Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Hordes

In celebration of starting classes tomorrow (yay. whee. just can't wait.), I decided to run out and get a couple of necessities--hair conditioner, underwear, contact lens solution, maybe take a peek at the Macy's clearance sale.

Can we say BIG mistake, boys and girls?

Holy moly, ALL of Urbania was out at the mall and environs today. I speculate that this is because the kids from Big State U. are coming back to town, and Mom and Dad are here to move them in, and well, there's little else to do in Urbania, so they take their kids to the mall.

Of late, I have begun to realize that shopping serves a very specific purpose for me--and it's not simply consumption. There's a very specific kind of concentration that comes with the process of "this not that" "that would be good if the sleeves were less puffy" "this, but in a different color" etc. My dissertation advisor used to call the academic version of this (I guess that would be differentiating between various theories) "making fine-grain distinctions." Like academic work, then, I think this process can re-set your brain a bit. For me anyway, it serves to clear out the dust and cobwebs--I often find myself a bit tired at the end of the day, and it's not just from walking around.

Since I'm convinced that shopping is a particular mental process, then, it will come as no surprise to you that attempting to do it with several thousand adolescents and their parents is not quite an enjoyable experience. To follow up on the comparison above, it's a bit like trying to write an article with 25 people jockeying for position in your office. And I mention the jockeying specifically, because I'm fascinated (and perturbed, really) by the ways in which people's relationship to personal space changes when there's a crowd. Oy, the number of times today that I was standing in an aisle, only to have someone (usually a young woman, but who else is cruising the accessories aisle at H&M?) get close enough to me to make me uncomfortable enough to move down, only to have them close the gap again. It's hard to assess the crucial differences among three different pairs of silver earrings with hammered discs when some girl in bad shoes is close enough for you to smell her Calvin Klein perfume. Why doesn't her "people are too close to me, I'm going to have to scream" meter go off? (Please don't tell me I'm the only one with one of these.)

Thus, not quite what I was hoping for in my few remaining hours of freedom. However, I did manage to find a dress for a September wedding that I must attend. [What the hell does one wear to a fall wedding? What kind of fashion challenge is that?! I was mightly tempted to write the girls at Bunnyshop, but I thought I had to hold onto that as a last-ditch option.] And contact lens solution, an umbrella, hair conditioner, underwear. All a little staid, but necessary nonetheless.

I hope those girls at H&M found what they were looking for. And I hope, like much H&M product, it falls apart in two days. But I'm not bitter--not at all...

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Well, I haven't gone to the gym, haven't bought groceries, and haven't cleaned the house. My laundry is still dirty, my office is a mess, and I haven't read the student's thesis.

My syllabi, however, are done. Yee F*cking Haw.

That is all.

Multiplying Like Rabbits

As we begin the speedy descent into our first "real" week of school, I can't help but be reminded of one of the most frustrating parts of my job--attending to the little crap. It seems that every academic activity--a course, a major, a social event, a series--requires not just the expected thinking about the thing itself, but also a multitude of errands, phone calls, emails, and effluvia that take an extended period of time away from the activity itself.

A case in point: on Thursday, I planned to attend our convocation, skip the affiliated workshops, run to my office and finish one of my syllabi, which was very close to done. Ha. I repeat for emphasis: ha, ha. No dice. Not just because the convocation was a trainwreck (which it was, for any number of reasons that I will spare you here), but also because when I finally DID get back to my office, I had to return 3 phone calls for my little Academic Unit (ACUN) and attend to the emails that had piled up for the same thing. One of the phone calls was a follow-up to the internship debacle detailed below (yup. still not done, but did get a slightly sheepish reply from my student after I had gently clued her into the amount of work that goes into setting up internships); another was from an adjunct who just wanted to touch see how this works. By the time I had replied to all contacts, I had just enough time to physically walk sets of flyers for the series we've been planning to each school secretary on campus.

Lest you think this is just the kind of crap that attends to administrative work, let's do a list for planning a class.
1. Order books.
2. Give book orders to secretary to order desk copies.
3. Respond to publishers who have been sent the wrong request.
4. Decide to use online component for course.
5. Walk over to assigned classroom to make sure that room is wired for online course.
6. Log in to online service to see class list.
7. Email tech guy who has not added my courses to the online service.
8. Login to service to see that my courses have been added to my roster, as have Mr. Fluff's, because tech guy refuses to tell us apart.
9. Curse tech guy to the seventh generation, because this is the 5th semester he's done this.
10. Begin to write syllabus. Search frantically through old email for the boilerplate language about learning differences to put in syllabus.
11. Spend many hours hemming and hawing over which assignments go where.
12. Finish syllabus.
13. Discover that school printing policy has changed, and thus syllabus should have been submitted to copy shop days ago.
14. Realize student readings for beginning of semester are in the public domain, and thus could be located online and printed by students for class, thus sidestepping the print policy which discriminates against people who can't get their shit together.
15. Locate reliable websites housing readings, and add urls to syllabus.
16. Plan to get up at the ass-crack of dawn on Monday to print said syllabus at clandestine location on campus.

