Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Taking the Plunge

Since I moved into a house as an adult and had a garden, I've come to enjoy gardening. I love seeing bulbs come up in the spring, and I love trees, and seeing flowers through the season.

And I try to be at least moderately ecologically careful.

With that combination, you'd think I'd garden veggies, for sure, right? Except I don't, because I don't like to cook. Now, I'm perfectly happy to eat a salad. I'm pretty much happy to eat anything (except raw tomatoes, because they taste slimy). But cooking stuff, not so much.

I do like to bake cookies and occasionally bread, but cooking to cook, just doesn't strike my fancy. So having loads of healthy fresh greens and such, which appeals to people who like to cook, leaves me befuddled.

But yesterday, I was weeding. There's this one patch in my back yard, about 4' by 4' (with a bit more along the side of the lawn) that gets great sun, and grows weeds like nobody's business. And as I was weeding that patch, I finally thought to myself, "self, you should put something edible here."

Now, there are a few veggies I love, artichokes especially. And with my friend's help, I've got some artichoke plants in pots around the deck right now. (Cross your fingers for me.) To be honest, I could live on artichokes pretty much every day, just steamed with mayo or melted butter.

But other than that, I'm happy to eat whatever veggie-wise, but not so excited that I want to cook veggies or make them into a salad. I recognize that this is a horrid personal and moral failing.

I feel pretty good about asparagus, though, and will cook that if I remember that I have it.

And I love strawberries.

So I called a friend, and she sent me to the farm supply place she recommends and likes, and I got about 20 strawberries and 6 asparagus roots.

And then I put fertilizer and compost in, and planted. I got about half-way through the strawberries yesterday afternoon, before I was tuckered out. Only later did I realize that it was nearly 90F here, and so the dripping sweat wasn't just me being especially whussy. (I sweat a lot on my bike, but since I'm moving, it doesn't tend to drip onto my dark glasses. Sweat drops make it hard to see clearly, in case you didn't know.)

I got up and planted early this morning (I started about 7am) because I wanted to be done before it got so hot. But it hasn't really gotten hot today, just really, really windy.

Surprisingly, the plants I planted in yesterday's heat seemed to have perked up by this morning when I watered them. And I've watered the ones I planted this morning again this afternoon (since the wind is really drying). (It's almost as bad as the Sta. Annas, and those are horrid.)

Wish me luck in my new foray into food farming, even if it's only a little area. (My strawberries went far beyond my little patch, and are now intermingled with other stuff where I had some room. Mmmmm, strawberries.) It's supposedly going to take me til the year after next to really get some food out of either planting, but I can hope, right?

Computer Frustrations

Last week, we got a message from our admin assistant reminding us that we need to do our time sheets. It used to be that HR would email everyone their time sheet. Then you'd print it out and sign it, and the chair would sign, and then it would move into the labrinth over in the fort.

Then things got frustrating. First, they switched computer systems or something. And that means that if you're late with your time sheet, there's nastiness down the line. (We're also threatened with losing one of the benefits associated with our sick leave, which makes things even more frustrating. Thanks, Gov.)

Now, instead of getting the thing emailed to us, we get reminded to go find it in the system and print it out, and then on it goes.

So, last week, I went to print it out as I was supposed to. But I couldn't find it in the system, even though I've found it before. So I asked a colleague, and she couldn't find it, either. Then I asked our admin assistant, who's usually really good at stuff, and she couldn't find it.

So I called the help line. The help line worker was pleasant enough, but couldn't quite imagine how I could not find what I was supposed to find. So she did the thing where she can see my computer screen on her screen. (I love that, and am also a bit freaked out by it.) And she was surprised to find that I wasn't just crazy. So she put in a "ticket" to get it fixed and said I would have to go over to our HR office and talk to them, too, since there's some change on my thingy, but she couldn't tell what the change was.

After nearly an hour on the line with her, I went over to the HR folks, and talked to them, and no, they couldn't figure out what change had been made, but there was one. And then the thing worked, so I printed the form out and put it in my jacket pocket (since it was cold). And went home, thinking I'd go in and sign it and such on Friday. But I didn't.

Today, I remembered that I hadn't signed it, and since it's warm, I don't have the jacket, so I don't have the print out to sign. I went to my office (after spending two hours with the computer folks on campus getting my new computer set up with the campus stuff) to print it out. I went through the three or four clicks to get to my thing, and hit print, and then closed the thing and decided to look at my email, where I saw a message from our admin assistant letting us know that our copier (which is what my campus computer "prints to") is on the fritz, so we have to print to another computer.

I opened the thing up to print again, and it's gone. Yep, I'm back to where I was last week, except even more frustrated.

I hate computer stuff when it won't work.

(I just went to try to print out a blank form and then figure out the dates so I could fill it in, and now my form is back. Now I'm going to try to print it.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Blog that Ate the Upper Midwest

If you haven't read The Blog that Ate Manhattan, then you should. In addition to other stuff, esp women's health stuff, TBTAM blogs about eating in Manhattan. Recently, for example, she blogged about pickles. It was a cruel post, cruel because at the end, she put in a thing for where you can get the wonderfully delicious sounding pickles, and none of those places are within probably a thousand miles of here. But I'm trying to forgive that. Really. It's not easy, though.

But, in the spirit of eating good food, I thought I'd share some fine upper midwest dining. Let me introduce you to a local drive in. The only problem with the drive in is that they're closed all winter. There's a good reason for that, because winters here are mind-numbingly cold. Even for native mid-westerners who grea up doing slidy sports, winters are cold.

The car hop will come right to your car window if you'd like, but you can also eat al fresco on the picnic tables under the big tin roof thingy.

And, as you can see, this is not the kind of place you'd want to hang out when it's minus 20 and worse with wind chill. But, I promise you, this IS the kind of place you want to hang out as soon as it gets warmish.

I'll get to the food in a moment, but I want to get you in the mood, so here we are, looking from my seat over to the neighbor's lilac bush in full bloom, smelling gloriously wonderful. If there's nothing quite so wonderful as riding a bike along a bunch of lilacs, this comes close.

But we didn't come here for the lilacs. Nope, we came for the food. This place does fried foods, and it does them really well. Here's my friend's fish sandwich and garlic fries. Your mouth is watering, or should be.

