Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Today is a non-teaching day for me; with an 11 credit hour schedule, that can work. But I have two important letters to write (review letters) due next week, an observation report, stacks of grading, and an SAA paper to write. Classes to prep for tomorrow, too.

I've been here for over two hours, and have:

Written part of the observation report. But not finished. I want to look at how other people do one part, so I went to find others, but I can't. They should be on file. It probably isn't good that they aren't.

Looked for some other stuff I need. Maybe that can count as gathering materials?

Here's the to-do list for now and the near future:

Finish this report
Grade comp journals
Grade comp quizzes
Grade Shax journals
Grade seminar journals (hmmm, there's a theme here)
Grade Shax research questions
Grade seminar research questions (the research questions should be quick; it's a really basic start to getting students to think of questions they'd like to know more information about, if that makes sense.)
Prep for letter #1 - there are two sections to each of these
Write letter #1
Prep for letter #2
Write letter #2

Prep comp
Prep Shax
Prep seminar

SAA paper!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Help Request!

I have a request for those who are better historians than I: one of my students is trying to learn about sibling relationships in early modern England, and in early modern English drama. The student has read and followed up on the family history books I've recommended, but I'm drawing a blank on anything specifically related to siblings (especially brother and sister).

Please post or email any ideas! And thank you :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If Taxes Were Like WoW

! It's Time to Do Taxes!

Choose one: download a tax program OR visit your local library

? Congratulations! You found a tax program. You get:
**10 life experience
**Your faction with Corporate America increased by 5!

! Pay the Program

Give the tax program your credit card information! (This may involve a subquest: Find the Wallet?)

? You successfully entered your credit card information. Well done! You get:
**a credit card charge

! Where are the Forms?

The Tax Program needs help! It wants you to find:

* Your W-2 form
* 1099 Div forms
* Charitable donation receipts
* Real Estate tax forms
* 1098 Mort forms
* Expense information

Bring these forms to your computer. Hurry, Bardiac! The national debt is growing every minute! In order to make this quest more challenging, we've disabled in-life mapping. Hurry!

? Good job, Bardiac! You got here just in time. The national debt is about to explode! You found all the forms you needed. You get:
**1 paper cut experiences

! AGI is not Agility! (low level)

The program can't go on without information from last year's tax return! Brave the piles of paperwork and find the form.

? You're looking pretty ragged, Bardiac, but at least you got the forms and got out alive. You get:
**1 sneezing fit

! Input Information!

Work carefully, Bardiac, and put all the numbers in the right place! If you make a mistake, you may be audited, so be extra careful and double check everything!

? You input the numbers, but something appears to be wrong. You get:
**25 additional blood pressure points!

! Recheck the Numbers!

The tax program has detected a problem, Bardiac! Go back and recheck all the numbers, just to make sure.

? You've checked and rechecked the numbers, but the tax program can't quite believe what it sees. Are you sure that all professors don't make six figure incomes? You get:
**10 experience with depression

! Find the State! (low level)

The tax program needs you to find your state and download the state program. If you didn't pay for it yet, redo Pay the Program quest.

? You chose Walkerstan as your state! You sure aren't smart, Bardiac! You get:
**10 experience with regret

! Input More Information

The state program has successfully inported the numbers you put in your federal return (better hope you did that right!). Now it needs to check some special tax breaks for your state. Choose one or more from the list:

* I have farm income
* I'm a homesteader
* I'm a corporate raider
* I suck

? You chose "I suck," Bardiac! Well done! You get no special tax breaks from Walkerstan. Do not collect $200! You get:
**20 more points of blood pressure

! Submit your Taxes!

The program is ready to submit your taxes, Bardiac. All you have to do is enter your checking account information. We promise not to take out any money we're not supposed to. Really!

? Congratulations, Bardiac! You submitted your taxes! You get:
** a tax refund, soon... we hope; that and $5 will get you a small coffee at *$.
** your faction with the IRS increased! (Now at "taxpayer")
** your faction with state government increased! (Now at "hostile")
** your roads still won't be well-maintained, nor will state workers ever get a raise.