Right. So all I'm saying is--why are there so many steps? I do, believe it or not, recognize that much of this could be avoided if I started earlier. I know. But isn't it also the case that infrastructure shifts and inconsistencies eat time?

I don't want to become one of those professors who asks that everything is done for me--I believe deeply in an egalitarian system. And yet, contradictorily, I also believe that we're hired to think and write and teach--not to run from copier to copier, not to chase down tech guys, not to spend significant amounts of time taking bugs out of the system so that our teaching can actually work.

I have one more syllabus to finish. And then a series of emails to write requesting classrooms for lab days. And then an email to the librarians asking for research presentations. And then an incomplete grad. student thesis to read.

If anyone has a suggestion as to how to keep these tasks from multiplying, bring it on, I beg of you.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Problem of Interpretation

All right, you masters/mistresses of reading and meaning-making. (While I type this, I have to wonder: are there actually any "masters" who read this blog? I get the feeling it's just us chicks, but I could be wrong. Out yourselves, boys!)

I just received this email from a student (names have been changed to protect the guilty) who has to complete an internship in order to graduate:

Professor Fluff--Is this a confirmed placement with Institute A or is it still up in the air? I was hoping to avoid this last minute push into a placement which is why back in the beginning of April I requested a placement at Institute B. Since I've never done any type of internship I'm anxious about being prepared, and qualified, for the placement, and would have liked to know sooner where I would be and what the internship involved.

What's the snark factor here? Because when I first read it, I was contemplating driving to her house and making her eat the phone that I have spent multiple hours on, trying to get Institute B to put together an internship for her. I was handed off to different people, departments, and assistants, none of who could confirm who could make this kind of decision. Eventually I emailed her, explained the problem, and receive confirmation from her in late July that Institute A would let her explore her interests as well as Institute B. (To truly explain my rage, she also already works at Institute B--which makes an internship there rather useless, IMHO.) Final note: the other student doing an internship this fall? I made the initial contact, gave him the info, and he ran with it. In fact, he just sent me an update last week, which I then followed up on with the local agency. So she's doing a lot less than he is, that's for damn sure.

So, part of me is pretty pissed that she sounds as if she's chiding me for taking so long to set up her internship. The other, small, peeping, sympathetic part of me wonders if this is all motivated by her insecurity about taking on this internship (she's a rather nervous student, doesn't do well with things like "open topics," likes lots and lots of direction, etc.--all of which make her a less-than-stellar major in this very self-directed program, but I wasn't the one who admitted her).

All right. Call it in the air, interpreters. Snarky or nervous? Upbraiding or insecure?

House A'Fire

What is that cliche, anyway? Like a house a'fire? A house on fire? A house of fire?

Regardless, it's me, I tell you. Have you every had one of those days when all of the things you've been most worried about, and have tried and tried to make happen, suddenly all fall into your lap? Well, apparently I was due. Here's the list:
1. Finally, after months of phone calls and emails, someone at the state institution contacted me about a setting up a student internship. She called me back within 12 hours of my initial call, and used the phrase "very interested." What's up with that? Where has she been all summer? [Um, hello Fluff? Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.]

2. After fretting, nail-biting, and entertaining psycho ideas for my unmanned section of an adjuncted course (maybe I could just teach it as an overload? Right! That would work! It might even give me an idea of how to teach it in the future! Get bent...], I hired a lovely ABD candidate from a program down the road. Whew. Is she prepared to be in the classroom in 6 days? No. Will she probably lecture to the kiddies instead of leading an inquiry-based seminar? Yep. Do I care? Hardly at all.

3. My crazy mean senior colleagues have not only reigned it in this week, but one actually brought me a brownie. Apparently not filled with rat poison. No adverse effects two hours out...

4. Syllabi? Drafted. Not done, but at least on their way.

5. Proposal for new intiative? Drafted and sent to committee.

6. Old, lurking administrative project from last year? Not only finished and sent out, but I actually received a phone call from a colleague in another department who wanted to run an administrative proposal by me. When did I become the authority on this stuff? (Actually, is this something that is going to move onto the "morass of creeping inter-departmental crap" list soon?) I'll revel while I'm able.

All right, so, it goes without saying, probably, that there is still a LOAD of stuff that needs to be done. And it just wouldn't be the beginning of a new year at Ascesis U. if new obstacles weren't in place (e.g., all printing now goes through the print shop, rather than being done in departments. Thus, you need to submit copying 4-5 business days in advance. Did I mention that I have no completed syllabi? And school starts on Monday? That sound you hear is that of rocks being sucked.)

