Monday, October 30, 2006
Of course, this is one of those promotions one gets because no one else wants the job. But I'm pretty excited about it. I haven't been able to come up for air enough to think too much about the fact that elections are just a week away, but now I have even more reason to look forward to them. Hooray for wresting power from old guys in sweaters! (Seriously, that's who runs things around here.) Now let's hope for even better things next week.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
- Laundry--this has gotten really bad because no one likes to do laundry. We're living out of baskets at the moment
- My hair--I'm letting it grow anyway, but I'm also letting it go gray.
- my wardrobe--who has time to shop!
- real cooking--I'm totally relying on quick and easy food
- most of my social life, such as it is
- a lot of blogging--I'm still reading here and there, but not like I did before
- pretty much anything extra
I'm really looking forward to the return of some of those things. I'm planning a pretty big celebration when this whole thing is done. You're all invited!
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Our next concert plan is one with the kids (who actually wanted to go to this one). They Might Be Giants is doing a kid show in Philly and we're planning to go. Should be loads of fun.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I went to yet another doctor today, this one my ob/gyn, just for a checkup. And I am so firing this woman. All my other encounters with doctors lately have been great, not fun, mind you, but satisfying. They take me seriously. They ask questions and seem to understand that I'm smart and that I've thought through what I'm saying, trying to describe things in terms that will help them help me. This woman, upon hearing that a) I was having trouble and b) wanted to change b.c. methods, almost yelled at me. I told her I wasn't happy with my b.c. and that I suspected it might have something to do with my recent issues. She said there was no way that was possible. Instead of explaining why, she just declared it to be so. I was so taken aback, I didn't think to even ask. But it pissed me off. She showed no concern whatsoever for any of the issues I'd been having, nor did she consider the possibility that there might be a gynecologically related issue (as some of the other doctors have suggested). Plus, she made me wait and only spent a total of maybe 7 minutes with me, so I'm so done with her. Why do some doctors do this? Treat people like they're idiots. It's so insulting.
Aside from this little incident, I'm pretty geared up. I think the power boots just reflected my mood rather than causing it. These next few weeks are going to be pretty busy, but hopefully busy in a good way.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Friday, October 20, 2006
Most importantly I finished watching Lake House, which was kind of cute. I also read my entire issue of Wired and almost finished My Freshman Year. So things seemed like they were getting back to normal, albeit 2 hours behind schedule. Then we landed in Portland. We went to baggage claim and watched the bags go around. Only mine never went around. The airline promised to deliver the bag to my hotel. So I walked out the door. Only, it was one of those rotating doors and I nearly got stuck in it. It just kind of stopped and there I was, stuck. Luckily, it started moving again.
Then the shuttle was an hour getting to the airport. But we eventually made it to the hotel and then the conference to catch the end of the keynote and then dinner. I got to catch up with Bryan and ran into an old friend from grad school. Looking forward to more of that tomorrow.
When I returned to the hotel, I stopped by the front desk to ask if my luggage had arrived. They said they'd given away the last of it. As if they had some kind of luggage stash back behind the desk. And then they said they wouldn't get another delivery until after midnight. Now, if I'm a desk clerk and a guest of mine is without luggage, I'd offer toiletries and perhaps to make a phone call for me. I mean, they're not the airline, right? How do they know?
So now I'm sitting watching Scrubs reruns, waiting for my luggage. I've been assured it will be here any minute. With the luck I'm having I'll end up with the wrong luggage.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
So here's the method I've developed for myself. First, I must do the reading, thinking, notetaking part. I treat this just as I would writing and I do it every morning first thing. At some point, I will kick it into overdrive and start doing this in the evening and maybe do a marathon session on the weekend of working out what I might want to write. Then I begin to write. Usually, the reading and notetaking doesn't stop as I find I need to fill in gaps. I write for an hour every morning. I don't look back at what I wrote before. I used to do this and I found it paralyzing. Often, at the end of a writing session, I'll jot down a couple of notes about what comes next.
Eventually, these one-hour writing sessions end with a completed chapter, paper, whatever. Then I start reading and revising. I will either do this as a contintuation of the one-hour sessions or, preferably, take a chunk of time on the weekend to read and revise. Sometimes I'll print out my document. Sometimes I'll get Mr. Geeky to read it. It depends on how I'm feeling about it. Then I send it off. This whole process generally takes 1-2 months, depending on the complexity of the project.