Friday, January 27, 2012

On Assigning Papers Early and Often

The folks who do and read lots of comp research tell me that several things help students write better:

1) Writing lots and getting feedback
2) Writing for different purposes, talking about purposes, getting feedback

I've taken that information to heart. The assignments my students have turned in so far have all been short, low stakes assignments. In two of the four cases, the assignment asks them to write a paragraph. A single paragraph of writing gives me a chance to underline something and write in the margin "interesting idea" or "indeed!" I can give short responses, mostly responding to an idea. And I can mark one grammatical problem (if there is one), or remind the student to cite the text, and because I've marked one thing and it's there along with a positive comment, the student can manage looking at it and thinking about it. (And the grading isn't overwhelming for me, either.)

The paragraphs are also a starting point for one bit of class discussion. So those students who feel slow-tongued are prepared and can use it to say something.

One of the four assignments is a summary of a short reading, also short and low stakes. But summarizing is a skill students need to practice, as is reading carefully, so this written assignment is a start.

The final of the four is a short diagnostic piece (for the writing class) about why they're here at NWU. It's ungraded, and I use it to get to know students a bit, to spot really big writing issues early, and to have a chance to give students some positive feedback on their writing.

In each of these courses, students will write other sorts of writing, and will continue to write short pieces as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And Then There Were Four...

piles of papers I need to work on.

I'm falling behind, and it's still the first week! EEP!

Today's tasks (now that I'm done teaching for the day):
read play for tomorrow
read journals for writing class
read journals for Shakespeare
prep classes for tomorrow

and maybe, just maybe, read some more writing diagnostics
somewhere in here, I also have to prep and do some committee work.

Do Unto Yourself

By the end of the second day of teaching in my week (Wednesday), I had a stack of papers for each of the three courses I'm teaching this semester.

I did that to myself.

At least most of them are really short (paragraph assignments), and the others are short diagnostics for the writing class, so I won't grade them, just get to know the students a bit and be alerted to some potential problems.

Still, I did it to myself. And now I have to go read more of the diagnostics.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Syllabus Talk

We tend to discuss teaching stuff a fair bit around here, and the other day, the question of "participation" as part of the grade (and also attendance as part of the grade) came up.

So now I'm wondering, do you folks grade "participation"? And if you do, what counts as "participation" for you? And how do you keep track in a meaningful way?

Do you count attendance in your grades?

Me? I don't count either. We're required to tell students our attendance policy, which suggests that the administration here thinks we count attendance as part of the grade. And indeed, since I read syllabi from across campus, I know lots of people do.

I don't, for a couple of reasons (and the same goes for attendance). On the practical side, it's a pain in the rear to keep track of. I mean, do you mark next to someone's name when they say something in class? What if they say something great, and someone else says something really non-contributive, do they count the same? To be honest, I do my best to facilitate discussions and such, but I can't do that even decently and try to keep track of who's saying what or how often.

I also think that what I really want in class is students who try and are cooperative and respectful with me and each other. But grading that is like grading people wiping their rears.

As far as attendance, I hate the gaming of who gets what excuse and why. The school gives official excused absences for music and sports travel, but I think if someone's kid is sick (or heck, if their dog is sick), then they've made a good decision to prioritize the kid over attending class.

The thing is, I rarely have poor participation or poor attendance in my classes. And when someone isn't attending, they usually have something serious happening and their term is screwed up anyway. And if someone doesn't participate, it may mean that they process verbally slowly, and they may write a really thoughtful paper, or come up with something cool for a project, or whatever. The important thing isn't saying something in class, but learning stuff. I do think that most people learn best when they learn in a variety of ways and by hearing other people learning and by trying out ideas and such and being wrong occasionally. For most people, then, being in a room with other people actively learning helps them learn. Of course, being in a private tutorial would likely be even better for some, but it's not financially realistic here.

