Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Not Waving but Drowning

Metaphorically, anyway.

Just when you can't get busier, the Dean announces a special community meeting (for an hour after another unrelated meeting). Chairs sent out multiple reminders. It turned out to be an interesting meeting, and a good chance to see a couple speakers I'd heard about but never seen. But in some ways, given the large numbers of faculty members there, it seemed like preaching to the choir, except not quite such perfect harmony sometimes.

The media was out in force. Well, the school paper, which isn't a bad paper as such things go. One of the student reporters interviewed a couple of us after. The reporter asked me if I thought students here really are getting the kind of liberal education the presenters were talking about, and I tried to make a point that I see real growth in many of my students, especially advisees, especially when we talk about their general education programs.

I agreed with something one of the presenters said about the difficulty of achieving real liberal education with check off the box systems of general education, and then tried to make a point about how important good advising is to develop coherence for individual students.

Afterwards, one of my friends pointed out that I'm bound to be partially quoted there as saying that I think our general ed system isn't well done, or something. Dang, I should keep my mouth shut.

Today, I have a long planned lunch meet up with the friend of a friend of mine. She's just moved to the Northwoods, and is in town for a meeting of some sort, so we're getting together. I'm really looking forward to it. She has what sounds like a fascinating job at another school, and the connection with my other friend should be interesting, too.

Then I have a public thing on Thursday, and I really must prepare well. Before that, though, I have to finish reading a ton of essays for a competition, and yes, we'll be meeting for that on Thursday, too, just before my public thing.

My writing class was in near open rebellion on Friday. We're doing an essay assignment I got from a colleague; it doesn't really feel like "mine" yet, teaching wise, and they're squirming about the topic. I've been putting in serious time reading and trying to memorize laws and statistics so that they're all on my fingertips. And no, nothing to do with Shakespeare, Chaucer, theory, or anything easy.

They're writing an essay supporting or arguing against a proposed law (developed by our class) relating to parental consent for abortions for minors. I'd planned to do this at the beginning of the term, before I started reading about the South Dakota law, or the Supremes deciding to look at the 2003 federal late term abortion law. The focus is about age of consent issues and such, rather than about abortion.

We started out brainstorming about age appropriate stuff and law: drinking ages (which most think should be younger than 21, naturally), age of consent, driving, joining the military, getting married, being tried as an adult, etc. The idea is to get them to think about how society negotiates adulthood, on some level.

All of which reminds me to mention PZ Myer's Pharyngula post about access to abortion in his state of Minnesota. I was happy to see him do the exercise, but also sort of surprised. Am I the only person that makes sure I know what abortion laws are, what access possibilities are, and what they cost when I move to a new area? Or is it a woman thing? (And now I know the laws for a number of other states as well, because that obsessive studying and preparation thing? I have that down.)

And am I the only one who worries about choosing a physician, and finding one who's not rabidly against Plan B, contraception, or nastily judgmental about whatever issues in ways that are going to catch me by the short hairs, so to speak?

(Just getting a primary care physician in this area is DIFFICULT. I'm crappy at such things, but seriously, for whatever reasons, almost no one on my insurance is/was taking new patients, and some physicians are moving away from primary care to become hospitalists, or just moving away period. When you manage to get an appointment after waiting a month or more, do you really feel comfortable quizzing someone about stuff, because what you really need is an immediate problem dealt with? FSM, I'm a doubly damned coward, and my procrastination feeds my cowardice.)

(But, in case I haven't mentioned it, actually having real health insurance makes many things less scary.)

And what the HELL would I do if I had a job or a job offer in South Dakota? Academic jobs are hard enough to find, but now we've got a couple added wrinkles to the search, eh?

Oh, yeah, and the Northwood's Powers That Be are going absolutely nuts about some stuff that's just off the wall related to the university system.

When I make it through this week, my blood pressure's going to drop by 10 points, easy.

Until then, glug glug...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jo(e)'s Pseudonymous Meme

Jo(e) over at Writing as Jo(e), responding to a series of posts about pseudonymous blogging by academics, started a meme. It's fascinating to read people's responses, which are being collected by K8 on this post.

Some of the answers I've been reading, especially those by New Kid on the Hallway, (also in the comments to Dr. Crazy's post about pseudonymous blogging). I'm also especially interested in Dr. Crazy's response, since she started a new blog in order to rethink her blogging persona (which she talked about in her final post on the old blog.) There, she talks about being "hemmed in" by the name and persona she's created in that space, which seems to simultaneously free and limit her expression. The old persona blogged about personal stuff in a way that then limited how she could use her academic authority, making it difficult for her to blog about her academic work in more specific ways.

I haven't theorized my practice nearly as well as New Kid, or Bitch PhD have. Nonetheless, I'm going to have a go at it.

Is your blogging persona more serious than your real life persona? I think perhaps my humor comes off a little better in person, at least I hope it does. When I started to blog, I had an idea of what a good blog was that was more narrative than my own blogging turned out to be. I still don't feel that I have a real focus to my blogging, and that sometimes bothers me. Is this a teaching blog, a Shakespeare/early modern blog (not so much these days, for sure), a professional issues blog, a feminist blog?

The one thing it's really not so far, is a personal blog. I think I've gone in the opposite direction from the original Dr. Crazy blog; I don't feel comfortable putting much personal information up. I'm ambivalent about those who do put up very personal information, at once admiring the openness, and at once wondering why one would share personal stuff with whoever stopped by through the internet.

My line at this point is weirdly that should family members ever discover the blog, while they might easily identify me in it, they wouldn't be hurt by anything they read. I try to hold a similar line with colleagues and students. It's not that hurting people with words is necessarily unfair, but if I'm going to use others in my words, I need to be up front about it with them so they can respond. The furthest I've pushed this line were references to the Deanling the other day; I think that's about as far as I'll go in that direction. The saving grace there, if any, is that the Deanling is in a position of relative power compared to me, so it's not like he wouldn't be able to respond, and doesn't have power to represent himself within the system.

One place I have real trouble with my Bardiac persona is in responding to other blogs. I think I sometimes sound more aggressive or strident than I intend, but then I question my own reading as gendered there. I've hesitated more and more often to respond on some blogs of late. I'm not sure most bloggers I respond to imagine Bardiac as a female persona, or care one way or another. I'm not sure what people who think of Bardiac as male think of my responses.

I find the creation of gendered personae in virtual venues pretty fascinating, anyway.

Do you think the only safe way an academic can write publicly is to write anonymously? Not at all. I think PZ Myers and Michael Berube are great examples of really superb academic blogs, more powerful because they're not pseudonymous. They're also both focused in really tight ways on one or a few issues. And of course, both have tenure. I don't think it's at all coincidental that both are male bloggers, either. Were I to write a blog under my own name, I'd focus much more tightly on my academic interests, and keep all mention of personal interactions out.

Do you think that your blog could ruin your career? Nope, not at this point, and not given what I tend to blog about. I can imagine my chair or a dean reading and realizing Bardiac was me, but I can't imagine the blog I write being held against me by those people. I don't think the higher up administrators would identify it as by me, though it's thinly veiled. And I don't think they'd much care about the things I blog about.

Do you use a pseudonym out of fear? Nope. Bardiac is a word I've used with students in Shakespeare classes, playing off the "Bard" image of Shakespeare people as idolators of a sort, and working against that with the "iac" of maniac. I think of it as a playful recognition and resistance toward the popular image of Shakespeareans; most of us, though, aren't idolators, but are much more interested in critical understanding than in oohing or aaahing at his works. There are times, though, when I ooh or aaah at stuff, because really, he's just danged good.

What is the biggest drawback to writing pseudonymously? That I can't use the more academic bits professionally, I suppose.

Has anyone stumbled on your blog and found it accidentally? Not that I know of. The separation of the Bardiac persona from my real name means that a quick and dirty Google search, the kind family members occasionally do, or students, won't hit my blog.

Have you outed yourself to any other bloggers? Yes, a couple.

Has your blog allowed you to experiment with writing? I don't think of my writing as very experimental. It has allowed me to brainstorm "out loud" with a wider group, which is wonderfully helpful.

Why do you use a pseudonym? The Google search thing, for one thing. And pseudonyms and creating personae is challenging, fun, interesting, all that. I've had different virtual personae, and it's completely fascinating to see how one communicates, and what people take away in impressions. And all the cool kids were doing it.

Jo(e)'s really astute comment that pseudonymous blogging pretty much limits our audience to other bloggers really resonates with me. I wouldn't have thought of that myself. I'm not sure that it's absolutely true, because I have a sense that the people who respond within a particular blogging community may generally be other bloggers, but that lots of people read blogs who aren't bloggers. Because most of them don't respond, maybe we don't "see" them as part of the community somehow?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Yesterday's presentation

I totally overstressed about yesterday's presentation, but that's not uncommon.

I'd prepared a little statement with bolded concepts I didn't want to miss, not so I'd read it, but so I wouldn't miss the bolded concepts, and because that's one way I brainstorm. Before that, I'd brainstormed a bit with one of my favorite colleagues, Carrie, who was, as always, incredibly helpful and insightful. Carrie was able to make a good connection between the issues we've discussed in other recent meetings and what I wanted to say about my own course.

