Sunday, December 16, 2018

Week 30/66: Pittsburgh and Fallingwater

What a lovely time I had visiting my friend.  It's hard to pick out the highlights, but here I go.

In order:

There's something I'd never heard of, but should have, called the Carnegie International.  It's an amazing program/exhibit/collection of very contemporary art, put on every few years.  This was the 57th edition.

Much of the art is intellectually challenging, as art should be.  Some is incredibly beautiful, some quirky and odd, and some utterly fascinating.  One of my favorite "pieces" was in this big marble hall, a very classical looking room.  The floor in the central area of the hall was covered in sort of rivers/islands of rusted machinery (very three dimensional), coal, and these white crystal looking small rocks (about less than an inch around?).  I don't often think about how beautiful rusted machinery is, but the colors were beautiful, and the shapes, and it made me think.  And the coal was surprisingly sparkly, as were the white rocks.

Another fascinating piece was a sort of neon outlined room with an 8 hour (I think) video loop running on a big screen TV in front of four chairs.  We just got drawn in by the whimsical weirdness of the videos.  The artist appears in the videos, in widely varied costumes, and weirdness ensues.  For example, in one setting, the artist was dressed as Mr. Rogers on the Neighborhood set, with the puppets and stuff singing "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music.

That was GREAT!  Having a really good art museum within a short drive is something I really miss living here in the NorthWoods.

Maybe even better, though, and probably my highlight:  one of my cousins' daughters (A) is studying ballet at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater.  Because I live so far away from pretty much everyone else in the family, I hardly know any of my cousins' kids, most of whom I've seen only as little kids.  But A took the time to come have dinner with my friend and I, and it was just the best.  A is lovely: she's kind and thoughtful, fun, interested and interesting, and just really cool in the best way.

And the next evening, we went to see The Nutcracker with A dancing!  I must admit, I've never been to the ballet before, so I'm a novice.  But it was stunningly beautiful, almost overwhelmingly beautiful.  I'm so happy I went.  (And it was even more special that A was dancing, of course.)

The two slightly lesser lights of my visit would be the Pittsburgh Glass Center, which was really wonderful.  If I lived closer, I'd LOVE to take some of their classes.  What a great community resource!

We also went to visit the Contemporary Craft Center.  Another fabulous community resource.  They had a really interesting and challenging show of quite politically smart works using found objects.  So good!  It's heartening to know there are artists working in places like Pittsburgh to make challenging, wonderful art!

The last highlight of my trip was a visit to Fallingwater.  Yes, THAT Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house.  I hadn't realized it was built for a Pittsburgh department store owner and his family, and so a fairly easy drive out of Pittsburgh.  (For some reason, I thought it was in New York State...)

I've been to several pretty darned fancy houses in my time, but Fallingwater is special.  It's much smaller than most fancy houses I've taken tours of, more intimate, and also beautiful in a different way.  It's not massively beautiful, the way, say Burghley House or Versailles are.  In a way, it reminded me of the Gaudi houses, Casa Battlo say.  They feel like real people could live in them, and actually live and enjoy them.  Fallingwater's smaller than Casa Battlo (not being an apartment building), and so even more intimate.

And now, it's time to really buckle down on the sabbatical work.  The goal for the next week is to post a couple times, and focus better on that.

Meanwhile, Happy Holidays for those who are celebrating the season!

Monday, December 03, 2018

Week 29/66: Off to Visit a Friend

I haven't been accomplishing what I should be, but I'm headed out on a long-planned trip to visit a friend. 

When I get back, I need to really buckle down.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Week 26: Birding Interlude

I'm keeping busy, reading lots, doing some writing, and I went to the Southwest for my niece's recital and got to do a little birding.  (My Sister-in-Law and Mother were along, so it really was minimal birding.)

Anyway, a couple of pictures!

I think this is a Lesser Goldfinch.  I'm not sure, though.

A Verdin!  You can't really see in this picture, but there's a bit of reddish at the shoulder tip of the wing.  Very exciting!

Great Egret!

Abert's Towhee!

The Lesser Goldfinch, Verdin, and Abert's Towhee were all lifers, as were some American Avocets (no good picture, alas).  Other good for me birds include Black-Necked Stilt, Ring-Necked Ducks.

