Friday, April 29, 2011

Just So You Know...

I will continue to vote for people who at least minimally recognize that we need to pay taxes to have public services, and I will willingly pay increased taxes to help make sure that everyone in the country has access to services involving education, health, transportation and such.

But at the same time, I can't help but note the irony that there will be a lot of teabaggers who hate government expecting the government to help them deal with the aftermath of the devastating storms and tornados.

I wonder if their sky fairy had something to do with what happened?

I wonder if their mega-churches will use as much money to rebuild as they use to buy politicians to oppress women and glbtq folks?

And yes, I have an appointment to donate my very life's blood next week (now that my arm has recovered from the booboo I got when the needle went all the way through the vein or whatever). I wonder if our governor donates regularly?

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I was responsible for presenting some student awards today. It was a small thing, and I tried to do a good job, but it wasn't as perfect as it might have been.

A retired prof was there for officialdom reasons, and let me know that I did a lousy job.


Yes, I just met this person, and she needed to criticize my awards-giving. I know I'm not the best at such things, but after a long and busy week, I really, really did not need some person I've just met to come up and criticize me.


And the week isn't over.

(We've had this big activities week here; my students were responsible for nine activities, which meant I went to all of their stuff. And I went to other stuff, and I participated in another thing. I think it went well. Some of the stuff my students did was beyond cool.)

Weird Email Issue

There's a student here who uses only an off-campus email, which in itself is a pain in the rear. Worse, this off-campus email includes in part a disparaging racial term. Think of a disparaging racial term. Now add a letter on one side and a wingding on the other.

Part of me thinks, I really need to communicate to the student that s/he might want to rethink the email, especially since s/he is going to be contacting professional folks through this, apparently. (S/he has contacted me, for example.)

Part of me is sort of sure the student doesn't recognize the disparaging racial term as such, and that the email address actually means something personal to him/her. I'm guessing it's one of those things where s/he got a nickname as a kid that just so happens to include this term, and either never thought about it, or laughed it off, since s/he isn't the targeted race.

But someone with a little wider experience will recognize the racial slur, as I did, and at the least wonder why this student is using this email.

What to do, oh wisdom of the internets?

Hopes Dashed

It was snowing this morning when I came into work, big wet flakes of white snow.

I'm thinking my hopes for an early spring are pretty much done at this point.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I'm feeling so overwhelmed. Glug.

I'm tired of doing stuff around here, and realizing yet again that women are doing all the heavy departmental lifting while men go drink together and decide that things are great.

In other news, I was pretty close to convincing myself to get an ipad sort of thing yesterday, and then I asked one of my friends/colleagues, and he was all excited and showed me his. And somehow, it just seemed so overwhelming that I didn't want one anymore. I think I imagine that I really want to have something that will play audio books, and it seems so complicated to get through the bazillion fancy pop culture stuffs to get to what I might actually want. (You're beginning to understand why I'm a late adopter of many things, right?)

I'm closer to thinking of a new computer, though. I have to drive to another city to see an Acer computer.

Yes, one of the crappy things about living in a smaller community is that if you want something that isn't at, say, the most massively popular chain, you have to go elsewhere. And often elsewhere is another state.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tech Stuffs

I'm going to be spending fall semester in the homeland of Shakespeare and the gang, and I'm very excited. And I'm thinking of getting a gadget or three.

It started out with me thinking about getting a new laptop. My current laptop is about ten years old, and while it works well and I like it a lot for working at home, it's heavy and doesn't do wi-fi (though I think I could get a card thing to make it do that?).

So, I'm trying to decide about what to get. I'm hoping for something really light, but big enough to have a comfortable keyboard (I have fairly small hands, so I don't think that's a huge issue), and with enough power to do what I usually do in terms of programs: I want it to be able to run Word, Excel, a web-browser, and a photo-manipulation software. I'm willing to get an external disc drive, figuring that I wouldn't carry it most of the time.

Thoughts? Netbook or laptop? Brands?

I was also thinking about getting some mp3 player thing, so that I can upload audio books. I listen to audio books at night to help me sleep, and it would be helpful to have something little that I could use (though I guess I'd have to get a little speaker thingy?). I COULD do that on a laptop/netbook, though, right?