And here's my dinner, what they call "loaded fries." Yummy fries with bacon, chives, cheese, and ranch dressing. (It's a good thing my bike took me on a 25 mile ride today, isn't it?) Yes, this drive in has heart-stoppingly good food. I also had some rootbeer, which was perfection. I skipped the ice cream, but it's always a treat, as are the malts. Mmmmm, fried foods.

This is such a local favorite that we weren't the only diners there, of course. Someone parked their kids just above our table, and kept coming in with more dinner for them. They were even hungrier than I was! (These are baby robins.)

And then we finished off the evening in classic midwestern style, with a hail storm.

So there you are, folks. Eat your heart out (or something) in the upper midwest. Incredibly yummy fried foods at a reasonable price, with dining in fine company!

I'd be pretty much willing to put this place up against any in a fried foods competition, especially for outdoor eating. It's just that good.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Perils of Gardening

Ah, post-grading, when thoughts turn to other responsibilities.

This is one of my Tamarack trees. You'll notice that it's having a problem. The other Tamarack looks like the top half of this one.

Since it takes a while for Tamaracks to green up, the problem wasn't immediately apparent, though I wasn't seeing swelling little buds on the one at all, and only on the bottom of the other. And now that I've finished grading, I turned my attention to figuring it out.

I asked my friend who's a master gardener, and she said she didn't know much about trees.

Then I asked one of my neighbors in passing, a guy who gardens a lot and has planted a bunch of trees in his area. He didn't know, but suggested I ask at a local nursery that he likes a lot.

I went to the nursery and asked, and the nursery guy said that a lot of trees just hadn't made it through the winter this year, and lots were also very stressed from the winter. And he suggested that I try this liquid iron stuff. Handily enough, he could sell me a bottle right there.

I brought it home, and read the directions. It turns out you need to spray this stuff on the needles or leaves. That means I needed a sprayer.

I emailed my usual neighborly friends, the ones who let me play with their dog for puppy therapy, but she didn't know quite what I meant. And then I saw the first neighbor in passing again (he walks to the end of the street to pick up his son from the schoolbus every day, so it's not hard to see him in passing), and we talked about liquid iron and sprayer things, and he brought me a sprayer to use. He also warned me that he'd last used the sprayer for an herbicide, so I should wash it well first.

And I did. I hope. I rinsed it out twice, then filled it with soapy water and sprayed some of my weeds until I was bored, then rinsed it out and sprayed to get soapiness out. Then rinsed it again.

Then I measured exactly--okay, not so exactly--and filled it again, and started spraying. I sprayed my poor Tamaracks. Then I sprayed my birch, and then my two "big" pine trees. I had more spray left, and went down to the "prairie restoration area" and sprayed the poor little pine trees there. One of near a blue bird house, and I got to see a bluebird coming out, FAST! I hope my presence for a few minutes didn't scare it too much. (I didn't go nearer the box than I had to.) Then, I finished up with the maple.

So, now, I've either killed almost every tree in my yard, or not. We'll see. I don't have much hope for the Tamaracks. I don't know what to do about the half-alive one. I just hope that it has a strong enough root system that it will start a new bole.

I had a nice shower, put on fresh clothes, had dinner, and finally went to bed.

This morning, I was dreaming that the house I grew up in had a swimming pool in the dining room and I was swimming for some exercise, and then I felt something crawly on the back of my neck, just at the hairline. And I went to scratch and felt something, and instantly was awake.

What I felt was a tick. At least it wasn't engorged. But, EWWWW, I slept with a tick all night! EWWWWW!

I may never go outside again. (Not really, but I detest ticks. They totally gross me out, doubly so when they're engorged. EWWWW)

And of course now I'm totally paranoid about every little sensation.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Toy!

My new computer came! It's so tiny and cute and bright and fun!

Planning a Class - Masterpieces

As usual, here's the course description: Studies major works of English literature from Beowulf (750) to Blake (1780). Includes such authors as Chaucer, Marlowe, Donne, Milton and Swift.

A bit of brainstorming. What to teach?
--I'm going to do some open brainstorming, and then add in hours. Figure 40 hours of instructional time for the course.

Old English
Beowulf - 3 hrs
"The Dream of the Rood" (w/ B)

--what other Old English works should students really know? (Given that I'm not a medievalist, and we have one semester to get to Blake.) These have to be in translation.

Middle English*
Marie de France - "Lanval" - 1 hr
Gawain - 3 hrs
Chaucer - "Knight's Tale," "Miller's Tale," "Franklin's Tale" -4-5 hrs

--maybe a drama?

16th c.
Spenser - Bk I of the FQ - 2-3 hrs
Marlowe - Faustus - 2-3 hrs
Poetry - Sonnets, and stuff: Shax, Wyatt, etc. - 3 hrs

--Would you teach, say, Lear, though there's a Shakespeare class, too? Any likelihood that students would be taking both? (Lear is 3 hrs)

17th c.
Jonson - Volpone - 2 hrs
Milton - Bk I of PL - 3-4 hrs
Behn - Oroonoko - 3 hrs
Poetry - Donne, Marvell, Herrick, Jonson - 4 hrs

18th c.
Swift - "Modest Proposal" - 1 hr
Pope - "Rape of the Lock" - 1 hr
NOVEL - thinking of Joseph Andrews, but need to read it soon! - 3 hrs
Poetry - Pope, and on up to Blake. (Please don't make me do Dryden!) - 3 hrs

Right now, I'm at 45 hours, counting the higher number for each text, so I could do this if I planned and prepped well, and held some things to fewer hours. (That's counting Lear.)

What would you add, and what would you give up to add it?

What would you drop? (I'm guessing a lot of students have seen "A Modest Proposal" in HS? Drop?)

What could you see me condensing or skipping?

*When I was a grad student, my grad school taught a massive survey to undergrad English majors. Chaucer was done in Middle English, and by all accounts, everyone found it miserable. TAs hated it, and students hated it worse.

When I was adjuncting there, I taught the (then required) upper-level Chaucer class and faced the difficulties of students reading Chaucer in that survey. First, they hated it. Every single person came to that class hating Chaucer. Second, they didn't bring anything about Chaucer or the tales they'd read with them to the Chaucer class. They remembered nothing except how much they'd hated it.

And so, I vowed never to teach Middle English texts in Middle English unless I had the time in the class to teach students to read Middle English well enough to enjoy the texts. Thus, anything I teach from ME in this class will be in translation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Planning a Class - The 17th Century

Here's the course description: Covers prose, poetry and drama of the post-Renaissance period through the Restoration with special focus on works of John Milton.