And, knock on wood, I almost never have had a student be actively non-cooperative in class. I've had students who can't keep their mouths shut, yes, but when I ask people to, say, freewrite, most of them seem to be doing that. And when I ask them to work in groups, I haven't had anyone refuse.

So why make a rule about something that's so rare that it's not a problem?

I DO try to be really conscious every single day I teach of making that time valuable and worthwhile for everyone in the room. I want students to go away every single day glad that they came to class, glad that they learned something, glad that they've had the experience. I don't always succeed.

There may be regional issues. Students here in the midwest are pretty darned polite, and they're likely to be outwardly cooperative and polite, even if they think something's really stupid or irritating. They're likely to come to class because they're self-selected to be here and have been long trained that being in class is important.

Waht do you do? Why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

High Anxiety

The first weeks of a term are stressful for lots of students. It's especially stressful for students dealing with new stuff: a new area of study, a new instructor, a new level. The stress comes out in weird behavior. They aren't necessarily bad behaviors, but just a tad off in some way.

For example, in one class, we started looking at the syllabus. We're supposed to list and talk about the whole NWU goals thing, and I'm actually obedient enough to do so. So we've started, and a student's hand shoots up. I give her the go ahead to ask, and she says, "are we going to do X?" Where X is a campus activity towards the end of the semester. She's looking at the course calendar, and X is listed, because it's handy to know when X is. But that's it.

So why ask about that at that point? I guess she was bored by the goals stuff and skipped ahead, and was anxious and needed an immediate answer. I probably should have told her to wait until we got there.

I got an email this morning asking if instead of writing a paragraph about a word in a passage of lit, the student could write about a line. Writing about a line would be better, the student wrote. Except the assignment asks you to write about a word, so I probably think a word will be a good thing to write about. And I know it's just the student being anxious and wanting to do really well, but it's a paragraph that's going to work out to be one percent of the course grade. Try to do the actual assignment before asking to modify it, please.

I've also had the email about what they were supposed to do with this reading I'd asked them to do and given instructions about. (Read to short pieces, grade them as essays, and make some notes about why you'd give the grade you gave.) Sometimes students are too anxious to really hear stuff in class. That's okay the first day, because it's normal to be anxious and we teach the students we have. But it strikes me as inattentive.

Then there's the person who has to give the answer, but doesn't really know anything deeper than a word. What happened during this period (in a class on early modern lit, to get some context going)?

Student: Humanism!

Me: Great, what's humanism?

Student: Ummmm.

Do you not know what the word means but you use it as if it's the answer? Do you not expect a follow up question? (The same thing happens with "renaissance" and "reformation." Those are good words, but you need to know something about them if you're going to bring them up.)

And then there's me. You know how sometimes you say something mildly (or perhaps not so mildly) inappropriate and then dig yourself deeper? I did that. We were reading over the required statement about plagiarism, in which I say that I'll follow through with the NWU policy to an appropriate conclusion. That wasn't inappropriate. What was inappropriate was that I made a verbal aside that I thought drawing and quartering was an appropriate conclusion, but the university wouldn't go along with it. And then of course I had to explain what drawing and quartering were/are.

Monday, January 23, 2012


It's crazy, but after teaching in one way or another for 20+ years, I have the jitters this morning, the first day of classes.

I'm well-prepared. And yet, I have the jitters. I couldn't get to sleep well last night, and I got to the office early. And still, I have the jitters.

I know I'll calm down once I get into a class, but this is just silly.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Lean

My neighbor's dog is visiting for part of the weekend, and it's delightful. When I sit down, she sits next to me and does the lean thing. (Outside, when we greet, she also does the standing lean.) I figure the lean thing means that she's content to sit with me and be near. Small dogs do the lean, too, but it's way more convincing from a bigger dog. I imagine a mastiff would be pretty darned convincing, but a lab is perfectly fine.