I have a bad habit sometimes of being self-deprecating when I shouldn't, when doing so is likely to leave people with the impression that I really am unqualified, unable, inapt, whatever. Those of us who read feminist theory about communication are familiar with the practice as one we're trained to use as women. It's not that being self-deprecating isn't sometimes useful, but that I tend to do it when it's likely to take away from what I want to say rather than, say, to set an audience at ease. (I've done it here, making jokes about having only two readers, when in reality, the site meter thing shows a few more.) I'm aware of it; I hate it when other women do it, and yet I find myself doing it sometimes.

The department gathered, at least those who were coming, including our Deanling. I'm uncomfortable with the Deanling, and I can't quite put my finger on why. He moved from being the English department chair to being primarily a Deanling the year I started, so I interviewed with him as Chair in spring, but when I arrived it fall, he had moved over to the administrative offices. (He usually teaches one course in our department per year, completely of his choosing, and pretty much owns that course. It's outside my field, so /shrug on that issue.) Part of my discomfort is that I don't know him well. For some reason, I think he thinks I'm not up to par. My sense is that his heart is now firmly administrative, and not educative, and I think all administrators should think primarily as educators. My other sense is that he's a sexist, though I'm not sure why I have that impression. To be honest, I don't know him well enough to have any real impression of him.

Were I a good Freudian, I'd no doubt explore my transferences, and think about my relationships with male authority figures or penis envy or something. Except I've mostly managed to get along decently with male authority figures, and penis envy is so not where someone who cares about feminist theory turns for answers.

We mostly sat in a circle, except that the Deanling and one other person sat behind the three of us who'd been lined up as speakers, so we couldn't see them without turning around. There was room in the big circle, still, so sitting behind us seemed like a weird move. And the stakes? The Deanling, before he'd moved along, had taught the theory course which was a pre-cursor to our present course, had probably developed it, even. He hadn't come to either of the preceding meetings, so his presence stood out yesterday.

There were three of us asked to start the discussion by explaining what we do in our theory class and what we want students to get out of it. The first two were our "real theory" folks, two young, cool, hip men, and I was third.

Sitting there listening to my very smart colleagues talk about their classes, I tried to figure out what I could say when my turn came, and I felt myself wanting to start with a comment about not being a "real" theory person. But there's the Deanling there.

When it was my turn, I started off by talking about brainstorming with Carrie, and thinking about how my theory class fits into our central line that way, and the connection worked well for the folks I could see, I think, because I saw nods and agreement. I did well, and I'm happy and relieved about that.

Overall, the discussion was helpful; I learned from my colleagues, and contributed, too.

Afterwards, Carrie came by my office and said how cool it was that I'd given her credit for helping, and how it modeled good community on a couple levels. You know, when someone you really respect tells you you've done something well, that just makes the day, doesn't it?

Wake up and blog against sexism on March 8th

As I learned over at I Blame the Patriarchy (and really, don't we all? And wouldn't I love to have thought of a witty blog name like that one?) Vegankid is organizing a Blog Against Sexism Day on March 8th.

See you then, if not before!

Friday, February 24, 2006

On the Line

The English major here at Northwoods is organized around a central line of what I think of as skills-oriented courses. The theory course I'm teaching now (for only the second time) is one of those courses.

Having reorganized our major a few years ago now, we're finally getting to the point where the students under the old major are mostly finished up, and most majors are working within the new curriculum. For the past several weeks, we've been having short presentations and then discussions amongst the faculty about each of the line courses, and yes, this week's theory. And I've been asked to be one of the presenters during the discussion. We're supposed to talk about how the theory course fits in the line, and what we want students to get out of taking it as part of the line.

The trouble is, I'm not a "real" theory person. I just play one on TV. Like most places I know, theory here is very gendered; I'm the only woman teaching the basic theory course in our department. I'm also the only earlier lit person.

I have a serious image of myself as a theory imposter, and I'm wrestling with that today as I prepare my presentation. The other two presenters are the young, hip, cool, male theory people, both of whom work on recent texts. I'm beating myself up a bit today because I really shouldn't be so worried about the whole thing, but that doesn't help the fact that I am.

We're supposed to talk about what we want students to get out of our classes, and part of my anxiety comes from thinking that at least some people think our students should get a survey of the history of theory, though that's not how I teach the class, and not how most others do, either. That is, they're thinking in terms of specific content, while I think in terms of skills for theory, and for all our central line classes. (Though there's certain bits of content I expect, when I get right down to it.)

What I want students to get out of a theory class is more basic, first, a sense that theory should make them question common sense answers and questions. I guess that's sort of Althusserian of me; I want us to think about what goes without saying. I also want students to understand that even if we don't acknowledge our theoretical approaches, we have them, and that if we acknowledge them, they're stronger, and we're more aware that we'll have blind spots. Or perhaps we're more aware that our theoretical approach determines to some extent what questions we can ask about literature, and if we're lucky, helps us be aware that other approaches will enable other questions, without ever quite enabling us to not have blind spots.

(I love the metaphor of the blind spot. I actually make my students fine theirs, often, and it's great to see them realize what a great metaphor it is. The way the brain interprets photons exciting retinal cells--or not--just blows my little mind.)

While I want my students to have a good foundation in a couple of theoretical approaches, I think even more, I want them to have a strategic approach to reading theoretical works, to thinking about them as arguments, and I want them to be able to use their strategy (or strategies) to approach texts in general.

Assuming other folks have theory classes, either in English departments or beyond, what do you want your students to get out of those classes?

Do you think primarily in terms of content or skills for your central line of classes (if you have one?)?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Update - teaching abroad and Chaucer

So, because I'm sure you're all dying for an update, here goes. I turned in my materials to teach abroad in the not horribly distant future. Now it has to get my chair's approval (my chair tends to be very supportive of such things) and the dean's approval, and then it goes into the university office. So, fingers crossed and all.

I had to write basically a statement of purpose and propose 3 classes I could teach while there; the statement of purpose felt awkward. I just wanted to write, "Choose me! I want to go live in another country for a while! Choose me!" But somehow that seemed lame. Then there's the "I've always wanted to travel thing" which seems just as lame. Seriously, if I'd prioritized traveling in my life, I'd have made other choices, and wouldn't have stayed in one place long enough to earn a PhD, get tenure, or whatever. So what do I say? I want to travel and still retain some of the security of being part of the academic system? Which is quite true, to be honest. I did try to play up what little travel experience I've had, but it's 20 years ago now, and less than impressive, I'm thinking.

Part of the statement of purpose has to talk about how you can advise students on both academic and personal matters. I'm okay maybe even pretty good on academic stuff but personal stuff? Err, "don't hurt others and don't be stupid if you can help it" hardly seems adequate, does it?

Proposing three classes was easy enough, at least. I could write basic class proposals all day. It's actually teaching them that's difficult. I proposed three pretty basic classes well within the scope of my normal teaching: Shakespeare, Intro Lit, and Poetry. I could teach the Shakespeare or Poetry at either sophomore or junior levels, if I needed to, and said I'd find a way to make them all meaningfully travel or cross-culturally oriented.

So I'm back to "Choose me! Choose me!"

I'm pleased that I didn't procrastinate more than I did, and got my part of the application process done today. (The whole thing has to be in by the first of March, so now it's up to my chair and the Dean.)

Meanwhile, back on the road to Canterbury, can I just say, "The Knight's Tale" amazes me once again. I think it's gotten better since the last time I read it. We're reading it in four parts (from the Ellesmere), and are on part two now. I have nothing original to say, but I hope we'll get into talking about gender and fates or Fortune tomorrow. I just love the way Arcite and Palamon talk about the strictures they experience, and Emilye doesn't get a word, except to join with Hippolyta in talking Theseus out of killing them. It's not like she really wants to marry either of them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Day by day

I put my wallet through the wash this afternoon. That's pretty much emblematic of my day. Two of my magnetic cards (and I have a ton, credit cards, library cards, insurance cards) seem to be magnetically attracted to each other now, though I'm not sure how that could happen just from the wash.

And yet, compared to the world at large, my day was grand. South Dakota's senate is on the edge of passing a bill that would pretty much outlaw abortion. (Link to CNN article, may be time-sensitive).

And the Supreme Court decided to hear the case involving the 2003 law banning so-called "partial birth" abortions.

As usual, BitchPhD has a great if disheartening post.

And, as usual, TheWellTimedPeriod has an informative post both about new FDA regulations regarding Acutane and the SCOTUS case.

Today, I wish I could just hide, but really, the time to hide or keep quiet is done.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Post moved because I'm stuck in chronology.

Responding to written assignments

I spend a large part of my time responding to written assignments of all sorts in all of my classes. I'm guessing most academics do, no matter what we teach.

What I'm looking for is strategies that will help me respond more usefully overall, while spending less time writing respones. Part of that means targeting my responses at the more engaged students, and spending less time responding in depth to minimally engaged students.

I often feel as if I'm writing responses to justify the low grades essays earn; instead, I want to write responses aimed more fully at helping students do solid revision work and do better on future assignments.

I know from studying composition research that marking up lots of grammar or proofreading problems doesn't help most students, so I generally put a tic in the margin, and a note to come talk to me about this grammar issue. The benefit is that I can usually explain the grammar issue in a few minutes, and the student may actually learn something (if I write an explanation, most students won't really read or work through it) because they've chosen to come to learn, and so are ready at that moment. Then you also have the benefit of one on one communication, which is important both to teaching and my own job happiness.

