Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oh, the Irony

Last night, I graded a student's paper draft, and included a number of comments about how, structurally, he needed to make a clearer, parallel relationship between a certain bald, famous, S&M lovin' theorist and his own ideas.

His email response to me this morning: "I think I did what you suggested in the comments. Can we meet and talk about it?"

Meanwhile, I'm reading the draft of my own paper to Senor Fluff this morning. He makes some comments, which include the fact that I need to make my own intervention into the debate more clear.

My (non-emailed) response to him: "I think I did that! Right here! Let me re-read you the sentence!"


Now get back to your grading, bee-yotches.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oscillate Wildly

There's your Smiths reference for the day. Every day should have one.

It's not just a groovy song from the good ole days when Johnny Marr and Morrissey were working together, however. It's also a state of mind! [A dessert topping and a floor wax?]

I'm settling in for round three of working on my godforsaken conference paper scheduled for a Saturday panel, and I find myself shifting erratically between a couple of points:
  1. Abject terror. Like an Edvard Munch painting. Coming off of the debacle of my still-unfinished article from the summer, I have a deep and abiding panic that I've somehow become unable to finish a scholarly piece. Really. Seriously. I say this here in a desperate attempt to spare those around me from having to listen to me say this over and over again. What if I just can't finish it? What if I can't manage to pull all of the pieces together? What the hell happened to the mojo I had when I wrote my dissertation, where I would procrastinate for hours and still manage to churn out a chapter? Gone. All gone. I'm doomed. I might be able to sqeak through tenure, but after that I'm doomed; I'm going to be a 65 year old assistant professor, who people snicker at behind her back. Or worse, to my face.
  2. Hyper-confidence and hope. Like an American Idol contestant. I'm brilliant! I can do anything! My entire future stretches out before me, filled with interesting and exciting pieces that I've written. Maybe all of these separate ideas are not so separate after all! Maybe I'm working toward a book! A series of books! My own imprint!
Oy. Note that the first position is a whole lot more developed and embroidered upon than the first. Which do you think occupies more of my mental space? You would think that the second position would be more conducive to getting some writing done, but in fact, I think it's so deeply connected to the first that it inevitably leads back there; and the first? That's no position to write from. Where's the happy middle ground that equals a non-neurotic writing practice?

I'm off to attempt to open up the document. My goal for today: get something, anything, written. No. To write the Best! Paper! Ever! No. To write a couple of pages that would generate useful pieces of the paper? Is a question a goal?

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007


Yesterday I broke into a house.

No, it wasn't mine.

How's that for a triumphant return to the blogosphere? I'm trying to be more regular here (what's the blogging equivalent of Metamucil?), but jeez, the end of the semester. Grading, reading drafts, oh, and there's that pesky paper to be delivered next week... [BTW, if anyone is going to be in Mass. next weekend for a conference, which shall go unnamed here, give me a shout-out! I'm a great conference cocktail partner!]

So, back to the burgling. The ever-hopeful Yogini has been searching, off and on, for a house in Urbania for about a year now. And it's not an easy thing; one can find a domicile within the Urbania city limits that's affordable on a Askesis U. salary, but one also might be watching violence in front of one's new house every night, or worse, living next to college students. When a new property comes on the market that's in a liveable neighborhood and will not require paying the monthly mortgage with a credit card, it goes FAST. You have to be the first one in, and the first one to the table with an offer.

Yogini's been through that particular race before; she gets into the house on its second day on the market, and its already got three offers. But yesterday, miraculously, her realtor scheduled the first appointment on a house; coincidentally, it's right across the street from mine. That's awesome for many reasons, not least among them that looking at houses on the market satisfies my homeowner voyeuristic blood-lust. So I walked over with Yogini to meet the realtor, and we stood patiently at the door as she fiddled with the key. Hmmm. "It fits, but it won't turn. Do you mind trying?" We all tried, but agreed that something was stuck. After calls to the other realtor, walking around the property peering into windows, etc., the realtor had to go, but knew Yogini was interested.
"Look," she said. "The seller's realtor told me that we could just get in a window."
"They're locked," said we.
"But these old houses have turning window locks. The other realtor said you can just stick a knife up there and flip it."
"Are you sure we won't get arrested?"
"Yes..." [It occurs to me now that this is a bit of an ambiguous answer.]