Between chapters or projects, I find I need about a week of downtime. I might do a little library research to find new sources for the next chapter, but I don't do much reading and writing. And then I gear back up again.
It's been interesting to see this pattern develop over the last year. I used to worry about that week off, for example, but then I realized I just need to rest and that I would get started again. It'll be interesting to see if this pattern continues to work for me, or if I find a new pattern or different patterns for different projects. We'll see.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
As others said, the hardest thing is finding something non-caffeinated to drink when eating out. Restaurants don't tend to carry caffeine-free coke, for example. I don't mind drinking water most of the time, but sometimes I want something with flavor. I'm drinking decaf coffee in the morning, which I know has traces of caffeine, but hey, I like the taste.
I highly recommend doing this. I feel kind of like a different person.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Last week, I had fun commenting on student papers. I know what you're thinking, no one has fun commenting on student papers. Well, I did. I made audio comments, using Audacity to record and save my comments as mp3's. You could also do this with Garageband or a few other recording programs. My students found it eerie, like I was a ghost in the room with them, but also helpful.
Here's what I did. First, I read through the papers and made marginal comments using Word's comment feature. I've been using this feature for years and find it extremely useful. Students seem to like it as well. When I made these written comments, I tried to respond as a reader rather than a teacher, asking questions, pointing out where I was confused or found an argument weak. I tried to keep suggestions to a minimum. Then, in the audio comments, I read the paper out loud and made comments about how to approach revising the paper. I tried not to be prescriptive in these suggestions, and just offered possibilities. I uploaded the commented papers and the mp3 files into Blackboard, but these could be emailed or posted somewhere.
Students read and listened to my comments before meeting with me for a conference. About half of them opted to do the conference virtually via IM. I asked them what they though of the comments and what they were thinking about doing in terms of revising. The IM conferences were really successful. It was much more of a conversation than the face-to-face ones are. I didn't feel rushed and the students didn't feel rushed so we just covered whatever we needed to.
Interestingly, I just generally felt more engaged with the process of helping the student revise their paper via IM than I sometimes do face-to-face. I don't know if the students felt the same way, but it definitely seemed like they were engaged. I'm not the only one who's found IM to be a useful tool for engaging and interacting with students.
Now, doing all of this took time (and for me, all that time was at night and on the weekend since I have a 9-5 job) and I have the luxury of having only one fairly small class. But the audio didn't take any longer than traditional written comments. I know compositionists have been doing audio comments for a long time, using cassettes in the pre-digital world. It's amazing how easy it's become to do these things. It was very little hassle for me to get the files to the students and for the students to retrieve them. I'm definitely doing it again, as long as the students don't mind having a ghost for a teacher. And I could see myself having office hours at night IM occasionally, as long as I can be on the couch in my jammies while I'm having them.
Monday, October 16, 2006
I had no expectations, really, about seeing people from my past. All of the anxiety I used to feel when attending events with these people is gone. LLA described me as confident in high school. I had to laugh at that. I had no self esteem and constantly worried about what other people thought about me. When I walked into a room, I worried about whether people were judging my outfit or who I was with. I never felt sure of my choices. And I suspect I wasn't the only one. One guy said he'd been a bit freaked out on the first night. He couldn't really pinpoint why and I wonder if it was the shock of being in the same room with people that used to make you feel unsure of yourself. Of basically being transported back in time.
I was most surprised by how many people recognized me and came up to me to say hello. Everyone said I looked exactly the same. I thought a lot of people looked exactly the same. It was uncanny really how little some people has changed. The first evening was a little like speed dating. People would come up to me. We'd talk for a bit and then we'd move on to the next person. We had a little more time the second evening and for the most part, I got to see and talk to the people I wanted to. But there were a few people, who either weren't there or who I didn't get to talk to, that I missed. I realized that I always felt like I didn't fit into a particular crowd. I was always changing friends or kept my circle of friends pretty wide and yet, never felt popular. But, in reality, I think I had a lot of different kinds of friends and was close to them at different times over the years. And while "the popular crowd" may have been known by everyone, they didn't have a bunch of people walking up and talking to them and telling them that they were one of the people they really hoped to see.