I went to look at mp3 players at a local "Most Superior Purchase" store, and there are two sorts. There are these little tiny ones with no screen, but I can't imagine how you'd decide what you wanted to listen to on those, and ones with a screen. But the ones with a screen cost nearly $200. That's a lot, especially for something that's small enough that I might put it through the laundry. (I put a phone through the laundry, so now I'm sort of alerted to my bad habits.)

And if I'm going to pay $200, why not go up to a tablet thing? So I sidled over to the tablet stand, which only had iPads, but later I looked elsewhere. There are tablets that start around $200, and go up, and then I could read on it, too, or watch movies or such (at least on some of them).

As soon as I got near the iPad stand, a salesperson came to talk to me. I think I look like a likely customer. I asked about books, and he said I could find anything I wanted to read on the iStore thingy. So we looked. Yep, you can get editions of Titus, but not an edition I'd find useful. I couldn't find any academic books I thought to look for, though (I used Dollimore's Radical Tragedy as my test, since it's pretty darned popular for an academic book).

And that makes it useless for my needs, right? I mean, I can borrow books to just read at the library. I love the local library, and especially love that they move books around the area public libraries with amazing rapidity and apparent ease. But if I'm going overseas, then having academic books would be great.

One of my friends helped me find academic ebooks on line, later, and you can, indeed, get lots of them. But they're way more expensive than the print verions.

And, yes, you can read them on an iPad or a computer, so long as it can read the format (you can get pdfs).

So I'm at an impasse. Really, I could afford whichever of these I want, but mentally, it's hard for me. I'm thinking a netbook.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mote in the Eye

Sometimes, there's a big argument, and when push comes to shove, it's about someone really not realizing that the institution they're used to is really different from another institution. I was involved in a system conference thing this past year, and it blew me away how very different the institutions within this system are, and how clueless I am about some of the other parts of it. And I shouldn't be, because our students transfer in and out of those other parts, and the folks who work there are my colleagus and all.

Students are guilty of this, too, which is more understandable because most of them really do know only one college/university, and new freshmen tend to come in expecting something like the high school they knew.

It's less understandable in fellow faculty, until I remember that most faculty really only know one or two schools. And if you're a new faculty member coming here from a background in an elite SLAC and R1 sort of background, it's really different.

I run into this with colleagues whose terminal degree is really different from mine. I have a colleague in music, for example, and his experiences are totally alien to me. That can cause difficulties when I'm trying to advise a student who's also working in music, but at least now I know who to call with my questions.

It especially sucks when administrators do this.

One of the difficulties is that we tend to have this big, angry reaction, and then when we figure out that we're reacting to a miscommunication/misunderstanding, we're too angry to rethink our initial angry reaction.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I baked oatmeal bread tonight, and just had a couple hot slices. I declare it: YUMMY!

(Per Dance's request, here's a link to the recipe I used at Allrecipe.)

Asking for an Answer

I was in a meeting the other day, and asked one of the participants for a specific bit of information, expecting a number. Instead, I sort of got a history of counting that number.

Why did I need that history? Turns out I didn't. But I don't think I could convince the other person of that, since passing along that history is important to him/her, and discussing it, too.

There are times when the person's need to discuss whatever history really is important, rather than the answer to my question, but sometimes I really do want the answer for real, and it feels like the history is a way to distract from the real answer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This Morning

This is what the "greenspace" behind my house looked like this morning, just before I left for work. By the time I got home, some 11+hours later, it's melted.

I'm so ready for spring, but spring is apparently not ready for me.

One Shining Moment

Students in one of my classes handed in an assignment today. It's a pretty quirky assignment, so one of the things we did afterwards was talk about whether it was effective and whether the preparation we'd done for it in class was too much, too little, or about right.

After class, a student who hasn't had much to say or been really participatory stopped to talk to me, and said that s/he had learned something really valuable from our discussion.

I'm going to be holding on to that thought for a couple days.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nor Am I Out of It

It's snowing. It's been snowing for hours, but only in the past half hour or so has it begun to stick. And now it's sticking. I think other areas are getting hit worse, but this is bad enough.

I doubled up today: I had a mammogram (screening, so not because there's a known problem or worry) and got my eyes checked (they're as good as they're going to get, and I got a new contact prescription, since my old contacts are old). (Thank dog for lens technology, and also contact lens technology. I hate to think what my life would be like without some way to correct my vision, but I'm guessing I'd be able to do housework, but things would be tough.)