The big focus in the description is on Milton. To me, that means we're going to read a fair bit (and maybe all) of Paradise Lost, and also want to read the big poems.*

The Norton has the whole of Paradise Lost, but no Samson Agonistes.

The Longman has chunks of Paradise Lost, but only Bks 1, 2, and 9 in their entirety. And it has Samson Agonistes.

I'm going to have to go with the Norton for the 17th century class.

*I have a true confession: I've never made it through Samson Agonistes. Never. Yep, I should probably lose my credentials for that. Maybe I'll give it a go this week, and see what I see?

Planning a Class - The Renaissance

A vexed title, perhaps, but there we are. I tend to look at the Renaissance as being, perhaps, a "long 16th century," from c. 1485 to 1603. I recognize there are problems with that. And I tend to try to include people who didn't have what Petrarch would have seen as a "Renaissance" at all.

Here's the course description: Studies Renaissance English literature emphasizing works by Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Bacon, Jonson, Bunyan, Marvel, Herrick and Donne.

So it looks like they go a little later than I probably would, since I think of Marvell as being 17th century (he's not born in the 16th, even).

The problem with this class, and it's the same problem with pretty much every class, is that there's a whole lot more great and wonderful literature than there is time to read it with undergrads in a semester. I remember as a grad student having a book titled, Silver Poets of the Renaissance, or something, which was meant to imply that these weren't actually the "good ones" but they were still pretty darned wonderful.

That said, there are some things I think are really important.* (I'm going to mark which of the anthologies has each piece, and if appropriate, which section. L=Longman, N=Norton)

More's Utopia (L, N)

Spenser, FQ (L has Book I and part of Bk II**; N has Bk I, part of Bks II and III, because who can do without the Bower of Bliss?)
--Both have October of the Shepheardes Calender, a smattering of Amoretti, and "Epithalamion"

Sidney, Apology (L has some other poetry stuffs in response; N may only have sections)
--The Arcadia (L has Book 1, N has Bk 2, Ch 1)

Locke/Lok, sonnets (neither has the sequence. What a shame!)

Marlowe, both have Faustus and "Hero and Leander"

Jonson, both have Volpone
--N has The Masque of Blackness; L has Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue

Lyly, N has a blessedly short excerpt of Euphues.***

Other Ren Drama: L has The Roaring Girl

Other: N has a tiny part of Nashe's "Litany in Time of Plague"

The selections of women's poetry and poetry in general is pretty parallel, as are the selections of writings on philosophy, religion, and education. L has a section on gender.

Now I'm off to read some of the introductory material and headnotes, to see how they compare.

General introduction: the Norton is more literary, and gives a nice background to basic political and social changes. The Longman is more social, and gives more context and less political stuff.

Comparing the introductory material and notes to More's Utopia, I slightly prefer the Norton. It's a bit more complete feeling, giving a bit more background to information. For example, rather than just identifying the future Charles V, it says that Charles and Henry were in dispure over "Dutch import duties" (524n1). Does that matter to students? Maybe not, but it helps me.

The paper quality of both is pretty good, certainly better than the tissue they used to use in the Nortons.

Finally, the Longman 4th edition 1B is $49.20 (I have the 2nd edn, so I'll have to check that things haven't changed much. Oops!)

The 4th edition has The Alchemist, not Volpone, for example. And it adds Beware the Cat!!!

It has the FQ Bk VI. Really?

The Norton 8th edition (which is what I have been looking at) runs $42.50.

So far, then, for the Renaissance class, the Norton is looking slightly better, though, Beware the Cat!!!

*And when I say really important, please take that as shorthand for "I think reading these works will help students gain the skills and cultural knowledge that will help them be able to read further in the field and have a good undergraduate grasp of what was going on in English literature and a little bit about what was happening in England in the period."

**I remember the first class discussion I was part of on Bk II, the professor quoted someone famous as calling it a very pedestrian book. Who was that famous critic?

***Yes, I know I'm in danger of losing whatever credentials I might have for that comment.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Planning a Class - Calendar

A couple weeks ago, I posted about maybe sharing some class planning strategies. And now that I've turned in my grades, I thought I'd start working on that.

I'm hoping that I'll put some thoughts up, and you folks will share your ideas to do things better, and then maybe we'll all benefit.

I haven't taught the classes I'll be teaching in England, at least not in this sort of format or for a long time. That means I'm starting pretty much from scratch. So I start out looking up three things.

1) I look up what the school says the class should be or do.

Here's what the catalog says for the three classes I'll be teaching:

Course 201 - Masterpieces of English Literature I (3) Studies major works of English literature from Beowulf (750) to Blake (1780). Includes such authors as Chaucer, Marlowe, Donne, Milton and Swift.

Course 301 - The Renaissance (3) Studies Renaissance English literature emphasizing works by Sidney, Spenser, Marlowe, Bacon, Jonson, Bunyan, Marvel, Herrick and Donne.

Course 302 - 17th Century (3) Covers prose, poetry and drama of the post-Renaissance period through the Restoration with special focus on works of John Milton.

At my school, I can go into the course files and look at the original course descriptions and such as well, but this is what I have for my fall semester. I also have access to a previous syllabus for one of the courses.

2) Figure out the basic calendar for the semester. I do the calendar only for teaching days (and the occasional other day if it seems important). I do out a calendar for the whole term. Here's what mine starts out looking like for fall:

Teaching schedule:
Course 201 - MTR - 2:10-3
Course 301 - MW - 11:15-12:30
Course 301 - MTR - 4:10-5

Week 1
8/29 - Mon- Classes begin
8/30 - Tues -
8/31 - Wed -
9/1 - Thurs -

Week 2
9/5 - Mon -
9/6 - Tues -
9/7 - Wed -
9/8 - Thurs -
9/9 - Fri -

Week 3
9/12 - Mon -
9/13 - Tues -
9/14 - Wed -
9/15 - Thurs -

And so forth.

Since I'm the sort of person who needs to see things on paper to do my planning, I print out a copy of the calendar for each class. I do each calendar up for the specific days for each class by cutting out days I don't need for the class.

3) Now I have an idea about what the school wants the course to look like, and what the calendar looks like. I start with one class, and think about what text(s) I want to teach for that course.