So maybe I've made my peace with high school and will start telling a different narrative of those years, one that balances out the negative with the positive. I'm not sure what that story will be yet. I'm still working on it.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I think I'm so far away from high school now that I don't really care anymore. I sort of vaguely remember going to my 10th and vaguely remember it being held at a venue where we used to have dances all the time and feeling like I'd been transported back to that time and place. I don't think that will happen this time.
Also, I think I'm looking forward to it because I really need the break. I need to escape for a while. My dad and stepmom are keeping the kids and we'll be staying in a hotel one night, so it will be a nice retreat for me and Mr. Geeky. We haven't had a night out since school started. I start to get a little antsy when that happens.
And I think the kids need a little break too. It's been go, go, go around here for all of us, so I think some good downtime is in order.
I'll be reporting back, of course. Let's just hope this doesn't happen again.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I feel sort of disconnected at the moment and I'm trying to reconnect, but it's hard to do in the swirl of activity. I was up until late commenting on papers, work that I actually find rewarding instead of grueling. I'm about halfway done. If it weren't for the 9-5 job, I would have done that commenting during the day instead of not even starting until 8:30. At least that's what I tell myself, and it is what I used to do when all I did was teach. So maybe it's even true.
For class, we're reading Women of Academe: Outsiders in a Sacred Grove. It's kind of depressing and even though one can write off some of it as being nearly 20 years old, much of it is still applicable. I think, for instance, about the way I have subordinated my career to my husband's. Like many of the women in the book, I didn't even think about it. It's not like I sat down one night at dinner and said, "You know, honey, your career is more important than mine." I didn't have a plan (again, true of many of the women in the book). I just followed my interests without thinking about the effect my pursuits might have on my career. I have no regrets, really. I've learned valuable things from all of my experiences, but they're not a nice, neat direct path to a career. In academe especially, circuitous routes are frowned upon. God forbid you need to support a family or ailing parent by getting a "real" job.
One of my students asked, what suggestions the authors had for change. I didn't have them read that section and I, myself, haven't read it in a while. But I definitely think I want the world to change. I think it would be nice if we valued the individual and their accomplishments rather than the particular path they followed (B.A. from the "right" school; Ph.D. from the "right" school; publications in the "right" journal). Gaps should be okay as long as they're legitimate--having a child; serious illness, or other personal crisis. Not everyone can simply crunch along when faced with a serious setback. While I'm making wishes, I wish that someone's work would speak for itself and while I know "networking" is good, it shouldn't be good for its own sake, but as a way to connect with people to learn something from them and they from you, to pursue common interests and perhaps collaborate.
So maybe I should have pursued my career with more singlemindedness. Maybe I should continue to do so now. For me, it's about doing good work. While I should be content with that, I'm often frustrated that good work is not enough. I'm frustrated by what I see are ridiculous systems and modes of evaluation. I find as I age, I get less willing to go along with the system. That gets me into trouble sometimes, I'm sure.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Yesterday was the worst day and despite mass amounts of motrin, I felt pretty ill until mid-afternoon. You know you're addicted when you go through that kind of withdrawal. I did actually feel better in a way. My head felt clearer and I'm definitely sleeping better. So far.
My other symptoms haven't cleared up but it may take another couple of days for my system to clear out entirely. We're now attributing my back pain to our crappy mattress. Man, I'm getting old.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I put a lot of responsibility on the students to make my classes work. Like most discussion-based classes, I expect students to come prepared--having read the material and thought about it. Most of them do this and they are "forced" to do this in part by having to write for the blog. The blog itself is just as important as the class discussion. It should be just as lively as in-class discussion. In both places, both virtual and meatspace, if the students don't participate, then things fall apart pretty quickly. Oh, sure, I have questions and thoughts of my own that I bring to class, but I prefer it if I let the students lead the way. That's one of the luxuries of this class where there's no content to cover. We're learning to read and think and write about what we read and think, so we can go wherever we need to go or want to go.
Except that I feel like we're stagnating. I feel like the students may not really want to go anywhere. Or maybe I'm doing all the leading and they don't like where we're going, but are afraid to speak up. They're not really writing on the blog the way I want them to. For example, I'm looking at the blog now and there haven't been any posts over the weekend. None. For three days.
