Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mystery Bulb

Last fall, I was a bit late about going to get bulbs, but I did want to put some in. I ended up getting some crocuses (as you've seen). I also got some grape hyacinth. And I got a mixed bag with daffodils and something else. And then I promptly forgot what the something else is.

But this is what it looks like. It's got a very small flower; these are maybe an inch to an incha and a half across.

Anyone out there in blog land good at bulbs?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I like the way there's a bit of blur and then the orange sort of pops there. (This is with my new macro lens. I'm having fun, but driving all my friends nuts with constant pictures of crocuses. I hope the other flowers get fun soon.)

I had a phone interview today with someone from our campus international student services office about acting as a host "family" for an international student next year. We had a nice conversation. Now they have to check my references, and then they'll make their decisions. I think it could be fun and challenging to be a host "family" for an international student, but my heart's not set on it. I won't be heartbroken if they say no.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Bird!

This is Angel (I think), from the National Eagle Center. I love bird eyes.

When I had a parrot, it's eyes would turn bright orange when it got excited.

In other news, my eyes got checked today, and while not eagle quality, they're healthy and not overly dry (I've been focusing on drinking more water and staring at a computer less for the past couple of weeks, and they aren't bothering me now).

I always feel like a failure getting my eyes checked. Once my contacts are out, the tech sort of asks me, laughing, if I can see the letter on the wall. I can see a bright grey splotch. That's it. I could see that she had fingers, though, so at least there's that. And then there's the whole part about which is better, a or b. A or B. a or b. I find those really hard.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A New Lens on Life

I got a new camera lens today, a macro lens designed for taking more close up shots of small stuff.
The top picture here is taken with my regular 18-55mm lens, which is a basic, take a picture lens. It's good for pictures of people and such, okay for landscape stuff (at my level).

The picture below is taken with my new 50mm macro lens. It's weird because you'd think at 50mm, it wouldn't work better than the old lens for close ups, but it has a closer focal distance, so it does. But it doesn't zoom at all, so I have to move back and forth a bit.

This is my first effort; I took the first picture this morning, just for fun. But I took the other about 4pm, so the light isn't as good and the crocus isn't quite as open as it was.

But it's the same crocus flower.

I keep taking pictures of the same two little patches of flowers, because that's what's up and flowering. A couple other flowers are beginning to look just about ready, soon.

Now I have the ganas for a fancy zoom lens. /nod

Friday, March 26, 2010


I was teaching the first of my back to back classes today when two of my students burst out laughing. I gave them a puzzled look, and one of them said, "This really weird looking guy just walked by." I glanced over my shoulder, and saw the disappearing back of, yes, a really weird student, one who just happens to be in the next class, heading there.

I turned back to the tale at hand and didn't say anything.

Adding about student weirdness: I really, really dislike when a student brings in an overpowering stale tobacco smell to the office... and then leaves it behind when they leave. Ugh, gross.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Invaluable and Useless at the Same Time

I keep my teaching notes in my office file cabinet. The top drawer is folders for specific texts, authors, or teaching topics. The next drawer is not as full, and is for composition assignments and such. I also stuff committee notes in there.

Last week, I couldn't find one of my teaching files, the one for "The Nun's Priest's Tale." Fortunately, I'd worked through the notes for the library series, so they were fairly fresh in my memory. And I had a handout (computer file). But I didn't have my actual notes, so I had to reread some extra stuff and put things back together again to teach it.

And then, of course, I found it hidden behind the notes for "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" earlier this week. It had to have been there the whole time. I'm relieved to have it back.

If I were smart, I'd alphabetize or organize the notes by author, class, or something sensible. But I just stuff them in there. (My office books, on the other hand, are alphabetized in groups: Shakespeare, Theory and Crit, Med/Ren lit, and Modern Lit.)

It occured to me as I was searching for the NPT file that my teaching files are pretty much invaluable to me. I use them every teaching day. I depend on them. I make up a new file for each text, and try to make it good enough that I can use it again.

But they'd be absolutely useless to anyone else because the value of them comes in large part from having worked through how to teach the text (or whatever) and put things together for myself. So even if I handed them to someone teaching the text for the first time, they wouldn't be that helpful.

When I retire, of course, I'll toss my teaching notes. But if I die before I retire or clean out the cabinet, someone else will have to toss them all.

