Friday, August 30, 2013


I walked across campus a bit today, and there was a marked bustle about the place, with lots of young folks walking purposefully from here to there, or hanging out chatting with other young folks.

It's quite a change from the fairly quiet hallway, though there are lots of faculty around intensely prepping our classes.

One last weekend, coming up!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I was at a meeting the other day where the basketweavers brainstormed about ways to get the basketweaving majors to feel like part of a group based on the major.  It's a nice thing, to feel part of a group.  I get that. 

Folks suggested we have an evening once a week where faculty and students got together in a lounge to chat about books and read, since we all read anyway.

And there were suggestions that we should do programs elsewhere where we get together to talk about books.

And we could have a potluck or picnic.

And so on.

It's not that any of these ideas are bad in themselves, but that I've been around long enough to not want to promise that faculty will show up for things where I'll be one of two faculty to show up, and I sure didn't want to be there.

I see our students doing lots of good stuff, but I have my doubts that most of them have time to spend an hour or two a week (or whatever) hanging out in the lounge area.  A few will, of course. 

And, of course, I want to say, for every hour that someone suggests I should do an additional X, I'd like them to tell me what I can drop from my duties to make the time work out, since I already have a full time job, and I get tired, and so on.

I tried not to rain on the parades at the meeting though.  But gosh, I felt like a fogey.

I worked on my last syllabus and calendar yesterday, and now they're all in at least rough shape.  Today, I'll work on making them more coherent, set up the web-based learning system thingies, and maybe even put in all the copies to get done.

In other news, I got GREAT news on the small grant proposal I wrote in summer (funded!), finished one important task for the basketweavers committee.  I feel like I'm finally getting THAT to the point where it makes sense for now.  I still have stuff to do, but the stuff to do makes sense and can be done.  If that makes sense.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Not today, but August 28th, and it will be the 50th anniversary.

I remember being sort of expected to know about it, but not actually being taught about it.  The Smithosonian website now is doing a series on the history of the March.  For me, it's been really helpful being reminded how conflicted white folks were, and how worried.   Here's the program.  There's an oral history article.  And there's a great article on the logistics of getting food to everyone.

There's a video!

And finally, a link to related stuff at the Smithsonian.

Here in the Northwoods, I'm working on class and committee prep, and enduring meetings about assessment, endless assessment.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What I Learn at Meetings

I'm not on a search committee this year, but I'm on another committee, the Basketweavers' Committee.  And for that committee, I had to go to a special meeting, along with chairs and Basketweavers' Committee's people from across the university.  I've gone to this sort of meeting before, led by the same administrator.  This administrator was brand, spanking new to the job the last time I went to this meeting, and back then, kept saying stuff about how he was new and so and so wasn't his responsibility (except, of course, it was).  This time, he just did his job.

It's the other people at these meetings that I learn from. 

I learn from their questions that their departments are a whole lot of dysfunctional messiness compared to mine.

I learn that some people are much more focused on preparing for really rare problems than I am.

I learned that I can like and enjoy a colleague away from work, but would be driven nuts by that person if I had to be in department meetings with them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What White People Can Do

Here's a video linked on effbee.  (I couldn't get it to embed.  It's from "Upworthy" and entitled "Joy DeGruy: A trip to the Grocery Store.")

The story, in short, involves the speaker's sister-in-law, who looks very white, intervening when the speaker was being harassed at a grocery store (the clerk asked for additional ID and then did a search through the bad check book, neither of which she'd done when the white-appearing sister-in-law wrote her check a moment before).  The sister-in-law used her white privilege to question what was happening, and thus was able to get the white manager and other white customers to recognize that the harassment was wrong.

The caveat, of course, is that we white folks need to also be wary of thinking that we're "saving" a person of color.  We want to do the right thing in working against racism, but we don't want to fantasize that we're saving someone.  (I'm not getting this out right, but it's a common enough thing to fantasize, and discussed in anti-racism contexts.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meeting Introductions

It's yet another day of meetings.

At each of them, we tend to go around with each person introducing themselves.

And it occurs to me that the people who seem to feel most vulnerable spend the most time introducing themselves.  Not the people who have the least status, necessarily, but the people who feel the least status, if that makes sense?

A typical person, for example, might say, "I'm Bardiac and I teach deep water basketweaving in the underwater basketweaving department."

But someone who feels really vulnerable will refer to their degrees, their history with underwater basketweaving, and so on.

