Monday, July 30, 2012

Slogging Through Summer

I have a ton of stuff to do, mostly little stuff, some big stuff.  It all needs to get done.  But it doesn't need to get done today.  Or tomorrow.  If it did, I could probably buckle down and get it done (well, some of it).

I need to make a list. 

I have a lot of difficulty procrastinating because I feel that thinks can wait, but really, they can't wait so long.  This is the story of my life.

I need to make a list.  Now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Overheard on Eff Bee

I have a complicated extended family, and one of the folks in there is, well, I'll call him Joe.

We're Eff Bee "friends."  And basically, I think he's a good guy.  He's a year or so out of high school, somewhat attending a community college and working part time.  He's had a tough life.  I don't underestimate that.  Living 2k miles distant, I don't know him well.

But sometimes, holy cow, sometimes he puts stuff up on Eff Bee and I want to smack him.

Recently, for example, he posted that he didn't know what the big deal about Sally Ride was, but that he felt bad for the men who hadn't gotten to go into space because she got special treatment.  And his cohort friends chimed in and said, yes, they agreed, who cared what gender someone was, there's no difference, but women and LGBT people shouldn't get preferential treatment and so on.

It's a good reminder to me because many of my students have similar attitudes: they think the world doesn't need feminism, doesn't need social justice, and that white men are hugely discriminated against. 

It's not all of them, of course, but a lot of them.  And, of course, my generation was as poor at realizing how important WWII was for their parents, and at had a habit of thinking we were the center of the world.

One interesting part is that they do take a lot of things for granted.  They may complain that LGBT folks get preferential treatment, but they don't use homophobic or derogatory language.   They may think that racism is over, but they don't use derogatory labels, and the avatars of Joe's friends suggest his is a more multi-racial crowd that the Eff Bee pictures of my friends would suggest about me.

But, then, he always assumes that when a woman gets a job, it's because a better qualified man didn't.  And there's this sense that men, because they're men, are always better qualified.  And the female friends don't seem to dispute that at all.  (But then, I'll acknowledge that I don't tend to comment to on Eff Bee in response to him.  It's complicated.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Advice for New Faculty

I've finished the scrapbook project, and put it in the mail.  So now I can see my desk again, and it's back to more usual stuff.

We have some new colleagues coming in this year, and I've been thinking about what I want from them, and of them.  This little list isn't meant to be complete, more just what I've thought of off the top of my head.  Please add!  And also, please think some about what new colleagues need from more experienced colleagues, and I'll post some thoughts on that soon, and ask for more help.

1.  Teach the students we have.  Yes, they probably aren't the same as the students you taught while in grad school.  They may not be much like the student you were.  But they're good folks, and they'll rise to your expectations.  Take some time to get to know them a bit, and you'll find they're good to work with.

2.  Do NOT sleep with, have sex with, or party with students.  Don't abuse students.

3.  Do your job.  Show up for classes.  Have a syllabus and assignments ready.  Prepare for meetings.  Take service responsibilities seriously.  (And if you haven't already, finish your damned dissertation.)

4.  Don't believe everything the other faculty folks tell you.  Mr. Voice of Experience?  He might just be a sexist, serial adulterer.  Ms. Crazy might be paranoid.  Or I might just tell you that she is, but it's really me.

5.  Keep your eyes open and ask questions.  We're mostly pretty willing to share assignments, help with bureaucratic stuff, and try to make your adjustment work.  Ask for help when you need it, rather than waiting and hoping problems will go away.

6.  Try to believe that we really do want to tenure you (if we've hired you to a TT position).  Hiring takes a huge amount of effort and energy, and we want everyone we hire to do great work and earn tenure.  We'll try to help you with that, too.

7.  Don't be a grad student; be a colleague.  It's fine to remember your undergrad or grad programs fondly, but we don't need to be reminded constantly that we aren't the big time programs those were.  And once you get to know us, you might find that we aren't actually schmucks, but hard-working, reasonably smart, decent colleagues.

8.  Take a deep breath when you read your evaluations, both from students and from colleagues.  Your yearly evaluation is important, and worth reading carefully.  It's supposed to let you know what you're doing well, what you're not doing as well, and how to improve.  Use it.  (And yes, read the faculty handbook and ask questions, too.)  (Corollary:  When you're writing up your self-assessment stuff, realize that you're probably writing to an audience that doesn't know your specialty well.  Use your rhetorical skills to help your colleagues understand what a good job you're doing.)

What would you like to add?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not Quite Christmas

I'm trying to make a scrapbook for my Mom about the vacation we took.  It's taking forever, and NOT my favorite thing.  In fact, by the time I finish, I will have spent almost as much time doing the book as we spent away.  That's a slight exagerration, but only slight.

