Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Either Or

I'm reading the description of Chaunticleer and Pertelote from the NPT at our poetry reading thing in a short bit. I've decided to do a participatory, interactive reading, and ask half the audience to make a "cockadoodledoo" sound whenever I say Chaunticleer's name, and the other half to make a clucking sound when I say Pertelote's name.

This will either make everyone laugh a lot, or get me disinvited to future poetry readings.

Feel the Ice!

Shockingly, I went to a meeting today that was actually useful.

It was a meeting for our special first year program, where we had a short information session (not as useful) and then time to chat with my mentors about what to do next fall (very useful). I'm looking forward to working with these students in the coming semester.

Virgil and the guidance gang from downunder are feeling the chill, eh?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I've been listening to presentations a lot of late. I have an accent (don't we all?), so maybe what I'm hearing is mostly an accent difference (people here know I'm not from here, but can't necessarily tell where I am from). But it feels more than that.

For example, several of my students have talked about the baccalaureate degree, except they pronounce it the "bachelorette" degree. It's like I'm watching the old Dating Game show, and we've got bachelorette number one, two, and three all behind the curtain. Yes, you too can get a bachelorette degree and a date all with just four years of moderately hard work! (I'm getting creepy Jim Lange flashbacks!)

By one of those linguistic connections where people extend a rule to other uses, my students have mentioned that for some careers, you need a doctorette degree.

I think what makes my ears perk up is the feminization of the terms, though students aren't acting like they're aware of that. I think they just don't have much experience hearing the words.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Earning my Paycheck

I've been meeting with several students today about revising papers. One of them came in last week, and today brought in a revision.

It was one of those essays where I take a look, and right from the beginning, the essay, the thesis, everything says "I know how to do this!"

I'd like to take full credit, but I think the student was just really ready to get things and put them together with a little bit of help. I was only the little bit of help at the right time, and now this student has this great skill that s/he can use in all sorts of situations.

It almost makes the whole getting out of bed on a rainy, nasty morning worth it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Spring!

The crocus are done, and now it's daffodil time! What gets me is that I feel like I put in a ton of bulbs, but when spring comes around, there aren't that many coming up yet. I obviously need to put in more bulbs!

The forsythia flowers are still going strong (despite a storm I thought might knock all the blooms off), and lots of other plants are coming up. I can see the sedum coming back, the salvia, the Siberian iris. The dogwoods look like they're getting ready to bloom.

The magic of the tamarack continues; the needles are getting a little longer, and the little pink areas (which I think are the "flowers" which become cones) are getting bigger, too.

I'm way behind in being ready for my bike trip, and I'm whussy enough that I don't much ride in the rain, and it's been raining, so I haven't ridden for a couple days. My longest ride so far is about 25 miles, and I have about a month to get to 65 miles (the longest day on the trip) and a week of 30+ miles a day. Did I mention there's hills there? And it's a higher altitude than here (by about 6 thousand feet).

I read somewhere that Grizzly Bears can run about 35 mph. My top biking speed ever, so far as I know, is 39.9 mph, going down a steep hill. I was scared enough that I couldn't pedal even a little to put the bike computer up to 40. So, I'm guessing if I meet a Grizzly, I'd better hope I'm far away and it's busy.

If not, I'm planning my epitaph: Bardiac: Exit, pursued by a bear. (Okay, you saw that coming, right?)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Questions, Please

I have questions I'd like help with.

First, we have a small MA program here. I'm wondering if anyone knows a good book for folks entering a grad program to give them a real sense of what's expected in terms of revision, independent reading, and so forth.

Second, it's been an age since I read much Spenser's FQ, and I'm thinking of rereading (over the summer) to teach some. But, my old Roche edition is in pieces. Can anyone suggest a good edition these days? (I could just borrow the department's Hamilton, but it's been a long time, and surely there's a really good edition available now?)