Regardless, I'm going to bask in my accomplishments. Thank you to the karma gods. Now back to building it up again.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Well, it appears that the big kids are on their way back to school--and here I thought we started early by beginning the semester on the 28th. Of course, I'm still without a completed syllabus, a clean office, and an adjunct for a course, but I DO have a dandy little flyer! Because I am the queen of Pagemaker! Because it only took me 6 hours total, and then another 2 to wrangle with the print shop today! Because the people in PR can suck my ass!

In happier news, Frenchie has decided to send along the picture of her Armani skirt so that we may all oooh and ahhh over it. Witness the object of admiration:

I'm sad to say that the pic doesn't do it justice--really, it's quite a sight to behold. While it looks black and white (and very spot on for this season's houndstooth trend), it's actually blue and brown, which is why she included the shoes in the pic. Really, it lowers my blood pressure just to see it and remember...

I'm hoping tomorrow is the day when all of the seeds that I've planted grow to fruition. I could use a little fruit. If they don't, I'm pretty sure that I'll be at the Macy's clearance sale. [Listen, exercise as a means of raising seratonin levels only goes so far...]

Sunday, August 20, 2006

OCD, That's Me

Well, since the bullsh*t email from PR saying that they can't squeeze out a flyer for our series, my delightful colleague and I spent 4--count them, 4--hours yesterday wrangling with a Pagemaker template to make our own. My colleague (who really needs a name here. Hmmm. How about Yogini? That seems to work. If it doesn't, lady, just tell me and I'll change it). So Yogini and I sat bleary-eyed in front of a computer, trying learning the program while we wracked our brains for any semblance of knowledge we had about graphic design.

Far and away, I think the most difficult part of this endeavor is figuring out the quirks of Pagemaker. On the one hand, it's rather intuitive, but if you're not going to read the 500 page manual, then you have to be prepared for trial and error--and lots of it. Let me say here that I'm happy to know how this program works, for the future, and like Dreamweaver, it's something that I had intended to reacquaint myself with in the near future. Why reacquaint? When I worked on my college newspaper, we used Pagemaker for layout. In that case, however, the editor had already designed the masterpages, so it was a lot of cut and paste. It was also a lot of all-nighters fueled by Kahlua and coffee, set to the Beastie Boys Check Your Head on infinite repeat, but that's a different story. The latter were skills (or should I say "skillz"?) that I returned to during grad school, but the former were lost to the fog of time.

So, take re-learning how to drive Pagemaker, add that to careful consideration of fonts, colors (which may or may not print true), graphics and alignment, and you have hours of work ahead of you. And in the moment where I'm exhausted and my brain won't work anymore I find myself seized by my nascent obsessiveness. Yogini, of course, is smart enough to let things go. "It's good enough!" she said, and she's right. But I couldn't help going back into the document after she'd gone and fiddling. It's really only an act of will that made me put the mouse down and pick up a spatula to make dinner.

I find it puzzling, really. In virtually all of my daily activities, I am the "good enough" girl. Spelling error on a handout? Meh. Good enough; it's already printed. Too many capers in a pasta sauce? Harumph. We'll probably live; spit 'em out if you don't like it. But stuff like this damn flyer can keep me futzing for hours and hours. It's like the template for this blog: you may or may not know that it explodes like a sky blue powder puff in Explorer. I know that I should change it, but if I go back in there, there's not telling when I'll come out. (Much like the new film The Descent, I imagine. Creepy crawly Morlocks down there in the template. Bring your spelunking headlamp.) If anyone knows how to fix that, however, I'd gladly negotiate a price for the fix, because it's driving me crazy. Name your price!

So, with a deep breath, I'm going to set a timer and go back to the flyer. I'm going to learn to be the "good enough" girl, or else I'm going to be the unprepared professor come next week when I am syllabi-less.

If I'm not back in two hours, call the flyer cops.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bad Blogger, No Biscuit

Were you all afraid that I was eaten by New Jersey? A warranted fear; the NJ turnpike indeed was designed by a sadistic madman, and I now know the innermost workings of Newark.

Indeed, the shopping extravanganza was epic; it was well worth braving the Garden State. Frenchie and I almost literally shopped til we dropped. I feel spiritually fulfilled, and more importantly, almost fully prepared to re-enter the fray that will be the fall semester. I've already performed the obligatory closet purge to make room for my new purchases (some of which actually involve a trip to the alterations guy--total bummer). But sartorially prepared I am, so you all may rest easy in that regard. [Here's the point, however, where you want specifics, right? Well, nothing I got was nearly as exciting as Frenchie's ARMANI SKIRT. Seriously. How's that?! Raise your virtual hand if you want Ms. F. to send in a pic.]

Upon my return, however, I encounter the following:
1. Email message from an adjunct instructor in my little academic unit backing out of teaching for the fall semester. 11 days before it begins.

2. Email message from the world's most horrific graduate student, indicating that she intends for me to direct her thesis. [She's not asking, mind you. She's informing me that I've been chosen.]

3. Email stating that the first department meeting of the semester will occur on the first day of classes, and all of the most controversial issues are on the table immediately.

4. The Public Relations office "doesn't have time" to produce a flyer for the series that my colleague and I have been working to put together.