I'm looking at two anthology groups right now, and am planning to choose the one that works best for all the courses. Happily, both anthology groups come in physically smaller texts than they used to, so you can choose the ones that will be best for a given course, and not have, say, the 18th century for a medieval course in the same anthology.

One possibility is the Norton Anthology

The other possibility is the Longman

Thoughts about which you'd choose and why?

Let's start with the 16th century "Renaissance" course!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Disconcerting Narrator

I've read several of Kazuo Ishiguro's books before, so I picked up When We Were Orphans for the car (I play CDs of library books in the car).

There's something about the narrator, perhaps his total delusional self-centeredness, that makes me want to smack him upside the head, so to speak. I'm at a point where he's gone back to Shanghai, where he'd lived as a boy until his parents disappeared (and he was sent to live with an aunt in England), as an adult, 18 years later, and he's trying to solve his parents' disappearance.

But he's trying to do this against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion/occupation in the mid-30s, and he just doesn't seem to get that after 18 years, it's pretty darned unlikely that any kidnapper would keep his parents alive, and also that the war might just be more important than his parents (especially since 18 years is a long time to be missing). How do you tell soldiers who are on the very front line that they should drop what they're doing (trying to hold the line) and help you sneak behind the line to find where you think your parents were 18 years earlier?

The book is weirdly set in a world where there are famous detectives, not fictional detectives (though, of course, they are since this is a fiction), but within the world of the text, real detectives. And I'm just not buying it. I bet very few people could name even a couple detectives for their fame in the real world (as opposed to fiction). Yes, I can probably still vaguely recall some LA detectives because they were witnesses in a couple of cases. But they aren't known because they were really good detectives. (The ones in the OJ case, for example, seemed to have botched some stuff. And the ones in the Rodney King case did worse.)

I'm guessing I'm about half-way through, and I'm trying to decide if I should just be done or actually finish. I rarely give myself permission to stop a book before I finish. What's stopping me here is that Ishiguro is generally worth the effort. Is this one, though?

In other news, I haven't finished grading, but I did read Water for Elephants and it was GREAT! You should all read it.

Yes, I am working slowly on the grading, too.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Where to Begin?

I got an email recently from someone who says his daughter is in high school and wants to teach high school English, and wants to ask how UWEC can help her achieve her educational goal.

When I read this, I get the feeling that someone has told this person to ask how whatever college can help his student achieve his/her educational goal. It just feels canned.

And so I'm not quite sure how to answer. What I'd really like to say is: you need to step back and encourage your daughter to take the initiative. If she's interested in what we have to offer, she should contact us. If she's interested in doing well in school, she should take the initiative to study hard and learn well.

At the same time, I recognize that parents are anxious about their kids' futures and trying to do their best to help them in whatever way they can. So I do try to answer helpfully, but I'm never quite sure what's helpful in this case.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things I Don't Get

I turn on the TV to grade, and after a while, I'm just sitting here gape-mouthed in a combination of horror and disbelief.

There's a show about people who use a lot of coupons. And by a lot, they're talking thousands of dollars worth. Of course, it takes a lot of time, so basically they're doing coupon organization and usage as a full-time job (or more).

The thing is, they seem to have these huge storage areas, and tons of food (and other stuff) that don't seem to meet their needs. For example, one woman has a bunch of sleeping medicine that she doesn't use. But she's really happy because she saved a lot of money buying it.

The thing about this show is that the TV folks go to the store with the women (they both seem to be women, so far), and then there's this huge stressful thing where they worry about whether they'll meet some goal they've set for the day. Right now the woman is aiming to go shopping for $400 worth of food. The show is trying to build this huge drama around whether a coupon is going to work or not.

But it's not like she's getting stuff that looks great (there's a huge load of candy because there's a coupon for it), and she talks about making her kids eat breakfast cereal they don't like because that's what she has a coupon for.

But what's the point of buying stuff just to buy stuff if you aren't going to at least enjoy it? (I totally understand living on ramen or whatever if you're on a really tight budget, but these women aren't buying ramen.)

And then there's storage. How much does it cost to build all those shelves and such?

See, told you I don't get it. I want to have as little drama at the grocery store as possible. (I also make it a goal to enjoy the food I buy, and not waste much.)

That's almost an hour of grading I didn't get done. Gah.

Bardiac v. Nature

Bardiac sad.

Look at what's happened to my Tamarack! My other one seems totally dead. I don't know what I did or didn't do, or what to do now.

This is what my poor pine tree looks like now. (You can see that it's sporting a pie tin. All the best pine trees are wearing them in my yard.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get as close up for this one as I did for the one before, but you get the idea.

This is what the same tree looked like 9 days ago. In the newer picture, the tree looks like it's dripping sap all down it. I'm hoping this means that the pie tins are effectively scaring the sapsuckers off from keeping the wounds open and eating the sap, and that eventually the sap will crust over and the tree will start to heal. The year after I first planted these two trees (there's another, but it isn't as badly wounded, so I haven't put up pictures) some rabbits ate at their bark the first winter, and it two a good two years before they really healed over. I guess trees heal and grow slowly, but hopefully live for a long time.

Here's a picture of the other side of the tree. Those mean old birds really went after it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grading Queen

I powered through a bunch of grading today. Seriously, we're talking from 8am to 4:40pm almost straight through, power grading. I finished the stuff I was working on and was able to turn them back, which is always good.

And now I should go home and either sleep or grade some more, but I'm sort of sitting here in a tired daze.

I have another stack to finish to turn back on Wednesday, and a final to write for Wednesday morning, and a stack of finals I got today, and a stack I'll get on Wednesday.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's too soon to tell if it's a train or not.

In better news, my Mom got out of the hospital yesterday, and is making a much better recovery than any of us really dared hope, including the doctor. Thanks for all the kind and supportive words about my Mom. I appreciate you folks.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


If all were fair and good in the world, then learning would be linear. You'd learn something, and then always build right onto that. And then you'd build onto that. And you'd be able to take what you've learned in one context and apply it in other contexts.

Alas, all is not fair and good in the world, and learning is very non-linear. This can be frustrating for students and instructors alike.

For example, you can take a fairly advanced college English major, one who seems totally able to cite correctly when writing a paper, one who's been practicing citation all semester on short assignments, and give that student something different in an assignment, something just not quite what they've done before, and kablooey! s/he forgets all about citation.