I feel sort of bad that these folks seem to feel so vulnerable.  I especially feel bad that they feel so vulnerable in the meeting where I think no one is likely to be condescending or snide about qualifications and such.  (My thinking may be wrong about that, of course.)  And I feel bad because the longer introduction made me think they felt more vulnerable.  (My read on that may be totally wrong, I suppose.  They may be staking a claim in this discussion that other people don't feel the need to stake, and feel totally not vulnerable in staking it.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Meeting

The meeting I was worried about (because I'm chair) was today.  And can I say this: I love my colleagues.

We have smart people.  We have hard working people.  And we have decent people.  And they are all the same people.  They step up and take responsibility.  They treat each other decently, and often with great kindness and generosity.

Remind me of this if I get bogged down later in the year, okay?

One of the best things about a meeting is after the meeting, when people hang out in each others' doorways, catching up from the summer, when people stand in the department office sharing tales about their kids, or swapping plans for committee work.

And now, I have a lot of work to do!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Read All the Rules

So, I'm chairing the Basketweavers' Committee this year, and a bit overwhelmed.  Maybe more than a bit overwhelmed.

I have learned one thing already: read all the rules.

Yes, I started reading the Basketweavers rulebook this afternoon, after chairing the first meeting of the Basketweavers' Steering Committee, and learned that I had done one thing slightly wrong, and hadn't realized we needed to do another thing.

Fortunately, these are both things that can be corrected for the Basketweavers' Committee meeting tomorrow, and I think the Steering folks are grateful that someone else is doing the job, and thus forgiving at this point.  I don't expect them to be forgiving of more serious lapses, or of lapses once I should reasonably have the hang of the job. 

But for now, it's okay.

And it's a good thing I read the rules.

A few years ago, I was on a flustercluck of an ad hoc committee.  It was one of those sorts of committees that almost never happens, so when it does, there's little institutional memory and no one really knows what's happening.  So there we depended on the knowledge of a deanling, and the deanling didn't know what zie was doing.

And then the person chairing the committee read the rules, brought everything to a stop, and basically we started over again, following the rules.  So it worked out, but it took longer than it would have if we'd all gone in having carefully read the rules.

You would think I'd have learned from that to read the rules well ahead, but you'd be wrong.

However, now I've read the rules, and I've got the rulebook in front of me, and I have a better idea of what needs to be done and how to do it.  And we do have some institutional memory, which is a great help.

I have a couple goals for every meeting I chair: get the work done and do not waste peoples' time. 

So I try to be prepared, try to have things ready for people (handouts color-coded and such), and try to keep things on track. 

I have to watch myself, though, and make sure I don't cut people off short because I'm too focused on keeping on track.  It's a balancing act I haven't perfected yet.

I've now spent a whole lot of time working on Basketweavers' stuff, and now it's time to turn to planning my classes, because they are coming soon!

Wish me luck, please!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Time for Lists

It's the first day of the contract period, and I need to start making a list and checking it twice.

In other news, we have some new colleagues, and I feel old.  On the other hand, I didn't go clubbing much when I was younger, so maybe I was always old.  (Except there was a short period of my life when I did go clubbing a bit.  And then I decided to go back to school.  And thus ended my clubbing in favor of long visits to libraries and reading lots.)

How can I already feel so overwhelmed?

It's like I don't even know where to begin the lists!

Time for tea, maybe?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Park to Park

Well, not quite.

But it was a long ride for me today, and I'm tuckered.  I did have a really great chocolate malt, though, and a beautiful, nearly flat ride from one state park almost to another (I turned back figuring that I would be tired enough without the extra three miles going all the way was likely to mean).

I got to my house, unloaded what had to be unloaded from the car, lied down on a couch and slept for almost an hour without moving (except for breathing), because too many of my body parts were too tired to move.  And when I woke, it took a good, long while to make myself move off the couch.

On top of yesterday's ride, I'm tuckered.  But in a good way that means I will be ready to go to work on class stuff tomorrow.

Our bike trails around here are beautiful.  This one was along a river for most of the way, quiet, and not near big roads.  So that was quite different than the beautiful but busy road yesterday, which I shared with a LOT of motorcycles out for a beautiful day (and road construction; road construction zones that have one lane of traffic going through at a time, in one direction or the other, aren't designed for cyclists who go so much slower than the 45 or so the cars go, which means that there were several times when I was biking along, looking at oncoming single lane traffic coming while I tried to get beyond the construction area.  Still, it was good!).

