Friday, January 31, 2014


I have one of those really enthusiastic students this semester.  On the one hand (and this is most important), student enthusiasm is wonderful.  It makes me happy.

On the other hand, sometimes, this student needs to share something, and it's way out from left field.

I think one of the signs of a great teacher is that s/he can take student comments from left field and 1)  make them useful to the class, 2) make the student feel that s/he contributed well, and 3) help educate the student to make more useful comments.

I'm just not there yet.  I try, but I don't seem to pull that off well.

Speaking of enthusiasm, I'm losing count of the number of people who've told me about the Star Wars/Shakespeare mashup, and told me that I really need to read it because I'll love it.

I haven't looked, but I admit I have some doubts.  First, the power of Shakespeare isn't just that he wrote early modern English.  That doesn't make verse automatically amazing and wonderful.  Trust me on this; there's a whole lot of not so amazing early modern verse.

And fake early modern English (which is what I imagine this is) probably isn't automatically amazing verse, either.  I'm totally willing to bet someone with good linguistic skills could write early modern English that I'd be completely fooled by, but that doesn't make it great verse.

So, I have my doubts that the fake Shakespearean verse is worth reading as verse, if that makes sense.  I mean, it's worth reading a retelling of an old story if it's written really well.  It's worth reading, say, Hero and Leander because Marlowe's a great poet and does something amazing with the old story.  But reading someone's new version, unless written with great skill, probably isn't worth it to me.

There are people who are writing powerful and amazing verse right now, and their work is thought-provoking, stunning, amazing, and sometimes beautiful, all things that great verse can be.  They are working hard on their verse, and crafting it, drafting and redrafting it. I'm willing to bet that if the author of the mashup were capable of writing verse with that power, that beauty, that depth (etc), s/he would already be a well-respected poet.  I'd rather spend the time I give to new writing to those poets' works.

(It's worth noting that I love and adore Chaucer Doth Tweet, but part of the fun is that the bits are very short, and don't take the attention that retelling a movie would.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Praise of Triple A

I've gone several years without needing to call Triple A, but I've called twice this month.  Once when my car died on the freeway earlier this month (I was able to get well off to the side, and the wrecker came and towed it to the dealership, which was able to fix it in a day), and yesterday, when I went out owling (we DID see a snowy owl, too!).  The owl flew as soon as we saw it, and I thought I'd do a U-turn (on a quiet road, with good visibility), but what I thought was an okay drive turned out to be not so okay, so I ended up stuck.

I have this to say: the sheriff officer was pleasant about it, and helpfully hung out with his flashing showing (helpful especially as it was getting to be late afternoon), the Triple A wrecker was pleasant and pulled us right out.  And best of all, the friend I'd gone birding with was, as usual, just wonderful company, and kind about my mistake. 

If you're going to drive off the road, do it as I did: at a very slow speed, not too far off, with soft stuff around, in cell phone reception, and with a good friend around.

More than one person stopped to check that we were okay and offer help, too, which I greatly appreciate.  It's really helpful to feel like people have your back even if they don't know you and you're a crazy birder.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Start

The semester began here yesterday, but since I don't have Tuesday classes this semester, today is my first day of classes.  Yesterday I finished off the syllabi and calendars, had copies made (have I said lately how much I love our office staff?  They're so good at taking care of us and making things run smoothly.  We instructors get credit, but they make things much better.)

My office is a mess.  I'm slowly bringing things in, and putting things in place, but since I hardly got to campus last week (my guest has a reputation for chewing things, and I didn't want to leave him too long alone).  Starting with a new office at the new semester is a double whammy.

And now, more prep work!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The E Text Question

As most semesters approach, I get several emailed questions asking (politely) if I'm okay with students using e texts in my classes.  This is especially common with Shakespeare.

I hate them using etexts for Shakespeare.

First, they want to use the totally free etexts, which seem based on 19th century editions (they're free because they're long out of copyright).  But they don't really get any information about the 19th century editions, which often come with no glossing, no line numbers, and editing choices that made sense in the 19th century, but which are very different from the choices editors make now.

So there's always that delay of a few seconds while the etext folks try to figure out where we are based on asking someone to read them a line.  (Thus, everyone with regular texts looks, finds the line, and then the etext people start doing their search thing.  And we hope that the line is the same.)

Second, I think they should write in their Shakespeare texts so that when they study, they see the notes they've written, and it reminds them how to read those lines or that scene.   Within their lifetimes, that same Shakespeare text should be pretty good, so if they choose to keep it, they may glance at it again, and the marginalia they've put in will help them remember stuff.  (I know not all students keep the texts, but I know some do.  English majors tend to like books.)  That makes Shakespeare (and other lit, for example) very different from, say, Genetics textbooks.   But notetaking in e readers looks clumsy, and the likelihood is that they won't have easy access to that text/reader in ten years.   They won't, I don't think, pick up the play and reread it the way folks pick up books on their shelves.  (And worse, their future dates won't be able to tell what they read by a glance at their shelves from the couch.)

How do you folks feel about e texts? 