5. One of my adjuncts for the spring is pregnant, and thus will only make it through half of the semester. However, she hasn't informed me of this yet, so I can't explain to her what a difficult spot this puts me in, because her topics course is too specific to find a mid-semester replacement.

6. Email message with the schedule of meetings for chairs and directors to meet with the dean. They happen every two weeks.

7. Email stating that my inter-library loan books are overdue, and thus I've been blocked from the system until I pay my fine.

I think there might be more, but I'm blocking them out. Welcome to the fall semester, kids. Let the games begin!

Thank God I have new shoes.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Where Did I Put My Lace Glove?

Apparently, if you work in the education, you live and die by the academic schedule. Why not? Many of us have spent the larger portion of our lives in school--whether as students, teachers, or both. So, as August winds down to a hazy close, the call goes out: What the hell am I going to wear to class?!

I've seen that both Mel and Dr. Crazy are going to be rockin' it old skool; if you haven't heard by now, the 80's are back, like Diehard, with a vengeance. I too, grew up in the 80's, and am thusly not immune to the call of black jeans, leggings, and tunic tops with belts. Here's the problem--I was short and thick-thighed in high school, and not much has changed now. The very idea of myself in skinny jeans brings to mind the ever-charming inverted triangle image, in which my hips become the widest part of my body. Yikes.

So, I will be reveling in the black-on-black of the season, and channeling much of my energy into using a very steady hand to apply Joan Jett style eyeliner. [If you have not seen the inimicable "What would Joan Jett do?" t-shirts by now, run-don't-walk.]

Thankfully, eyeliner has come a long way since JJ's day. Which is my favorite? Why this one, thanks for asking! In trusty black, but also a deep metallic blue and also a silver, if you're feeling adventurous. So tell me, true believers, does it freak the students out if the professor arrives to her first class looking as if she just finished shooting a Eurythmics video? Is this what one waits for tenure for?

Having said all of this, I will admit to holding out a brief hope that there is some remnant of 80's fashion (other than a Units tube--remember those? It's a belt! And a skirt! and a headband!) that I can still rock. To that end, I'll be meeting my dear friend Frenchie at the largest mall in New Jersey tomorrow. We'll be staying overnight. Just in case we need extra time. You know how it is.

Meet us at the Orange Julius at 3. What are you going to wear?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

All Men Are Dogs?

All right, after the Lindsay Lohan revelation, not too many of your ran away screaming (or at least those of you that did live too far away for me to hear you) and so we'll move on to Vol II: Cesar Millan.

If that name doesn't create an automatic response in you, I'll help you out by giving you his more common moniker: The Dog Whisperer. Better? Right. If you've somehow missed this phenomenon, despite multi-media coverage and a long-standing spot on the NY Times best-seller list, then here's a link to his site. Check it out. I'll wait.

I should tell you, up front, that I don't have a dog. Periodically, I think that I should get one, just for the exercise alone, but also because I love the way that dogs look when they are outside--it's like the whole world is new to them, and they couldn't be happier than they are at precisely that moment. What's better than that? Then I remember that dogs are smelly and require baths, they don't relieve themselves in an indoor box, they can be really loud, etc. I'm clearly just NOT a dog person, although I do wish some friends of mine would hurry up and get dogs that I could play with. Despite all of this, I find myself called by the siren song of National Geographic's "Dog Whisperer" in which Cesar Millan shows up at your house and fixes the behavior of your aggressive/yappy/dangerous/annoying or otherwise-badly-behaved dog. In part, I think the appeal here is that multiple creatures can be rehabilitated in one short hour (or 4-5, if a DW marathon is on). What's actually fascinating about the show, however, is Millan's contention that the owner, not the dog, needs to be fixed. His philosophy and pratice rely on the group dynamics of the dog pack, and the replication of those dynamics in your own home. You, of course, are trained by Millan to be the Pack Leader. [See Malcolm Gladwell's writeup of Millan here.]

The true draw of the show, then, is the way in which Millan goes after the owners--who are often women. In a number of episodes, the women with problem dogs work in occupations that require their competence and authority: nurses, junior high school teachers, business-owners, etc. When it comes to their relationships with their pets, however, they resist the idea of enacting the same kind of competence and authority--or what Millan would call "projecting the energy that allows the animal to be calm and submissive."

Nine times out of ten, these women make the jump between their behavior with their dogs and their behaviors with men. AND HERE'S WHERE IT GETS WEIRD. For example, a woman who's dog is fine with the family, but attacks anyone and anything else. After Millan's visit, she states: "This dog wants to dominate me. If he made a living, maybe I'd let him." WTF, boys and girls? Again, I say, WTF?!! The next woman--"I need to use the same kind of tactics in my home as I do in my classroom." Yikes.