I also think, pretty sure but not absolutely, that I saw a White-Winged Dove and a Gila Woodpecker.


In other news, I'm now working on the first Vivaldi piece in Suzuki Book 4, the Concerto in A Minor, first movement.  It's so beautiful and fun to work on, but so hard, too!

I posted back here about turning in my promotion portfolio.  I've now received the call from my department colleagues that they voted to promote me, so that's good news.

I got my teaching assignments (tentative) for next year; I asked for, and got, Chaucer.  And I immediately had my first anxiety dream, well over a year in advance.  Ugh.

Finally, the elections turned out pretty well here in the Northwoods.  There's a sliver of hope now that at least things won't get worse this coming year.

Back to work!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Week 23/66: Stress and Despair

I tried to post on the Top Left Quadrant site, but seem to be unable.  Or something.  But I was able to post with a different browser.

I'm stressing a lot about election stuff and social violence.  I've spent some time canvassing with union folks, so I'm trying to contribute.  But I'm so worried that we'll lose and it will be even worse, and I'll feel even worse because I put energy in.  I saw this article, "'They are so sick of losing': hopes of Wisconsin left tempered by past" today in The Guardian and it speaks to my stress so clearly.

What's new?  (This is mostly what I wrote at the TLQ site.)
1.  I dropped out of the orchestra.  I was stressing a lot because I felt so inadequate about my playing ability.  But I talked to the leader and hope to rejoin next fall.  I've been playing about two and a half years (with about six months lapse when I was away), so another year should see significant improvement if I keep practicing.  I have been progressing in lessons.

2.  I dropped the revisions and just started a new paper, the one I've been really thinking about.  I've written several pages, first draft quality, but pixels on paper!

3.  I joined a gym, though I haven't gone enough.

New goals: 
1.  Work on paper.
2.  Get garden prepped for winter.
3.  Keep practicing violin.
4.  Get regular exercise.

In other news: a friend gave me a plant today, and I'm more frustrated than makes sense.  I feel like I can't take care of it (I have no good light in winter without a massive light project, and will be away, etc.)  I'm looking to rehouse it... and somehow, I'm resentful that my friend gave it to me.  She said she likes giving people plants but doesn't get them for herself because they're hard and die.  But she doesn't realize that may be a good reason not to get them for someone who doesn't already have plants around...  ahh, well, I need to get over this.

I guess I'm feeling like giving someone a house plant is a bit like giving them a puppy.  Yay, puppies!  But if you want one, you're probably doing that on your own (assuming you're an adult and such).  And if you don't, having one to take care of is a responsibility.  Of course, a plant is not the responsibility that a puppy is, but still, it's a life and you shouldn't just dump it.  And this one, my friend says, can't be put outside.

Am I totally wrong about this?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Week 21/66: The Rain it Raineth Every Day

At least that's the way it feels around here.  There's a constant drizzle punctuated by some serious downpours.  I don't feel like going out or doing anything much.

So, I joined a gym.  I've been thinking about it a while, and talked to some friends, especially one who goes to a gym near me (as does his wife) and likes it.  The thing is, I'm at an age where I really need to use weights/resistance to retain bone density, and I'm just not doing anything in the rain, and I can no longer fool myself that I'm going to.

My goal for now is to work a bit on strength and also on cardio so that I'll enjoy cross-country skiing more than I otherwise would.

In real sabbatical news: I turned in my promotion portfolio.  It should be fine, but it needed to be done, and was taking up a huge amount of psychic energy in procrastination.  So now I'm back to work on revision stuffs.

Since coming back from out west, when I'd practice, I'd pretty quickly get a nasty twinge in my left shoulder.  I was able to practice maybe 10-15 minutes without pain, and then it wasn't fun at all.  I talked to my violin teacher about it (after several stupid weeks), and she suggested some changes in terms of position, chin rest, and shoulder rest.  (She says I've been pinching up with my shoulder.)  So just after my last post, I went to a string instrument shop in a nearby small city and spent some time with the proprietor, a retired nurse, who had my try out some things.  My teacher had suggested a chin rest that fits more over the bottom center of the violin, so I now have one of those, and a different shoulder rest.  The proprietor told me to be sure to work up slowly (I have to reteach my shoulder not to pinch up).

