows our students a broader world of academic discourse, it lets us get to know them better, and it gives them some nice English-major bonding time. But it does mean spending essentially an extra 24 hours on the clock. So today, I think that I will chiefly read the novel for seminar, do some laundry, and Cuddle Kitties. And go to the gym. And we have fun dinner plans.

But the R&R, and the articles I want to read, and everything else, might just have to wait for the upcoming very busy week to get done. Perhaps I can allow myself that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Break Tally

Number of items on the to-do list: 46 (I thought it was 48, but then noticed that "Dry cleaning ready" and "3:00 check-in" [at the B&B] were on there, and they don't count, especially since "pick up dry cleaning" was a separate item).

Number of items completed: 44.

Number of laments that this is how I measure the success of a break: None yet, but I bet that I could give you one if I were to keep writing.

So I'll just stop here.

[ETA: I mentioned this to TM. His response: "Forty-six? Are you insane?"]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Revise, Revisen, Revose

Classes resume on Monday. I have had a productive break (despite a cold, and despite two days in Interesting New Northern City). I have, for example:
  • Done lots of laundry.
  • Finished a 656-page Russian novel (which meant reading about 500 pages of it in the last six days).
  • Made notes on all but the last section of said novel.
  • Had my car's oil changed and the car itself washed. Why, in God's name, did I not go to our local drive-through car wash earlier? Seriously. $5, plus $1.50 for the vacuum (our vacuum's not working so well), and my car no longer fills me with embarrassment and/or dismay. Interesting New Northern City notwithstanding, the car wash is the exciting discovery of Spring Break 2010.
  • Read three vitae and taken notes on all of the stuff that I've read for my revise-and-resubmit.
  • Read and commented on an Honors thesis.
  • Finished knitting THIS:
    Isn't it ever so cute? It's for my brother's forthcoming baby. My obliging model is Banjo the Bear. I am totally making another one for my own kid if I ever have one; maybe by then I'll be better at buttonholes.
But one thing I have not done, and that is work on my R&R. I have, as I mentioned, read for the R&R, and even taken notes on the things that need adding. But there's something horrible about starting back in on a piece of writing. Once I'm in it, I'm in it, and things will go for better or for worse, and I'll feel good about myself for working on it etc. But right now, I can see no payoff for taking the plunge. Gah gah gah gah gah.

Perhaps I shall spend a few more minutes cruising the interwebs, then print off the notes that I'll need, and the damn thing again. (It doesn't help that previous revision attempts on this article have resulted in horror. Yes, horror. I have been reading a Russian novel; it is impossible that I not awaken in horror every so often right now.)

Oh, and I am also going to eliminate the Productive Procrastination possibilities. I am not allowed to do any of the following until I have at least read through the article and given it some thought: 1) take notes on the last section of Russian Novel; 2) read fucking Jekyll and Hyde for the 800th time; 3) type up last year's notes on J&H; or 4) open the email containing the other Honors thesis. There. That ought to do it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On Domesticity

Fig. 1: Laundry Day, February Edition

I've been thinking about domesticity lately, especially as this spring break--for the first time since I moved to Field State in 2007--I am not traveling overseas but am instead spending most of the time, together with my honey, working and puttering around the house. (We leave tomorrow for two nights in Possibly Exciting Northern City.)

I love travel: or rather, I identify myself as someone who loves travel, and I do believe that mostly this is accurate. I've traveled rather a lot (not as much as some people I know, but more than average, for sure). And I used to be haunted by the feeling that I hadn't done as much, or seen as much, as I could/should have done--especially when I was with someone who had lived a particularly nomadic life. The Ex-Boyfriend is one of those: He's been more or less everywhere by now, I think, and even though he's employed in the Legal Profession, he's managed to work things out so that he's spent the last two years on two different coasts.

But with age--and I have reached the Age of Perfection, after all, even though its remaining months are numbered--I've come to see that what I like, most of all, is coming home.

Fig. 2: Laundry Day, Moody Edition

Case in point: Last summer's month in France. Fabulous! Of course! But from almost the beginning I was looking forward to the pleasure of returning to our newly-moved-into little rented house, our garden, our cats, our...everything. Laundry, even. For truly, I do love doing the laundry, especially if I can hang it up (and we have a wonderful clothesline in the backyard).

When I think of such things, I'm reminded of that poet who is quoted with such irritating frequency and sanctimoniousness of spirit, but whom I do actually like--Rumi. Thus:

Either this deep desire of mine
will be found on this journey,
or when I get back home!

It may be that the satisfaction I need
depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone
and come back, I’ll find it at home.

-"In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad"

But most importantly, in The Minister I've found a partner who shares a commitment to the pleasures and comforts of home. Our time together is spent in domesticity: We cook (though he does most of it); we make things from scratch (me: yogurt, granola, pizza, pesto; he: creme fraiche, creme brulee, buttermilk, butter--basically anything to use up the remaining cream from our weekly milk jars--and most of our fancy breads, though I make a tasty one with onions and walnuts); things are put away; we spend our evenings reading and working and occasionally watching a show through Netflix. We go to bed early. We garden and eat what we grow. We have a candle on our table at dinner every night and we almost always have a glass of wine--it's comforting, it's civil, it's civilized. There is great reassurance in all of these things.

Is it a sign of psychological fragility that having a stable and well-ordered environment is so important to me? I don't actually think so--although it does make it particularly difficult for me to spend long periods of time (like, days) at other people's messy houses. But if it does, so be it; I'm pretty happy like this.