First, there was the choosing out pictures to have printed.

Then, I had to put the pictures in order.  I put them in little envelopes by day/activity, so that I wouldn't have to deal with a whole stack at a time.  But I also had to write the picture number on the back of each one, so that I could figure them out, and that took a LOT of time.  For some reason, the aiming store photo service gave them to me way out of order.

Then I emailed our former admin assistant, who's an avid scrapbooker, and also kind enough that I knew she'd advise me.  She did way more than that!  She met me at a local crafts shop and showed me the basics, and helped me choose out how to get started.   Thank goodness for her help!

Here are things laid out, almost ready to go.  And until I finish, I won't be able to use my desk for anything else much.  Stupid me.

I spent from about 2-8 Sunday afternoon/evening working on it.  And a couple of hours yesterday.  And now I've just started day four of the trip.  That means two and a half FULL days to go.

I'd have been fine with doing the first couple of pages and being done.  But at this point, I want it to be done more than I want to be doing it, so it's not that fun.  I have (I think) 29 pages done, and had to buy more supplies today so that I have enough plastic sleeves to put the rest in.

If I can power through for a few hours over the next couple of days, it will get done.  Please.

Visiting Canyons, Pt 3

We left the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and went to the main part of Zion.  The big difference in this part of Zion compared with what we saw at Bryce and the Grand Canyon is that we were in the canyon itself, rather than above on a rim looking down.  That's a huge difference.  (Though we did go to the upper part of the Grand Canyon on a raft.)

My Mom and I took a shuttle around, and the next morning went up to the end of the shuttle ride, and did the first part of the "Riverside Walk."  (The second part, the part where you walk in the river and go through the narrows, we didn't do.)

We did get to see a Mule Deer buck in velvet!  Isn't he beautiful?  (I took this with a 400mm zoom, so he's not quite as close as he may seem.)

Where the Riverside Trail ends and the narrows begin, folks have done some stone/rock piling.  Way cool!

I saw my first black-headed grosbeak!

Then we went on to Weeping Rock, which is this overhang place where the aquifer basically seeps out of the rocks, making it slightly damp all the time.  Since it was drizzling lightly at this point, it was actually dryer under the weeping rock than not.

And that ends my visit to Zion Canyon.

I highly recommend it!  And Bryce!  And the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!

If you've got a hankering to go on a guided tour of places, I'd recommend looking into National Geographic and/or Backroads.  Both were great to deal with.

Later, on to other stuff!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Visiting Canyons, Pt 3

We got off the raft at Lee's Ferry, and then took our shuttle to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, arriving late at night.  In the morning, we went to breakfast at the Lodge, where I was stunned to see a view over the canyon.  Having arrived late in the dark, I was totally unaware of how close we were to the rim, but we were right there.  Our cabin wasn't right on the rim, but a very short (2 minute, maybe) walk.  And what a view!

I'm sure you've all seen pictures, but they really don't get anywhere close to the real thing. 

When I first moved from the west to the midwest, I drove across country, partly on a southern route. And I went for a short visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful. But the North Rim is way better.

We spent two nights at the Grand Canyon, walked on the easy trails, took a shuttle ride to some of the viewing areas.  Just, wow.

This was our home away from home at the Grand Canyon.  These cabins are just lovely!  They're pretty basic, but have hot showers and comfortable beds, and great food not far away at the main lodge.

Tomorrow, on to Zion!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Visiting Canyons, Pt 2

Having spent most of a day at Bryce, we had a picnic, and then went to the Glen Canyon Dam, where we got on a rather large raft (I guess that's relative: for a river, it felt large; on the ocean, it would have felt tiny) and went (mostly motoring) down to Lee's Ferry.

Still, it's the Colorado River!

Along the way we stopped and were able to take a short walk to see some petroglyphs.

And then there were some desert bighorn sheep!

At this point, a moment of amusement.  When we saw the bighorn, they were far away.  Now, all along, I'd been carrying my 100-400 zoom, with some technology that's supposed to keep things a tad steadier.  That meant that my bag was way heavier than it appeared, to the extent that when someone helped me get in or out of the shuttle by holding my bag, they noticed and made jokes about bricks and such.  With the bighorn in sight, I pulled out my big lens and did a relatively quick change, and voila, I got a bunch of sheep pictures.  And everyone knew the secret of my heavy day pack.  (I also shared around my binoculars, of course.  But they aren't nearly as heavy.)

Not long after we saw the sheep, we saw some horses.  The guide person said that they were semi-feral horses, with brands, that belonged to folks on the Navajo reservation.  (Does everyone have the Stones' song in their head now?  I do!)

And now you can see what a difference the lens makes:

I like this picture a lot, mostly because I really like that it somehow caught that left front hoof coming up, with water.