And then s/he appears in my office, upset at having failed an assignment in large part because s/he didn't cite appropriately and protesting that s/he always cites usually.

I sometimes think that the hardest parts of teaching are trying to get students to carry what they've learned in one class or context into another, and conversely, not wanting to smack students upside the head when you realize that they haven't carried what they learned in one class into the new one. (The urge to smack students upside the head is especially strong when you've taught them something specifically in the earlier class because it will be helpful in the later class, and you've told them as much.)

It's especially frustrating when they give you that look and say, "but you didn't tell me I had to cite!" And then I want to say that I didn't tell them to wipe their ass when they were last in the restroom, either. But I don't. Listen, you're in an upper-level English literature class. I shouldn't have to tell you to cite your sources. It should be second nature, like wiping your rear.

This is the frustration of the day, brought to you by the letter F.

Friday, May 13, 2011

You Need This

Trust me. You need a laugh, you need this: Better Book Titles.

One of my colleagues was looking in my office and we were laughing out loud. Someone is probably starting rumors about us already!


I'm on this committee, one of many. This one's pretty busy though. One of the things we've been busy with this year is approving and dropping courses. We've approved 100+ courses. We've dropped about 15 courses.

Hmm. I bet you're thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of new courses! They must be hiring or have hired a load of new faculty!"

That's not the case, so far as I can see. Yes, we've done some hiring in my department, but no new lines. In fact, we have a couple of lines that are supposedly ours, but we don't have authorization to hire warm bodies to fill them. And we used to have some lines that are no longer ours. Buhbye.

So now you're wondering just how we're going to teach all these cool new classes and the ones we've been teaching all along. There are two ways: one is to teach the old classes less frequently. Let's imagine there's a 14th century underwater basketweaving course on the books, and then we've decided to add a course on special topics in 14th century underwater weaving practices. I could move from teaching the old course every year to teaching it every other year, and then teach the new course in the intervening years. That makes sense sometimes.

But that's not what's happening in most of these cases. Nope, in some of these cases, there's some special funding for distance ed courses under a special thing to make money on distance ed (which the administration says it will on one hand and it can't possibly on the other hand). So for those new classes, a faculty member will teach the new class and not teach the old class. But, you're thinking, what about the not distance students who need the old class?

We do what they call around here "backfilling." How's that for a vile metaphor? What it means is that we'll move the tenure line faculty member (a PhD in this case) who's teaching the new course out of a section of Intro to Underwater Basketweaving and hire an adjunct with no job security (and around here, probably not a PhD) to teach the Intro course.

For all the questioning, and the "oh, no, we won't need new resources" about these courses, we've added, say 25 courses a semester and made almost no new tenure line hires to teach them.

The deanling in charge was quite proud of this.

I feel like there's nothing to do to retard this charging stupidity in the slightest, and it only stresses me out to be on this committee. And I so very much want off it! Please let me off! (I have a couple more years of it, though. FML.)

ps. Yay Blogger is back. Boo I lost a couple of posts, I think.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Good News

Not cancer, according to the pathology report. That's very good news. Yay!


I have a stack of assignments to grade. And so I start. My habit with an assignment like this is to read through several, and get a feel for the lay of the land, writing marginal comments, and then set about grading. It's not ideal, perhaps, and it would be different if I made up a rubric, but it does give me a sense of how well I've communicated the assigment to the class.

And the first paper, pretty good.

And the second paper, abysmal. It's horrid in all the ways an upper level college paper shouldn't be: it doesn't say anything, and when it uses sources it just puts in the information and then lists the sources below, rather than indicating which source has to do with which information.

Bleargh. I'm frustrated, so then I checked facebook, and looked at some blogs. And then I graded another, and it's almost equally abysmal in many of the same ways, with a bonus of all website citation.

At that point, I thank my stars that I get to talk to a new major who's enthusiastic and pleasant.

And now I need to turn back to grading. But I have no momentum, or worse, backwards momentum. Looking at the names, I'm pretty sure I've read the two worst assignments, since they come from a couple of students who are pretty intellectually uninvolved in the class.

It's hard to restart when you've started with a couple of really crappy ones, you know?

I need an intervention!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Question for Real Medievalists!

I'm prepping for the last readings of Chaucer class, and part of my prep involves reviewing Helen Cooper's Oxford Guides, because even though it's old, it's helpful to me to review (until someone suggests something better!).

Anyway, Cooper says that "Chaucer's audience did not have a footnote to direct them to a particular verse of Timothy, nor did verse numberings exist" (396).

My question is, when did verse numberings start getting used? My facsimile Geneva Bible has them, so at least by the 16th century. But when? (I know, now I'm all curious for at least 12 minutes.)

Thanks, medievalists!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I was reading a blog thing this morning, and it occured to me that there are a couple different sorts of blogs I like to read. Of course, I really like the personal blogs, especially of other academics, that help me feel connected from flyover country.

But of the others, I also like a blog that tells stories of some sort, short narratives that help me see the world from a different perspective. (Think "Waiter Rant," for example.) Others don't do narratives, so much as short focused essays that make me think about how I do whatever, or how other folks do stuff. I really like those.

But I don't usually see those about teaching. Would they be useful? I was thinking about doing a series of blogs as I work up the syllabi (or syllabuses, if you go Greek) for the three classes I'll be teaching on that Island over there.

I'm wondering, because I bet I would learn a lot from seeing how other folks, especially folks in other fields, make up a calendar and plan a course. And I bet grad students might find it helpful to think about how to do it, too.

Worthwhile, or no?

*Clearly, I am in grading avoidance mode today!*

Gaming Clusters

We have this system we're testing out, where students take a cluster of classes focused on the same issue or problem from different academic points of view. The classes are all supposed to count for their general education stuff.

One of the classes being offered next semester is a section of something a lot of our students want to take. But the regular sections are all full, and have been for weeks.

If you know anything about college students, you know that getting a bunch of them to take and pass X number of classes in a specific time frame isn't always going to work. Someone's going to fail one, or get really sick and have to drop, or decide s/he hates one of the instructors, and so on. So as TPTB were planning this all out for the test, they agreed that there'd be no penalty for students who decided to drop a cluster class or whatever. But TPTB haven't said as much out loud in the hearing of most students. Sure, if a student has a problem, TPTB will let them drop a course, but they won't let the student know ahead of time.