I've started taking to making bulleted lists on the work of students who are most minimally engaged. Usually the lists start with the need to address the assignment, lack of a thesis, and so forth.

Happily, the vast majority of my students are relatively engaged and interested in their studies, and do try to write a good assignment.

What are the most helpful responding strategies you've found?

What are the most helpful responses you've received for your own writing? Is there a way to transfer that sort of helpfulness to my students' work?

(The single most helpful response I've received from a professor came from a professor who let me turn in a dissertation chapter for a pretty unrelated seminar. It was helpful because she was able to help me visualize the overall structure of the chapter argument and rethink it totally, which made the whole chapter stronger. She may have been genius [well, yes], but I'm guessing it took her a couple hours. Admittedly, the chapter was 30 some pages, and I was a pretty engaged student. So I hope I was worth her effort and repaid it with my own in class.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sidle on up and share

My student sidled up to me in that way students have when you're standing at the front of the class and they don't want anyone else to overhear what they're saying. She had papers in her hand.

She mumbled something, so I leaned towards her to hear better, apologized, and asked her to repeat what she'd said.

"I think I have strep, so I want to leave class early today." She held out her paper for me to take.

Thanks for sharing.

And, yes, this same student had been doing the chew and pull with her gum just a few minutes earlier.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

I really AM 400 years behind

As an early modernist, well, I don't read so much lit written in the past 100 years or so. But in real life terms, that's no excuse to ignore my own cultural milieu (haven't you longed to get that word into a conversation, along with, say, "metathesis"?).

Mon of My So Called ABD Life has a really interesting meme up. She didn't tag me, but I'm going to do the meme anyways, not, I hope, in an appropriating way, but more as a reading list I should read more from. That and to assuage my sore head after whacking it against that stupid Roman guy all morning. And because grading 40 papers just feels too overwhelming right now.

Black Lit Meme

The Instructions:
Bold the books you've read.
*Star the titles you own or you've read more than once.*
Italicize the books plan to read.
Strike out any books you have no interest in reading.
??Use question marks to indicate titles/authors you've never heard of??

(Confession: I didn't italicize or strike out any books because I'm so far behind that I never know what's on my to read list except for early modern and crit stuff, and because I feel too ignorant to think that I should decide not to read books I don't know anything about.)

The List:
??Assata: An Autobiography--Assata Shakur
*The Autobiography of Malcolm X--Malcolm X/Alex Haley
??The Bondwoman's Narrative--Hannah Crafts/Henry Louis Gates
*The Bluest Eye--Toni Morrison
*Cane--Jean Toomer
??Cane River--Lalita Tademy
??Chasing Destiny--Eric Jerome Dickey
??The Coldest Winter Ever--Sister Souljah
*The Color Purple--Alice Walker
??Crossing the Mangrove--Maryse Conde
*Death and the King's Horseman--Wole Soyinka
??Devil in a Blue Dress--Walter Moseley
Dreams of My Father--Barack Obama
The Fire Next Time--James Baldwin
*Fences--August Wilson
??Holler If You Hear Me--Michael Eric Dyson
??Invisible Life--E. Lynn Harris
*Invisible Man--Ralph Ellison
??Joys of Motherhood--Buchi Emecheta
Jubilee--Margaret Walker
Kindred--Octavia Butler
*Krik?Krak!--Edwidge Danticat
??Life and Def--Russell Simmons
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass--Frederick Douglass
Mama--Terry McMillan
??Manchild in the Promised Land--Claude Brown
??Measure of Our Success--Marian Wright Edelman
??Men Cry in the Dark--Michael Baisden
??The Mis-Education of the Negro--Carter G. Woodson
Native Son--Richard Wright
??Nervous Conditions--Tsitsi Dangarembga
??Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word--Randall Kennedy
Omeros--Derek A. Walcott (Large sections, and a reading by Walcott)
??On The Down Low--J. L. King
Our Nig--Harriet E. Wilson
Race Matters--Cornel West
*A Raisin in the Sun--Lorraine Hansberry
??72 Hour Hold--Bebe Moore Campbell
??Sex Chronicles--Zane
Sister Outsider--Audre Lorde
??So Long a Letter--Mariama Ba
Soul on Ice--Eldridge Cleaver
The Souls of Black Folks--W.E.B. Du Bois
??Shine--Star Jones Reynolds
??The Street--Ann Petry
*Their Eyes Were Watching God--Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart--Chinua Achebe
Thomas and Beulah--Rita Dove
Up From Slavery--Booker T. Washington
??When and Where I Enter--Paula Giddings

Doing this meme reveals a lot about my reading of Black lit: first, that I don't read much, and that what I do read is very canonical. Second, most of what I've read I've read because I read for classes, GREs or something related to teaching (which probably has to do with the overall canonicity of what I've read, and why I own most of the books I've read, since I bought them for classes or teaching).

I guess I can't put off grading forever, right?

I'm not tagging anyone, but I hope other folks will do the meme, too.

Stupid Roman Guy

Well, until last night, I had, I thought, the beginnings of an interesting argument for a paper. Then, last night, I read these chilling words, "a plebian, who took the surname," and the whole of the argument crumpled under the weight.

How wrong is it that I want to do something very, very nasty to someone who's been dead more than two millennia? And for what heinous crime? For confusing me by changing his name.

And how stupid was I to think that two not so very major political figures whose major moments (neither got much more than fifteen minutes, to be honest) of fame came within 15 years were the same person.

Now, at best, my argument would have to be something about early moderns not being aware, so I could pretend they are the same. But it's silly, and doesn't really work well. And is worth at most, a footnote in a real argument.

I wanted to whack my head VERY hard with a LARGE reference book. Instead, last night, I just gave up and went to bed, hoping that when I woke this morning the whole sentence would have vanished or something. It didn't.

One of the things that's really changed for me over the past several years is that I really resent dead ends in research now. When I was a graduate student, I felt that the goal was learning, and even if something I learned didn't directly contribute to a paper or argument, if I learned from it, I got excited and happy. Even when I was working on my dissertation, and really focused on trying to make an argument, I enjoyed dead ends, enjoyed tracking stuff down, dealing with the things I found that I didn't expect.

I still love learning stuff, even when I don't have an immediate need for the knowledge. I learned about double-marked plurals in Middle English the other day, and I was goofily happy about them.

But lately, I really resent dead ends in my research. I have so little time to pursue an argument, to test my assumptions, to understand the historical and theoretical issues, that when I hit a dead end, I feel way more defeated than curious. I've put off grading to figure this out, and now, argumentless, having spent a fair bit of time without even the satisfaction of having something useful done, I have to turn back to those essays, and to the day to day of class prep for tomorrow. I love teaching what I teach, but it takes me in three different directions, none of which helps me with my research right now. (Yes, I really have to put in for classes more carefully... but but but teaching Chaucer is so danged fun, and we have to have someone do it.)

Saturday, February 18, 2006


In the midst of all the car stuff yesterday, I missed noting here that Inside Higher Education linked my little brainstorming bit, and lots of people stopped by.

So welcome, folks. Pull up a computer screen and relax. And drop me some more great ideas for the class, please! It looks like it's actually a go.

I felt a little ambivalent at first when I saw the IHE thing, mostly because it was linked to one of those "think out loud even though it reveals that I'm maybe not very good at this teaching thing" posts. I felt comfortable with the idea that the usual few folks would stop by and hopefully offer suggestions (and my thanks to those who have!). But then suddenly, a lot more people are seeing the wizard without his super-sized wizard head, and oops! And maybe some of those people are tax payers.

Reading through the comments, though, I am very encouraged, and appreciative! Once I finish chore #1 for today, and #2-6, then I'll be starting to look up and read some of your suggestions.

So, thanks again for the brainstorming help. I hope you enjoy my little contribution to the blogosphere.

Better or worse?

I read about this article about an obnoxious physician's assistant who gave a patient who'd gone in for a bronchitis check a packet literature with Bible verses denouncing homosexuality on Household Opera. (It's also linked at Gendergeek's Eighth Carnival of Feminists.)

I just want to smack someone when I read about behavior like that.

Have things gotten better or worse?

Are more people, especially in this case, medical people, aware and not overtly homophobic? Or are the homophobic ones more aware and also feeling more empowered to express their homophobia?

I wonder because all most of us have is anecdotal evidence, and that's just sparse and unreliable.

So what do you folks think? Have your experiences changed?

Have we gotten better or worse in the academy about how we treat glbt people and issues? (My sense is that the academy is better overall since, say the 70s, but that some students are coming in with more hatefilled ideas rather than just lacking awareness. And I don't think we've really moved forward much in the past 10-15 years at all.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Friday Poetry Blog Thing

I've never done the Friday poetry blog thing, but here goes.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I, being born a woman and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body's weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, the poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity, - let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

I love teaching this poem. I love the way that it understands female sexual desire and other desires, and plays with the blood/mind imagery and contrasts. I love the word "propinquity" in there, and "zest." I think "undone, possessed" says a lot about one kind (some kinds?) of female orgasm and sexual experience, and leaves room for other experiences. The idea that she won't "season" her "scorn" with "pity" just blows me away. And the volta's about as amazing as any could be.