When her own people appear, then of course I'm beneath notice, unless she's been with her own people and is greeting me. Or if her own people are coming back, she's happy to include me in her general happiness once she's expressed her total joy at their appearance for a few minutes.

She came out to scrape the drive with me this morning, and after a bit, she did the one foot up thing, so I put her inside. That was not good; it would have been far better if I'd kept the pack together and come inside, too. She let me know this by barking while I finished up the drive.

Then we went out to do the back deck, which is shaded in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. And within a very few minutes, she was doing the thing where dogs try to hold up four feet all at the same time, so I let her back in. She got right in her kennel thing, and looked out the window at me with grave disappointment, but no barking. (It's a sliding door window thing, and the kennel is there because it's bird tv sometimes, and she likes bird tv.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Building a Syllabus

I was talking with a colleague a bit back about building a syllabus. We have quite different approaches, and it interests me to think about the relative benefits of each approach.

In fact, though, I have a slightly different approach in my writing classes than in my lit classes.

In lit classes, I hand out a pretty obsessive syllabus with all the assignments on the calendar and also detailed in the syllabus. Someone could, I suppose, walk out on the first day and just hand in great assignments and do well in the class. (It's never happened; in fact, I tend to have good attendance in my classes. It probably helps that there are small assignments due relatively often in class.)

For example, if I'm having lit students write an assignment for a given day of class, the assignment is on the syllabus/calendar. So, if they're asked to write on a passage in a text, I've put down the line number information. (It's a pain in the rear to do it ahead, but better than trying to keep on top of things and do it later.)

For writing classes, I give the due dates and journal assignments on the syllabus, but don't give detailed information about the essay assignments until we're starting to work on a given essay.

I had done these differently for a while without thinking a lot about it, but when I did think about it, I thought that first year students would get too wound up with the research assignment too early, and not focus well on what we're working on to build up to it. Maybe that's not the best approach, though? (I could hand out all the essay assignments ahead. It would take a couple hours of prep each to revise from the last time, but I do that prep at some point anyway.)

In the lit classes, most students are at least second year students, and I think it helps them to know what's coming and to see the way the course is built. I don't think most of them think that much about course building, but they can see on the first day of class when each thing is due and plan ahead, and I know some students take that seriously.

My colleague, though, gave students a broad outline, but didn't give them assignments ahead because zie makes them up as the class goes. So, the class might know there's a short essay due in a month, but not exactly when, and not what.

I also have colleagues who give out modular calendars and assignments. For example, they'll hand out a three week calendar and assignments, and do that four or five times during a term. (Their opening syllabus will include the legal stuff, and the opening week or two.)

And I've seen a colleague's syllabus that basically gives the legal stuff and then zie gives assignments daily on the board, pretty much. (That's how most of my high school classes worked, as I recall.)

What works for you? For your students?

What are the benefits or drawbacks to different approaches for you? For your students?

Does the course level (first year, undergrad, senior seminar, grad) matter?

ps. I'm almost done with my syllabus stuff for the semester! Just a few passages to look up and some thinking about other reading for my senior seminar!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Build a Better Shakespeare Site

I got a polite email the other day from one of those Shakespeare sites, one of the ones that puts up stuff about Shakespeare. The site wanted me to link to it, and offered a reciprocal link.

But I'm not interested, and I think the site needs to rethink its strategies. Here, then, are a couple of ideas I have about making a better Shakespeare site. (I have more that I'd be willing to sell to someone who's actually interested in doing a really good Shakespeare site, but these are free.)

A bit of an overview: The Shakespeare sites like this one are dot com sites, trying to join the Shakespeare industry to make some money, mostly, I'm guessing, by hosting ads on the site and getting revenue that way. They're also selling text access in the form of e-texts.

I'm happy for people to make money on Shakespeare. I make my living partly off Shakespeare, after all.

There are two audiences for this sort of site, the random person who has an interest in Shakespeare and looks something up, and the far greater population of high school and college students who are taking a Shakespeare class. That's the audience you really want to get.