Thanks, all!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Committed to Committees

We have 29 tenure-line faculty in our department. These are the folks for whom service is one of the requirements of the contract. (Our adjuncts sometimes generously do service, but it can't be part of their contract and thus they can't be evaluated on their service. We have some other folks who aren't tenure track but do have service in their contracts.)

With our current committee structures, we have 64 positions in different committees that are supposed to be filled by tenure-line faculty. The chair, and two other faculty members in the 29 count have re-appointments that mean they sit on some committees by appointment, and so don't sit on other committees.

So, that's 26 bodies to fill 64 committee slots. (We have a couple other folks who are partially re-assigned to the big marble hallways of administration, but I'll include them in this count.)

We've totally done this to ourselves. And yes, we approved a new committee in the past year, one with five slots. A few years ago, we approved a different new committee with five slots.

Note: the slots don't include search committees or college/university committees.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


You've all read or heard some variant of the story about George Bernard Shaw at a dinner where he asked a woman sitting nearby if she'd sleep with him for a million pounds. She says yes, and then he asks if she'd sleep with him for ten shillings, and she says no, and asks if he thinks she's a prostitute. And he answers that they've already established that, now they're just haggling over the price.

ROTC is entering NWU.

We have this big priority that says we're all about inclusivity and diversity; it's supposed to be the underpinning of everything we do.

But when I ask about why we're letting ROTC come to campus (we already have students participating through another nearby campus), we're told it's about money. The program will bring us money that the students otherwise pay to the other campus. And because of the Solomon Amendment, if we reject ROTC, we'd lose access to all sorts of federal funding. (Link to the Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the government to withhold funding from law schools that refuse to allow recruiting by the US military, despite that "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" violates their principles of free expression and freedom of association.)

So basically, we've already determined that we're willing to sell out our basic principles. Now we're just haggling over the price. And right now, the price is pretty damned low when the principle is about discriminating against glbt folks.

Yeah, it's complicated, as one of my colleagues says. No one wants to endanger funding for anything, especially these days. I completely understand that, and I, too, am afraid of losing funding.

I hate cowardice, my own included.

Monday, April 20, 2009


That would be me. Gah. I insulted someone without realizing, and now that I realize it, I don't quite know how to bring it up to apologize. I think I need to straight up apologize.


And then I had a student come in to office hours who smells strongly of tobacco. I didn't say anything (because despite tenure, I retain vestigal social skills).

Then in class, the lit mentioned something about cigarettes in a rather negative way.

And I couldn't help wondering if the tobacco student felt pointed out in a negative way.

I didn't choose the lit with that in mind (the cigarette thing is one line among many, noticable), and I don't tend to think about how tobacco users smell when I'm writing up a syllabus. And maybe other people don't notice tobacco smell as much as I do. (And then, of course, more than one student in the class smokes. I just noticed the one because of sharing a small space.)

(I really wish students wouldn't smoke, not only for their health, but mostly, utterly selfishly, because talking up close to a smoker tends to make me nauseated.)

Reverse Deja Vu

You know how in movies, you'll see a character do something, and then things will fade, and the same character, 20 years later, greying, walk a little less bouncy, is doing the exact same thing?

As I walked across the parking lot to the office building this morning, I had that feeling that I could blink and 20 years would have gone by, and I'd still be walking across the parking lot heading to work. It wasn't a good or bad feeling, just a feeling that time is fleeting.

On one hand, I try to do good, meaningful work, so I hope it's worth the time. And the state pays me, which means I can eat, afford shelter and so forth.

On the other hand, I've never been in a life situation without some major change for more than about 5 years. My current situation is longer than any has ever been before for me. I'm in the same house, at the same job/school now for 5 and 9 years, respectively.

But things should change drastically. We're hoping to build a couple new buildings on campus (yes, funds have been set aside for two, our first in about 25 years), and that will change the landscape of my life, hopefully in good ways.

And in 20 years, I probably won't have the same car; heck, I may not have a car. If I do, it probably won't be much like what I drive now. I doubt the parking lots are going to look the same, though my office might. (It's a good thing it got painted in colors I like!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It Might Be Spring

If the forsythia have any say in the matter!