That means that any student who really wants the one course could sign up for the cluster, wait until a week or two into the semester, and then drop the other cluster course(s), and s/he would have the course s/he wants without the cluster. It's gaming the system. But the system sucks for a lot of students.

Here's the question: should I tell students how to game the system so that they can take the course they really want/need?

(This cluster course was arranged without concern for our departmental issues, of course. It's lucky that it happens to be an extra section of what some students need, but TPTB really don't give a shit about our department's staffing issues. But that's a rant for another time.)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Inc! A Storm!

About 20 minutes ago, the sky went dark. We went from normal morning light, to dark, like nearly middle of the night dark, dark enough that the light sensitive street lights went on again.

I used to play Everquest, a lot. Everquest is a computer game, a multiplayer, on-line fantasy sort of game. And one of the ways those games work, so that people can mostly do the same thing someone else did, is that the computer generated baddies (called "mobs" in the game) get re-made ("spawned" or "popped") by the program every so often (either a specified time or a variable time) after they've been "killed" in the game.

The reason I'm telling you this is that in Everquest, you'd get a group together often, and hang out in one area of the game, repeatedly killing basically the same spawns for experience points. (Yes, I'm sometimes amazed that I paid good money to do that, but I also mostly had fun.)

Often, if there were several mobs close by, the group would want to fight only one at a time, and so someone would try to get the mob to come closer in one way or another ("pulling"). And often, that person (the "puller") would send a message to the whole group that a specific mob was on its way to the group, or "incoming."

Now, you could type it out, but, of course, no one had time in the game, so you'd set up a preset message that would fill in your "target" for your message. Thus, in a group (where I was mostly not a puller), you'd see in your group chat something like: "Inc, a Orc."

And then, naturally, people would get fancy with these. My favorite was a friend's spam that went something like: "Pop goes Orc! Hop on Pop!"

And sometimes, what you'd see instead of "Orc" was something you were totally unprepared for, and then it could get bad. Like the whole of Chardok would come at once. Or somehow Mraaka would be where I was.

So, as I saw the storm shadow came on, not unlike what you see in the alien movies where suddenly there's the big shadow cast over the city or whatever, I couldn't help thinking, "Inc! A Storm!"

It's weird how something like a game can influence your thinking long after, isn't it?

If I didn't have to teach, I would totally gate.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

As Good As It Gets

I went out to enjoy the garden a bit this morning, and found this. Searching the web suggests that it's evidence that the tree's a snackbar for Sapsuckers, and in this area, probably Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers. So now my two bigger pine trees are sporting pie tins. (Fortunately, I had some pie tins with pre-cut holes from a restaurant that has long closed down here, so I could just string through the holes.)

Just in case you were wondering, I tasted the pine sap (because if birds like it, maybe it's yummy). It's not yummy. And it has a sort of aftertaste. It's not worse than mildly unpleasant tasting, either, though. I also called a friend to check, and the current stuff on dealing with tree wounds are to leave them be and let the tree's evolved, erm, habits? do their thing. (It's weird to think of trees having habits, but you know, the ways trees have evolved to deal with wounds and stupid Sapsuckers.)

While I was tying on the pie tins, I got the call that what needed to be done today with my Mom had been done, and went as well as it could have, which is very good news indeed. Now we wait and hope for the best, while the people closer do the taking care of her part.

Thanks for all your kind and thoughtful words, everyone. I haven't asked to speak to the doctor, mostly because he's already talking to my Mom, my Aunt, and my Uncle (who's a retired doctor, as it happens). I don't think I have anything to add to decision-making, so I don't see why the doctor should need to explain things to me, and maybe my brother in addition. Were I needing to make decisions, then I would, for sure, ask for explanations in order to make good decisions.

I think what irritates me most about the Sapsucker issue is that I haven't seen even one in the yard. It would only be fair, if they're going to eat off my trees, that they let me see them, right? Meanwhile, the tree is busy with it's second pine cone! The first did it's thing last year, and now there's a new one growing.

Spring seems to have arrived. I saw the first Oriole on Friday afternoon, and got a couple of pictures yesterday. I interrupted this one on the orange, and it gave me the old stink eye for a bit while it waited for me to leave.

There's also a little Eastern Phoebe (I think) hanging about the yard, chowing down, and very occasionally posing for a photo. (I'm sort of proud of this picture, by the way since it's mostly in pretty good focus.)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Disordered Communications

I feel like I'm playing that game where one person talks into another's ear, and the message gets passed along like that until it's turned into something totally different at the end.

First, I'm told, this is X or maybe not, so we're going to do Y, and then, depending on Y, we may do Z.

Then I'm told, they decided not to do Y, but to do Z directly.

But then, apparently this morning, they did Y, and tomorrow they will do Z.

I don't know where the decisions change. And, to be honest, it's not like I have any say in these decisions, but it still bothers me that they seem to just change.

I talked to my Mom an hour or so ago, and she seems in good spirits, coherent, and not in pain. She hung up pretty quickly, though, because she had a visitor from her retirement complex.

The thing is, my Mom's good spirits: is she facing potential difficulty with good spirits, or is she not understanding that things could be serious, or is she in denial? I'm not sure I could tell even if I were in a room with her. And I'm not sure I can tell how potentially serious things are or aren't.

It's like, she tells me the doctor told her A. And my aunt tells me the doctor told them both B. And then my aunt tells me that the doctor actually thinks C. A, B, and C aren't all that different, so maybe I'm just not understanding. Or maybe others aren't quite understanding. Or maybe different doctors say different things, and don't want to actually say the bad news that I and J might be.


My Aunt seems concerned that I'm not concerned enough. I haven't, for example, dropped everything and flown to be by my Mother's side. My Brother and I talked about this, and we both agreed that we'd offer, but that we didn't think either of us would actually be able to do much good by being there, fretting in a hospital room. (My Brother and I are so alike in some things that it's almost funny. This is one.)

My Mom turned down both our offers. She doesn't want to have to be in a room with us sitting and fretting, I bet.

Unfortunately, though, neither of us being there means that my Aunt has taken on a lot, and I wish I could change that. But, again, I don't think my flying out and staying so that I could run an errand or two would really be a great idea.

I did give my Aunt another family member's name, and suggested that he would be a good person to call on for help. And I have friends in the area, and I bet I could call on them (and I may, still, especially if I fly out).


Thanks for the kind words on the previous post. Thanks especially, Beck.