The upshot is, I'm now practicing without twingy pain, though my shoulder gets tired (but not for half an hour or so).  Hopefully between working out, working up, and the new position, things will be better all around.

Happily, I've been able to practice more (two sessions on most days), and have been practicing the orchestra pieces, so hopefully I'll be less lost at orchestra rehearsal tomorrow.  I also have a violin lesson tomorrow.

One more violin thing: I feel a little overwhelmed and dismayed.  There are three newish skills to work on (shifting, double-stops, and vibrato; and shifting involves both the actual moving of the hand AND learning to play in different positions).  And then there's basic bow work and fingering work, and my lesson pieces and orchestra pieces.

Each of the skills involves different work, mostly in technique books.  (I practice playing in different positions by playing Suzuki Book 1 pieces in second and third position.)  Vibrato I work on least, though I should step that up (right now, maybe a minute or two each session).  And each of the skills is important, but not immediately for my orchestra, for example.  (The shifting and double-stops are both

Anyway, at this point, it feels like I'm working on each of these things, but not really improving at all, moving from one exercise to another (or even re-doing the same exercise).  I hope this is one of those things where I'm going to feel a noticeable jump in improvement.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Master Class

The other day, I sat in on a violin master class.  I've sat in on a few different master classes for musicians these past couple of years, so if you haven't, here's my basic understanding of what happens.

First, the musician giving the class sits either on stage or in the audience, depending.  Then a student performs a piece they've prepared.  And then the musician giving the class works on whatever areas or skills they think will be most useful to the student.   As they work together, the master also usually talks to the group as a whole, making suggestions about practice skills and strategies and such.

Other students watch and take notes.

The other day, the master violinist worked with two students, each for about 40-45 minutes (including the initial playing of the piece).

In all the master classes I've seen now (maybe four or five), the teachers have been incredibly kind and rigorous at the same time; they've all seemed to take the students' work seriously, and have focused in on really specific areas for further work.  And in all the master classes I've seen, the students have been amazingly brave and worked hard to get what the teacher was working on.  (I say "brave" because I think it takes real bravery to expose your work and then stand there and absorb critical help, even the kindliest critical help.)

I gather this is a long tradition and happens all over the world in classical music settings (maybe in other music settings, too, I don't know).

Imagine if writers were paid to take that time with students?  Not in a class of 20, but one on one for half an hour a week?

Of course, only music students who are pretty serious get chosen for master classes, so it's not everyone.  Two of the violin students on campus got to work with this superb violinist, and there are maybe 15 or 20 violinists studying here?


It's fascinating to watch a master class, by the way.  For the first student, the master worked on their hand frame for a bit, which seems daunting.  (The hand frame is the way you hold your left hand to do fingerings and such while the right hand holds the bow.  If you have a good hand frame, you can shift positions and do vibrato and stuff.  I'm working on the very basic level myself, but the idea of trying to change my hand frame in a lesson is daunting.  It seems like the sort of thing you work with a teacher on for a long time and practice at even longer.)

She also worked on intonation a lot with both students.  Intonation on the violin is shockingly hard because if you put your finger down just a tiny bit differently than you should, you're flat or sharp.

And she worked on starting a note with confidence.  There aren't any frets on a violin keyboard, so when you put your finger down to start, say on a D above the open string D, you have to know and be confident that your finger placement will be absolutely perfect.  And it's one thing for that D, which is played with the third finger in first position; if you've really got your hand frame, then your body knows that placement and you can bow with confidence.

But if you switch to, say, fourth position and play a higher note, then it's a lot harder, I gather (I'm not there yet).  You REALLY have to have practiced it so much that your hand frame in fourth position is as confident as in first position, and that's a whole lot of practice.

(If you look at my violin, or the violins of lots of "younger" players, we have tape across at several places to help us know where to put our fingers initially.  But once students develop a really good ear and hand frame, the tapes go away.  I'm not there yet.  At any rate, no one seems to use tapes for above first position.)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Week 20/66: Some Things Got Done

I didn't finish the revision, but I wrote the narrative stuff for my promotion application.  It took a while, but wasn't as horrid as I'd feared, primarily because I had the big "Review After Tenure" last year and as I reported, it went very well.  So this should be fine.  I wrote the stuff about what I've done since the last review, and will include stuff from the last review (since promotion isn't just a "what have you done this year" thing).