I took a ride with a friend yesterday, out a country road I hadn't really been on much except with the Wednesday women's group I ride with once there's decent weather. It was just about perfection. The road's along a lake for a while, with the usual mix of old lake cottages and starter mansions, with a lining of trees. There weren't too many hills, though there's a road we're going to aim to get up by the end of the season that leads to one of the ski areas I went to this past winter. (To be honest, my friend climbs way better than I do, and could have made it up there now. But I need some miles and smaller climbs first.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eagle and Hummingbird

As promised, here's a picture of the piece of art I got in DC. It's signed on the back by G. Matilpi. There seems to be a George Matilpi who does carvings on the Pacific coast of Canada. (Mr. Matilpi, if you see this, thank you for creating a beautiful piece of art. It's beautiful, and I cherish it.)

It's labeled "Eagle" and "Hummingbird" in different places (on the back). I see the eagle in the main figure, facing left, and then in the "chest" area, a hummingbird facing right. The colors are really good, warm and rich.

I'm thinking of putting it in my bedroom. Or of rearranging some art in the house and putting it in the living room. I love being able to look at beautiful art.

Authoritative Citation

One of my students listed "God" as an author in her bibliography. At least she didn't put it as a personal interview, eh?

The weekend can't come quickly enough.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breaking News: T.S. Eliot was Wrong

Evidence of Eliot's error:

Yesterday, for the first time since Sunday, I got home early enough to take a walk around and enjoy the yard. In the two days since Sunday, the yard has started the green up thing.

The crocuses have been bringing me hope since March, but now you can see the daffodils (I think) starting up, too. Weirdly, a couple crocus bulbs seem to have been upended, so I stuck them back in. I should water them to give them at least a bit of a chance.

I missed seeing these last spring, and had forgotten how many different colors I'd put in (mixed bulb bag). Now I want to put in a lot more, because a little patch here and there isn't enough! In my yard fantasy, I have something blooming all season long. But in reality, I have a tendency to plant a lot of early blooming stuff because I'm so desperate for spring.

Two summers ago, I planted a couple forsythia at the side of the house where there was nothing really interesting. It's not a side of the house that's easy to see from anywhere except the neighbor's yard, pretty much (or my own), but still, I wanted something there. But last spring, of course, I wasn't here, so I've never seen these bloom. They'd probably look more promising in front of a dark backdrop, and without cages, but a good many of my plants live in cages because otherwise the rabbits kill them with alacrity. (And even so, the deer trim the tops.)

But best of all are the Tamaracks! They have these lovely soft green needles all summer, but then the needles turn bright yellow in fall and drop. All winter, they look like Charlie Brown's Christmas special.

And then in April, they start to bud, and little bits of green start to show, the needles beginning to grow. And tiny bits of pink here, too. I think those are the parts that will become the little cones.

I put the Tamaracks in the first summer I moved here, along with a couple of pine trees (in different places). The pines have probably doubled in size, but the Tamaracks seem to be growing very slowly.

All this, and it's mid-April and spring has come bringing joy to the Northwoods!


(Photographing plants up close, I really need to think about getting a lens for doing such things, so that I can get more of the picture in focus.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I'm catching up on email. Among the gems, one of my colleagues on a committee has just noted that having [a little life experience] in [a specific academic field], s/he could teach introductory classes in that field.

So, really, I, having eaten for many years, could teach introductory nutrition.

And my friend over in economics likes to read novels, so she could teach intro to lit classes.

What fun!

Except I think this committee colleague was serious.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Poetry, Please!

There's a poetry reading thing, not of our own poetry, but of bits of famous or other poetry, and I've been asked to read some Middle English poetry. We are asked to read up to maybe 40 lines. (Shorter is better!)

So, I need suggestions, please!

If you were asked to read UP TO 40 lines of Middle English verse, what would you read?