But you won't get that audience from a link here because mostly the people who read here are other academics and adults who aren't all that interested in Shakespeare per se, but are interested in me as friends or because we've built some sort of relationship. Those folks aren't going to click through. Nor am I interested in being linked on your site, because students aren't going to find this blog particularly interesting or helpful.

How could a Shakespeare site use me to get a real audience? The site needs to convince me to 1) list it on my syllabus as a place that will be good for students, and (more important) 2) get other Shakespeare faculty to do the same. That will mean that our ed students will also suggest it to their eventual co-teachers and students. Not surprisingly, I actually know lots of people who teach Shakespeare, and if a site were really good, I'd tell them so. (I've adopted course texts based on advice in comments here, and on advice from faculty friends. Other faculty do the same. And I've recommended texts to other faculty folks, too.)

How do you get me to put a Shakespeare site on my syllabus or share it with other Shakespeare faculty?

1) Cite your sources. Remember when Wikipedia started and everyone said, well, sometimes it's good, but they need to tell us where they're getting the information? And then Wikipedia articles started citing sources. And lo, they're much better now.

Shakespeare instructors at all levels want their students to be aware that there are sources for the information they read on the net. Further, we want students to read information that uses sources the way we want students to use sources. That is, your site should be a model for using sources well because that would help students learn to acknowledge their sources. Please model good citation practices.

2) Part of citing sources is giving information about where you're getting your texts. Are you giving students a text edited in the 19th century? (That's been a fairly typical way of avoiding copyright issues.) Are you using F or Q as your source for Lear? And whichever you use, are you making sure that students know and can learn why you've chosen what you've chosen?

3) When you put up texts, give Act, scene, and line numbers. This is especially important for e-texts. I'm already tired of having students scroll through e-texts looking for a passage, and they haven't been around that long.

I've got other ideas, but a site that did those things well would be a site that I'd recommend to students and other faculty. I'm guessing fellow bloggers will have other suggestions for building a better Shakespeare site.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Physical Therapy is Hard

I went for my second PT appointment yesterday. At the first one, he, the physical therapist mostly measured stuff, looked at me walk and do other stuff, and so on. He gave me an assignment to soak my foot in contrast baths. So I did that. It wasn't hard, though it took almost an hour a day.

This week's assignments are hard. I need to do stretching stuff and squatting stuff (partial squats), and they're the kind of thing that's hard for me. You know you see pictures of athletes holding huge weights on their shoulders doing deep squats? That's not me. But even these partial squats with no weights are hard for me.

Of course, I like my illusion that I'm decently fit given my age and all, but doing these assignments destroys that illusion pretty quickly. Deep down, I want the therapist to say, wow, you're doing great. But if I were doing great, I wouldn't need the help of a physical therapist, of course.

Like most people, I'm guessing, I like exercise that's easy, thus the bike. Yes, biking can be VERY hard, but I'm not riding up some Col in the Alps as fast as I can. In fact, I don't usually push myself really hard biking, especially during the winter.

So now I am going to get on my bike for a bit, and then do the stretchy stuff when I'm nice and warmed up. And then go give blood.

One interesting thing about yesterday's physical therapy visit: he had me warm up on a stationary bike (as opposed to writing letters on a stationery bike, I suppose) and although it had a huge and uncomfortable tractor seat which felt tilted forward so I was always leaning, but the hand rest was high so I wasn't in anything like my usual road position, it also had a watt thingy. I've never done anything (that I remember) with a watt thingy, so I mildly amused myself by playing with my watts. And while I am betting lying to myself I could add a lot of wattage if properly positioned, even on that terrible saddle I could do just over 100 watts pretty consistently for the four minute warmup.

Remember this ad? At the beginning, Andy Schleck claims he can get 899 watts, and then Alberto Contador says he can get 900. So that puts some perspective on my little 100 watts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not Doing Taxes

I loaded up the tax prep program today and went on line to the NWU site to get my tax info. I've gotten the tax stuff from everyone else, pretty much (I may be missing one, still, but I haven't checked on line yet). (Have I mentioned that I really like being able to check on line for tax forms? I do.)