I think there are a number of reasons for lack of blog activity. One is that the blog is on a site with a bunch of other class blogs. Those are being used for entirely different purposes and our stuff is all mixed up with that. And I think our students are getting a weird view of what a group blog is. If I had this to do over again, I'd do it the way I've done it before. We'd have our own space.
So what am I going to do about it? Well, first, I need to reimpress the importance of the blog. I need to pull some posts and use them as examples of writing and work on those in class. I think I'll do a peer review session for this. I did this last year and it seemed to make a good impression. We're going to be creating a collaborative publication and I think that will help bond us together and think together as a class about some writing issues. Right now, any talk about writing, for the most part, is happening during individual conferences.
Second, I think I need to put some real responsibility on the students for discussion. They're doing fine on in-class discussion, but I'd like to go a little deeper. So I think I might assign a student to be responsible for leading the discussion, including looking over the blog posts.
I'm willing to take any suggestions anyone might have. And if any my students have found me, you can leave anonymous comments as well. It's not that I think the class is going badly. I just think it's lacking some sparkle. I feel like we're close. I'd like to see us get all the way there.
Friday, October 06, 2006
I've been thinking about a few things as I've tried to take my mind off the failing kidney. There are the school shootings and the Mark Foley/Dennis Hastert fiasco. Also teaching. I think I feel a poll coming on.
P.S. My kidney isn't failing. So far, there seems to be nothing life-threatening. Meanwhile, I'm taking mass amounts of motrin.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
So I went to work for two hours today and then I came home and laid on the couch and watched Chicken Run, Robots, CNN, and MASH. Yeah, good day. I also drank gallons of water and ate homemade apple pie. And I spent way too much time at WebMD where they didn't have my exact symptoms and the closest I could get were rare and horrible diseases. My students were sending me links to possible diseases. This is how I teach them to do research.
This morning, I was walking up the stairs to take a shower, already not feeling so great and felt pain shoot up my leg. And I thought, holy shit, I've got a blood clot. And then I remembered that I had rammed my leg into the bed post on my way to the bathroom last night. Yes, I jump to conclusions. I don't really panic about it or anything, but I'm a worst case scenerio kind of person. It's not that I'm pessimistic. I just want to be prepared. I don't want to be caught later saying, I had no idea that kind of thing could happen.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
- So tired. Too anxious to sleep. Too much work to sleep.
- Still. in. pain. Medical crap (for those who visit Phantom's) continues. Can't find anything wrong and yet. still. pain.
- Unbloggables. Decisions. Bleh.
- Laundry. Need I say more.
- Where's my chef?
- Is it vacation time yet?
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Anon, I don't take your questions as confrontational. They're perfectly reasonable. I don't believe my grandmother's spirit is anywhere. I believe we live and die and that's it. There is no scientific evidence for an afterlife or a god and so I stick with what can be proven scientifically. I was led to this belief over the course of time by a few things. First was the hypocrisy I saw in people who claimed to be "religious." People claimed to believe in what Jesus taught and then didn't even come close to following it. And that seemed rampant and so I at least rejected organized religion. Second, as I tried different religious sects, I realized that I did not believe that it was even possible for the events and people in the Bible to have the kind of power over our lives that almost every religion I've encountered believes is the case. As I thought about it, I came to equate those religions with the Greek and Roman gods. They were myths and maybe they were helpful for some believe in figuring out what life is all about but they certainly weren't for me.
When my sister died, a common thing people said to me was "It's God's will." If it's God's will to let a 17 year old girl die, then I want no part of it. I think if we can displace our responsibility to each other as humans onto a spiritual being, then we become immune to the needs of others. We start to think that it's God's will for some people to be poor and sick and not our responsibility to make sure that people have opportunities and are taken care of. If we believe that there is an afterlife, we may take the here and now for granted.
Would I like for there to be an afterlife? Sure. It's be great to think that we can go somewhere after we die and be with people we love. I understand the comfort of that belief. I don't want this life to end, but in accepting that it does, I am obligated to make it the best life possible, not just for myself, but for the people I'm sharing that life with--and that includes people I'm just sharing the earth with.