Okay, folks, I obviously wasn't clear. I'm wondering exactly which 40 lines.

So far, I'm thinking of the description of Chaunticleer and Pertolet from the NPT, or maybe a description of spring; there's a nice one in the Parliament of Fowles. I also thought about the entry in Gawain, or part of the ax swinging part.

I enjoy the sexy stuff plenty, but I don't want to read some leering, sexist stuff as most people's sole experience with Middle English literature. Nor, to be honest, do I have a lot of interest in reading something overtly Christian in a way that sounds pious. (I did consider a bit of the annunciation stuff from the N-Town plays, because it blows me away that the fate of the world waits on Mary.) Nor, do I have time to contextualize a fart joke about Christianity.

I know that limits things.

I know this reveals the depths of my fakery about medieval stuff, but I don't actually own an ME edition of Piers Plowman. And I also must admit that I never really got into it.

I'm also not sure I can pull off Gawain well, since what poor ME I do have tends to have been learned via Chaucer stuff. So I don't think I get the dialect at all, really. And I don't want to make more of a fool of myself than necessary in front of colleagues (the regular folks might not know the difference, but a few colleagues will).

SAA Report

I saw a couple really smart, interesting papers, from just the folks you'd expect. I saw a couple disappointing papers, too, alas.

I saw and visited with friends, and got good news and bad news from and about them. Still, it was great to see the folks I saw.

I visited shortly with my mentor, who is as wonderful, which is a lot.

I met a couple bloggers, which was fun.

I enjoyed my workshop session and got some really good ideas!

And mostly, I went to a few museums and ate really good food.

First off, the reception was at the National Building Museum, and it was beautiful, but I didn't go back because I didn't have time. The food at the reception was yummy, as is always the case with SAA. Let's face it, we eat well.

My first purely fun visit was to the National Gallery of Art. There's something really fun when you walk into a gallery and think, hey, I recognize that face. And then you wonder where you recognize the face from. So, you look, and sure enough it's Cardinal Bembo, whose portrait by Titian is part of lots of editions of Castiglione.

I walked a bit further and found this familiar face, but again, wasn't sure who it was without looking. It's Devereux!

Even I managed to recognize David's Napoleon as Napoleon.

I really like going to a museum for a short visit, choosing a couple paintings to sit with and look at, and then being done. I don't have the mental stamina to look at painting after painting for hours. But, I really enjoy the shorter visit I did, and I did go make a point to see Raphael's and Van Gogh's works. Van Gogh especially, I love the three-dimensionality when I see one of his works in person, but I just don't much get the effect in prints.

So, thanks to Fretful Porpentine (who doesn't seem especially fretful in person, nor does she have nasty quills so far as I could tell), Susan, and Horace for the suggestion!

My next purely fun visit was to the National Museum of American History, which I must admit was a disappointment. First, it was crowded, and I was too impatient (and time-limited) to stand in line for a couple of the exhibits, primarily the Lincoln exhibit. But I liked the "this old house" exhibit, though these seem pretty common these days. And, like almost everything, the focus seemed to be on east coast history, and most especially, east coast history of white northern European folks, with a couple of token Jews in the mix. American Indians have been disappeared, as have almost all African Americans. The history of the west coast doesn't much seem to exist; there are no Russian fur traders or Spanish conquistadors, no French loggers.

I get that it's lots of fun to see Hollywood artifacts, but I really didn't feel like my desire to understand things better was met much at all. One little bit was interesting, an exhibit on the Scurlock photography studio, a studio which focused on photographing African Americans in and around DC. I got to think about the specialty of photographing folks with darker skin, which was something the exhibit talked about in explaining the success of the studio relative to others, and to think about the long history of African Americans in the DC area, especially earlier in the 20th century. So that was well worth seeing.