But not at NWU, at least not yet. The site says they'll make W2s available on the 31st.

The thing is, I was trying to get my taxes done before the semester begins because once it does, taking hours to do taxes is way more difficult. And, of course, the first thing the tax program wants is my W2 information.

I tried looking at the Dec 1 pay stub thing, but the numbers don't seem to add up correctly, and the site says NOT to do that.

So I guess I'll wait. Grrrr.


And what are we going to do tomorrow without wikipedia available? I'm an unaware addict, I guess.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thank You. Plural

It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Or at least the day our government chooses to officially recognize him and his work.

I think of Dr. King as being a sort of synecdoche of what we should be honoring, one of many people who worked hard to change law and practices in the US.

I sometimes wonder if I'd been an adult in those days, would I have had the integrity to work for change. I doubt it, alas.

Growing up on the west coast, I didn't hear a lot of discussion about the civil rights movement in my family. The racism in my family was there, but not in the ways it's visible in photos from the south. Instead, I was taught to respect everyone, but. And that "but" meant that things weren't really considered equal. There's a lot in that little word.

But I know now that there were people in our community working hard for change there, too. And I thank them.

And there are people now who are working hard for change. And I thank them.

I work a little for change, but not as hard as I should. I should work harder. Racism is in the air we breathe, but that's not an excuse to work against it.

Today's a reminder for me. Maybe for you, too.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I've got the neighbor's dog visiting for a bit, so she took me out on a walk. Yesterday we went out to the green space behind my house and walked down to the watershed area. Today we went over by the undeveloped area on the other side of the hill.

It's not so undeveloped anymore. While I was away, developers put in a roadway coming from the far side in. They clear cut for it, and it's totally different.

We walked along the uncut part for a while, and then I saw a tent, so I whistled for the dog and turned around. I don't have any objection to someone camping out there (either some kids or someone who doesn't have a warmer place to be) but I also didn't want to bother or confront someone who might think I'm some sort of threat.

Since I've been home and started putting seed out again, I've seen a lot of juncoes about. Usually they migrate through, but they seem to have stuck around this year. And I've also seen a couple of goldfinches. Even in non-mating season plumage, they're reasonably easy for a novice birder such as myself to identify, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen them here in winter before. I'm guessing they've stuck around because it's been mild so far and/or because someone else fed during the fall.

It's wonderful to walk with a dog that really enjoys snow. She's all bouncy and runs around sticking her nose deep into where deer have walked (or something else smells good). I got her tired enough that she walked back to the house (and tried to go to her house nearby) but not so tired that she didn't run when I whistled for her to come to my house instead. (I live on a really quiet street, so no worries about a dog or kids around, at least during the very visible daylight.)

Friday, January 13, 2012


I checked my email this morning and there's a polite note in there from a student wanting to know about using ebooks. I'm fine with students using ebooks in class, so long as they've got a glossary, notes, line numbers (or page numbers) and are decent editions. The one who emailed indicated that s/he'd be using a computer to read the text and bring it to class.

But here's the question: when I allow open text/open note essay exams, should I allow the computer to be used?

Yes? Sure, the student has been using it all semester and has his/her notes on there!

No? The student has access to the web and that may give an unfair advantage, or worse, the student may plagiarize and it would be a pain in the rear to find plagiarism on a hand written exam. Worse, if the student wanted to type his/her exam, that would seem to invite cutting and pasting.


One of the other things in my inbox came from our teaching center place offering us a class in using something called "Let Me Learn." I don't know what that is, but it sounds opposed to what I usually use, which are books labeled clearly "You are NOT allowed to learn!"

I wonder if the makers have any idea of the different meanings of "let"?