There are at least two salient points here. First, the relationship between women's homes and their workplaces. Part of me can understand their fatigue with the dogs--if you have to strap it on at work, who wants to do that when you come home? Isn't the home space a retreat from the rigid workplace constructions and expectations of gender? Or at least shouldn't they relax a little? But this is where the second point comes in: if women are indeed trying to "relax" (both mentally and more abstractly, adjust their gendered behaviors) at home with their dogs, is this how they also approach their hetersexual romantic relationships? To phrase an earlier sentence differently, "if I have to strap it on to be successful at work, then I just want to put it down when I come home." A fine and understandable sentiment, unless you're in a relationship that demands negotiation of roles. Which I think is more common all around.

Both of these, of course, obviate the third and final point--that the editors of the show are choosing these cases because of their approaches to gender. Millan's theory, after all, is nothing if not biological determinism. How do you train your dog? By understanding the way his mind naturally works, and adopting behaviors that he understands. It's a short jump from here to the ways in which chicks have to behave for men to respond to them. Hell, we're only a skip and hop away from The Rules now.

Oh, popular culture. Why must you be so f*cked up?

Friday, August 11, 2006

NASCAR, Urbania-style; or, The Ballad of Kultury-Fluffy

Way back when, I think I described Urbania as a bit uppity when it considered itself a city; sure, you could say that it has a million people, but only if you included a few of the towns in the general vicinity. Thus, it is, if anything, a sleepy little burg; large enough to rate a Macy's, but not a Nordstrom; an Olive Garden but not a PF Changs; an organic food market, but not a Whole Foods. Dig?

All of this is important, I think, because it explains the truly bewildering urban safari that I had today. Big things were afoot in the Fluff household: I needed gardening bags and hand soap, as well as a host of school supplies (first and foremost a day planner, which someone has finally decided to make in attractive cover-patterns, instead of that gnarly faux croc that I normally settle for). In addition, I wanted supplies for my Martha Stewart twitch--my subscription to Cooking Light is quickly taking over my life and my bookshelves. In a mad brainstorm of procrastinatory glee, I thought: "Gee, if I got a binder, I could cut out all of the recipes I actually like, and then I could paste them in and save room!" More on this boondoggle later. The point is that I headed to the one geographical site that could feed my fix: the strip mall with a Target AND a Staples.

If this were a simple, standard strip mall, it would simply feature chain stores in, per the nomenclature, a strip, right? Yes, well, not in Urbania. Here, they like to build compounds of consumer destinations, such that you have a strip of stores, and then separate settlements of other stores around the perimeter--like the pioneers who were to withstand the first attacks of the savages. Thus, the strip is surrounded by miles of parking lot, which is in turn bounded by a road that encircles it, such that office-supply/wedding dress/pet food crazed shoppers can drive from one store to another in a frenzy of consumer adrenaline. (Much like the way that the demonically possessed, animated vehicles circled the diner where the humans huddled for safety in Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive. Whoa. That's a horrible repressed childhood memory.)

So here's my actual point. Trying to be good and WALK a little, I thought I'd park at the far end of the Target lot, walk to the adjoining Staples compound, get crafty crap, walk back to my car and drop stuff off, and then proceed to the Target, yes? HA! Not in America, no siree! We'll have none of that silly "get a modicum of exercise in your daily activities" you commie pinko!

I did not clearly think through the consequences of having to cross the beltway encircling the Target strip--not once, but twice. I felt like the little guy in Frogger.

It was taking my life into my hands. I ran across the four lane road--in flip-flops (no small feat. and no small feet, either.). You would have thought that I was clubbing baby seals for the honking and death stares that I received. Heaven forbid people drive less than 65 mph in what is essentially an over-grown parking lane! One the way back, I brandished my bags of office supplies in self-defense, against the Hummers searching for the checkered flag.

So, that's the report from Urbania, kids. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to walk between stores in a strip mall compound. You git in yer car and drive from one to the next, like everyone else.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

LiLo Gives Me a Stitch

True confessions time: despite (or, more realistically, because of) the boozing, the promiscuity, the fashion-victimhood, the dating Wilmer Valderrama, the spats with Duff and Paris Hilton, and for several other, unexplainable reasons, I heart Lindsay Lohan.

I know that I shouldn't, I know that it's wrong. And I'm not as fanatical as some; I don't follow her "music" career, I haven't been watching her in Disney flicks since she was a tyke, etc. But I did fall for her as a curvy, awkward-but-very-cute teen in Mean Girls, and I love the idea of her as Meryl Streep's emo poet-lite daughter in Prairie Home Companion. So, I'm willing to overlook the ways in which she acts like a spoiled brat, and instead simply covet her hair and clothing. [Note: a few weeks back, I found myself at a department store browsing scarves. What for? I had this vague image of rocking an oblong headscarf with big sunglasses and gallivanting all over Europe. It wasn't until I bought the thing that I realized where that fantasy came from. For the sake of everyone, I chose to forego the white bikini.]