Why do we sign up to let people do stuff to us that hurts? Neither of these was horridly painful, but momentarily not pleasant, and my eyes are still dilated and grumpy.

And did I mention, it's snowing? I'm so ready for spring I could spit. (But it would freeze, and then I'd be upset.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Word of the Day

I'm rereading "The Merchant's Tale" for my class, and was struck by the repetition of the word "buxom." I tend to think of "buxom" as meaning busty. How about you?

But it doesn't, at least it didn't. It used to be all about obedience, meekness, humility, and so on. It gradually comes to take on meanings of affability, indulgent, and such, which sort of makes sense because an obedient, humble woman is pretty indulgent of men's behavior, I suppose. And then it shifts to being about jolliness and healthy, vigorous, because, perhaps, that's what one wants in an obedient, indulgent woman.

Now I'm thinking about all those comments in popular culture about "buxom blondes" and I'm totally grossed out.

Will patriarchal crap never end?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Sky is Falling

White stuff, very tiny bits, and not a lot, thank dog, is coming out of the sky. There's some on the ground, too. Brrrr!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teaching Workshop

Some advice from the ranks:

If you're doing a workshop on teaching, and using a powerpoint, don't make the words float in.

If you're doing a workshop on making things accessible for disabled folks, don't make everyone do a form where they have to fill in tiny bubbles.

If you're doing a workshop on making things accessible for disabled folks, don't keep the lights turned down way low when you're asking them to fill out the form with tiny bubbles.


So, here's a conundrum:

If you do a presentation using powerpoint, usually reading your powerpoint slide aloud is a crappy and irritating technique.

BUT, if you're trying to make your slide accessible to people with seeing difficulties, then reading your slide aloud may be helpful.


There's something absolutely crappy about using a ton of paper (okay, I exaggerate, a pile, though) to copy all your slides so that people can take notes next to the slides when you're pretty much reading the slides aloud. How do you balance your desire to have people take notes about what you've just read aloud with your ethical responsbility not to waste resources?


Can you tell I hated this workshop? It's sad, too, because I really think making our campus more welcoming (which is beyond basic accessibility or accomodation) is important, but I left this workshop wanting to never hear anyone talk about these issues again. I learnd a few basic terminology things, but nothing that's really going to help me as either an instructor or a community member.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


So, wisdom of the internets: if you were going to teach a Great Works of Lit in English from the Middle Ages to the late 18th century, and were thinking about teaching a novel (or two), what novel(s) would you likely teach, and why?

Does everyone still read Robinson Crusoe in high school, or has that been replaced by one or another vampire tale?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I've never felt so distrustful of our political system as I feel now. Maybe I've just been totally naive, but I used to think my vote would be fairly counted. After all, I'm white, middle-class, and not someone who would have been targeted in voting rights attacks. Now, I'm sure I'm still not being individually targetted, but I'm feeling very distrustful about the political system in this state.

In the aftermath of the recent election, it's bad. On the night of the election, the reports were that JoAnne Kloppenburg had won the supreme court seat by a narrow margin over the incumbant David Prosser. Because the margin was so small, people around here were expecting a recount to be requested by Prosser. The state would have paid for that recount because of the small margin.

Then, the next day or so, there were reports that a County Clerk in Waukesha County, Kathy Nickolaus, had somehow missed counting a bunch of votes, 14,000 votes. And when the new count was made, Prosser was ahead by just over 7,500 votes. Interestingly enough, reports were that Nickolaus had previously worked for Prosser's election. And, interestingly enough, the 7,500 margin is just enough that if Kloppenburg will have to pay for a recount if she requests one. (I think she has requested a recount, and ActBlue is collecting money to help pay for it.) It's time for an investigation, so says Tammy Baldwin, US Rep from Wisconsin, and she's asking the US Attorney General to take it on.

Now it's coming out that, gosh, there are weird counts from AG election last time, from, yes, Waukesha County. And yes, guess who was the county clerk. And guess who won the Attorney General job for the state. Yes, the Republican candidate. Hmmmm.

There was a LOT of money spent on this election, and yes, a lot of it came from outside the state. Let's just admit that if that money had been put towards paying me, I'd be set for a good while.