Horace had also recommended the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and so after my frustrations with the supposed American History museum, that's where I headed. I gather that it's a contested museum, but I'm not well-enough up on things to understand the contestation. I did enjoy it, especially that it took "American" broadly enough to include peoples of the Americas rather than peoples who happen to live where the United States now controls territory. I really liked seeing the story of contact told more broadly. And I like that they had curators from different indigenous groups telling the story of their own group, and that the museum recognized these curators and showed who they were. That seems important, and would be interesting for all museums, wouldn't it? I mean, wouldn't it be interesting to learn something about the curator of the National Gallery French collection?

That said, I also found some of the exhibits overwhelming; like just a bunch of pieces of gold work on the wall without contextualization that I needed to really undestand it. For example, I saw a piece that looked a lot like an Aztec alligator a friend of mine has done work on, and knowing how much she's worked on the context for that piece, I really wanted to get that from the museum. But instead, it was just a "hey, lots o' gold" sort of display. The same thing goes for the display of human figures.

I also found a small piece of art there, which I could both afford and liked. I'll try to add a picture soon!

So there you are. I went, I stimulated the economy, I saw a few left-over cherry blossoms. I enjoyed walking in the city. I usually really enjoy walking in cities, way more than I tend to enjoy walking in fields or trails. I'm partly ashamed to admit that, but there I am. I like the energy of city walking, I guess.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I'm a Goof

So, I'm packing for the conference; I have two urges in packing.

Urge the first: I'm going away! I need all the supplies I can bring (bcp, contact lens solution, clothes, tampons, etc)!

Urge the second: a towel and a toothbrush, and I'm good to go.

Neither of these is quite appropriate for a conference. I don't need a towel, for example, because the hotel will have those. But I need more than a toothbrush.


Thanks for all the travel suggestions! I appreciate the help.

I've Gotten Soft

When I was in the Peace Corps, to travel anywhere, I walked into the center of town and caught a bus. There were no bathrooms on the busses (of course), or any other amenities.

I lived in a small city on a big river, a river whose source was way up in the mountains near a resort town. To get up to the resort town or the medium sized city in a mountain valley not far from the resort town, they'd built a road along the river ravine. It was a dirt and gravel road, mostly just wide enough for one small bus. Being that the road was on the side of a ravine, and there were occasional accidents where busses fell off, I never relished being on the steep part of the road after dark.

And they were always working on it, so that our city had a special schedule. While the rest of the country worked Monday through Friday, and then had a weekend on Saturday and Sunday, we worked Tuesday through Saturday. That meant that the road was closed Tuesday through Saturday, and more or less open (depending on how construction was going amid the rains) from Saturday afternoon through Monday afternoon. Mail came to town Saturday, pretty much as soon as the road had opened, and went up the same afternoon, on the back of a motorcycle. (Packages didn't come. You had to go pick them up in the medium sized city in the mountain valley on a Monday, when the mail office there was open.)

If you wanted to go up when the road was closed, you had two choices. You could go to the next small city to the north, about two hours by dirt road, and then catch a bus up; that strategy added at least an hour to the trip (and more if the bus schedules didn't line up well). Or you could go transbordo. Transbordo meant you took a bus to the construction site, and then walked from that bus across whatever construction was happening to the other side of the construction, and then waited in hopes that the bus company had decided it was worthwhile to send another bus down from the medium city in the mountain valley. Sometimes transbordo meant you walked a hundred feet or so, over relatively dry stuff. Sometimes it meant you walked half a mile through serious mud and rain.

If everything went really well, it took six hours by bus from my small city to the big bus station at the southern end of the capital. If it didn't go well, it could take longer.

The Peace Corps office, of course, went on a regular schedule, so they were only open Monday through Friday. That meant, if you needed your gamma globulin shot, 5ccs of ice cold nastiness in your upper butt, you got on a bus on Saturday or Sunday for a six hour ride, half of it on the dirt road, spent the night in the capital (where you probably knew other volunteers, so it was good to visit), then went into the office early on Monday to get your shot, and then immediately scurried off to the bus station to get on the bus to ride back down the dirt road with your rear full of gamma globulin so that you could be back at work on Tuesday.