Despite all that I'm willing to overlook, however, this new one really takes the cake. LiLo apparently wants to go entertain the troops in Iraq, because she's positioning herself as the new Marilyn Monroe. Here's the money quote:

It's so amazing seeing that one woman just going somewhere, this beautiful sex kitten, who's basically a pinup, which is what I've always aspired to be.

Hoooboy. There are a number of things dreadfully wrong here, so let's break it down:
1. NOT A SENTENCE. Crap, I hate that. "One woman just going somewhere"...what? Get an active verb!!
2. The word "amazing." I hereby declare a 5 year moratorium on starlets using the word. As in Paris saying at an MS benefit: "My grandma had MS, so this is amazingly important to me." er, no.
3. Unclear referent here. Is it the pinup that she's always aspired to be, or the beautiful sex kitten? It doesn't matter to me, really, but be clear about it!

You'll notice that I've left the content out of it completely. Because it's just not worth it. We're through, LiLo. Kaput. Over. You're not fetch, and I'm taking down all of your TigerBeat pictures from my bedroom walls.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anonymity Necessity

When I started this blog, I knew there was a reason for me to be anonymous. I'm sure that different examples will come up, but here's the first one out of the gate, and it's a doozy.

I have a colleague, whom I've always thought was a decent guy. So decent, in fact, that when I needed some expertise in a field outside my own, I asked him for some help, which he graciously extended. Ah, intellectual generosity and collegiality, right?

On Saturday, Mr. Fluff and I ran into said colleague at a cafe in downtown Urbania. He oh-so-graciously reminded me that I owed him a favor, and said he'd like to cash it in: he knows a young woman who has opened a business, and wondered if I might be able to talk with her about one of my hobbies. I was a bit taken aback (always weird to be informed that you owe someone, despite the number of times that you may in fact say "I owe you!"), but agreed. We walked around the corner, he introduced her to me, and then he went away.

The young woman is charming. She explains to me that she graduated from Ascesis U. a year or two ago, moved to the big city, but has now moved back because she likes the pace of Urbania better. She's really invested in this business working--she's renting the space and living in a tiny room in the back. She's supporting herself at a summer job, but that will soon be over and she doesn't know what's best. She's really grateful that my colleague has helped her out so much, even letting her sleep on his couch for a few days. Ascesis just doesn't know how great he is--he's really taken advantage of by his department.

After our conversation, I agreed to do some research and see whether I could discuss a partnership between her business and my own department. On a whim, I broached this idea with a member of my department, and the conversation went something like this:
Department Member: There's a sticky personnel issue there.
Idiot Kfluff: Perhaps that's why our colleague was giving me the full-court press.
DM: Did he mention that she's his girlfriend?
IK: !!! I thought he was married!

Right. So there it is in a nutshell, folks. Colloquially, a few of us have taken to calling the colleague "Dickhead." Seems fitting, right? Who does this kind of thing?! And by "this kind of thing" I mean:

A: Gets romantically involved with students and ex-students.
B: Does the above while married and a father.
C: Ropes his colleagues into assisting said ex-student with her new business, so that she can stay in the town with the colleague?!

I do have to give him credit: if it were just A and B, it would simply be a gigantic cliche. But the crucial addition of C--well, that just makes it all new again. While Mr. Fluff and my friend Dr. Marxy are all up in arms on my behalf (which I totally appreciate), I really can't help but fixate on this poor young woman. If you've ever been in a position like hers, you recognize the ways in which she is culpable, but also a victim herself. I keep searching for some way to clue her in to that: an anonymous email? A letter bomb? Alas, I think I have to simply extricate myself, back away slowly, and wait for the trainwreck.

If anyone out there is up for it, how about an website like "Rate Your Professors" titled "Rate Your Colleagues?" That'd be damn handy right about now...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Kneel Before Me, Mere Mortals!

I have been stalking a piece of clothing since the beginning of the summer. Not just any piece of clothing, but this one, specifically:

Note its excellent lines, it's put-together, yet casual vibe. Think how perfect this is for late summer, early fall teaching, when it's still hot like a mo-fo outside. Wear it with a cute little camisole in the hot weather, and a light sweater as fall approaches. Cute with trousers and with jeans. And doubly-cute in navy, instead of this washed out green, no?

I have waited patiently for Ur-Jacket to go on sale, because buying it for full price, from an unnamed-here-because-I-refuse-to-give-them-MORE-publicity, mall-retailer-known for-its-hideous-preppy-qualities, but-which-makes-good-work-clothes, dammit, would be like taking it up the a**, really. I have checked back at the store, thinking it might be on sale sooner than online. It disappeared in the color and size I wanted. It did indeed, finally, go on sale, online, three weeks ago, but only for half off (which is still ludicrous, given what the damn thing is). I hemmed and hawed, but hell, I was going to Europe--did I really need to spend that kind of money on a jacket? When I returned, it was on final sale, still for half-off, and only in pastel-baby-puke colors. (My apologies to all of you whom these colors favor, but they're not for an Asian grrrl like me.) Just as I was beginning to wonder whether it might be worth it to have it in the barf-o-licious colors (no doubt inspired by pre-fall clothing panic), it disappeared altogether.