And finally, here's a Great Blue Heron.

And that was our trip on the river.  At Lee's Ferry, we got off and got on our shuttles.  Other folks, though, get on there, and take either five day or longer float trips.  I'm told the five day trip folks have to hike up out of the canyon at the end, which seems like a LONG walk!  We didn't, though.  On the other hand, we also didn't get any rapids or white water.  On the other hand, I was able to take my big lens along and out.

Next time: The North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

In case you're wondering, we went on a trip with the National Geographic organization, which was run through a company called Backroads.  And I have to say, the guides and geologist were all fantastic.  I went with my Mother, who's 81.  When we signed up, the information we got said that we needed to be able to walk at least 3 miles.  But I couldn't convince my Mom that walking a mile in a half hour on the treadmill at her retirement place was enough.  So she wasn't able to keep up, and we ended up going on shorter walks, or slightly different, easier walks, rather than on some of the planned hikes.  But in every case, the guides were super helpful in giving us some alternatives that worked for her without holding back the other guests.  I totally recommend either the National Geographic tour thing or Backroads.

(My Mom was funny: she mentioned to me that she'd never realized people went hiking and biking to the extent that the guides and other guests do.  Imagine, someone who goes out and does athletic stuff for fun.  If only she'd known someone who does that?)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Visiting Canyons, Pt 1

I went for vacation on a trip to Bryce, The Grand Canyon, and Zion, and it was good, very, very good.  Amazing, in fact.

First, the smell.  OMG, the wonderful smell of western fir and ponderosa pine forests.  Forests here just don't smell quite the same, but that western smell fills my heart.

We started at the northern part of Zion, at Kolob Canyon, and took a walk along the path, and saw our first wildlife, a beautiful snake.  I decided not to pet it.  I like to respect wildlife like that.
You can see rain off in the distance at the right of the picture.

From there, we went to Bryce, which, did you know, isn't actually a canyon?  That's what I learned.

Nonetheless, sunrise the next morning was spectacular!

I took some pictures into the sun, but it would be better to get the sun rising behind you, I think. 

The views are just so stunning, aren't they?

Bryce is known for something called "hoodoos" which are these towery geologic formations that happen when water freezes and melts and refreezes a lot during winter, forcing tiny cracks apart with the amazing strength of that ice formation.  At least, that's what we were told.  They don't form (so I'm told) where the water is just frozen all winter, but only where there's freezing and melting again and again.

That was our first and second days.  We spent the nights in cabins at Bryce Lodge, and they were perfection.  They're comfortable, have indoor plumbing, and are a great size for a couple people to share.

I'll post photos from the third day before long.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I'm back!  I didn't fall off the edge of the earth (or even a cliff), but had a really good time, saw some beautiful sights, and didn't end up in jail.  All of these are good.

Now I have some professional responsibilities which will keep me busy for a few days, but then, I'll sort through my pictures and start telling you all about my trip to Bryce, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Zion!

Friday, July 06, 2012

I Should Be Packing

I'm going on a trip with my Mom, leaving tomorrow, meeting up in a southwestern city known more for excess and consumption than anything else, taking a shuttle to another city, and then in the morning, going on a bus tour of Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.  It should be good.  And I should be packing.

Instead, I'm futzing around, looking at my sunflower, playing with aperture sizes, and trying to figure out what to take.

The suggested packing list says to bring hiking boots.  I have a pair that I got in the UK, but they're bulky.  And I'm wondering how much I'm likely to need hiking boots on a trip with my 80+ year old mother. 

If I don't take the hiking boots, then I take a pair of supportive sneakers and a pair of really light runners (for the day we're supposed to plan on being wet; they suggested closed toe sandals, but I'd have to go out and get those, and these I have).  If I take hiking boots, do I leave behind the sneakers?  Hiking boots are bulky, and I don't want to end up carrying them in my backpack a lot.

Then there's the base layer question.  I love my long johns.  But when I think of putting on long johns for a cool morning, and then ending up at 90+ degrees, I'm going to need to take them off.  But they're always under all the other layers.  At least they're light and not bulky!

Anyway, I'll be afk for a bit.

Meanwhile, does anyone know if sunflowers are self pollinating (or can be pollinated by bees or whatever from their own pollen)?

I planted some sunflowers from a mixed packet of heritage seeds, and I'm hoping I can collect some for next year to replant.  (I've done that with regular sunflowers before, but since I wasn't here to harvest in the fall, I didn't have my own seeds to start this year, so had to buy some.)  This is the only one flowering so far, so it either has to pollinate itself or the seeds won't be fertile.  And I'm not sure all the others are the same species to pollinate one another.  (Are there many species of sunflowers, or mostly different cultivars?  So many questions!  Much more fun to futz around with the sunflower than to get packed!)