The thing is, I scheduled my shuttle service for tomorrow's trip to DC. I have to be on the shuttle at 2:45 am, to get to the airport in time for my flight at 7:10 am, to get to DC in time to make it to the hotel by the time for my session in the mid-afternoon.

And I was feeling particularly whiny about having to take the shuttle into the big city airport and sit around and change planes. I started writing a blog post about how much I hate living in the middle of nowhere.

And then I stopped...

because where I lived in the Peace Corps wasn't nearly as difficult to travel to and from as where a lot of other volunteers live. And we had a whole lot more resources and easier travel than a lot of people in those areas.

I've gotten really soft and I am disappointed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

SAA Meet-Up / DC Suggestions

So, let's plan a blogger meet up at 2pm at the Starbucks near the main lobby?

Question for everyone: I've been to DC a couple times, so I've seen the big monuments, visited congress, the White House (in the days when one could take a tour), a couple of the Smithsonians, Arlington, etc.

So, if you didn't need to see the usual stuff, but you have a day more or less to do something in DC other than SAA (I know, but my department isn't paying, so I get a day for myself!), what would you do?

What's the best thing to see/do in DC?

I'm game for a Smithsonian or other museum. And I'm very willing to bet they've changed enough that I'll enjoy any of them, even ones I've seen before. I'm also very happy to go see art, a park or whatever.

Is the WWII monument something I should put on the list?

NB. Shopping of any sort other than used books is OUT. It's hard to think of any incentive in the world that would make me want to go shopping.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Too Cruel?

Another potential entry in the great moments in literary history series. Except, it's beyond cruel and obscure. Perhaps it just goes to show that I really am a horrible person?

At any rate, who can tell us about this important moment in literary history?

*Edited to add: Okay, what he should be saying, sprawled on the ground, is
This beast has hurt my dignity and spine!
Alas! Alack! What should I do but whine?

SAA Blogger Meet-Up?

When I mentioned the idea before, a couple people were interested. I seem to remember thinking that a Saturday meeting would be best.

How about Saturday, say 10am?

I'm guessing the lobby. But I don't know the main hotel at all, is the lobby too big? Is there a better place?

Does anyone know if the hotel is within reasonably easy travel of the mall?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Grading: the I Hate Plagiarism Edition

How much do I hate plagiarism? Very, very much. I hate plagiarism a whole lot.

I hate inadvertent plagiarism, even.

I have a paper. The student cites a crappy web thing at the end (but nowhere in the body of the paper). So I look at the crappy web thing, and lo, the student has picked up phrases of crappiness. And, of course, the crappy web thing doesn't cite its sources. And the paper's basic argument pulls a lot from the crappy web thing.

The student cited the crappy web thing in the works cited, so I'm guessing s/he intended to use it appropriately.

I know I've talked about plagiarism in class. And in the assignment, I note that any source the student uses (the OED, for example) must be cited.

And yes, the student cites the OED in the text, appropriately.

Dog, I hate plagiarism.

Why do students use crappy web things? There are pretty decent web resources around, but for some reason, they usually use the crappy ones.

(Yes, I hate the sort of plagiarism that copies whole papers without citation of any sort even more, but at least I can reasonably take those to higher levels. This sort, well, it doesn't quite seem appropriate to try to get a student expelled for being stupid, does it?)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Go Iowa!

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously to strike down a ban on same sex marriage.


Here's a link to the legal opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court. Read!

I'm not very knowledgable about legal issues, but it's interesting to read through and see what the court considered in its opinion. I found the argument about immutability especially interesting in the way the court handled it.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What was the Question Again?

Sometimes, I feel pretty darned inadequate in the face of a piece of literature. How the heck do I even approach teaching this? I'm totally clueless myself.

I mean, I know the words. And I can put two and two together in a basic way.

But holy cow, I'm a total idiot, and I really don't think I'm understanding this poem in a very deep way at all. And yet, stupid me, I put it on the syllabus every single time I teach this course.

I usually start with the title.