On a whim tonight, I googled the jacket, and it popped up on some weird, super-secret catalog only wing of the retailer's website. In all colors and sizes. For 75% off (which is good, because that's probably still 3 times what it cost them to make and distribute using child labor). I did not hesitate, I did not stutter. Wrap it up.

I am the self-declared queen of shopping. I am the white witch of internet retail. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

Full of...

You may fill in the blank in the title, if you wish. Given my own dirty mouth, there is generally only one possible option, but today, I find myself wanting to substitute "energy" or "purpose."

For some strange reason, I'm filled with the ability to get sh--I mean STUFF done. It's currently 11 a.m., and I've already:

1. corresponded quite genially with a colleague about finishing off a project that we've been procrastinating on for the entire summer
2. paid all of my bills, including the overdue ones that I mistakenly neglected prior to European trip (ARGHGHGHGH!)
3. emailed a graduate students about his impending doom unless he provide a draft of his thesis to me posthaste
4. emailed the PR director here at Ascesis U. to get her to intervene in the debacle that is the flyer for my co-directed series of panel sessions
5. emailed the editor at a journal in response to a call for book reviews that the recently posted

YEEEHAW! All this on one cup of coffee. What gives? All of you Gen-X'ers might remember the ever-so snarky phrase "I'm high on life." Well, it's not that, exactly, but I do think that I'm remembering the nascent buzz one gets from completing minor tasks so as not to have them hanging over one's head inevitably.

Thus, #5 marks a new experiment in my applying above revelation to my scholarly writing. Remember the endless whinging and panic of my article-writing at the beginning of the summer? Well, here's my theory: project too big, no beautiful seratonin-buzz from ever completing anything, thus, endless depression and "I can't do it!" wailing. [Note: As a child, my mother forced me to take years of piano lessons, which I hated. And I would sit down to practice, and wouldn't be able to play a song through perfectly on the first try, and would get more and more frustrated, and then would begin to bang my fists on the piano in great thuds, wailing, you guessed it, variations on "I can't get it!" or "I'll never get it!" Such a joy, was the young Kfluff.] Thus, despite the fact that one of the top journals in my field has announced a call for articles that are spot-on descriptions of my dissertation chapters, I'm opting for the book review instead. I'm betting that I need a small, finishable and published piece under my belt to get enough of a high to push through the completion of an article.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ice Planet of Hoth (or, a Break from Vacation Blogging)

You were expecting clue #2 in the ever-widening gyre of my narcissistic vaction blogging, right? After all, isn't that what this damn blog is for?

Instead, dear friends, you'll get a meditation on new colleagues and making friends. And you'll like it! (In essence, this is the brussel sprout of blog posts...)

Last night, Mr. Fluff (or, as one suggestion has name him, "Fluffernutter"--thanks Jo(e)) and I went out to dinner with one of our new colleagues and her husband. I didn't get a chance to meet her during interview time, and I've heard very good things about her from those who did meet her, so I thought I'd arrange to meet prior to the beginning of the semester (which is approaching us at about the speed of a runaway train--you should be working on your syllabi RIGHT NOW.). In addition, Mr. Fluff had met the new colleague (NC?)'s husband at a conference in very-cool-but-not-the-most-canonical field, which I also enjoy, and thus, this should be easy, right?

Let me preface this by saying--it was fine. No water was thrown, no 10 minute uncomfortable silences, no outright foot-in-mouth scenarios. But it wasn't easy--not to me, anyway. You know that awesome vertiginous feeling when you meet someone and you rather instantly fall into a fascinating conversation with him/her and you just want it to go on and on, and you feel instantly close to that person? Right. Well, it wasn't that. And for some reason, I think I continually expect that, but it soooo seldom is that. In point of fact, that's happened exactly twice in my life (give or take two or three very close approximations of that experience); yet it continues to function as my expectation for all of my relationships with the people I work with. Set yourself up for failure much, Fluff?

Thus, over a steaming bowl of pho (hooray for hot food on a the first cool night in ages!) and conversation, I learned a few things about my own expectations. Another important revelation: I think I'm ceasing my life-long habit of self-flagellation. As always, my nervous talking habit revealed itself last night. I think I held it together for a good long while, but then, inevitably, I had to make some comment about the way in which I often refer to particular kinds of pornography to make a point in class. (!!!!) Hello, too-much-information! Normally, I would be kicking myself; now, however, I just can't seem to work up the energy. I keep thinking to myself that this will perhaps save me time--if a friendship survives that kind of confession, then I suppose they've seen about the worst faux pas I have to perform. In public, anyway.