Meanwhile, we also learned that William Gardner pled guilty to making illegal campaign donations through his employees. So he gets to pay a fine. That just seems wrong, doesn't it?

Remember the bill that got "passed" by the assembly without (allegedly) appropriate notification for the open meeting law? Yep, that. So, there was a stay put on that, saying that it couldn't be published. And if it can't be published, then it isn't in force as law. But then, the Republicans had it "published" by another office. And then the judge said, no, it still wasn't officially published, because the stay she'd put on it really was intended to postpone publication until she has time to make her legal decision. So, evidently, there was an appeal filed about this stay. BUT, the appeal wasn't filed by the Secretary of State, who's responsible for publishing laws, but by the Attorney General's office. And now the Secretary of State says, nope, I don't want an appeal, I never did.

Want to add a complication: the Republican lawmakers can't be sued or whatever while they're "in session" but they also can't be part of an appeals process, I'm told.

When the panic-folks who get all riled up about election fraud and wanting IDs to be shown worry, they don't worry about County Clerks throwing elections. They worry about small time fraud. Now no one wants small time, or any time fraud in our elections. But I'm way more worried about big time fraud, about County Clerks miscounting and making "human errors" in counting, because they really can throw elections.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Proserpina is Almost Up the Stairs!

Look! There's a new baby pinecone on the tree that had a pinecone last year. I'm not sure how long it takes for them to develop. I didn't think to look carefully earlier this spring, so I don't know how long it's been there. I haven't seen any on my other "big" pine tree, though. But maybe soon!

Some of my crocuses are up and blooming. It takes a couple of years for a group of bulbs to look quite right, or at least to look like a fairly thick clump. And I keep adding a few more (or a fair number more) most years. I'm sort of weirded out right now because I have some ideas for where I'd like to put bulbs next, but I won't be here in fall to put them in. Weird!

I put in what I hope will be a nice little area this past fall. There's an iris in here, too, that should get going soon and then maybe I'll put in some pansies or something. I want something that's nice and little, and that has at least the possibility of reseeding, and I gather pansies will do that here?

Finally, here's a little goldfinch, starting to come into his breeding plumage, and having a bit of a stretch.

Here he is again, making sure I'm not an evil predator.

My First Doctor

I'm a latecomer to Doctor Who and not the most dedicated watcher. I've gotten to the point where I get the basic premise, pretty much. But I'm also at the point where I don't know how much of what I consider basic is specific to the way David Tennant has played the part, and how much is basic to the role. But David Tennant has played the part as fairly light hearted mostly, good-spirited, and attractive. (Well, last night wasn't so light-hearted.)

And now there's a new Doctor.

(Do they ever have female doctors? Because at the switchover, it sounded like he was making a sexist comment about coming back as a "girl." Did I mis-hear?)

(I was half going to try to write this in verse, in imitation of Browning's "My Last Duchess," but I'm lousy at verse.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Teaching Philosophies

Sisyphus, over at Academic Cog, put up a meme about teaching philosophies the other day. For those not in the "ed biz," a lot of jobs or evaluation things within jobs ask college teachers to write a philosophy of teaching, or a Statement of Teaching Philosophy. What they want mostly, I think, is to hear that you don't think abusing students is good, and that you're enthusiastic and try to respond to student needs.

It's thus difficult to find a teaching philosophy that doesn't sound pretty darned careful and canned. I always try to vote down asking for them on search committee ads.

I also cringe when I see colleagues reading them, because the comment one statement makes indicating a commitment to assessment, received with lauds by the person who loves assessment, is received as a sort of warning bell to most of us. But not putting one in will raise the hackles of our assessment lover.

I wasn't going to say anything but as long as I have, I'd like to note that several people have also responded: Here's what Dame Eleanor Hull has to say, and here's what Heu Mihi at the Age of Perfection has to say.