If I do it, I imagine I'll take my time, thinking back over times I've taught the NPT or WoB, looking at the thick Lear notes. But if someone else does it, they'll probably just grab armloads as big as they can and dump.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Health Care Thing

I dunno. I hope it helps.

I'm willing to pay more taxes to help people get health care; I'd prefer single payer care that wasn't tied to jobs. But there are some important changes here.

I've read on a couple blogs that doctors will retire in droves because they won't make enough money.

Here's the thing. If you're making enough money that you can retire at age 50 because you're cranky about the pay, then you're making enough money.

Yeah, tell me about the length of education. 8.4 years for an English PhD, on average. I'll bet philosophy runs longer.

But I bet the stress is less for faculty folks. No one dies if I accidentally say that Shakespeare was born in 1603.

On the other hand, I bet the stress isn't less for the one-third of PhDs in English who never find tenure-track jobs, because being unemployed or freeway flying is stressful. And having to move across the country because you have one job offer is stressful.

I'm not going to complain about my salary. Nope, you see, my household (me) makes about the average for a US household. I don't make three or four times that average, but I'm happy to have a job and make a decent living. (Yeah, my state institution doesn't pay nearly what our "peer" institutions do, much less what our "aspirant" institutions do. And yet, I make a living.)

Monday, March 22, 2010


I've been putting off getting my eyes checked. I was supposed to get them checked in January, but I've been putting it off.

It's inconvenient. You lose the rest of the day, pretty much, if you're in my line of work and need to be able to read to get work done. Once my eyes are dilated, I pretty much can't read for a long time. Nor can I go out in the sun.

The eye doctor I went to (that's actually on my insurance) is okay, but not totally comfortable for me. The first time I went, he gasped when he looked in my eye and saw the silicone "rubber" band thingy, even though he had been looking at the chart questionaire where I'd filled in about it. The gasp scared the beejeezus out of me, and I'm tense about my eyes anyway. Why do I have to fill out the damned chart if he's not going to bother actually looking at it? On the other hand, it's not that big a deal, and I'd feel awkward firing him. Did I mention I'm a coward?

Anyway, the other day one of my eyes sort of hurt, a dull hurt, which lasted a blink of an eye, literally, and wasn't that bad. But still, it's weird. And I'm not used to it, so it's very noticable.

So I called to make an appointment today. And instantly I felt sick, like sick like I wanted to vomit out my window sick. Ugh. It's purely anxiety.

I never used to be anxious about eye stuff, but then I had a detached retina, and now I'm anxious about eye stuff.

Then I looked up, and I think my eye thing is dryness, and the first cause listed is menopause. Well, yay, because really, about time if it is. But also, yet another way being a female human sucks. You get discriminated against, paid less, cramps, blah blah, and by the way, dry eyes!

I really, really do not want to hear that I can't wear contacts. I love my contacts. I'd love even more to be able to see without them, but I love having peripheral vision!

Even more, I do not want to hear that I need eye surgery (which I really don't think is even a possibility, but just saying). Or that I'm going to go blind soon. (That was my nightmare last night.)

The mid-life thing: you realize that life is already going downhill, and that it's only going to get worse. At what point does it become just not worth it?

I'm going to try to get really well hydrated (bourbon should work, right?) and put my eyejuice in my eye more, and see if that helps.

Old Lear New Lear

I ordered the Arden3 Lear for my Shakespeare course this semester, but most of my Lear notes are in a New Cambridge edition, so I spent some time this morning transfering textual notes.

It surprises me, though it probably shouldn't, how differently I react to some things in the play because of the typesetting. I think the NC is a tad clearer as a typeface, and I'm finding it hard to move from one edition to the other.

But the NC notes tend to overwhelm students more than the Arden notes (at least, those who remember to look at the bottom of the page occasionally). And Arden is a step cheaper, which can make a big difference to budgets (though not as bad as science textbooks, I bet).

This is the excitement of my life right now.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wild Swans at Northwoods

I got pictures today, but even with my little telephoto, they're pretty distant looking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Hope for Spring

A lot more of my crocuses are blooming now, and it's exciting.

Earlier today, one of my colleagues said he'd seen some Tundra Swans flying in a V overhead. Then another said he'd seen some in a wet field outside of town. So I drove out and saw them! (I didn't stop at home to get my camera because I had a short time to get there and then back for an appointment, but I'm thinking I'll try to take my camera tomorrow.