So, here's to realistic expectations for colleagues and friends. I herewith attempt to learn to accept things for what they are, not reel in disappointment when they don't approach the golden ideal of my best hopes. And hey, one more set of people I know that can trade references to the Star Wars trilogy (hence the title)? That's a boon in and of itself.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Overheard Recently at Chez Fluff

Upon reading this here blog, my spouse initiated this conversation:

Mr. Fluff: Why do I have to be "Mr. Fluff?"
Kfluff: What else would you be? You don't want to be "Fluffman" or "Fluffer". That's just dirty.
MF: Why can't I be "Dr. Fluff?"
KF: Because I'm Dr. Fluff.
MF: Why can't we both be Dr. Fluff? Dr. Fluffs?
KF: Because that would just confuse all the nice people at home.

It occurs to me, reading over this, that Mr. Fluff would probably also dislike being abbreviated as "MF." It's a bit like Felix Ungar's initials, no?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Name that Statuary

Any normal blogger in her right mind would post a series of pictures from her trip, right? Better yet, one who didn't have her thumb up her technologically-impaired hindquarters would hook up to Flickr and let you peruse in peace. But that's just not how the Fluff rolls, I'm afraid. It may very well be a picture a day, until I have nothing of any possible interest left to tell you about my little vacation.

So let's start with this, shall we? Guaranteed to make tourists do a double-take, this statue stands in front of one of the newest and most bizarre museums in our main vacation city. I'm sad that I don't have video of it, because it's really profane poetry in motion; the guys turn on their axis and so are peeing, constantly, in a half-circle orbit. Hee. If this were the U.S., they'd make little mini-replicas of this statue as a fountain you could have in your home. You could place it on a table between your Big Mouth Singing Bass and your Zen rock garden.

My favorite experience with the fountain was this: I was sitting outside the museum on a bench, waiting for the ever-intrepid, minutiae-collecting Mr. Fluff to finish his comprehensive perusal of the frickin' weird exhibits. No use waiting inside--hot, moist air is worse inside than outside. I was joined by a group of young German tourists (perhaps also waiting for compatriots with Mr. Fluff-like tendencies?). At one point, one of these young women got up and walked over to the fountain. She rinsed her feet, one by one, in the fountain. But here's the kicker--she didn't use the water in the base of the fountain--she stuck each one in the stream issuing from the statue's abstract penis. Given, it was 78,000 degrees celsius. And I do, in fact, understand that the statues were not actually producing urine. HOWEVER. It's quite an act of dissociation to separate the product from its representation. Would you have rinsed your feet in statuary piss? (This is of course above and beyond the fact that she probably got serious blisters from wet sandals. Ouch.)

So there it is--tourist pics and observations of cultural difference, all in one. Rejoice! And I will personally send a reader an astronomically devalued piece of European coinage if s/he can name the city and museum in which this statue stands.

Consider the gauntlet thrown.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tap Tap...Is This Thing Still On?

Hallllooooo! I return triumphant from the Continent! Only to find that we've embroiled ourselves even more deeply into Mid-East politics, are enduring a cow-killing, country-wide heatwave, and that somehow, despite being cancelled, the dreaded 7th Heaven on the WB is STILL ON. Bring on the plague of locusts!

I have every intention of milking my trip for every possible blog post, but after yesterday's marathon 24-hour epic journey home, I don't have two spare brain cells to rub together. Using my last remaining, jet-lagged one, I've been surfing the blogosphere--y'all have been mighty busy since I left! Here are some highlights (and yes, I know this is a ridiculous sham of a real post--sue me):

•Apparently Beth and I were separated at birth, given that her list of guilty pleasures include not just the saintly/snarky Tim Gunn, but also Isaac Mizrahi (of Johannsen boob-grabbing fame). And the Gilmore Girls! Holy crap! I loves me some senoritas de Gilmore; bless you, Beth, for your confessional streak. [For the record, Beth is also apparently going to see Tom Waits in concert. That sound you hear is me eating my heart out.]

Dr. Crazy not only changed up her template (which now features the ever-lovin' Man Kitty as a header), but also created a new blog meme. All hail the productive!

•Miss Ashley is hard at work on her quilt. Even the word "quilt" makes me want to dunk my head in water and stick it in the freezer. [That would be easier if it were detachable. And hopefully re-attachable, while we're at it.]

•Jenn is holding down the fort with an excellent post about the history, contemporary manifestations, and consequences of blackface in America, glossing everything from the doomed film Soul Man to Christopher Walken in yellowface in the upcoming Balls of Fury. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies.

•Flavia painted not one but TWO rooms in her new apartment. And they're lovely. And she's not grumbling about it.

•Finally, one of my pals from real life (Not the online game. no, for real. you know, in the flesh and stuff...) stopped by. Hi Tam! Everyone wave to Tam!

Whew. Confessional, creative, crafty, analytic, aesthetic,'s both inspiring and daunting what you all have been up to. Perhaps tomorrow I can write, make, think, and do. For now, however, my plans involve eating, resting, and perhaps making it to an afternoon matinee with little redeeming value, where I can soak up free air conditioning. Clerks 2, anyone?