But then I got thinking. And while I don't want to actually craft a statement, here's what I'd more or less like to say if I did:

I'd like to start out saying that when I wrote my last such statement, ten or so years ago, I really thought I knew how to teach pretty well. I tried to be enthusiastic and responsive to student needs, tried to teach to different student learning styles and to encourage students in developing critical thinking and writing skills. But, I've since learned that I had a lot to learn. I've now been at this job some ten years, and I've learned a lot about teaching. I've become much more aware of trying to give different sorts of assignments to give students an opportunity to develop skills with low stakes assignments and to show off their skills with higher stakes assignments. I've grown much better at slowing down and helping students move through a project or assignment. I've learned to write much better assignments and organize courses better, both because students have helped me and because I've learned from colleagues, both junior and senior. For example, I did a class observation of a junior colleague a couple of years ago, and s/he had put the research paper earlier in the composition course than I had. And she explained why, and it made really good sense. So I tried changing my course around, too, and it worked well.

In the past ten years, then, I've learned to change up class activities more, and have a larger repertoire of ideas to draw on to help students develop their skills at reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I've learned to write better courses and better assignments, and have learned to think about how my course fits into a curriculum (both a departmental and a general education curriculum) more effectively.

I'm looking forward to another 10-15 years of teaching. And I hope my teaching will change as much in the next ten years as it has in the past ten years. I hope I'll learn as much, grow as much, as I have in the past ten years, because I have a lot to learn. So my philosophy is that I will try to learn and change as much or more in the next ten years as I have in the previous ten.

I've also learned that I have a deeper love of learning and teaching than I realized, and that working with students and colleagues is more rewarding and challenging all the time.

Feel free to ask me again in ten years, if we make it that long.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Tundra Swans!

This is a field outside of a small town near here; last year, someone emailed that there were swans there, and I went out to see and was all excited. But my pictures were lousy. This year, he told me again, and I went out today.

I took my camera. And then it stopped working.

Someone didn't think to charge the battery for a long time. :( Unfortunately, that someone is me.

I was about to pick up the whole tripod and all and move up closer, but I didn't.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Eyes on Us

A nation turns its lonely eyes to us. Or maybe not lonely, but worried?

I was #52 at my polling place when I voted this morning at 7:30 am. That means my little place in my little city had more than one person a minute voting.

I had a choice of a touchscreen or paper ballot, and chose paper. I can't bring myself to trust the touchscreen machines after the stuff in the news a few years ago, even though I only vaguely remember some problems about security.

I was not alone, though, because when I put my ballot into the paper ballot counting machine, it told me I was number 35 to do so. So, assuming I wasn't too wildly out of order (either fast or slow with a pen), the majority of voters before me chose paper ballots.

There was a big pink sign taped to the place where you gave your name saying that you weren't required to have any ID to vote. It's not, probably, a huge issue in my mostly white, mostly middle class voting area, but there's a movement in some areas to make everyone use a state ID to vote. The idea, so I've read, is that some folks won't have IDs, and that other folks think those some folks vote for the wrong people anyway, so that the other folks think the some folks might as well not be allowed to vote. I was amused by the bright pink paper assuring me that I didn't need to show ID. And I didn't (nor was I asked to).

And now we wait.

Meanwhile, I have a project that I'm doing at the last minute. Apparently, I haven't learned the lesson we all wish our first year students would have learned in junior high.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Testing, I Hardly Know You

Every so often, I come across something that I just hadn't imagined. Here's today's example: Scratch off test forms. They look like the scratch off lottery tickets in convenience stores.

Except, you know that's not what popped into my mind when I saw them, right?

Because I'm old enough to have seen Polyester in Odorama.

You have to be thinking what fun the Odorama version of the Summoner's Tale would be!

In all seriousness, though, these cards are touted as a wonderful way to verify that students have done whatever in a way that promotes learning. I bet scratching off bad smells would promote learning even faster! Get it wrong, farts! Get it right, the sweet smell of success.

The next question (and this is a quiz, so imagine you get a scratch and sniff card) is: what brought this to my attention today?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sometimes I Have to Laugh

Did you hear last week about our Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy who was complaining to constituents about how hard it is to live on his measly $174,000 congressional salary? (The link is to the Washington Post site.)

I bet you're feeling really sorry for him, aren't you? Well, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee website has just the thing for you! An app thingy to send a sympathy card! And you can personalize it!

And although the congressman doesn't belong to a union of congresspersons (so far as I know, but I don't think he's legally prevented from joining a union), he does get to vote on his salary and benefits. And you can bet they 1) haven't been cut by ~9% this year, and 2) pretty much last for life. (And I wouldn't need a union if I got to vote on my salary and benefits. I bet that goes for most of us.)

That sucking at the public teat? Yeah, that.