Do non-English fields, say Chemistry, or Econ, need students to bring the text to class meetings?  (I honestly don't remember taking my texts to most classes, though I was a pretty obedient student.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Like, I'm willing to guess, most people on effbee, I'm "friends" with a variety of family members, both pretty darned liberal and pretty darned conservative.  And I think I've observed a difference in the sorts of items and links they share.

My more liberal family are more likely to share links to more liberal news sites such as the H*Post, and so forth, especially posts about income inequity, racism problems, bank fraud.  My more conservative family members are more likely to share links that are cautionary in nature, the sorts of ones that warn women not to get into their car if a van is parked next to it (that one was part of a list my cousin shared this morning), and so forth.

In both cases, a lot of the shared stuff says that the world is a very dangerous place.  But the source of the danger is different: in the liberal sites, the source of the danger is usually corporations, and sometimes policing agencies.  The danger's there, but hard to defend oneself against as an individual, and the danger isn't as overtly violent, but more systemic.  In the conservative sites, the source of the danger is a bad person who's aiming to violently attack, and especially to violently attack women.  The danger can be avoided or prevented, if just the woman (almost always) is careful and alert.  She can keep herself safe.

Have other people noticed something similar?

(And both sides share lots of cute animal pictures and rescue animal stuff.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

An Analogy

Let's imagine I have responsibility for taking care of a cycling team's bikes and kits.

And I have a staff of, say, ten people who work on various aspects, mechanical stuff, driving, laundry, and so on.

Of these ten, a couple talk a lot about how much they love the work, and how important it is that the bikes they take care of get the best care and treatment so that they're perfect for their riders.  And there's one person who theorizes about the relationship between bikes and riders and says that's central to hir existence.

Why is it that these are the people I have to constantly remind to check tire inflation?

Why is it that these are the people who forget to lube the chain after they wash the bike?  Or maybe they didn't bother to wash the bike yet, because they figured it could wait until the next race was about to start.

The people who don't wring their hands about riders training in wet ruining the carbon, who don't wring their hands about having the new brake pads and the best paint scheme, those are the people who show up on time with the bikes in perfect working order, tires properly inflated, chains beautiful, brakes cleaned and checked, shifting smooth and light.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Makes Me Wonder

All during my college and grad school years, I can't remember a single instructor leaving the room to go to the restroom.

I can't remember ever doing it myself.  (Not as a student nor as an instructor at whatever level.)

That's not to say it couldn't happen, or that there's anything wrong if it does, because sometimes you gotta go.

But it seems that we instructors plan ahead when we can.

So why is it that so many students seem to need to go?  I mean, I probably average 1-2 students a week who leave class to use the restroom.  Is it just the odds?  Or the occasional poor planning?

Monday, January 13, 2014


I'm dog sitting again, a different dog, for a different friend.

The dog's very sweet, and very needy. 

And I'm too willing to be distracted from the 30 or more things I really need to get done.  As in now.


Here's how much of a dog person I am.  I made a play date and brought my neighbor's dog (my guest, often) over, and the two played hard for about an hour.  They'd slowed down considerably after about 40 minutes; I'd brought them inside and they'd wrestled, and then they'd slowed down.  So I took them back outside and that reenergized them both.

They're both biggish and active dogs, with good outdoor coats, so they were doing that submarine in the snow thing, rolling around.  It must feel good on their coats.

And now my current guest dog is having a nap beside me, and I'm goofing off, but I need to stop and accomplish some real work today.  Now.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

New Digs, Moved In

I spent a large part of the day unpacking books and files, and I'm pretty much moved into the new office.

Here's what it looked like this morning, full of boxes.

Naturally, the boxes of books are pretty much in front of the bookcases.  (There's not much space anywhere else for them, though.)
 I went from having no office chair chosen a few weeks ago to having two in my office.  I have to try them both out for a bit and see which one I prefer.

I checked and there's no way to change the positions of the desks.  They're not really modular.
I got a filing cabinet!  YAY!

There are also chairs for office visitors, too.

And now, with books!  Mostly organized, too!  These shelves are taller, so my books have lots of space.  I only had to move shelves for the Hinman (it's the brick colored book that's really tall, a facsimile edition of Shakespeare's First Folio, prepared by Charleton Hinman).

While I was unpacking my books, a guy came in who said he's a photographer for the school, and that the deanling in charge of such things (whose name he used) wanted him to take pictures to document the moving in process.  So he asked if I would mind, and I let him take pictures.

So now there will probably be a publicity sort of picture of my office in the unpacking stages on our webpage or something.  My moment of fame.
Look ma, only one box left (with files).  The new file cabinets all require hanging files, and I didn't have hanging files, so I got some from the department, and then still had files left over when the department stock ran out.  I think we need more file hangers.
 There are no nametags yet, so I put a rainbow in mine.  At least I'll be able to find my door now.  (The numbering makes no sense at all in this building.  It's not just me being an idiot, either.  Everyone's confused.  Trust me, it's big, but we don't have 500 offices on my floor.)
The computer works, and there's already stuff piled on the filing cabinet, naturally.  I've asked for one of those computer keyboard drawer things.  Otherwise, I'm going to get wrist problems fast, I fear.