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I went out for a bike ride a ways away today, and on the way back, stopped by a local cidery.  They had tasting, like wine tasting (they also had wines), but of ciders.  I tasted two "still" ciders and three carbonated ciders.

One of the carbonated ciders they make with whatever apples they have around, so it tastes different with different pressings.  The other they make with Honeycrisps, and boy, is that good!  Very light and refreshing.

They also have tours, but you have to arrange ahead of time, and I didn't know.

Lovely ride (with a super yummy piece of lemon buttermilk pie along the way), lovely peaches (after), and lovely cider.  A good day all around.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Does it Seem, Always...

...that any time I need to ask an administrative type a specific question, they are on vacation or away?

When I wanted to ask for help with a grant proposal, and people had suggested that I ask administrator X to read over it for me, telling me that X was always happy to do so and very helpful, Administrator X was on vacation during the week preceding the grant deadline.

And today, when I wanted to ask a different administrator a question so I could finish up something for next week, at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon, there's no answer in that office.  My call rolled from the number I called to an another administrator's voicemail (same office). 

Want to bet that if these folks all expect me to be in my office to attend to whatever their concerns are at the exact moment they call?  You know they do.  I wonder what the folks over in the Fort would think if I left town the week before my students had a major paper due, so they couldn't ask for help? 

Obviously, I think administrators do work.  I just never seem to catch them at it when I really need help with something that's their bailiwick.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Our local arts paper has a back to school section where it lists 9 semesters of classes, with no logical connection I can see, other than that the author thinks they'd be cool classes.

And guess whose Chaucer class is listed in semester five (along with, oddly enough, an intro to college life class).  Still, it's fun to see a Chaucer class listed along with the "coolest, most interesting" classes. 

(I didn't recognize the writer's name, so zie wasn't in the class in the past few years, and no one else has taught it in say five years.  The paper does tend to be heavily staffed by our grads in their first year or two out of school, with a high turnover as people move on.  It's a neat paper for our area, too!)

My chair sent out a strong admonition the other day; zie said that the writing director and the chair had been getting many requests for overloads into our first year comp classes, and said that they'd resisted these requests and hoped we all would resist these requests, too, since they'd put huge work into getting the class sizes for first year comp made sane and reasonable, and didn't want any administrators deciding they could creep class sizes up.

I love my chair.  Zie is not perfect, but zie has ethics and a backbone.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tenured Radical on Campus Rape

You should read this, because she's smart!

Read the comments, too.  I think there's a huge problem in having whatever authorities take rape seriously, whether on campus or through the police and prosecutors. 

I read recently that the most dangerous time for a college woman is her first weekend on campus.  What a horrible thing, isn't it?

I wish I really had some idea how to change that.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Colonel Mustard, in the Front Yard, with a Scrubbrush

I went out early this morning to water some container plants, and was shocked to see what looked like bright yellow paint slashed across my neighbors' (X) garage door, front door, mailbox, and driveway.  I thought about calling them, but it was early, and I figured they'd notice it when they got up.  So I went back in and had my coffee.

And after a bit, another neighbor (Y) came by and asked if I had X's cell number, and had I seen.  Y said he'd checked, and it felt tacky still, but he doesn't have much sense of smell, so couldn't identify it.  We called X, and X said that one of the kid's friends had gotten egged recently, so it was probably something like that.  But they were away for the weekend.

Y and I agreed that we'd wash it off, after I took some pictures (just in case it was serious) and he had some breakfast with his family.  Then I put on shoes and went over, and as soon as I got near, I could smell the mustard.  Wow, that much mustard smells strong!  But that was good news, since mustard is pretty washable.

We started hosing and scrubbrushing, and another neighbor came and brought a big broom and used that to help wash away the driveway mustard.

Is mustard the new thing? 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

One Man Away

Historiann has a piece up on the NYT "Opting back in" article that's well worth reading.  Go read them both, if you haven't already.

When I was growing up, back in the bronze age, there was a saying that every woman was one man away from welfare.  I grew up pretty middle class and very white, and there was a definite expectation that married women would pretty much stay at home and raise a couple of kids, two being the preferred number, keep house, volunteer in the community, and so forth.

But even then, the women my Mother's age talked about lost opportunities, how to support oneself if/when a marriage fell apart or a husband died, and so on.  I remember a point in the 70s when my Mom made a point of getting a credit card in her name.  (This wasn't a source of conflict within my family, but the bank had to be convinced.)