I think that any politician arguing for a x% paycut for other public servants should take that cut him/herself first. But I think $174K isn't hugely out of line. Remember, most congressional politicians have to maintain two households and such. But it's really crass to whine about it.

Edited to Add: You know what your typical Republican response is to a young woman (especially if she's black) needing help because she's got a baby and it's expensive, right? Be more "responsible." Don't have sex.

Congressman, no one made you have six kids. Pull up your big boy pants and quit whining.

And don't you DARE vote against providing women with access to birth control and abortions, because if you think you're having a tough time, then you don't know what a tough time is.

Finally, you're a parent. That means you actually have a responsibility to care about your children. What do you think they're thinking when they read you complaining about them like this? Do you really think it's THEIR fault that you struggle on your paycheck?

You, sir, suck at being a dad.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Wait and Worry

We've got a big election coming up on Tuesday. There are two candidates for State Supreme Court, and then there are school board candidates and referenda. Typically, in an off election (spring, not "major" offices), the turnouts are low.

Rumors around here have it that so many people have voted ahead (which is totally legal here) that "they" have had to get more ballots printed.

Some of my friends are celebrating that, because folks have been working really hard to get out the vote.

BUT, I always thought that most of the early voters tended to vote conservative (for a variety of reasons, including that the Republican party got an early start encouraging people to vote early). I sure hope I'm wrong this time. (I thought about voting early, but I'm planning on going on Tuesday.)

If the stuff about the bill being voted on in violation of the open meetings act goes to the Supreme Court, then the court member voted in on Tuesday will likely be an important voice on the court. The stakes are high for us. (And even if it's not this case, the stakes are high.)

There are a bunch of recall efforts being made in the state. Of the efforts being made against the Republicans who pushed through the mini-bill, one has just been filed with folks who do the official parts of such things. They needed just over 15,000 signatures, but the site says they turned in an estimated 30,000. That's one that seems likely to make it through the signature testing/challenge period and go to election, and then it's a matter of people voting differently than they did before. They filed the petitions 30 days into the 60 day period of time they had to file. Someone's been out there doing some work, eh?

But there are a lot of recall efforts right now, including against the Fab Fourteen. You can see who filed papers and such if you look at the Government Accountability Board site.

Check out how many of the efforts have been filed by the American Recall Coalition, a grassroots group of Wisconsinites an organization out of Utah.

These things are weirdly fascinating to read. The one I just linked, part of the effort to recall Fred Risser (a State Senator from the Madison area) has a letter to the American Recall Coalition giving the dates and such for their required reporting and when they have to turn in their petitions. They have until April 25th to file their signatures and they need about 19,800 signatures. I hope the ink in their pens runs dry. (And that's not a metaphor. No, really.)

My department is waiting on an important decision right now. We won't know for at least a week, so we're sort of holding our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

My Friday was full of meetings. I will be so glad to not be on one of these committees again next year. SO GLAD.

I was in a horrible mood by the time I got home last evening, and finally, I got the energy to get on my bike (indoor trainer) and I rode the trainer for an hour while watching The Hurt Locker. I would be so horribly bad at being in a war zone that I'd be dead about seven minutes in (max). (Even if my role were to hide in the camp, I'd just manage to get hit by something.) The good news, I suppose, is that I'm up to riding an hour solid on the trainer, and so long as I'm adequately entertained, it's okay. BUT my blood pressure was higher than usual when I went to give blood this past week, and that's not good. (It wasn't alarmingly high or anything.) And I'm more gaining than losing weight, and that's not good.

I'm reading some YA books by Rick Riordan now, about Percy Jackson. I'm enjoying them a lot because the basic premise is so creative and, well, fun. But basically, they're a lot like a lot of YA books (not that I've read a lot, actually, and my bias may totally reflect the suggestions my niece and nephew have made for me, because they're running my reading list these days): male protagonist about junior high age, has special powers and is in a special school of some sort because he's just so special (but there's always a hint that other kids might also be special and not yet know it), must save the world because adults are so utterly inept (or worse).

In conclusion: you know how at the end of most books you have the sense that the protagonist is going to have a rest now (or is dead, perhaps)? And sometimes you tell yourself that once X is done, you'll have less stress? Well, I don't see myself having less stress. I used to tell myself that, but I was wrong.