The hallways feel sort of endless.   This is looking left from my doorway.

When I was a kid, I had a nightmare that I was walking in a long hallway like this, and a man was at the other end, and shot me through the head, face on.  In my dream, I somehow was also watching a little hole appear in my head, and then watched me drop to the ground.  It was a strong enough image that I've never forgotten it.

I hope it wasn't some weird premonition.
And this is looking right from my doorway.  The double doors on the left are an electrical closet thing.

Not only are the halls endless, it's a rectangle and there's really no way to tell easily which hall you're in.

North seems to be odd numbers, and south even numbers, but I'm not sure about east and west.

This ends the tour of our new building, which probably needs a nickname.  Thoughts?

Making Snow

If you grew up in the upper Midwest, as a child you undoubtedly threw a pot of boiling water into the very cold air to see it turn to insta-vapor-snow.

If, like me, you grew up elsewhere, you might have to do that as an adult.  As I did this morning.

It worked!  Very cool. 

I thought about doing it yesterday, after talking with a friend about her kids doing it, and wanted to try it before it gets warm.  Apparently, we're due for some warming now.  Thank dog.

I've never built a snow man, nor have I done the frozen bubbles thing.  It's too cold for a snow man (supposedly, it works best with fresh, slightly damp snow), but I'm going to go buy bubble stuff today to try the bubbles before it gets too warm!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

And Now, the New Digs

I thought I'd share a few pictures of the new office.
That area on the lower right is the extent of file and drawers to the desk.  They plan these for people who don't keep nearly the stuff I do in desk drawer and file cabinets, don't they?

Still, look at how high the ceiling is!  And how bright the light through the window!
I have a bad clutter habit with horizontal surfaces.  Danger, danger!
Carpet.  And a big window above the door!  Light!  And bookshelves!

At almost every college/university I can think of, faculty office doors have windows, and faculty block them off so that people don't stare in while we're working.  (The exception was when I had an office in a defunct frat house; the offices were in old bedrooms, and the doors were solid.)

Here's the coat hanger.  Not wide enough to fit the regalia, which lives on a hanger.  Too bad they never thought to ask faculty folks about what we need, isn't it?

I went to the bathroom in the new building today, and weirdly, the way the toilet paper is set up, you have to reach down to about six inches off the ground to get at the paper.  All wrapped up for super cold weather (think of the stay pufft image), I could barely get at it.  Doh!

Sunday, January 05, 2014


I was sitting in my sun room, looking at something on the laptop, when I heard a thunk outside.  I looked, and there was a shrike (a northern shrike, almost certainly) on top of a bit of awkwardly waggling feather.  And then a moment later, the shrike picked up the junco (which was identifiable at that point) in its beak and flew off.

My first ever shrike, and holy cow, what a sighting!

I'm amazed at how apparently easily that shrike took off with the junco in its beak, since the junco is pretty big looking.  (That is, the junco looked almost half the size of the shrike.)  (Also, most raptors seem to carry prey in their talons, so the beak thing was interesting.)

And, of course, it adds meaning to my "bird feeding."

Saturday, January 04, 2014


"But he works/ed hard" (emphasis in text).

Said several times over the last week.

Friday, January 03, 2014


I have a few days to myself, and I've been getting stuff done in a relaxed way.  And somehow, more gets done when I feel a bit relaxed.

I've done banking sorts of chores, and tax prep sorts of chores, cleaned my home office, started one of my course calendars for spring semester, replied books in better ways, and so forth.  I've done some reading, too.

I'm about ready to do more work on the course calendar I've started, and probably soon ready to start the next one.

In the coming week, I start a four week series of sessions at the local library on early modern lyric poetry.  I've selected the poems, but have work to do prepping for the first week.

On Monday, I'll start an 8 week commitment to teaching little kids cross-country skiing.

And later in the week, a friend's dog will come to stay with me for a couple of weeks while my friend is away.

Meanwhile, I saw my first snowy owl on the 1st, which seems like a good way to start the year.  Just before dusk, I was driving along a backroad slowly, looking, and it flew across and landed in a field far away.  The light was dim, and it was FAR away, and it was cold, but I took a picture anyway.  And the picture is predictably blurry, but I think good enough to be pretty sure it's a snowy owl, anyway.

The owl is just to the left of the irrigator tire, which at least gives you an idea that it's a darned big bird.  And it's the right coloration.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

Because I seem to do this, here's the bike run down:  9734.7 on the odometer, which means I rode just over 700 miles this past year, a miserable number.  (726.9 to be more exact.)  I fell totally short of my goal for the biking year.

This year was a fairly reactive year, rather than a proactive year in many ways.  I hope to make 2014 more proactive.

More biking.

More skiing.

More good times.

Less crankiness.

Within a few days, I should be able to get they keys to the new building, and get started getting my office ready sometime after the 10th or so.

This past year, I spent pretty much all my time out of town visiting my Mom.  That's good, and all, but also not good.  I need to get away and do other things, too.