I'm thinking about getting a macro lens because I like taking pictures of my crocuses every spring. These were taken with my Canon (Eos Rebel) digital slr with an 18-55 lens (the one that came with the camera). So if anyone knows anything about macro lenses, feel free to help me decide!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Praise of [Enter Title]

Every six months or so, we go through a new naming thing for the people who hold down the fort in department offices. At one point, I think they were called "department secretaries." Then they weren't secretaries, but something else, and so on.

Anyway, you know the folks I'm talking about. Here, they're mostly women, mostly from the region, and mostly they keep things running in our department offices and over in the administrative fort.

We got a new one a couple years ago, a replacement for a goddess of wonderfulness who herself was a replacement for another goddess of wonderfulness, each of whom left for the glories of a better life (retirement, or moving to be closer to family). So, our new person, let's call her A, likes to be busy. A also has high standards. Some months ago now, when I was doing some official thing and was about to handwrite (which is, at best, a generous term for my writing) a letterhead envelop, A gently admonished me that it would look better if it were done on the computer, and offered that she'd be glad to do it. So she's gradually trained me to email her whatever I have that needs an envelop, and she takes care of it magically, and it looks perfect.

Maybe you all have caught on to such things before?

I was a fill-in secretary/receptionist at the family business for a while in the stone ages, and used to happily type whatever, but there's no typewriter I can easily get to, and I feel awkward asking the [enter title] folks to do stuff I should be able to do myself. (Even though they've all been incredibly gracious here.) And I could probably figure out the envelop thing, but I don't have a printer in my office, so doing it from here means: set up my computer so there's a button to push only; then go to the department office to set up the printer with an envelop; then come back to my office to push the button, and then go back to the department office to get the envelop out before it messed someone else's printing up. I'm way too lazy.

Today I had a bunch of recommendations to print out on letterhead and with envelops. And for once, I took A's advice and emailed them all to her. A few minutes later, I went to the office to see if it was okay that I'd sent her all the stuff, and she looked at me, gave me a big smile, and told me they were already all ready in my box, waiting for my signature. And then she sent me an email telling me she loves when I give her work. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it seems good, doesn't it?

Seriously, A just makes my life better. I know it's a little thing, and maybe you've had someone take care of that stuff for you before, but me? I could get used to this!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Now is the Winter of our Discontent made Glorious Spring!

Look what I saw when I got home this afternoon (before dark and everything!). It's the first full out blooming crocus!

And then I looked closer, and saw another!

And there are some more that are just about ready to bloom, too. It's not exactly a carpet of flowers, but it's a little bit of hope on a sunny spring day, and I'm thrilled.

I turned in an application to teach abroad today; my chair signed it and the dean (I'm told, and I have no reason to disbelieve) signed it. (That is, they said that they could live without my presence for the semester and things would manage to go on.)

Now it's on to the Study Abroad office here, and then if they pass it, a study abroad office elsewhere, which is where I'm most likely to hit competition from a lot of other people.

Please cross your fingers for me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Inappropriate in Oh So Many Ways

Text of the day?

(I keep trying to make the picture better. It's amazing how hard it is to represent an outhouse.)

To Get to the Other Side

Near our campus, there's a street that's (for here) fairly busy but that has cross-walks clearly marked. On one side of the street is a residential area with a lot of double-income family homes and some student housing (many students sharing an older home, often). A block away from the other side is the campus. So a fair number of people walk from the residential area to campus, students and faculty alike. (It's not the sort of area where staff can afford to live, so I'm not just forgetting that staff exist.) (There's one block with a light, and a lot of people choose to cross there using the light.)

This morning, I was driving towards campus (because I live 5 miles off in a neighborhood that faculty on a single income can afford) and two people reached the crosswalk at the street on the far side of a cross-street. So I stopped behind the crosswalk on my side and waited (so that I wouldn't block the box). And waited. The two people faced each other, standing at the crosswalk, and I guess chatted. They didn't look at the street, or at me, or up and down for cars. (Yes, if they get themselves into the crosswalk, they have right of way.)

So finally, after waiting about 45 seconds, and seeing that other cars were now coming up behind mine, I started forward. And then the two people looked up and seemt to want to cross, but I went by anyway, because I was pretty far along into the crosswalk.

This happens all the time. It's like people here don't know that if they want to cross the street they actually need to look at the traffic and look intentional about things.