I love the way careless readers think she's (well, actually, most inexperienced student readers imagine the speaker's a he, perhaps because all poets are automatically "he"?) all romantic and goofy because they "know" all poetry is about the "one twue love." This poem challenges preconceptions about poetry, love, sexuality, all with a most beautifully structured, old-fashionedly structured, even, sonnet. Of all the potential forms to bring into play, the sonnetness here just makes me think of Sidney biting his trewand pen, Wyatt worrying about collared deer, Sidney and the shore, Samuel Daniel's wit, and Shakespeare's own wonderful complexity in approaching love and sexuality.


My usually reliable car had a flat this morning, which I suspect is a result of sliding around and whacking the tire into, then jumping a curb yesterday. Luckily, there was no one else on the road and I didn't hit anything except the curb, and wasn't hurt, etc. I didn't think anything of it until I went out early to get in my car to head to school this morning, early because we'd had a fair bit of snow up here in the Northwoods, and I need to drive more slowly, as I learned yesterday. But that's not what this story's about, actually.

I called a cab company, to arrange a ride, and was told that there'd be no problem getting me to campus for my class. Then when my department opened, I called campus to make sure they hadn't called a snow day. Then I started digging out my drive and walk. Time passed. And again, think To the Lighthouse, time passed. I called the cab company, no problem, they said, she's almost there. More time passed. Think biblical times, begats, whatever. It got to the point that my class was going to start in fifteen minutes, so I went and called the department again.

I told the admin assistant, a woman who makes all things possible and manages to do that with kindness and efficiency, and asked her to send a student worker down to get my class started, just in case I wasn't there on time. I said, ask them to brainstorm about the Marxist concepts we've been talking about, and then to think about those concepts and apply them to the story (Poe's "Purloined Letter").

More time passed (think Stephen Hawking and black holes and such), and the cab came, the ride in which could make a whole other post, but let me just say here that I now know a lot more about the state of the driver's innards and sickly spouse than I want, and we went to school.

I tromped, boots, coat, sweater, scarf, dorky winter hat and all, into the building at 20 after, and made my way to the room, expecting to find it empty.

But no, there was a room full of students, books opened, pens/pencils and paper out, reading and consulting in small groups.

I apologized for being late. Then I asked them what they'd been talking about.

And I swear, I just pretty much wrote on the board in awe for the rest of the hour, asked a few questions for clarification, and wrote some more. More people added to the discussion than had before in class.

Really, they just rocked my socks (which, in case you want to know, are VERY thick and heavy blue wool).

And then one of the best students asked a couple important questions about intentionality and an overall theoretical approach, so we wound things up with a bit of meta discussion about knowledge, intentionality, blind spots.

Can I just say, I am so utterly impressed with this class on every level.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Opportunity knocks

And this time, she wasn't a bald woman with a little forelock, running by as fast as she could. In fact, she was male, with hair, and not really running by, or even knocking, since my office door was open. In this case, opportunity came in the mien of the departmental chair.

"Bardiac," he asked, leaning against the jamb, "have you ever thought about teaching a special interdisciplinary class?"

I perked; he smiled. Why, yes, I had, but I hadn't thought of writing my own class rubric and getting it all approved and all, and I hadn't really thought so much about the other rubrics, or, to be honest, even looked at them carefully. He offered to send me copies of the rubrics, and then came back to my office as I pulled them up from the email. (There's something a little weird in life when someone comes to read their email to me, you know?)

I read them through, and pondered and mulled. This interdisciplinary thing is more easily said than done, I'm afraid. There's a rubric for an electronic texts course. Now that sounds interesting. I mean, I write a blog and all. And I know from Lanham and such. Old stuff now, though. I kept going. There's a rubric for a course on the body. I like bodies as well as the next person, I suppose. The chair enthuses, and points out that the class hasn't been taught in AGES, since the person who taught it before is long long gone. (Evidently this is something I should have thought of: no stepping on the toes of someone who might have designed this rubric back in the day, or who might want to teach it again someday.)

Evidently the powers that be with regard to these interdisciplinary classes need a couple more offerings. I jotted down some possible texts, because it's all about the texts, right?

The difficulty is that I can come up with a bazillion lit/theory type texts, and now I have to think about that interdisciplinary thing some more.

So far, from the lit world, I'm thinking: Titus, because, really, who doesn't love that play? Or maybe The Rape of Lucrece!!! Frankenstein paired with Patchwork Girl. Elaine Scarry's Body in Pain. Laquer's Making Sex. Butler. Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto." Maybe some Bakhtin on the classical and grotesque bodies.

I know I can't do everything, of course, and I have the summer to help prep. Wasn't there a Didion book on imagery and Cancer? (I'll have to look.) Is it Meredith Small who's written a book on the anthropology of sex? What about an anthropology of menstruation, which would go well with Bakhtin, anyways, and Titus. Isn't there a great article on the imagery of reproductive biology writing I vaguely remember?

I'm thinking about Bynum and bringing in art and images. Maybe Butler's He, She, It? Mieke Bal's paper on Genesis?

Then, of course, I got thinking about Stiff by Mary Roach, which would be a great book for a class on the body.

Now I'm looking for a sense of an organizational mode, maybe something on legal theories of the body or embodiment? Maybe something scientific, either anthro or evolutionary or??

So, folks, Opportunity has now taken a seat in front of you and would GREATLY appreciate some brainstorming and ideas for both texts and perhaps images or other stuff. She's sitting here, staring at me while I should be working on other stuff.

PS. Yes, I know, this is the very same Bardiac who whined not so long ago about a colleague wanting to teach a big famous text in my field even though she's never actually read said text. Cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy, you name it, I'm an embodiment.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sports star

My "athletic" team competed tonight. Well, we showed up and did our best, anyway. And we laughed and cheered for each other and the people on the opposing team with equal enthusiasm, something that always shocks them, and gives us our best chance of winning, since our athleticism isn't going to get us there.

We recently decided to buy team shirts. Mostly we realized that we're never going to win the league and get free shirts, so if we want them, we have to get them ourselves. We then decided to go wild and have our team name put on the back, and our special team names (since we're NOT going to do this particular athletic thing under our own names) on the front. For some reason, we let one of our members talk us into BRIGHT pink shirts with black trim. I'm not a person who likes pink much, generally, but what the heck. We can pretend it's feminist and in your face. Think Jane Gallop, or something.

We now have a team cheer to go along with our shirts. I have permission from the author to post it here, so, for your reading pleasure:

P-I-N-K, pink, pink, pink!
Let's try not to stink, stink, stink!

The thing with the cheer is that it generally cracks us up so much that we completely mess up our next attempts at athleticism.

Just in case you're wondering, none of us is giving up our day jobs. However, again tonight we had a perfect score of NO injuries to ourselves or others. We pretty much aim for that as our standard, and so far, we're okay on that one.

Shockingly, I had my best overall average tonight (counting some four years of athleticism). Go Go Bardiac!

Advising frustration

In our lunchroom the other day, one of my colleagues spoke about an interaction several of his students had in his class recently. In the course of discussion, one of the students, call her Amanda, a single mom, had mentioned that if she didn't have her toddler, she'd have more time to do other things, and a lot more freedom in general. The remark struck my colleague as a reasonable observation, and nothing more.

However, a number of other students, primarily younger female students, protested immediately, saying that Amanda shouldn't think of her toddler that way, asking what she'd do without him. Amanda replied that if she'd never had him, she wouldn't miss him because she wouldn't know him, or something. According to my colleague, he had a tough job getting the other students to back down from practically accusing Amanda of being a bad, uncaring, unloving mother for imagining the relative ease of a life as other than a single mother.

In general, our students who don't have kids of their own tend to romanticize motherhood. I got an essay last semester from a young woman who basically asserted that the most defining thing about being a woman is being able to give birth, and waxing about as eloquent as she could about the beauty of birthing. I asked her if she'd ever actually given birth, or seen a birth. She hadn't.

Some of my female students talk about how much they love babysitting, and how much they want to have families, but most of them seem to have little sense of the day to day frustrations (and joys) of parenting, the day to day dealing with feeding, crying, care, etc.

They've been subjected all their lives to rhetoric about babies and motherhood, and most of them come from relatively small, middle-class families. I don't blame them for their romantic notions, but I do worry that they're so often willing to dismiss another woman's real experience when it conflicts with what society tells them to believe. They had a chance to learn from Amanda, and instead they closed their ears and opened their mouths.

My colleague's bothered because Amanda dropped his course between that day and the next class meeting, and he doesn't know why, but suspects it may have to do with the reaction of her fellow students.

While he'd been talking, my mind had been racing (well, more like plodding, to be honest), because I have an advisee coincidentally named Amanda, who just happens to be a single mom, slightly older than our traditional students. Amanda's not that common a name. And I remembered talking with her about taking a section of this particular class, but I wasn't remembering which section. So I asked my colleague about her surname, and he said, yes, he thought that sounded familiar.

Amanda's a hard working single mom, and basically, by definition, she's got a tough row to hoe, so to speak. It's TOUGH for single moms to finish college. She works full time, raises a kid, and tries to take a few courses each semester, hoping to get an education. She has to take this class to do our major, and she wants to do our major. So if she feels so uncomfortable in this class with younger students when she says something honest, is that going to push her into dropping out? Then again, someone living relatively near the edge is always in danger of needing to drop out. Dropping this class may have nothing at all to do with the discussion, but my colleague thinks it may.

This morning I checked, and indeed, my advisee isn't enrolled in the course as we'd discussed. She's still enrolled in two other classes, so maybe she just found the third overwhelming for work-load reasons, and decided to put it off until next semester?