I did one thing that should be really good, and was also awarded a "Feminist Service Award" last spring, which looks good.

I'm going to a concert that should be very good this evening, and I had a good violin practice today, so I'm feeling a bit more hopeful about the world.

The big goal for this week is to finish the revision so I can submit it and add it to the promotion narrative.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Intermezzo: I Joined an Orchestra

When I took up the violin, I hoped to one day be able to play in a community orchestra, to make music with other folks.  A few weeks ago, my violin teacher told me about a community orchestra for "intermediate" string players, and gave me the email address for the leader.  So I emailed, and tonight was the first rehearsal.

Let's just say, I have a WHOLE lot of practice to do.  There are retired music teachers and such in there, as well as a bunch of health professions folks, and pretty much everyone plays way better than I do.  But everyone was friendly and encouraging, especially the conductor/organizer.

The conductor/organizer (let's call her Maestra, shall we?) runs a cello studio in town, and does the intermediate string orchestra as part of her professional work.  There's a nominal fee for the "semester" which probably covers the purchase and copying of parts and a stipend for her.

The music was hard for me, especially sight reading, but I think with a lot of practice, I'll be able to do my part to make it.  The overall level is higher than I'd thought, but that will be nice as I improve.  Meanwhile, we have to skip next week because there's a concert by the grown up community orchestra, so I have two weeks to work on the music.

I was thinking of it as a middle school level orchestra, but I'm guessing it's more high school level, except everyone was so friendly that it felt really good even though I wasn't keeping up musically.


I had a good lesson today.  I'm progressing on my piece; plenty still to work on, but at least my practice showed.  And my teacher started me on one small part of the next piece, so I'm pretty excited.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Week 19/66: Revision Work

I'm making progress on my revision work, which is a good thing, because I have to get it submitted this week.  Wish me luck.

Last weekend, I went camping with a friend.  Let's just say, it was a bit frustrating.  For some reason, they really wanted to visit all these swimming "holes" they'd used as a kid.  Okay, I can definitely see visiting a swimming hole, taking a nice swim.  Good.  But then they wanted to visit another.  And another.

In the end, I was irritated at myself that I'd gone camping with them.  I'd have been happy with staying at our campsite and spending a relaxed morning rather than visiting swimming holes here and there.  But yes, each was beautiful.

I think it's maybe because I'm at a point where I don't feel a strong attachment to any place from my childhood, really.  None are "mine" in any sense, and I've come to terms with not going back.  I think my friend, though, if having some family issues, and going back to places that made them happy as a kid is a way of dealing.

I went paddle boarding today, and did better than I've done before.  I was able to do it long enough that my arms as well as my legs started getting tired.

And that's the week that was.  This week, I need to work on those revisions and just get them done.  Period.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Week 17/66: Making Progress

I made some progress on various fronts this week, all of which are good.  And yesterday I had a fabulous day.  It started at the farmers' market, where I found Zestar apples, the best eating apples around, even a bit better than Honeycrisp.  Then I went for a morning kayak with some friends, where we saw some Bald Eagles and had a lovely time.  I went home, did laundry and mowed, then showered, practiced violin, and went out for pizza with several friends/colleagues, some of whom are fairly new, and so they got a chance to know different people around campus who are nice and friendly, and vice versa.  There was ice cream!  All in all, a pretty great day.

Progress on the article front for revision, but nowhere near done yet.

Finished reading a good book that a friend lent me and returned it.

Worked my way back up to near the end of Book 3 in Suzuki, started doing technique exercises again, and had a really helpful lesson.  I'd been frustrated by my tone, and my teacher helped me see that it was a bow position issue, and gave me some exercises to work on to help me.  She's SO good at seeing things and then giving me ways to work on them.  And also kind and encouraging.

In more exciting news, there's an orchestra in town of intermediate adult string players!  I emailed, and it looks like my skills are about there, so I'm going to go.  It starts near the end of September.  I'm excited to get to play with a group.  We'll probably sound like a so-so middle school orchestra, but it should be fun anyway, and I probably won't be so far the worst that it's plainly embarrassing.