So the realtor leaves, Yogini and I get tools from my house, and we proceed to, well, flip the lock and get into the house through the window. [Note to self: change window locks.] It's cute, this house. It's obviously been cleaned out; no one's living there currently. Despite that, the little-old-married-couple aesthetic remains (wallpaper borders in the kitchen, a chuck-wagon iron applique on the fireplace), but its got good bones. This house could work!

Yogini and I are in the basement, poking at the boiler, which looks to be older than the two of us put together, when we hear---holy crap!!!---footsteps upstairs! With visions of a Silence of the Lambs/Marcellus Wallace-style story in my head, I rush upstairs to meet the person. It's the freaking owner (who, thankfully, had neither a ball gag in his hand, nor asked us to "put the lotion in the basket. Whew.) His realtor had called saying that we couldn't get in. And now, of course, the door works just fine. AAARGH!!!!

Yogini and I do our best to convince him that we're not grifters. He calls his realtor to tell her that we got in, and she, much to her credit [particularly since she was the one who told us HOW to break into the house!!] calls Y's realtor who rushes right back over. I think we smoothed it all out, but he did refer to us as "larcenists." Which, technically, I think is untrue. Isn't larceny only applicable if we steal something?

The icing on this cake, of course, is that Yogini put in her offer last night. And the owner had ALREADY RECEIVED an offer. How is that possible? Did they bust in the back door?

Ah, Urbania. Keep your fingers crossed for Y., y'all, because god only knows what we'd have to do next time to get her a house.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hot Dogs for Breakfast

Note to self: despite what your tired tired brain tells you at 11 p.m., after a loooooong day of shuttling a job candidate all over hell and gone, you actually CANNOT speed-read Frankfurt School Theory first thing in the morning. Not even if you've taught it before. Probably not even if you included parts of it in your dissertation. Coffee is not that kind of miracle drug.

Note to self part 2: If you do not write that paper VERY SOON, you may as well cancel going to the conference at the end of the month and save yourself the "I'm giving a paper naked" dreams.

Note to self part 3: Whether you go to the conference or not, scheduling an appointment to get a haircut, for the first time in 3 months, will prevent you from looking like a bedraggled hippie. It may also save you precious hair-drying and styling time in the morning. Which you can then use to finish up reading Frankfurt School Theory that you should NOT convince yourself to leave until the next morning...


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Freezing My Eggs

Don't worry, this hasn't turned into one of those blogs that reflects constantly on the author's waning procreative abilities. I'm not going to obsess and research any and all means of extending my fertility into my 60's. In fact, I'd rather shoot myself in the foot than contemplate motherhood right now, thank you very much.

The real topic for this post is nostalgia vs. the real. It is Easter, my friends, and as a child in the Southwest, I would have been prancing around the front yard of my house in a cute little sundress carrying a basket full of plastic grass, looking for eggs. My parents, dressed in shorts and t-shirts, would have been looking on fondly from the porch, snapping pictures. The lawn underfoot would be slightly damp from dew, but it would feel good on my little feet because it would be warm outside.

I bring you this update NOT because I'm obsessed with my childhood, nor what people wore on holidays. Instead, I pay particular attention to detail above because memories like that are the only form of sanity I have to hold on to when it's SNOWING OUTSIDE. You heard me. Easter--April 8--and snow. Horizontal snow, no less.

Maybe I shouldn't be so worried about what to wear while I'm teaching this summer? Apparently, I'll be able to keep my sweaters and wool pants in the rotation.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 06, 2007

Heaven and Hell: Registration Edition

One of the worst parts of my semester comes during registration. As a faculty member, it means all of the typical "can I get into your class" requests. In our neck of the woods, all of those go straight to our department head, who manages them (and so her life sucks way harder than mine). But the students either don't know or don't care about this particular system, and so all of us get inundated anyway. I need a macro that says "Dear X--thank you for your interest. In this department, all such requests go through the chair. Please contact Dr. Y." I've sent about 35 of these this week.