I'm still a bit worried. But I hesitate to drop her a concerned email. I don't want her to think we faculty folk gossip about students in inappropriate ways (I didn't think our lunchroom discussion was inappropriate, but I don't know that I could communicate that to Amanda). And I don't want to make a problem where she didn't have one.

On the other hand, I wish she'd talked to me before dropping the class, and I hope she feels she can come talk to me about problems with her classes, whatever they are, because I think I can help her gain perspective or support her decisions if she does need to drop one.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Feed my paranoia...

Today I got an email from one of my favorite people. She emails me from a popular email service (think gmail, yahoo, etc). She'd evidently hit "reply" to email me this time, or so I think because the subject header says "re: blah blah" and I'd sent her an email with just that subject some while back. She says she's worried about me because I haven't been responding to some emails she's been sending.

So, of course, I quickly responded, and said I'd try to figure out if something was getting dumped by the campus spam system or something.

Then I searched through the campus spam files I knew about, and didn't see anything new. And then, then I realized there's ANOTHER campus spam filter system, and opened that up, and voila! THOUSANDS of emails, including some from this friend. Now, many of the emails are indeed spam. You can guess about those.

But for a while, I've been wondering where the blogger emails for when someone's nice enough to post a response on this blog went. I've only ever seen ones from when I post myself, which seems the height of stupidity, because those are the ones I actually know about already. I'd be much happier knowing about others, right? Well, it looks like they're all in here, too! So that's exciting.

Now, all that doesn't make me paranoid in the least. However, amongst the spam were a couple of these:

Dear Sir/Madam,
we have logged your IP-address on more than 30 illegal
Please answer our questions!
The list of questions
are attached.

Yours faithfully,

*** Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 3220
*** Washington, DC 20535
*** phone:
(202) 324-3000

Okay, my paranoid response is partly eased by the fact that I don't generally surf illegal websites so far as I know, and partly by the fact that my home computer has a different and ever changing ISP (which is common with ISP companies, as I understand it), and so, I think, does my work computer, since they get switched around as different computers on campus get turned on and off.

In addition, I have some hopes that the FBI wouldn't be so stupid as to expect people to email them about visiting illegal websites.

And is visiting illegal websites actually an illegal activity? I mean, I think I could visit, say, an off shore gambling site, and it would be perfectly legal. (It might not be legal to send them money, or gamble, I suppose, but merely visiting wouldn't be illegal.) And certainly just about anyone who's used any number of search engines or even the lovely blogspot random site visit button (upper right, hit it now for a random site visit) has ended up at a rather explicit pornographic site, maybe even one involving illegal activities (not that I have ever hit that button up on the right, so I wouldn't actually know...). But merely visiting on the web wouldn't be illegal, anymore than being present while a bank robbery was in progress would be illegal. Unsafe, sure, but not illegal. Or in the case of some websites, distasteful or horrifying, but not illegal.

Now, of course, the KEY here is that this email has an attachment which seems (only by the suffix, which is dot zip) to be a zip file. And I'm just just guessing that something in the zip file or hitting response will download something nasty onto one's computer, or at the very least give someone your email address to sell to people who would be interested that you'd maybe feel guilty about surfing illegal websites (gambling or pornography sites, perhaps? I just have little idea what other kinds of illegal sites there are out there. I'm not sure I'd want to know. I prefer my criminal activities enacted on the stage or in texts, thanks.)

Nonetheless I'm paranoid. I do have an FBI file. (So does everyone with my employment history. It's nothing special.) And I generally hold attitudes the FBI might find distasteful, especially in these times of paranoia. I may even have spoken with less than complete respect about some of our political leaders, in public and all.

So isn't there some kind of clearing site where you can send such nasty spam where the legal beagles try to track down and protect innocent (or even not so innocent) folks from the downright nasty tricks and scams in some emails?

If anyone knows about that, could you enlighten me, please?

Meanwhile, I have this really nice aluminum foils cap, which should impress the NSA when they come to visit. (Yeah, like I'd even realize they were tapping my phone or searching the BardiacShack!)

It doesn't help that my theory class today read "The Purloined Letter." Nope, that doesn't help my paranoia in the least. Do I now know I'm being watched? Dupin, you out there? Prefect G?

PS. No, I didn't click on the attachment, though I almost did for an instant. I bet someone with faster twitch reflexes might have, though. Or someone who wasn't quite so suspicious of government activities.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

It's a mystery

Well, the world hasn't come to and end yet, so I'm about to head off to the gym. People (I should really say, "people who say they like to exercise at the gym") tell me that after I go work out, I should feel energized and renewed. I don't. They tell me that if I exercise for a couple months, religiously, I should feel energized and invigorated. I don't. They tell me that it's easy to lose weight if I exercise three or four times a week. I can't even begin to comment.

Oddly enough, when I ask which gym they go to or what they do to work out, about half of these people admit that they don't go. Now, if it really DOES feel good to you when you go, why don't you go?

(It doesn't feel good to me or bad, but I promise myself a present if I can get in a little better shape by May, but that's for another blog.)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reader's question: citation software

A reader (hey, stop snickering!) asked me about software to create citations recently, and I had to admit to being totally clueless. When writing on the computer, I generally keep a copy of the MLA Handbook near at hand and an extra open wordprocessing file, and enter citation information as I go.

Does anyone have experience with software that creates or manages citations?

Suggestions for good software, or warnings about bad software?


Square Meme

Silversmith has tagged me with a meme. I've never done a meme before, and I have no clue even how to pronounce "meme" (help, someone!), and this one only proves what a nerd I am.

4 jobs I’ve had: I could take the totally non-academic approach, or the totally academic approach. It's scary how many times I've shifted my path:
histologist, forestry tech, painter (as in building, not art), mutual funds clerk

4 dvds I keep watching
I don't actually HAVE a dvd player, but I show a Frontline DVD ("The Persuaders") in my writing class sometimes, and I show Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in one of my intro classes when I teach that. I suppose that will have to do.

4 places I wish I had lived
New York City, Alaska, London, Australia

4 tv shows I watch
um, the local news... I sometimes watch Dr. 90210, as a sort of anthroplogical gesture. Other than that, whatever happens to make good background noise while I grade or read.

4 places I’ve travelled
New York, the Everglades, the Galapagos, Brainerd (it was a Fargo pilgrimage; give me a break, it's the bleeping Northwoods up here in flyover country)

4 websites I visit daily
Look to your right and you've got the basics. I also visit some others, especially the OED.

4 foods I love
sashimi, lentils, chocolate, naan

4 early musical influences
my Dad, some oboe player I saw when I was 6 and decided I wanted to play the oboe, Handel, Elton John

I think everyone else in the blogosphere has already been tagged, so if you haven't, and you want to be, please consider yourself tagged.

(That last, of course, is an useless attempt to cover for my not-very-secret-anymore conviction that no one I'd think to tag actually reads anything I write.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Seminar Happiness

Someday, I'm going to propose an Ovarium rather than a seminar. On the other hand, so many of my graduate seminars consisted of people spouting off with little or no concern for what anyone else in the room thought or experienced, so maybe they really do need to be called "seminars"?

For the first time today, my Chaucer seminar was really a seminar, and by seminar I mean, I moderated their discussion, made some notes on the board, and enjoyed learning from them.

This class has turned into at least a bit of an experiment, with an off-site guest (G) logging on and contributing via our WebBoard discussion area. G and I have emailed a bit, and shared ideas about the text, and G has responded to and posted some questions and discussion ideas on the WebBoard. I've never yet managed to have students use the WebBoard technology well for discussion or information sharing, but I'm hoping this time, since they're conscious that G's out there, they'll think of themselves as really communicating in writing about the text. And G provides a great model of thoughtful communication, which is an added benefit. (Thanks, G!)

When the term started, they started from the beginning, learning Middle English and trying to get a sense of what is what in these texts. We've spent a fair bit of time in class on a word project (each person gets a word and looks it up on the OED and then writes about what they learn for the rest of us), on reading aloud, and on translating lines as we go.

Earlier this week, I started seriously trying to get them to discuss "The Book of the Duchess" more as a text, with some more depth and such. I tried putting up some thinking questions on our WebBoard thing, and asking them to respond. Over the past couple days, though, a couple of our students have been responding back and forth with G about some questions. Mostly they've been thinking about how the text understands and represents grieving.

A quickie rundown of the "Book of the Duchess": The narrator begins by explaining that he's been sleepless for eight years, and says that one sleepless night, he read the story of Alcione. In short, he says, Alcione's husband was out of town on business (and died along the way), and she missed him so horribly that she prayed to Juno for a dream to resolve her problem (she didn't know he'd died). Juno sent Morpheus to inhabit her husband's body to appear in Alcione's dream to inform her that he'd died. Alcione's so wracked by sorrow that she dies in 3 days.

Then, the narrator tells us, he prayed, too, and suddenly fell asleep and had a dream. In his dream, he "wakes" and sees art about the Trojan War and the Romance of the Rose, hears a bunch of birds, and then gets up and goes on a sort of hunt, where he gets off-track, and sees a small or young dog, which he follows until he sees the Man in Black, who's lamenting.

The narrator asks the Man in Black why he's sad, and the Man in Black tells him that he'd been a thrall to love, and fallen in love with the best woman, and she'd turned him down once, and then she'd accepted him. So why's he unhappy, the narrator asks? Because she's dead, the Man in Black explains. The narrator responds, basically, by saying, "by God, that sucks" (or so my student's translation went). And then he says he woke up and decided to make a rhyme out of his dream.