I also used my new paddle board for the second time, for about 20 minutes.  My legs shake the whole time, so it's really tiring.  But I'm getting a tiny bit more stable each time.  If you figure the cost of something, and then divide by the times you've used it, you begin to get an idea of if you should have just rented something or not.  It's sort of a mind game: with all the accoutrements, including an electric air pump, I'm now at $400 a ride, about.  So I've got a ways to go...

This coming week:  I MAY try to go north for a day or two to see the Aurora Borealis.

The big push is to make progress on the revision.

I also want to catch myself back up on Suzuki, and work on my priorities:  bowing/tone, shifting, double stops, Suzuki, and vibrato.  In that order.  It's not like any of those is really totally independent, because in order to make progress in Suzuki, I'll need to have shifting and double stops working pretty well.  And in order to do anything, bowing/tone has to be solid at my level.  Vibrato just needs a little work every day, I think, and it will come.

I'll try to get out on the paddle board at least once, and get some exercise every day.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Week 16/66: Getting Busy

The semester starts for everyone else this week, and for me, it's time to really buckle down.

The big goal this week is to revise an essay I should have revised ages ago, and send it out.  In order to revise the essay, I'm rereading the text first, and then will work on revisions.  I also need to make sure I have a good handle on the journal's submission requirements.

Second on the list is to email the head of our promotions committee and let him know I'm planning to go up for promotion.

Today, I went to the city Labor Day gathering.  It was disappointingly sparsely attended, alas.  But I did have a nice chat with a local party volunteer, and am planning to get involved in volunteering this fall since I have more time than ever before during an election.

On Saturday, I volunteered for a local voter registration thing on campus, but they didn't realize that people can't register until they've lived somewhere for ten days, so talking to students moving into the dorms didn't seem effective.  But then I realized that they weren't really so much interested in registering voters, but more in getting students to put their names on a list to be reminded to vote and so forth.  I recognize the importance of such lists, but since I was more interested in registering folks to vote, I was less than thrilled.

And that's the week!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Week 14/66: The Year Begins... Again

I've returned from my adventure, about which I'll be blogging in the next few days, if only so I can enjoy seeing the pictures later.  I had a fabulous time, but because of the fire, didn't actually go to Yosemite.  Another time, I hope!

On Monday, the day after I got home, I started coming down with a nasty cold.  Ugh.  I've been coughing and sneezing, and barely sleeping.  Today, fortunately, is way better, especially about the coughing.

There are now 52 weeks, one full year, to my sabbatical.  I feel like I've wasted a bunch of time, but I had a great vacation, and cleared my mind, and should be ready to get back to work.  (It would help if my brain weren't clouded by coughing and sneezing stuffs...).

Here's a quick rundown of the trip:

21 July: left home.  Drove west.

23 July: arrived at Donner State Park for camping.  My site was beautiful, and not too far from the water.

24 July: a semi-relative (in that blended family, not really a relation, but family nonetheless) came and we went white water rafting.  I probably hadn't seen this person, E, since I was maybe 10 and she was 18 or so.  Back then, she was a scarily cool teenager, and I was a not-cool kid.  Now, she's just plain cool, and fun, and a pleasure to know better.  In the morning, before rafting, I rode my bike around the lake.  Glorious.  I did more of that, too.

26 July: I drove down to Sacramento to stay with my cousin, M.  The problem with living so far away is that I haven't gotten to spend a good long time just chatting with certain cousins since we're both adults.  We corrected that, and M is more fabulous as an adult than she was as a kid, and she was a pretty amazing kid.  We visited a used bookstore, REI, rode bikes, and talked, read, and talked some more.

29 July: On Sunday, M and I met her sister, A, and went to Big Basin State Park to backpack.  M had made arrangements when she figured out how bad the air at Yosemite was, and that the authorities were evacuating parts of the Park (though not the part where we were planning to be).  She also texted our aunt (who's more my generation than not), K, to invite her to camp with us.  K texted back to say that she couldn't come Sunday, but would "run in" on Monday morning and hike out with us.

A is as wonderful an adult as M, though quite different.  We drove together and had a lovely chat along the way.  Our hike in (the long way) was about 8 miles, and boy was I tired.  My tuna dinner was GREAT in that eating outside when you're really hungry way.