In addition to that, however,I also get requests pertaining to my little Academic Unit. I use the word "request" lightly here, as it has to encompass everything from the "please can I add this" to "I demand that you sign me in." There are far more of the former, but on occasion, the "no's" given to the former snowball into the latter. The "requests" that come with reference the ACUN also come from all over campus: students, faculty advisors, administrators, the registrar, etc. Many of them have the smell of desperation. Example: "I misadvised a student and now she's can't graduate on time; can't you just let her into this course, even though it's full?" Or, "can you count this course toward my [nation x] requirement, even though it's a course about [nation y]?" Or my favorite of the week: "I don't know how you expect me, a student you don't know from Adam, who's a major in a different department, to graduate, when I need this class (untrue) because I play soccer and all other courses conflict with that!!"

The only thing stopping me from stealing a weapon and going on a shooting spree is--wait for it--the students in my class this semester. About half of them had planned to take my fall course, which filled in the first day of registration; some of them are in, and the others are plaguing the department head with requests to get signed in. I know that there are all kinds of mitigating factors that should deflate my ego about this: the students know me, and so it's easy to want to continue on into the next class; they really like working with each other; I teach a bunch of contemporary stuff, which is an easy sell; etc., etc. But for a moment, I'm going to bask in the glow.

And as a final note of happiness and "here's why I'm not going postal...yet....", we may indeed be reaching critical mass in my department, in which the faculty who see good things in their students and enjoy teaching them are beginning to outnumber those who have none of the criteria above. So the students? Less beaten down, more excited about reading/ writing/thinking, less afraid to speak their minds. Love that.

And I'm not checking my email until after the easter egg hunt.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Getting All Grabby

Shrinky is asking for pictures of people's desktops, and afforded me the opportunity to play with the "grab" feature on the Mac (which I had totally forgotten existed), so here's what is laying in wait for me behind all of your lovely blogs:

Don't you just love him? With his new wave hair?

And it's a darn good thing that he's so cute. Because Xerox, my clueless copying student? She just signed up for my fall course...


Summer Teaching Fashion

I should be finishing up my few last student evaluations before a set of papers comes pouring in later this afternoon. I should be writing and filing the paperwork on a lingering student portfolio that's due today. I REALLY should be reading and preparing for a paper I have to give in (gulp!) three weeks.

Instead, I'm thinking about the particular sartorial economies of summer teaching. Yes, my friends, I have made the deal with the devil: in exchange for teaching one fewer class during the school year proper, I'll be teaching it during the summer. Granted, it's in a super-short session, and also granted that it's prep work for a research project I'll be undertaking with Yogini, but it's still summer, and it's still teaching. To top it off, I also have a two-week workshop to attend this summer (with other faculty) and finally, a meeting in Hell-Ay (to quote Ted Casablanca, of all people! [*sidenote*: oh my god, did all of you know that TC's real name is "Bruce Bibby"?!! Wikipedia, teh internet's gift to pop culture freaks.]).

So, what does all of this amount to? A lot of hot, sticky weather, and the need to look semi professional at the same time. Here's the problem: being a desert girl, when hot weather rolls around, all I want to wear is shorts and t-shirts and flip flops. Every summer, I make a pilgrimage to Old Navy, in which I buy 6 x-large boy's t-shirts (just the right size, and $6 a pop), a couple of pairs of khaki shorts, and that's generally my wardrobe for the next 3 months. Because I SWEAT, people!! A LOT!! And there's no use buying good t-shirts, or, God forbid, real shirts, that are just going to be trashed at the end of the season!

Clearly, this kind of wardrobe isn't going to hack it for teaching, and my guess is that it probably won't do for either of my other summer activities either. So what is the appropriate balance between professionalism and summer? Do you advocate dresses? Capri pants? Denim miniskirts and Uggs?

Suggestions welcome!