So, as you can see, we have three main models of grief: the narrator, the romance of Alcione, and the Man in Black's embedded narrative (along with some models within the various narratives). We also have multiple models of love, birds, Troy and classical history, some Biblical models, the Romance of the Rose, the Man in Black's experiences.

We started off talking about the models of love and grieving, and then we got into talking about the gendering of grief responses in the text. What fun!

And they were talking TO each other, and bringing in other texts, including one of the books a student wrote a book review on earlier in the week.

I have such high hopes! We start the "General Prologue" to The Canterbury Tales on Monday.

Blogroll Blogfriend

If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.

As found on Dr. Virago who got it from Another Damned Medievalist.

(The idea is that you copy that sentence and don't actually give the name[s] of the bloggers on your blogroll who make your world a better place.)

NPR, rationing, and remembering

So little time, so much to do. So instead of working on my conference paper or my departmental committee work, or even further prepping my classes, I know, I'll write a little blog.

Every morning at an ungodly hour, my radio starts up by itself, the magic of technology tuned to NPR. Usually I'm awake before it starts, and this morning was no different. I intended to get up when I woke, but I didn't, instead huddling in the warmth and glad I wasn't out in the new snow.
The first article I heard this morning when the radio came on was NPR's item on the likelihood of health care (primarily critical care, esp mechanized ventilation) rationing in the case of a flu pandemic. Basically, the gist was that if/when a pandemic hits, people are going to need critical care in large numbers, and we as a society just don't have the equipment (or health care workers), nor can we afford to have the equipment available, realistically. That means that some people are already beginning to think about the ethics of rationing care, and how that care should be rationed, and how health care workers can be protected from lawsuits if they have to ration care.

Health care is already rationed, of course, it's availability ruled at least in part by access and money. Seriously, try getting health care when you live in a rural area and tell me there's no rationing right now. There are probably 10 plastic surgeons in the LA area for every GP/FP in Alaska or the rural upper midwest.

But money/access based rationing seems "natural" under our system. So what they're talking about is rationing based on something other than money, based on something other than individual need, based on perceptions of the greater good. The numbers NPR cited convinced me that if/when we get a pandemic, we're probably better off trying to ration based on perceptions of the greater good than on money. It's a complex problem.

The NPR item reminded me of an exercise we did in a social studies class when I was a kid. The idea of the exercise was that we were supposed to imagine that the bomb had gone off, and that we were supposed to manage a bunker system or something, and had a list of people who wanted "in." But, of course, we couldn't accept all of them, so we were supposed to choose a limited number from the list.

Yes, it was the 60s or 70s, can you tell?

As I recall, all the men were merely labeled by age and job/education: a 24 year old medical student.

The women were labeled by age, and parental status, with only two identified by education/job.

Only one black man was identified by race.

Then there was the 20 year old childless co-ed. I remember her because I had to ask what a "co-ed" was, and was confused when told the term stood for "co-educational" because I thought that just meant anyone who went to a school where there were boys and girls (as I did). But then I was told that it was a special term for women (called "girls" then, usually) in college. Why was there a special term? Evidently, women weren't generally in college. (I hadn't yet figured out that only one of the women I knew from my neighborhood had actually been to college, and that only one woman in my family had graduated from college.)

The only other specific person I remember is the 50-something year old female doctor, childless.

Either the set up aimed us in that direction, or our budding hormones put us there, but most of the discussion in my group (once we figured out that a co-ed was a female student) centered on female breeding status, to be blunt. Most of the group wanted to eliminate females who couldn't breed, and retained males preferentially, since we all assumed that men could actually work, and women could just pop babies, except for the female doctor, who got kicked out for being too old to breed.

For some reason, I kept arguing for the 50 year old female doctor, I guess because I thought having a doctor might be useful, and it didn't bother me that she couldn't have kids (as we were told by the teacher) because I figured she'd be so busy as a doctor that she'd more than earn her keep without breeding, or something. I lost, of course.

Retrospectively, of course, the whole set up just seems horrific. Being little kids, of course, we weren't encouraged to question any of the basic assumptions:

We weren't encouraged to ask if, having destroyed pretty much everything, humans were worth trying to preserve as a species. Now were we encouraged to think about how stupid it was to imagine repopulating an atomic Earth, or how maybe the survivors would wish they hadn't survived.

We never questioned whether individual men were fertile (just as well, given our ages and lack of real information about sexuality). Someone in the group "knew" that men could be fathers at any age, so we didn't worry about that. Nor about the possible effects of radiation on any potential kids that might be born.

Nor did we worry that some people just might not want to breed.

Instead, we hummed the theme from "Gilligan's Island" and wondered why Mary Anne and Ginger weren't making babies so that the island population would survive or grow. Our group solution to the problem clearly reflected our culture which valued youth, maleness in general, women as breeding stock, and whiteness. (Disclosure: I'm white. We were unwitting racists, mostly raised to think that race shouldn't matter in a larger society where it mattered more than our parents wanted to admit. We wanted not to be racists, and we were racists.)

Times of crisis put our cultural values under stress; that can be paradoxically valuable because it can make us think through our values and question them in useful ways. As nasty as that exercise was, I learned about my values, and the values of my culture and classmates. (I might have learned more, of course, but the fact that I learned anything in school sometimes shocks and surprises me.) If/when we experience a flu epidemic which acutely challenges our system (as opposed to the chronic challenges it faces all the time), we're going to really need to recognize and think through our values.

The NPR article opened up a potential dialogue, which we all need to take part in. These decisions are too important to be left to a small group, no matter how good-willed and well-meaning.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How soon we forget

I've been reading the news about the editorial cartoons and the Muslim reaction, and then about the reaction of "the West" (in that monolithic sense).

Especially in the English speaking west, say the UK and the US, there seems to be a strong current of befuddlement about why Muslims find the cartoons offensive. CNN even has a little video entitled, "Why won't Muslims draw Mohammed's face?" (I may or may not have successfully managed the video link; if I didn't, or if it's time sensitive and goes empty fast, I apologize.)

As is obvious from my little side bar, I'm an early modernist Shakespeare type, so I tend to study early modern England, including that period of history when English protestants found graphic representations of prophets, saints (oh, yeah, especially saints!), and Jesus/God so threatening that they destroyed statues and paintings in fairly large numbers. This was a time when the stakes were high for religious belief in England, and subsequently among English colonists in the US, so people were punished severely for advocating the "wrong" beliefs.

I want to ask protestants, who make up a fairly large part of the US population, what they know about early protestantism.

And I want to ask them why so very many protestants are willing to put up Santa Claus images when their religious ancestors wouldn't allow any saintly images. All that "no craven images" stuff went where?

Why did protestants find representing God/Jesus on stage so threatening that they banned Corpus Christi dramas?

If we look back, I think we can find in our own history a sense of how threatening and dangerous graphic representations are, and maybe we should use some self-knowledge to temper our response to Muslim outrage?

My response isn't all that tempered, I'm afraid. Political cartoons and satire are supposed to challenge our ideas and understandings, our ideologies. Yes, they can be offensive. But they make us think, at least they should.

You want some really offensive material, go read Foxe's recounting of the deaths of Latimer and Ridley. Religious prosecution and hate sucks whether it's Catholic against protestant, protestant against Catholic, Christian against Jew, or Muslim against Christian.

(You know when you hear people try to put pain on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the worst you can imagine? 10 for me is Latimer and Ridley. If I have to be burned alive, please please please someone make sure my gunpowder necklace goes off fast!)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bad Science

Let me start with a confession: I like science. There's little so elegant as a scientific theory, well-tested, refined, especially while it's undergoing the refinement. There's beauty in the ability of good science to push against expectations and recognize when those expectations are flawed, and then to re-evaluate the expectations and data to try to come up with a better explanation and understanding.

When scientists won't push against their expectations or recognize when their experiments put those expectations in doubt, then they're no longer doing science, and they might as well go play with the ID idiots.

So it strikes me as important when the big news splash of the day is that a research project reveals that in the randomized population of women between 50 and 79 studied, a low fat diet didn't reduce breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cardiovascular disease risks. Here's the full text article for the Breast Cancer Study, free, from JAMA. And here's the colorectal cancer study abstract. And here's the abstract for the cardiovascular disease study.

This is big news, and you'd think honest scientists everywhere would jump up and start rethinking their assumptions.

Except, not. Because it seems that their assumptions control their readings of the studies. ABC news published a bunch of little critical blurbs from experts here.

The main critiques:

It was a flawed study, and didn't pass scientific review. Then why the hell did JAMA publish the results? And even more to the point, why did MY tax dollars go to support it when they could have supported something worthwhile, like, you know Headstart, or the Arts. This study could have supported a LOT of humanities work.

It followed women between 50 and 79, and thus wouldn't show results which might show if they started with 20 year olds, or ten year olds, and followed them for 50 years. No doubt, it's important to do long term studies. But here's a cluepon: 10 year olds don't worry about breast cancer or heart disease, much less colorectal cancer. Most people who care about these diseases are grown up, middle-aged. So the research tells us something about what dietary changes MIGHT or MIGHT NOT do. Here, it turns out, going low fat doesn't change outcomes for these three areas of interest among people who might think that would help improve their outcomes.