30 July: True to her word, badass K met up with us at our campsite in the morning and hiked out with us.  It was so good to get to talk with her, too!

When she got there, A pulled a birthday cake out of her pack, lit it, and we celebrated my birthday.  I was almost in tears because it was so unexpected and kind.  (She'd backpacked it in!)

After hiking out, we went to have dinner with my Mom, and that, too, was very good.

31 July: Rosie the Riveter National Park.

1 August:  My Mom and I drove over to Santa Cruz and then up the coast to Pescadero, where we stopped to visit the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, then up to Half Moon Bay and Princeton.

2 August: We had lunch with my Aunts, four sisters who are just lovely.

3 August: San Juan Bautista

4 August: New Almaden Quicksilver Mine

5 August: Up to Pt Reyes, and then to Fort Bragg

6 August: North to Richardson Grove State Park, the Avenue of the Giants, with a detour to Shelter Cove (because on my map it looks like you can go north, but you really can't without much more serious four wheel drive than my Subaru.  Or so said the locals hanging at the volunteer fire department).  Ended the day in Eureka.

7 August: Drove through Redwood National and State Parks, and up to Coos Bay.

8 August: Drove up to Tillamook before heading inland to Portland, where we had dinner with my second cousin, D, his wife and son.  So long since I've seen D!

9 August: North on 5 to Seattle Area, where we had a snack with old friends of my Moms, and I left her with them before continuing up to Bellingham to see my friend C and her husband, D.

10 August: with C, went to Mt. Baker for a short hike.

11 August: with C, went to a local fair

12 August: with C, went kayaking, then decided to try out paddle boarding.  So fun!

13 August: started back home, spent the night in Idaho

14-15 August: Glacier National Park!

16 August: Drove to Yellowstone and camped with thousands of loud people.

17 August: Drove through parts of Yellowstone, then out through the Lamar Valley, and out the North East Gate.  Then I took 212, the Beartooth highway, east.  Holy cow, it's beautiful but sort of scary (WAY scarier than Highway 1!).  Drove all the way to Miles City.

18 August: Visited TR National Park, and drove across North Dakota to Fergus Falls.

19 August: Home!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Week 10/66: Bardiac's Big Adventure Begins

I'm mostly packed, and head out tomorrow morning.

Keep your fingers tightly crossed that they somehow put out the fire in CA near Yosemite.  I hope to be camping in Yosemite in about a week.  (Though, even I realize that the fire isn't ALL about me.)

I may be able to post in a week or two.  Or not.  Hopefully, I'll be back home in about 3 weeks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Week 9/66: A Good Week

I got my restart.  I did some hiking, some research/writing, and finished the mid-summer weeding of the garden.

My trip is slowly coming together.  I still need to find out if I need to get/bring certain stuff.  My cousins are used to living in a city where they can get pretty much anything, and I'm not.  So they're less antsy about this than I am.

My Mom's up in the air: she keeps telling me to do the planning, but the planning depends on a firm date from her for getting together with my aunts, and that hasn't happened yet.

I need to start making a list and checking it twice!  And hiking!  And practicing!  And writing!

In birding news:  I've had a male Eastern Towhee on the deck the past couple of mornings.  And this morning, there were four Rose-Breasted Grosbeak fledglings, doing the goofy fledgling stuff.  The oriole fledglings seem to have mostly moved on; I haven't seen them yesterday or today (I may have just missed them), and the House Finch fledglings are doing their own thing and not begging any more.

The local Robin has been eating more seed this year than I've ever noticed before.

I've come to the realization, not at all unexpected, than emotionally, I could retire right now and never be bored and keep plenty busy with all sorts of fun.  Financially, not so much.  Still, it's good to feel excited about sabbatical in this way, and enjoying summer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Week 8/66: I need a restart

What a bust of a week last week and so far this week.

There's the Yosemite camping trip in the works, and I've decided to drive out to CA, visit family, friends, and then friends in Seattle.  So I've told folks.

Midweek, I got a call from my Mom, asking me to bring out a small sewing machine which has been living at my Brother's house.  She says my Brother or Sister-in-Law will bring it to me (it's a three hour drive one way).  Okay, I say.  That will work.