And as a side note: I can't quite really believe that a year ago I was getting ready to go spend a month in London and more in the UK.  My mind can't quite wrap around it somehow. 

I've been watching the tour, and when they show pictures, say of Paris, I think, hey, I was there.  And I was, but wow, was I really?  Really?

I've been doing this a lot this spring, especially when I see pictures on TV of castles or cathedrals or whatever, and think, hey, I WAS there. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Class Status and Racism

I posted last week about the discussion group, and I felt like posting again this evening.  As you may recall, we're discussion class issues, in conjunction with reading bell hooks' book Where We Stand: Class Matters.  Tonight was an interesting discussion.

A person of color came this time, who hasn't been in the group before (I think she was out of town).  It changed the dynamics a lot.  (There's another person of color who's come the whole time, but most of us are white women.)

So, this first timer was talking about how she doesn't get proper class respect from some staff people on campus.

Now, as a white woman, I've learned that I don't experience racism as a person of color does, and I also know that as a middle class person, I'm probably missing a lot of what happens in terms of class disrespect towards other people, too.   So when a person of color tells me s/he's experienced racism, I listen, and I don't respond by saying it didn't happen or that they didn't interpret what happened accurately.  And I try to do the same with class disrespect, too.

But it struck me how very much she was arguing that staff folks should respect her for her class status, and how she talked about their interactions.  She said, for example, that when she "orders" someone to do something, they should do it and not question it.  I'm interested in how she used "orders," here, because it's not something I usually hear someone say.  I don't "order" my students to do X or Y, nor do I "order" the handyman, the roofers, staff people or whatever.  I tend to use "ask."  And when I ask a staff person, I don't tend to be upset if s/he asks a question about it or makes a suggestion to do something a different way.

Another white woman was also talking about how irritated she was that someone didn't show her proper respect as a tenure track person and thought she was an adjunct.

I tried to ask something (carefully worded) about how we were being defensive about our class positions, and that the book really wanted us to question the ways we uphold status and privilege through class, but I didn't get it out right and/or it didn't get taken up.

Another white colleague was trying to ask something that was ignored, so I did the feminist strategy of looking intently at her and (when a pause came up) asking her to repeat her question because I hadn't quite understood what she was getting at.  And then I understood, and it was a really good question, though I didn't have an answer, but then the first timer mis-recognized it (in the, is it Lacanian or Derridean sense, of meaningful mis-recognizing?) and went elsewhere with it.

It's so difficult, sometimes, to think about what was happening. 

I'm guessing the first timer thinks I'm rude, racist, whatever for going back and asking the white colleague to repeat.

Maybe she thinks I'm rude, racist, whatever because I wasn't paying her proper attention?

I'd like to think I'm not racist, or even rude, but I breathe racism along with the rest of the culture, and I don't want to lie to myself about that.

I can't tease out how much of my response to the first timer has to do with me being racist or with me reacting to her personality.

I'm also trying to think about how I expect my own class status to be respected.  For example, the adjunct thing.  Why should I be treated more respectfully than another person based on my job?  based on my degree?  Maybe respect isn't the word?  I mean, on some level, we should all be treating everyone with respect.  But if my job is to do X, and their job is to do Y, then asking for Y shouldn't be a sign of disrespect or a power play.   And my doing X isn't a sign of disrespect.

And yet, I can't say there's no racism on this campus (I've heard stories from every person of color I know here), or that the first timer hasn't experienced racism and disrespect.  But I also felt a sense of disrespect based on class coming from the first timer towards the staff people.   I don't know that one disrespect trumps the other, or outweighs it.

Unfortunately, while I've enjoyed talking with the group about bell hooks' book, and I've enjoyed much of the reading, I don't have a sense the hooks has as many strategies for changing things as I'd like.  I want strategies for change, still.  But not too hard, because I also want to protect my privilege, of course.  :|

Monday, July 02, 2012

Discomfort and Crankiness

I'm working with someone on a big project, but am not the primary author at all.  Still, as we pass the project along to reviewers, I'm feeling a distinct lack of confidence.  I've given the primary author feedback, but I'm really not happy with what's been forwarded to the reviewers. 

It's an odd position, this, for me.  I don't have the power to totally change the project, but I feel like our reviewers will lose respect for me based on what's being turned in.  I have reasons for letting it go forward while less than satisfied, but I also have real doubts about my judgment about letting it go forward.

In reality, it doesn't have to be "perfect" (and it won't be), just "good enough."  But it's on the edge of even "good enough" for me, and I'm uncomfortable about the whole thing.

And I'm cranky that I've put in so much time this summer on something I'm not satisfied with.  I wish I could say "never again," but there are so many complicating factors that I really don't have any control over.