Edited to add: In my effort not to be a closed-minded jerk, I went and found the web site and looked around. And I went through their introductory powerpoint, complete with floaty words (you know, words floating onto the screen) and appearing pictures (the ones that appear in a windmill pattern or whatever).

If someone makes a craptastic powerpoint, do I trust them to teach anything in a useful way? Nope, alas, I don't. You?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lunch Out?

I'm getting back in touch with my committee and departmental duties for the semester coming, and it looks like we're going to have a number of job candidates on campus in the first few weeks of the semester, and that means we're going to need to feed them.

We usually do a sign up thing for people to have lunch or dinner with candidates. One person is signed on as host. That person pays for the candidate's meal and hir own and then gets reimbursed by the department. Everyone else pays hir own way. And that gets expensive, especially if we're looking at two meals out a week for a couple of weeks. (I do eat out, but not usually twice a week; I almost always take my lunch to work. And when I eat out, it's likely to be with friends, so it's fun, not work.)

We haven't gotten a raise in about 8 years but we've had pay lowered in various ways, so I'm not feeling at all like I owe the state money eating out. (I'm not living high on the hog, so it's not like I won't make my mortgage payment if I pay to go out, but I've cut back in other ways.)

On the other hand, it's important to get to know candidates well enough to put in a word (though I'm often out of step with my department). Hiring new people is hugely important.

Mostly I just want to vent right now, because complaining about this to the chair or anyone else wouldn't be really productive. You're IT!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One Foot, Two Foot, Red Foot, Blue Foot

I went to the physical therapist yesterday for my appointment, and it seemed good. I felt like an idiot since the foot isn't hurting lately and such, but he looked and had me walk and measured and said that one foot is slightly swollen, and that the ankle has less movement than the other. And then there's balance stuff.

And he didn't seem to think I was an idiot or liar for wanting to bike or ski or run (if only we get more snow for skiing!). And he said I could do what I wanted for activity.

This week, the goal is to try to reduce the swelling, so he's having me do twice a day foot bath things. First I put the foot (well, I put both feet, because one is somehow more awkward) in a hot water bath for 3 minutes, and then I put it (them) in a cold water bath for a minute, and I repeat that for 20 or so minutes.

I couldn't tell it was swollen before, so I doubt I'll be able to see if it's less swollen. But can I say, that putting your foot in hot water right after cold is not fun, nor is putting your foot in cold water right after hot a real pleasure, though either by itself would be fine. And either is fine once the feet are "used" to it.

So now I've pedaled the bike inside for 40 minutes (watching The Tudors season 3, because that was what they had at the library, and I figure I'm not going to be too confused by the basic action even if I pick up during Jane Seymore's time), and now I'm off to soak my feet.

Help, Iarbas!

There's a character in Marlow's Dido, Queen of Carthage who's name is written Iarbas.

I'm hoping for help with pronunciation.

Wikipedia suggests from other sources "Hiarbas" as another spelling. So how would you say that?






(Before I looked up on the wikipedia thing, I was even considering the i for j substitution and wondering about Jarbas, which sounds too unfortunately like a certain Star Wars character.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Onofre visited the redwoods for the first time! And now I'm home safely, and getting back to being home.

Sunday, January 08, 2012


When I was growing up, and even now, my Mom would say that the thing she most couldn't stand was lying. She hated lying, and indeed, if she caught me out in a lie, I got punished for sure.

Now, there's a man here, and there's a story she LOVES about him. It has to do with making people think that he has cancer, though he doesn't, and thus things are done which convenience him greatly and inconvenience 100+ other people somewhat.

My Mom thinks his doing this is witty and wonderful, and doesn't seem to connect it at all to the lying she hates.

It's not like this is a story of some poor guy sticking it to "the man" because this guy is/was way more privileged than most.

I don't get it.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Good to Be There

Last year, I came out for an aunt's funeral. And this year, an uncle's partner has died, so I went with my Mom to the memorial. It was beautifully done, but very sad, as you'd expect.