What I'm really driving at here is how nice it is to have married a person with whom I can live, in the day-to-day sense, in such a perfectly comfortable way.

Oh, and the cats like it, too. Here's visual evidence of how utterly they are spoiled:

Fig. 3: Pertelote on the Pillow Pile

I do believe she'd know it if there were a pea under there.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On the other hand, my students rock

I appreciate the commiseration on the previous post! I love my bloggers.

So here we are on the first day of Spring Break (WOO HOO), the sun is shining brightly, the snow is still melting, TM made dutch babies for breakfast (delicious and not at all cannibalistic), and away we go. Plans for the week include getting the garden organized, a two-night stay in New Northern City (which is not actually new, but new to us, because we've never been there, but I've only ever heard good things about it), and reading Crime and Punishment so as not to be prepping by the skin of my teeth for the rest of the month.

And, to counterbalance yesterday's moroseness (morosity?), here are three nice student-related things that happened yesterday.
  1. Class went pretty well. We were on our last day of Jane Eyre, and we had a good, energetic discussion--at least, the 80% of the students who showed up (the Friday afternoon before break) and I did.

  2. I am now the Faculty Advisor for the newly formed Field College Pagan Society. Yes, that's right: a Christian college in the most conservative county in Field State now has a Pagan Society. I am, may I say, touched that the organizers thought of me when deciding whom to ask to be an advisor. I'd never met one of them, though she's tangentially in the major, but the other is a first-year who was in my comp class last semester, and...yes. I'm touched. (Also, they told me that I don't have to attend their Sabat and Esbat rituals if I'm busy, so the time commitment should be pretty minimal.)

    Apparently my weird-kid credentials haven't all abandoned me. I'm pretty happy about that.

  3. I had a really great hour-long talk with one of my advisees after class. She's cool--very bright, loves English, very...overcommited. That was the main point of the conversation: whether or not she should stick with secondary ed certification, since what she really wants to do is to go to grad school, not to teach high school. Yes, I know. But what she seems to want--now--is to take more English classes, to pursue an Honors thesis, to study art and foreign languages, and from my point of view, anyway, sacrificing those things to get professional certification in something that you're not very interested in is a waste of college. Perhaps I'm overly committed to the ideal of a liberal arts education? At least she doesn't have parental pressure to stay with Education. But I told her to think hard about it over the break and see how the decision to give up one thing or another felt. And then we just talked, about travel and what it's like to live in different places, and it was lovely--maybe in part because so many of our students are reluctant to think about moving out of Central Field State at all. It's exciting to have a student who wants to travel abroad and live all over the place.
Anyway. The point is that it was, in the balance a good day, capped by the pleasure of a dinner out with TM.

And now I'm off to get started on some Spring Break activities. First up: Laundry!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Rate My Professors Sucks and I Hate It.

I just made a mistake.

I swore off RMP a long time ago because I found something incredibly cruel written about a good friend. But today I wound up clicking on my own rating--see, I just updated my faculty webpage, and so I googled myself to make sure that it was coming up properly. RMP came up in the results, and I thought, what the hell.

There are two comments.

One is very nice.

And one Just wow. I am apparently the worst professor ever, according to this anonymous individual who even changed the name of the course into something insulting. What he or she wrote is, quite simply, hateful.

And I know that this doesn't mean anything, because I know that most of my students do like my classes more or less--and do seem to like me--and seem to learn from them--and my evaluations are very good. But the fact that someone would go out of his or her way to write such horrible things about a person, anonymously, in public? I have to teach in an hour and I'm in my office crying, for fuck's sake.

However I offended you with my comments on your papers, Student, I did not insult you as a person and publish said insult on the internet. Okay?

Personal ban of RMP resumed.

ETA: Okay. I'm over it. I just needed to get that out.... Also I haven't been feeling very well today--nothing specific, just a sensation like the bones of my head are on too tight, if that makes sense--so perhaps I was extra vulnerable. Anyway, WHATever. Just about everyone gets something nasty written about herself on RMP; it was my turn, that's all.

I do wish, though, that there were fewer venues for people to spew venom about others in public. You know? Not just on RMP, but in general. There's so much nasty snark out there--the public ridiculing of reality TV contestants, celebrities, etc.--people refer to themselves as "catty" as though it were a badge of honor. But it's all so terribly cruel and unhealthy.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Student! Why?

Oh, my Student! I know that you're having personal problems of an entirely legitimate nature. We met to discuss them. And I know that you are now supposed to be all better, and yet you continue to miss classes. Student, you have now missed eight classes, and according to the policy stated on my syllabus, that entitles you to an automatic F.

Student, you have also failed to turn in any of the four papers that have been due in the course. Remember that alternate schedule we came up with, Student? Remember how you said you were already working on one of the (two-page) assignments? Well, Student, I have read neither hide nor hair of you. What's happening?

I emailed you, O Student, recommending that you withdraw from the class. To me, this seems obvious. You will get an F, no matter what, unless you withdraw. You must be clear on this, O my poor beset Student! For I know you from before, and you're pretty sharp. In fact, you're not only sharp, but interesting, and have a mean sense of unconventional style. You are intriguingly arty, O Student, and let it be known that I do in fact really like you.

But Student! Why, given that I emailed you with the inevitable outcome, and that you have read your email (for lo, I can check these things), why did you come to class today? Are we going to draw this out into a protracted negotiation that will only end in misery, despair, and/or the breaking of my perfectly reasonable policy?

Why, Student? Why can't we all just accept the world the way it is?

And why do I seem to have one of you every single semester???