In a real city, a pedestrian approaching a crosswalk looks at oncoming traffic, maybe makes sure they're seen by drivers, and then starts in.

Do they not teach basic crosswalk skills here? Do they not teach people that they actually need to be just a little alert and pay attention?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Bowling Record

I'm on a bowling team. The height of my bowling career so far has been that I haven't injured myself or anyone else... yet.

But tonight, I bowled a 171. My last best game, several years ago now, was a 141. I don't know what happened tonight, but I hope it happens again!

(If I were a real bowler, of course, I'd be bemoaning my score. It's all a matter of perspective!)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Stacks and Stacks

I don't pretend to be the best teacher ever, but my biggest problem as a teacher is procrastinating about grading. And it seems worse, way worse, when a stack reaches a certain number.

For example, a stack of 10 1-2 page journals, fifteen minutes.

A stack of 20, well, just looking at them slows me down. Then I stupidly count them. And then I start, and 15 minutes later, I count them again, and arrange the pile of graded ones neatly. And seven minutes later, I roll over to check my email. And an hour later, I finish up the last few.

A stack of 30? Just looking at them makes my brain want to curl up in a fetal position. I start reading, and then I look at something else, and read a few more, and finally I decide that I just have to write a blog post about my misery. Though, of course, truth be told, the misery of even a stack of 30 is less than the misery of a stack of 60. And even that is less than the misery of a flu. And so on.

When I was learning to teach, one of the things the comp folks tried to teach me was that if I wrote good assignments, I wouldn't mind grading them as much. But if I wrote assignments that inspired lousy papers (in other words, bad assignments), then I'd have made myself miserable. The thing is, even the best assignment begins to feel like a bad assignment after the 18th paper.

Think about it. Imagine you've given your promising young poets an assignment: everyone write a sonnet. It's a great assignment! Sonnets are short! You've got Sydney, Spenser, Shakespeare and Daniel all hanging out in the back of the room making rude comments at each other. And you've got Millay, Milton and Coleridge being studious in the front! What could go wrong? (And add your other favorite 23 sonnet writers, go ahead, just do it.)

Now imagine you get a stack of 30 sonnets. Pick your favorite 30 sonnets in the whole world. (Do most people have 30 favorites? I have maybe eight.) Now start grading and writing responses. (Okay, I could go all fantasy about what my response to Spenser's rhyminess would be, but that's just me. And seriously, don't you bet some comp teacher would tell Shakespeare to be less ambiguous about the gender of his beloved?)

And now you've gotten through five of them, and then twelve, and you're still faced with 18, and suddenly a glass of wine and stupid TV begins to seem a lot more interesting, doesn't it?

And that's sonnets. Explications of sonnets, no matter how well written, pale in comparison as far as reading pleasure. But they're really helpful for students to learn how to close read.

And so, there's that stack of papers. And then there's a stack of comp journals, with four more to go. And a stack of comp peer editing. And two stacks of single paragraphs from my lit classes.

Stacks and stacks, and I just need to plant my rear in the chair and NOT roll it towards the computer. I wonder what the weather's supposed to be like in Caracas tomorrow?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

In Touch with my Inner Petty Bourgeoisie Self

The responses to my last post got me thinking. First, thanks for all the encouragement about the bike. It's truly a glorious thing to go out and play on my bike.

That said, thinking about the responses has made me really aware of my inner petty bourgeoisie. Either that, or I've become The Man.

I don't skip meetings, and though I may post occasionally about being frustrated by meetings, and being frustrated by colleagues, I think most of what we do in our meetings has some purpose and is worth doing. No one has to make me prepare for my committee responsibilities, because they're my responsibilities. That's it. The job may pay poorly, but I've agreed to do the job for the pay (well, except for the furlough thing), so my sense of responsibility leads me to do that job. And I try to do it well. I may not always, but generally, I try.

Recognizing how important it is to be well-prepared for meetings and to work hard to make them useful has been a big step in my development as a faculty member. Yes, I always took the meetings that seemed important to me seriously, but now I take the stuff that doesn't seem obviously important to me seriously, either out of respect for the colleagues who've put in work and think it's important, or out of self-respect. And often enough, I've learned something useful. Sometimes, though, I haven't. (I've yet to find an assessment meeting really useful, alas.)