The study wasn't long enough. Again, let's be realistic. Say you take your average Bardiac, not quite 50, but heading that direction, and I say, "hey, what can I do to reduce my risks or these bad health problems?" If my risk isn't reduced in 8 years, who gives a flying f***? I'm not going to live forever, and if changing something doesn't actually reduce the risk while I'm still young enough to want to avoid dying, then it's not worth doing. (The death I dread is the long wait of being largely incapacitated by age or Alzheimers and unable to escape a miserable existence. At that point, if I get one of these horrid diseases, dope me up and let me die. Please.)

This complaint sounds like the kind of BS that tells women what our risk of getting breast cancer by the time we're 85 is. Except that since most of us won't live to 85 anyway, it's a misleading statistical number. (CDC page on life expectancy from 2002.)

The women didn't reduce their fat intake to the 20% of calories the study had as its goal; instead, they averated 24% of their calories as fats, while the women not on the low fat diet consumed on average 35% of their calories as fats. NewsSource.
The basic question is to ask if the difference in fat consumption is statistically significant given the overall numbers, and I'm guessing JAMA would have tossed the study fast if that weren't statistically significant.

But, I think this result is VERY interesting, because while the averages I quoted are for the study period as a whole, each group increased its fat consumption so that by year six, the low fat subjects were consuming 29% of their calories through fats, and the control group was consuming 37% of their calories as fats. (Same source) Why does this interest me? Because these women were participating willingly in a study, and all those early studies on work production show that when workers THINK they're being studied, they produce more goods. So let me assume that these women were probably pretty darned motivated.

And even motivated women weren't able to reduce average consumption of fats to the study's target level, and instead, increased their consumption over time.

Doesn't that suggest that a low fat diet is DIFFICULT for even really motivated people? If we want to think in terms of overall population habits, then finding a way of eating that's healthy AND NOT difficult would be a good goal. And low fat isn't that.

Now, naturally, were I an honest scientist, at this point I'd have to raise my hand and acknowledge that I have a stake in the results. Here's my stake: I find low fat food substitutes pretty damned boring and distasteful. I don't know that I own any stocks (via my retirement mutual funds) that promote high fat OR low fat foods.


Since the alternative was to grade quizzes or short papers, I decided to look around the blogosphere to see what the medical types are saying. The few responses I've found have been interesting, and not terribly sympathetic with the experts cited by the news sources.

Retired Doc says that he thinks the problem with the study is that it was already outmoded by the time it was done because,
The current party line is reduce saturated fat and trans fat to reduce heart disease risk and monounsaturated fat may actually be good for you. (emphasis mine)

He may be right, but look at the way he says it. Science isn't supposed to have a "party line." It's supposed to engage in open, honest, self-reflective, self-critical study of it's assumptions. Do the responses of the experts reflect the party line rather than real scientific inquiry?

(To be fair, retired doc says he hasn't pushed fat reduction diets.)

Sydney of MedPundit goes with the argument that the age factor makes the study problematic, and says,

its chief limitation is that it was performed in women ages 50-79. Here's a news flash for everyone - the number one cause of heart disease is aging. Changing your diet after you've already completed most of the aging process is not going to improve your chances of avoiding heart disease. It isn't even clear that following a special diet in your youth will decrease your risk of heart disease in old age (although it might decrease your chances of having heart disease at a young age.)

Things that increase the risk for heart disease the most also happen to be things that increase the rate of aging of the arteries , diabetes and smoking being chief among them. Diet (and cholesterol) make miniscule contributions.
So I get a sense that while Sidney sees flaws in the study, she says that diet isn't a big factor anyway. In other words, she's skeptical of the experts' responses, too.

Like Sidney, DB of DB's Medical Rants has some doubts about the experts' responses. What does he suggest, then, for those who want to avoid problems? He asks, and then answers

So what is a health conscious person to do? Make your best guess.
Now that's helpful, eh? Very scientific.

I guess I'll turn on some John Lee Hooker and enjoy a dinner of something Dean Ornish would run from like a scared rabbit.

(Yes, weight and health problems are bad. I recognize this. People in the US have unhealthy practices. We also don't read nearly enough Shakespeare or Chaucer, or poetry in general. I fight the good fight on my end pretty much every day.)

Sick, sick, sick

Students get "sick." Okay, it happens.

Why more students get sick on Fridays, specifically, is more troubling. Or, as we put it around the Northwoods, Thursday is the new Friday. And sometimes Wednesday is the new Friday. Here in the Northwoods, we support grain industries in major ways. Oh yes. Anything to help the economy!

I have no doubt whatsoever that my absent students feel lousy. Some of them really are sick. Some of them are so hungover that they're going to spend the day worshipping the porcelain gods. Some of them are dealing with serious personal or familial problems. And some of them feel lousy because they didn't do the reading and aren't prepared with whatever they were asked to do for today in class, so they don't come.

It's only really a problem for me in classes where I give fairly regular (though unannounced) quizzes, especially in first year classes. (Is there a real reason why first year students seem to get sick more often? Or is that just my own false perception?)

Other than wishing in a vague way that everyone on earth were always healthy, including my students, I really don't worry when an individual student misses a class because I figure they're adults, and things happen, and they make choices. And sometimes my class isn't first priority. I can accept that.

The problem is, they ALL want to "make up" the quizzes, or be excused, or something. If this were one person, say once a week, I'd probably be more sympathetic. But, especially for Friday quizzes, it's more like five people. And they all want me to schedule a special and different time to do their make-up. And I'm lazy. Were I truly nice, I'd gladly give make-up quizzes to everyone.

Here's the thing, though: it's extra work to make up additional quizzes, and my class quizzes aren't really just "did you read this" quizzes. They're also a way for me to get us talking about what I think was most important in the readings. So I've chosen the questions carefully. (This is one of those "takes a more time than you'd think" things about teaching.)

I've also instructed students that if they miss class, they need to get notes from someone else in class BEFORE they come to class the next time. To emphasize how important I think this is, I even have them exchange phone numbers and emails with other people in the class during the first class day. Of course, most students simply don't bother to get those notes, so I could give them the same quiz I gave the class a day or two earlier. But anyone who did get notes would be prepared for exactly the questions on the quiz, assuming that they got notes from someone who actually paid attention and took notes.

For serious health and emergency issues, they notify the dean's office and the dean's office sends an official excuse. I have NO problem trying to accommodate these students, though it's really difficult to accommodate someone who misses 20% of a class.

The problem I have is with the students who aren't in class for more mundane reasons. I'm not interested in trying to judge the validity of their absences at all. I just want to find a way to deal with them all fairly without making myself a ton of extra work.

Please tell me this problem isn't unique to me?

Does anyone have a really good solution?

The problem's compounded when they miss a peer revision day and expect me to find them a group and make time for them to do in-class work they missed. How do you deal with that one?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Writing Basics - essay assignments

Writing good essay assignments has to be about the hardest part of teaching first year writing. (Grading is more miserable, but not usually "hard" per se.) Actually, it's hard whenever and wherever you do it.

I "look for" a couple things in an essay assignment:

1) It has to be do-able, in the time allotted, with the resources we have available, and with the skills I can teach or realistically assume they already have.

This seems simple, but it's really not, especially for first year students. Some of my worst early failures at writing essay assignments came because I somehow thought students should actually know enough about their other classes to research information from them. But really, most introductory classes don't teach students to research in a given field, and I'm not really up on teaching researching in, say, physics, or intro to psych (because you KNOW they're not reading Lacan!).

My test here is that I should be able to write the assigned essay with ease.

2) The essays should NOT bore me to death. In practice, this means I have to change up assignments sometimes just out of a sense of self-preservation. But it also means I just don't open up areas for certain kinds of topics.

3) The essays should be miserable to plagiarize. I can't prevent all plagiarism. I especially can't prevent a student from paying a more advanced student (or some unethical business) to write a paper for a specific assignment. But I can do things along the way that will add work to the plagiarist's life (requiring students to turn in rough drafts is one step).

I can also do things that make assignments quite specific to my class. (For example, when I have my first year students write a movie review, they have to refer to a couple of professional movie reviews in a fairly specific way, and also include copies of those reviews in the turn-in packet.)

And I can hope that my students can't really afford to pay another student to write a paper for them.

I generally know what I want out of a given essay assignment, but communicating that to students is difficult, especially early in the semester or academic year. Usually I try to build skills as the semester progresses, so that early on, I want to work on analysis of their own experiences. Later, I'll ask them to read other evidence, especially other people's writing and work with it, responding to it, analyzing it, and finally using it in an argument.

But it's torturously hard sometimes to get them to analyze their experiences rather than to narrate or explain their experiences.

How do you teach students to analyze their experiences?

How do you discourage plagiarism?

One of the BEST things I've learned from a colleague (because, really, learning from colleagues makes life so much easier) about getting better essays is: just before the rough draft is due for peer revision, I ask students to reread the essay assignment, and imagine what a competent (as in a C) "response" to that assignment will look like. They work first in groups, and then we put ideas on the board.

Early in the semester, they tend to want to focus on "good grammar" and "no spelling errors," both of which are nice, but really aren't key to a competent essay.

I prompt and push until we get a list on the board which includes: a thesis, an argument, points that develop the thesis, evidence, example(s), an introduction, a conclusion, and, most important, whatever specifics the assignment asks for. If the assignment asks them to compare/contrast, then the essay actually has to compare and contrast. (I don't give compare/contrast essays in first year writing, but you get the point.)