I saw one of my cousins whom I haven't seen for years, yes years. I didn't recognize him at first, but then, he has his father's eyes, except different. My cousin has such sad eyes in some way I can't quite explain.

I wish I were around more to be able to just see and talk to my cousins more casually. I usually see them under sort of stressful or rushed circumstances, with lots of people around.

I also had lunch the other day with another cousin, one I got to know again last year at our aunt's service; we've gotten together several times now, and talked on the phone and it's been more than lovely getting to know him as adults.

Anyway, sad as it was, I was glad to be there today to give my uncle a bit of support. And I was glad to see so many other family members there, too.

We had a bit of a drive today, and I was reminded of how easy it can be to tell directions around here because you can see mountains and know which way they run. I never know that in the Northwoods.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Flyover Country is Layover Country

I'm taking a shuttle to another city to fly out to visit my Mom for a couple days.

I'm semi-cranky about it. I feel like I just got home from the UK, and then went to my brother's, and came home and now I'm heading out again. I think people who travel a lot must get better at it than I am, because all I want to do right now is hang out in my area, visit friends, and get some work done.

But it will also be good to visit my Mom and see old college friends and some family folks.

Taking the shuttle means I have to leave at 1:45 for a 5:15 flight. That flight at least leaves from a city with more than one flight a day to near where my Mom lives. Unfortunately, on the way back, there seemed to be no way to avoid a layover. So I'll leave at about noon and with the layover and the shuttle schedule, make it back home after 1am, if all goes well.

I hate the layover stuff.

When I interviewed for this job, I was living in a tiny town in the midwest. They said to make arrangements and let them know the flight schedule and stuff. Here's how it would have looked, if I recall correctly:

1) Drive an hour to a small city.
2) Fly from small city to big city.
3) Fly from big city to less big city.
4) Shuttle or fly from less big city to here.

Given that you have to give about an hour for security and stuff before you fly somewhere, it really adds up. So I looked at the roads, and it was a fairly straight shot on state roads, so I said I wanted to drive up. It saved the state a LOT of money (they reimbursed me for gas and mileage) and actually saved me several hours. And the hours I spent driving were FAR more pleasant than the same time would have been flying.

Unfortunately, it's a lot longer drive out to the coast.

Does it seem like there are fewer flights lately? I used to be able to get direct flights from the less big city to either of the airports close to my Mom (there's a third, actually, but it's less convenient).

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Small Downer

I wrote a while back about applying for a summer job on campus advising incoming students; today I got the word that I didn't get chosen. As I had just opened and read it, standing in the department office, my chair walked by and expressed her disappointment for me. It's nice to be supported, but I am disappointed for myself. I'll get over it. (I have to admit to fantasizing a bit about quitting my job the day before classes start. I wonder what would happen to my retirement account? Would the state hold onto it, or would they pay it out into an IRA of some sort, or would they pay out when I am really old enough to retire?)

A friend of mine who's teaching a mid-winter course got told today (the first day of classes) that since some students had dropped, the university is paying her a lot less money. She should have the opportunity then to say that she's not teaching the class, right? Because she signed up to teach it based on a given pay, and they're not paying her that, so she should have some recourse to say she's not willing to work for less. (That would put the students in a bind, of course.)

My moral for the new semester has dropped by 40 points.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Begin the Biking Year!

My bike's odometer (on the computer) is now at 7703.7 miles.

My goal for the year is to hit 9000 on the computer.

Last year I rode 460 miles. (I just looked at the journal thing, and I didn't ride at all in January or February. But as I recall, I did go skiing a fair bit. And I ran some. And I spent a lot of time walking around the UK! It's all good!)

It looks like my biggest year was 2009 with 2380 miles.

2011: 460 miles
2010: 1020 miles
2009: 2380 miles
2008: 1425 miles
2007: 2011 miles* (There may have been more miles, before I started using the bike journal thingy, but I seem to have started using it in mid-May, so probably not tons of miles.)

Bike journal total: 7296