Monday, April 02, 2007

Spinning Plates

That's the only metaphor I can come up with that accounts for the amounts of student weirdness that I've been involved in over the last two weeks. Really, each of these is deserving of his/her own post, but in the interests of privacy, I'll lump them together. What follows is a chronological list of encounters.

Student A.: We'll call him "Handy." Handy is not in my class, but he's in an adjuncted course that is run by my ACUN. So when a student complains to the adjunct that Handy puts his hands in his pants in class, multiple times? Yup, it's my problem. The question of the hour (or of the past three weeks), of course, is who's job is it to talk to Handy? How do we deal with Handy? What is the best way to provide for Handy's needs (because, as you may have guessed, Handy is not quite as sensitive to appropriate classroom behavior as his classmates are, for medical reasons), and also those of the other students in the class.
Resolution: Call every mother-biting office on campus, and find out that the job falls to me to coordinate the adjunct, the counseling center, the student affairs people, and Handy himself. Ever had a conversation with a student about inappropriate self-exploration during class time? I hadn't either, until last week.

Student B: Whipsmart. Whipsmart is, as her name might suggest, a terrific joy to work with. She's very bright, driven, creative, funny, and a bit Type A and hence overcommitted. We've had many chats over the course of the semester about coursework, her group project for class, etc. All of the bonhomie comes to a crashing halt, however, when I assign a particular novel with a particular set of incidents which trigger a particular set of memories and self-knowledge for Whipsmart. Thus beginneth the week of trying to respond empathetically and maintain boundaries, come up with accomodations while flagellating myself for picking this godforsaken novel. Crap, crap and crap!!
Resolution: Whipsmart read and wrote about (beautifully) secondary criticism on said novel, and didn't come to class. I vow never to teach said novel again.

Student C: Banana. Banana is coming to terms with her ethnic identity for the first time (and yes, I'm using a particular kind of ethnic identity marker there. If you're not familiar with it, it's the Asian American version of the African American term "Oreo." It can be used derogatorily, but in this case, I think the student might appreciate language that speaks to the way she feels about herself. Or you can just tell me I'm a self-hating racist.). This is a process that is difficult for her at a school that is predominantly NOT populated by students of color. It's made particularly difficult by a professor identifying her as the only person of color in her class, and then talking about her in the third person. (As in, "all of us have to ask ourselves this question; except for Banana. But what do we do with Banana in a discussion like this?" Yup.) Banana comes to my office crying, and I initiate several phone calls to find out procedure. I meet with her, with the appropriate person, who tells her that "In the 70's, you were expected to give African Americans the right speak in class." WTF? It just got better from there, and I was a sucky advocate, because A) I couldn't believe what was happening--what do you do when the appointed person has NO IDEA about how race-based oppression works?!! and B)I'd like to get tenure at some point in my life.
Resolution: Balky, but continued email conversation with Banana. I don't think she's done pursuing the question. Good on her. This also means that I may continue to be involved. Stay tuned.

Finally, just today, Student D: Xerox. As I was rushing to finish grading a group project this morning, I found a passage in it that looked suspiciously lovely. It had multiple clauses that were correctly punctuated, the grammar was correct, and it used the word "subsequently." A quick Googling revealed the exact passage in a well-known set of assistance for readers. Sigh. I confronted the student, he said fine, and he's rewriting the section for half-credit on the assignment. Earlier in the week, he had sent me a draft of the next assignment and asked that I'd read it. In his follow up communication today, he asked if I'd still have a chance to do so. In that assignment, he not only copies directly from the previous group assignment (passages written by other students!), he also copies MY EXAMPLE FROM THE ASSIGNMENT SHEET. Verbatim.
Resolution: An email that explains the consequences of plagiarism in no uncertain terms, and a reminder that another example of it and I will fail him for the course.
Suspicion: Like a Xerox machine, Xerox does not understand what copying is. No one would send an assignment to the instructor that copies the instructor's work, with a full working knowledge of plagiarism, right? Right?

Hey! Look! "Like Spinning Plates" is a Radiohead song!!

Labels: ,