Then when they start to work on peer review, they can at least use that "competency" standard to provide feedback about how well the essay meets the requirements of the assignment.

Bonus! The blogspot spell check wanted me to replace "Lacan" with "lacunae." How fitting is THAT!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Marx and me

Now there's a pretentious blog entry title, eh?

We've been discussing Marx in my theory class. It's been going okay. Not as well as I always hope, and not as horribly as I always dread. When you tease it out on the board, Marx's logic is beautiful. After class the other day, as I was starting to erase the board, one of my students stopped next to me on his way out.

"This is interesting stuff," he said. I agreed with some enthusiasm, because, really it IS.

"I'm no Marxist or anything..."

I cut him off a little quickly, and maybe rudely. I hate when people say "I'm no [fill in some position the right demonizes]." So I tried to open a space where Marxism is actually okay, and not just some strawman for conservative demonizing.

Then he got to his real question, "It all makes so much sense. Why hasn't it worked out?"

Sure, Bardiac, explain the whole of the 20th century as people from the next class sidle in quietly. No problem! Worth a try, eh? You have eight minutes, after all!

"I can think of two basic issues." He nodded and listened. "First, it really hasn't been properly tried. If Marx is right, then changing consciousnesses is going to take a whole change in the foundation, and in our relations to production and such, and that really hasn't happened."

"And then there's the teleological problem." I said, and he frowned.

"Remember when we talked about Hegel, and said what an optimist he was, that he thought the goal of history is for Mind to recognize itself fully and such? And how, if he were really right, his book sort of would have or should have done that, but that it doesn't seem to have worked?"

He said he remembered, and I thanked whichever of my surviving brain cells had prompted me to give them more Hegel background than last year.

"So, what does Marx think is the goal of history?"

He thought a moment, and then tentatively, "liberation or something?"

"Right! Marx thinks the goal of history is the liberation of man."

He mused, "so what's the problem?"

"Most philosophers today don't think history has a goal, or a purpose."

Now he looked really troubled. "So if it doesn't have a goal," he hesitated and pondered. He put two and two together and came up with 22. Good job, I thought. He nodded, smiling in that way that people have when they actually get WHY 22 can be a good answer, and teased out some implications.

"Yep," I said, "Then we're just muddling through." Always happy to share my existential angst!

It strikes me that one of the great difficulties we have in communicating and explaining complex ideas from theory is that it's so easy to fall into teleological language, to imply intent and purpose when what we observe is accident and chance. Much of our human experience is tied up in understanding and dealing with our desires, translating those into goals, and understanding each others' purpose; our language use reflect that experience.

And then we try to explain or understand theory, history, or evolutionary theory (where the whole teleological thing is really at stake these days), and we just can't get there somehow. Or getting to a sense of purposelessness and nonintentionality is just too scary to face. Because, really, if there is no grand meaning, why did I get up and reread Marx? It's hard stuff. I could have stayed in bed, or turned on the tube, or played a computer game or something much easier and more immediately pleasurable. (Like, say, blogging?)

The dangers of envy

Why am I worried about the dangers of envy, you ask?

Because I'm FILLED with it after reading this post by Heo Cwaeth. No doubt the rest will continue to fall into place.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I've gone through periods of my life where I've felt pretty empowered to make my own choices, and through periods where I felt that I had few choices. There are, of course, situations in which people really DO have few choices but usually, when I felt that way, it was more a matter of recognizing that I'd prioritized a given choice so highly that I wasn't seeing it as a choice anymore, but rather as set. Looking back, now, though, I tend to see that I was making choices, and prioritizing.

So, I'm in the rather lovely position of having some choices before me, all of which are at least potentially very positive. Two of them are somewhat academically related.

Since I started teaching, I've fantasized about teaching abroad. But I prioritized other things ahead of that: paying off student loans, saving for a down payment on a house, leaving one job for another, taking care of my elderly dog.

In order to teach abroad from my current job, we need to apply in pretty much a year and a half ahead. Last year, I thought about applying, but didn't for a couple reasons. But this year, things have changed, and I'm going to do it.

I'd always just blithely assumed that we could "put in" to teach anywhere our students do study abroad, so I was fantasizing about going back to Latin America, or to Africa, or Australia, or England, or...

But I've just learned that there are pretty much four choices open to faculty: England, Scotland, Japan, and China. The China program sounds dismal from my point of view (because or the responsibilities and teaching expectations). There also seem to be less obvious possibilities at a couple schools in Europe and at Southern Cross University in Australia; Australia is incredibly appealing for a lot of reasons, but the school doesn't seem to have an English or even history department in the usual sense; it does have a cultural studies department, but seems to be defined as a later 20th century kind of area, rather than more broadly.

Does anyone know anything about Southern Cross University?

I'm guessing I need to think more about England, Scotland, or Japan. Each is appealing in its own way. Shockingly, I've never been to England or Scotland. Yes, I know, I mentioned it was shocking (all those choices about responsibly paying off loans and saving for a downpayment). It would be wonderful to have a chance to go to the British Library and such. (There's something almost silly about an American who studies Brit Lit thinking she'll go teach the Brits something, isn't there? I mean, seriously.) On the other hand, Japan would be a huge adventure, AND I could take some time one one or the other end to travel in Asia a bit. It would be hard to pretend that I'd do any research there that I couldn't do here better, though.

My other potential choice in the academic world has to do with a departmental service function. The current director of a program is ready to step down, and talked to me the other day about whether I'd want to "put in" to do it. I perceive it as a HUGE amount of work, which isn't really related to my teaching field or research. On the other hand, it's very important to our teaching. I perceive it as the kind of job requiring some deal of charisma and really positive relationships with student groups, so I'm both surprised and flattered that the person who does it (who oozes charisma as well as brilliance, and has the advantage of being quite young and physically attractive to boot) thinks I might do the job. I think of myself as sort of a departmental failure in some ways these days, so maybe that would be a way to redeem myself. But all that extra work.

I've got to find out more about the teaching abroad programs first, and then talk to some other people about potentially taking on the service function.

I'm reading a fascinating book with a campus reading group: Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. I wish I'd read it 20 years ago and highly recommend it, especially for women academics who are getting jobs this year. It's helped me articulate what I've been thinking about my choices, and that's a nicely timed coincidence.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Worst (and Best) Mistake of Last Term

Reflecting on my teaching a bit last term, I realized that I made one single, serious mistake (I made lots of little ones, too). Surprisingly, that mistake was also one of the best things I did all term. What was it you ask, intrepid and curious reader?

I allowed revisions of papers in my Shakespeare class. Stupid stupid stupid. Say it with me. 35 people in a class, and each one wants to revise one of the three short papers.

Say it again, stupid stupid stupid.

Well, actually, some students didn't revise a paper, and I was able to limit the revisions to one per student, so it wasn't quite an extra 35 papers to reread and regrade, more like 25. And a few students dropped, so the class wasn't 35 at the end, either.

On the other hand, it was also one of the best things I did all semester. It started because one of my students earned an F on her first paper and came to see me about it. She didn't whine, but asked about it, and asked if there was any way she could revise it. And I said yes because I'm a pushover and a whuss, and more importantly because she seemed to have learned something about writing and Shakespeare while we were talking and I thought it would help her to revise. You know, that education thing we're supposed to be doing and all.

But of course, trying to be fair means letting others have the same opportunity. And in almost every case, the student came to talk to me about revising, took revision seriously, and did a significantly better essay the second time around. Generally, that meant that s/he did a better job on the other essays, too. Certainly that was the case with the first student who came to me. Perhaps they had a stronger sense of expectations, felt I cared, I don't know. But they did.

Of the three papers (an explication, a scene or character analysis, and a summary and response to a published article of criticism), the explication and scene/character analysis were the only ones people revised. I think that was because most people did one of those for their first paper, and held the summary/response for their final essay. (In an effort to get small batches of essays at a time, I gave students multiple options for each text; the stipulations were that they had to write on three texts and turn in two essays by the midterm date.)

Still, an extra 25 papers to grade adds a fair bit of pain.

The extra conferences were usually quite fun and good teaching/learning experiences. They were fun because students seemed to feel that they were there for their benefit, rather than because I was punishing them, so they didn't have the sort of resentment my first year students seem to often feel about revisions.

(Why? How do I get first year students to see revision as an opportunity rather than a punishment?)

And frankly, I do my best teaching in office hours, where I can respond to a student's ideas and try to tailor my teaching to meet his/her level of readiness and understanding.

Most of our NWU students would benefit a lot from more one on one time with instructors. Some realize it, and do come to office hours. But most don't.

And since if they all came to office hours, I'd be overwhelmed in that Indiana Jones and the Crush of Students way (except that my office is on an upper floor, so escaping out a window would require more athleticism than I've ever exhibited), I don't know how to balance the need to encourage them to come see me with the time issue. At least a couple times this term, I know students didn't get a chance to see me after hanging out in the hallway during my office hours (because there was a line of people waiting and they had to leave at some point). I was able to reschedule with some of them, though.

Did I mention that I have to "thank" one of my Dear Colleagues for the original revision request? As I learned afterwards, the student had gone to DC in a panic after getting back the F essay, and DC suggested she come talk to me.

Do I dare make the same mistake again?