I guess pondering this article, and thinking that these women didn't learn the lessons of my Mother's generation (the 60s and 70s adult women, say), I wonder:  how can we convince young women who have opportunities to value their careers more carefully?

No, that's not quite right.  I don't know how to put it, exactly.  Here's what I'm after:

How do we convince young folks that you can't "have it all" if you define "all" as a high powered, high status career and full time stay at home parenting?

You can, if you're darned lucky, have it all if you define "all" as meaningful work and meaningful family/social relationships.  But luck plays a huge part, doesn't it?  I mean, I don't think I ever felt my work was especially meaningful when I worked in retail.  And I doubt working a factory job would feel meaningful.  Maybe?

How do we convince young folks that women AND men can parent, and that actually making equitable relationships would be better?

How do we convince everyone that pay inequity hurts us all?  (There's a hint in some of the stories in the NYT article that women made/make less money, so it was "natural" to have the woman stay at home and the man work full time.  Ending pay inequity would help us see that as not "natural.")

I'm sort of despairing here because the women the article talks about were/are way privileged; they sound like they all had college educations, and they all went to college when feminism was important on college campuses.  They all had job opportunities beyond what most people have.

And yet they thought they could use the social structures that feminists in the 60s and 70s had critiqued as disempowering women without being subject to disempowerment.

Did they miss the most basic Marxist base/superstructure discussion?  (Yes, of course there are problems with that idea, but it seems at play here, doesn't it?  Reproduce the economic structure of the 1950s middle class household, and you reproduce the social structure, too.)

Maybe what I'm after is trying to convince young folks to rethink "all"?  Or the desire to "have" it all?

I need to go finish up my syllabi.  I'm teaching Paradise Lost this semester.  Talk about a great text to discuss what it means not to have "all," eh?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Changing Tides

You know how sometimes you recognize a change only after it's happened?  And then you say, wow, when did that happen?

I feel sort of like that.  I was looking for some stuff in my home office last night, and I looked at some of my books, and thought, I haven't read that in years, and I have no urge to read it.  Maybe I'll take it to the free shelf at school?  (We don't have a good used bookstore in the area, and these are outdated lit crit/theory sorts of books that I don't think would have enough resale value to make it worth loading them up and taking them to a bigger city.)

It's not that I don't buy books still, but I have far less of an urge to keep books I don't find useful.  Some books I find endlessly useful, even though they're as old as these that I don't find useful.  In grad school and for a long time thereafter, having the books was really important to me.  Now, maybe not all of them are.

I'm going to take a few of them into the free shelf every month or so.  Or not.  If it feels good after a couple of trips, then sure, I will.  If it doesn't, then I won't.

But really, do I need several books by Jane Gallop?  I haven't read them in years, and I think I can live without them.

Sunday, August 04, 2013


As of tomorrow, I have two weeks before the contract period begins; this time, more than most, the two weeks when we're under contract but classes haven't started yet will be filled with more meetings than usual.  That means I need to get my courses pretty much ready ahead of time.

And I need to make a list and decide what summer stuff I want to do before the contract period begins.

My list may include some more birding, more biking, some cleanup around the house, reading, and of course writing.  How about yours?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Usual Suspects

My school didn't pay moving costs when I moved here, and so far as I know, doesn't even now.  (Other schools in the system do, though.  I guess it's a school decision at some level?)  That means that sometimes new department members ask for moving in help.  Usually, someone in the department is in contact and then puts out a call for help on the department mailing list.  And sure enough, someone is coming into town tomorrow, and there's been a request for help.

I emailed back and said I'd help, and then yesterday got an email to a small group, giving us timing details.  So I know who else has offered to help.

It's pretty predictable, pretty much always the same people who come out to help with these things.

And the same people who offer to do practice interviews with adjuncts who are trying to move on, and so forth.

Now, I can totally understand when someone doesn't want to help people move furniture from a uhaul into an apartment or whatever.  There's a point when your back just isn't up to it.  I get that.

And I know we're all busy during the school year, so helping an adjunct with a practice interview isn't convenient.

I also know that I'm not one of the usual suspects who goes to hear the department music group play.  And I'm sure there are other things I just don't do that other people do.

I'm conflicted between being frustrated by the many people who never show up to help, and being happy that those of us who show up are fun to do stuff with.

And no, it's not that different from who's willing to volunteer to take on extra tasks, committee work, and so on.