Well before my Dad died, even, my parents and my brother and I had talked fairly extensively about our wishes in the event of a variety of problems. My Mom has long realized that she didn't want to put her kids in a position of having to make decisions without appropriate knowledge or backup, so she put those into place. I also filed one of those directive things, the one you file if you really aren't sick yet, just in case you get in a horrid accident. But when I went to the clinic, they couldn't find it on their EMR. So I may need to file another.)

Part of why she wanted to move into the retirement complex she's in (which she loves) is that they've got a great support system for people having different problems. So, if she can be in her apartment, the complex has nursing and aid staff who will help her dress and so on. If she needs more acute care, they have that. If she were to need a special safe place because she had dementia, they have that.

I'm very grateful she's taken this responsibility, because she's absolutely right that it will make everything easier for my brother and I, and allow us to focus on being good to her and each other and our other responsibilities.

Janice, Your holding pattern metaphor is brilliant. Thank you.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Intimations of Mortality

I got a phone call yesterday from one of my aunts, the one who's most likely to call if there's a problem.

I've gotten to an age where good news pretty much never comes in a phone call, but bad news does, and so this was bad new, but not horribly bad or scary. And I'm grateful I have an aunt who will call.

Within a couple of hours, I'd talked to my Mom, who was, by then, in a hospital room (and our call was interrupted by the doctor entering, so she talked to him instead of me, which makes perfect sense to me), and I'd talked to my brother a couple of times, mostly, I think, because we were both making sure the other knew what there was to know (not much at that point) and was doing okay. I'm especially grateful right now for my brother. I grew up watching our Dad be a big brother to his siblings, and was jealous of them having such a brother, but my brother has grown up to be very much like our Dad in that respect, and a very, very good big brother. We may disagree sometimes, but I have such confidence in his judgment and caring for people. He may even be better at big brotherness than our Dad was.

I spent a good bit of time last night thinking that someday I'm going to get a phone call and it's not going to be just a problem that's not horrible. It's either going to be pretty darned horrible, or done. I would rather done, so long as it's not painful or scary.

Today we've been waiting for news. Apparently, there's something that needs to be done, but the doctor who needs to do it doesn't know yet, because s/he is busy with someone who is far sicker than my Mom. I'm guessing pretty much everyone else in the hospital is far sicker than my Mom. So I don't know when what needs to be done will be done. (Do they do things that need to be done on the weekend? I don't know.)

But until that's done, I don't know what to do, except call every few hours to check in.

I'm guessing that the hospital staff is thinking that this woman's children are absolutely despicable because neither of us has shown up there yet. Nor are we likely to show up any time soon, because what needs to be done doesn't need us to be there, and we wouldn't actually do anyone any good just hanging about looking worried.

I am SO the wrong kind of a doctor to be at all useful about these things. If I were the right kind, at least I could probably have a job within a couple hours drive, and I could take a day and say reassuring things. But no, I'm the sort of person who reads Titus for a good time, and that doesn't lead to anything reassuring.

It's a lousy way to approach Mother's day, though.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I'm a Prude

Evidence: I find it disturbing to read about someone who has (it's publicly acknowledged) fucked his (now former) student teaching about "ethics in [a non-philosophy field]."

Yep. I also think, if you're married, and your marriage isn't specifically an open marriage, you should keep your penis out of other women's vaginas or keep your vagina free of other men's penises (if you have a choice).

See, told you I'm a prude.

Can't Say "No"

There's evidently a bundle of money being disbursed right now. It has to be spent by the end of the fiscal year, and it can't be spent on things like salaries. It's supposed to go to benefit student learning. (Apparently salaries of faculty or support folks don't actually have an effect on student learning?)

So, I hear this one group's group leader has decided to refurbish a room so that it's more lounge than not, and make it available for students to lounge in.

The thing is, this same group is slated to move to a new building in a year or so, and the room will belong to a different group, which (you KNOW) will immediately decide that it's inappropriately set up for what they need, and they'll get money as part of the move to refurbish it again.

I wonder what would actually happen to the money if the group said "no, we just don't need to refurbish that space for a year or two, and we'll turn down the money"?

I'd like to see, but I suspect there's no group on campus that will do this.

Our whole campus has been scraping by, and suddenly there's this pot of money, but it can't be used for the things we really need (a teaching group could add a couple sections course for next fall with that, including benefits for the person teaching, but alas, no).

Why did the administration suddenly find this money, when we really needed it six months ago? Why are they putting so many limits on how/when it has to be spent?

It's absurd, in the absurdist sense.


Because I am stupid, perhaps, I sent off a perhaps ill-considered email suggesting that the group should use its money instead to send someone from above to a budgeting class.

One of the deanlings replied that it wasn't HIS fault, nor the fault of the people in HIS deanling office, but the higher ups.

I would just once like to hear someone in administration acknowledge that they are actually responsible for something when it happens. I hear various administrators complain that something isn't their responsibility because the person they replaced didn't do X or Y, but if you replaced that person two years ago, even as interim, it is now your responsibility. And administrators always, always point at a higher level administrator and say, the responsibility is above, but I don't know where.

There's a huge black box over at the fort.

This same deanling used to habitually, at the beginning of every semester, send us panicked emails about how somehow 80 extra students had been admitted and all of us teaching first year writing MUST help by overloading our classes.

And then I became friends with our admissions boss. And the admissions boss showed me that the management folks had said: enroll X number of new students this year. And lo and behold, the admissions folks had X+2 new students enrolling.

The 80 extra students were just the deanlings excuse for his own craptastic planning, every year, the same craptastic planning. Finally, it stopped. I think someone else from on high who knows the admissions boss told the deanling to cut the crap, and he finally did.

Maybe he doesn't need a budgeting class, but he hella needs spine augmentation.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Wanderer's Map

I met with a student today who wanted to declare a major, but wasn't quite sure what, and hadn't decided on a minor, either, but had acquired enough credits to be a senior.

I know what the school wants us to do is lay down the line about such students. They MUST graduate, now, now, very now.

And yet, I sort of have sympathy for intellectual wandering.

It was clear, because the student said so, that the student is pretty stressed out about not having a major (does now!) and not really having a plan to graduate. But that's where I come in, because if nothing else, I can help students see how we can create a plan and map things out a bit. Of course, the map will change if the student decides to switch fields again, but at least there's a hint of a map in place now.