I was chairing a meeting last week, and one of the male members came in late and disrupted the meeting by loudly greeting his buds. He did this while a female committee member was talking, and continued while another female committee member tried to do her part in the work. I think there's likely some sexist attitude there, but in any case, he's being disrespectful of his colleagues.

I'm trying to think how to better handle his rudeness if he does it again. Maybe it's as simple as "Mr. A, please don't disrupt the meeting." Or maybe more like, "Mr. A, please don't interrupt your female colleague." I'd really like to make him aware that he's being rude specifically to a woman, because I think he doesn't want to be a sexist, and might actually change his behavior if he recognized it (hey, I live a rich and full fantasy life!). On the other hand, he might also be all the more resentful and rude if I call attention to his behavior.

There's another woman on the committee I know well, and I checked my perception of his sexist behavior with her, and she agreed. So I don't think it's just me misperceiving. There's another female colleague on the committee, but I don't really know her well, so I don't know how she takes things.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Our Meeting this Afternoon

Typically, colleagues in my department who have children under 13 to about 16 miss occasional meetings because of child care issues.

It's a gorgeous day out. My bike is back from the shop after its spring tune up.

I wonder if I can tell my colleagues that I have an inner-child care issue and have to miss our afternoon meeting today?

(The folks who have child care issues have minimal sense of humor about the problem of missing meetings. I could not make this joke with any of my current colleagues who have children. There's a retired colleague who would laugh, though.)

Children trump everything. On one level, I get that. On another, I think that if you know there's a meeting at work--and this isn't a last minute, emergency thing--you should find other care for your child, even if you have to pay a babysitter. I know it costs money, but I'm tired of being asked to always pick up the slack.

**OMG, as I hit post, a parade of little kids from the subsidized day care center (subsidized by our low pay being less than it otherwise would be) coming around doing a fund raiser. Seriously, can we NOT have a parade of kids disrupting the workplace?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Dickenson was Wrong

Hope is not the thing with feathers. Hope is the first sign of green sprouting as the snow melts in the spring.

A friend spotted his first spring robin yesterday, so maybe there are feathers involved after all?

It seems like these bulbs (mostly daffodils in this bed, with some Grape Hyacinth and Crocus, too) are sprouting awfully early this year. But they should be hardy, and not too badly damaged even if we get more snow (and we probably will).

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An Observation on Committee Work

There's something very satisfying about working on a committee with people who are engaged and ethical about solving a problem, and actually producing something tangible as a result of the meeting.

I'd like to note that I have some really smart colleagues and they do really good work.

I'm also very happy with how we solved the problem we worked on.

I need to hold onto these feelings!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is It Me, Dog?

Sometimes, I'll read a blog, especially one that's complaining about some particularly egregious behavior, and I'll wonder if I do the same thing being complained about.

For example, I'm overweight. Any medical/nursing blog complaining about patients who are overweight could easily be about me. Sometimes, there's a fair bit of rancor in the blog, and it makes me wonder if folks have that much hatred for me, too.

Or there's a student blog, and it complains about a prof who doesn't answer emails within a reasonable amount of time, and I wonder, did I just miss someone's email and seem to ignore them? I've been short with students more than once, so I could easily be the nasty professor they're complaining about, I suppose.

You get the picture. Or even more, it's a blogger complaining about the behavior of another blogger or bloggers, and I wonder if I've been offensive without intending to be.

Of course, I complain about folks, too. I was just in the department office, and went to staple some papers together, but all three of the staplers were empty. As I was working on loading one up, another faculty member walked by and mentioned that all three staplers were out. And I wanted to ask, "If you noticed, why didn't you refill them?" But this faculty member has a Y chromosome,* and we all know that doing menial labor is below him. I, on the other hand, have worked as a receptionist, and was capable of refilling two of the three staplers. (I asked for help with the other, and now it's full, too.)

So if you're reading this, valued colleague: learn to fill the staplers or, if that's beyond your capabilities, let the admin assistants know, and they'll help you.

*Edit to clarify: Thanks to a helpful private comment, I'd like to clarify. It's not his Y chromosome that prevents his filling the stapler, and I shouldn't generalize. He uses his Y chromosome as a marker of his privilege; in reality, it's his being a jerk that prevents his filling the stapler. Being a jerk isn't a Y or X chromosome thing, but a generalized human thing. Alas, it's one I'm guilty of on too many occasions as well, along with careless writing.