Weirdly, I like students who've done some wandering, though I know the administrative folks get frustrated (because it gives us poor ratings and such), and I can imagine that parents and loved ones worry. But I feel like I can help them figure out a possible path, and I enjoy that. And how long they take to get through really isn't my worry, because I'm not paying their tuition. (Though, of course, as a taxpayer, I am contributing. But I'm willing to contribute. Heck, I'm willing to contribute more than the state asks me to, because I think all our students need better educational opportunities.

So while I have no stake in the outcome, only want a student to get a good education and be as happy as possible in this miserable, brutish, and sometimes too short life, I do get satisfaction in thinking that I may have helped make things a little less miserable and brutish.

Sometimes, that's as good as the week gets.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Crazy

I went to a different car repair shop today. Like some others around, I'm choosing to do business with businesses based on my self-interest, and that means that when I learn that certain folks associated with some companies donate majorly to organizations focused on taking away my right to collectively bargain or to subjecting me to paycuts, well I vote with my feet to use what pay I get where I like.

I had been going to the dealership where I bought the car, which was okay. It's a local iteration of a multinational, a dealership shop. And it had that dealership shop feel. And that was okay. (The dealer actually has a good reputation for treating women customers decently, so I'm sad that the owner feels the need to donate to certain organizations in a big way. But I'm pretty sure they won't notice that I'm not visiting.)

Anyway, the new place is highly recommended. It's a small place, much smaller, with the owner, Gary, right there with his name on his shirt and all. It looks like it's taken over an old gas station, the ones that used to have a little office, on one corner, and then the other three quarters of the square/rectangular building were the auto shop areas. Only the inside of the office looks sort of like old and very tiny diner seating went there to visit and stayed, and has a wi-fi internet thing and coffee and such.

I called this morning to make an appointment to get my oil changed and a headlight (or do you say headlamp?) changed. But they said I didn't need an appointment, and to just drop by. So I did.

It's a very cool shop. I looked at a National Geographic magazine from 1928 for a bit, and was blown away by a picture of San Francisco taken from the Twin Peaks area and looking north to the Marin Headlands. It's a striking picture for someone like me, because I've never seen this vista (except in a few old pictures) without the Golden Gate Bridge dominating it.

I wasn't the only person at the shop, though.

One of my colleagues came in. And then this other woman, and Gary, the shop guy with her.

Then Gary took my colleague back to work (while another shop guy worked on my oil change) and the other woman and I waited.

And she told me about being an alternative healer and how we all have these energies and she can tell what's wrong with people by touching their hands (I did not offer mine) and how humans are special and unique because we have an anima sort of thing and so on.

And I finally politely disagreed on the uniqueness of humans, because I'm pretty sure we're just really cool bags of chemical reactions, no more unique and wonderful in reality than other really cool bags of chemical reactions. My preference for bags of chemical reactions I have more in common with than not is merely my relative position.

Gary (having returned) offered that dogs are pretty special, and seem curious (which was one of the things she said was unique about humans, but I'm guessing she's never noticed a lot of other animals). But she said dogs were special only because we had bred them to be and blah blah. And who is to say that a daffodil isn't experiencing whatever unique daffodilness is?

She also said that every other animal had a purpose and just did that. So I wanted to ask if that purpose weren't misleading, and a result of the success of evolutionary processes that look like purpose, to which humans are just as subject as any other reproducing species. (Though, I, having chosen not to reproduce, have failed that part. But genes similar to mine are carried on in lots of other peoples, so I'm not too worried. And I don't think my genes for bad eyesight and such are all that wonderful anyway.)

Why is it that you never run into anyone in a car shop who wants to talk about the scientific method? Or who's interested in Hume or Locke? Why is it I never end up hearing out of the blue about someone's interest in language acquisition or prairie restoration?

Nope, I always get the people who want to talk about energy fields or how their sky fairy came into their life to have a special relationship with them. And it's not like I'm going out of my way to Norwich or something. I can be sitting in a car shop looking innocently at a 1928 picture of the Marin headlands, and I get to hear about energy fields and diagnosing people through their hands.

And then you have to remember that this person votes, too.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Diffidence or Apathy

I meet with a lot of students and spend some time talking about their education with them. And with (to me) shocking (still) regularity, I'll ask them what they're taking this semester, or who's their professor for this class or that, or what they are learning, and they'll hem and haw and hesitate, because they just can't remember what classes they're taking, or what their professor's name is, or that they're supposed to be learning something.

It's shocking, really, and I can't tell if it's a matter of my being so utterly intimidating a presence that they can't remember or if they just don't care. But they don't seem nearly as worried about their lack of knowledge as I am.

How do you, at this time of the semester, not know what you're taking? Presumably you spend 2-5 (depending on the class) hours per week doing whatever course, plus study time. How do you not remember that?

And you know, when the people who survey students and such survey students, students always talk about how important it is that their instructors know their names. I have in a given semester, somewhere between 60-90 students, and I do try to know their names. Students have 4-6 instructors, and they can't remember their names? Really?

I have to go teach now. Some class. I'm not sure which. Maybe I should ask and see if someone else knows?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Bread Risen or Not

I was reading a blog recently, and I sort of wanted to respond to something. But I realized before I started typing that what I wanted to say wasn't really about the blog, but was instead coming out of my sense of inferiority. It's one of those things that bothers me to realize. The blog post wasn't intended to make anyone feel inferior, I'm sure. It was just commenting on the world. But it's one of those things that just hits me and I get all cranky.

Now, I'm definitely inferior to lots of people. There are folks whose brilliance leaves me astonished. There are folks whose generosity and kindness are beyond my comprehension.

But that wasn't really what my sense was about.

The thing is, there are some real differences, and those differences matter. And there's nothing you can do about the social background you start with, or decisions you made 30 years ago, or whatever. But they do matter.

On the other hand, I'm pretty darned privileged in a lot of ways, too.

Did I mention that my bread didn't rise today. I'm not sure why. Did I not knead enough (I get bored too quickly with kneading). Did I have the water too hot when I dissolved the yeast? Could the yeast already be dead (even though I keep it in a closed container in the freezer between getting some out to bake with).

We had a cold and miserable day today. I didn't even go outside. (But I'm going out right now.) Friday was beautiful, but I didn't get out until after 6pm because I had something I had to take care of. And then all weekend it's been sucky. I'm so very tired of being cold.