On Monday, I decided, well, there's about ten days until I leave, I'd better check when they're bringing the sewing machine.  So I called.  And my Sister-in-Law tells me they're flying out on Wednesday for most of a week.  If I wait for them to get back, then there's four days for them to bring it.  Except, it's been 8 years since they've come to my house, so it's not like they just hop in the car and come.  They could, but they don't.  So I have a feeling things will go like this:  they'll get back, and then something will come up, and then it won't be convenient for them to come, and then the day before I'm planning to leave, I'll need to drive three hours each way to pick it up or feel like I've let my Mom down and couldn't do this one thing, blah blah.

So I said I'd go yesterday, Tuesday, and pick it up.  My Sister-in-Law sounded a bit frustrated with me, like she could tell that I didn't believe they'd bring it.  And truth is, I didn't.  And I wanted to not be making the trip the day before I started three long driving days.

I sent a text to a friend at the two thirds there point, and arranged to have dinner.

I ended up leaving later than I planned, which was fine, and had a nice (late) lunch with my sister in law, and a lovely chat.  (Frustration not evident on either side, so that's good.  Family well and happy, so that's excellent.)

I went on a hike Sunday, and it was harder for five miles than it should have been.  So I was planning to go on Tuesday.  And then I thought, well, I'll just get up early on Wednesday.  But of course, after dinner with my friend, I was hopped up on caffeine for the drive home, got home at midnight, and didn't get to sleep for hours.  So woke up late.

And there's the day, half gone.  So I need to restart.

1.  I need to plan my trip a bit, because my Mom wants to drive up into northern CA, where she hasn't been for years, but it's so beautiful, and it will be lovely.  But that means I'm not going to camp my way up.  Still, it will be beautiful and lovely, and we should probably make reservations or at least plans at a hotel or two.

I DID manage to make white water rafting reservations for the Truckee river with someone I barely know from Facebook but feel like we'll really enjoy visiting.  My Dad has a half-brother who's younger than I am, and who I grew up playing with.  And this is that uncle's half-sister.  So sort of related.  I remember her as this ultra-cool 16 or 18 year old when we were 9 or 10 or so.  At those ages, 7 or 8 years are huge.  At our ages, not at all.  And on Facebook, and in chats, I really like her and think she sounds like a good human being who's also smart and fun.

And now, I'm heading off to the office to WRITE.  Period.  For at least two hours.  Period.

Sabbatical begins anew NOW.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Week 7/66: Time Slides By

I'm late posting this week's post because I'm feeling a bit bad that I didn't get much done last week.

I did finish a draft of the assessment document I said I'd do.  Now the Program Director wants to give me feedback.  And that probably means a second draft.  Ugh.  Do not want.

I didn't write any of my sabbatical project, get enough exercise, or practice enough in the past week.

On the other hand, this week I went for a good bike ride, got my bike tuned up and picked it up, and finished about half of a little side project for a friend's birthday.

Okay, for this week:

Finish the little side project
Go on a longish hike with my pack
Do at least a bit of writing

The biggest news from last week is that I made an executive decision to drive out to California for the backpacking adventure in late July.  I booked 3 nights at a state campground at Donner Pass, one of the best places in the world, so that I can get a bit of time at altitude before the backpacking.

And I've made arrangements to visit another friend and some family.  So that's a good adventure in the offing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Idea Holder: Unessay

I've been reading a bit about "unessay"s and am listing a couple of links so that I can find them again when next fall comes around.

The Junto re unessay (American History)

Emily Clark on unessay

Ryan Cordell on unessay

Reading Deja Vu

I started reading Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves the other day, and I had the weird feeling that I've read or seen representations of some of the action before.  For example, there's a cafeteria scene where the narrator gets arrested because, basically, she reacted when someone else started trashing the place.

It feels like I've seen that in a movie or something.  I wonder if someone told me about it, or I heard something from it on NPR or something?

I don't remember reading the novel.  It's not that old, so it's not something I read 20 years ago and don't quite remember.


Monday, June 25, 2018

Week 6/66: Conversations

I went to a "town hall" meeting held by the Republican senator from my state, and it was literally held in a town hall of a town that's got maybe 800 people.  The senator's "people" had communicated only (as they later said) with local(ish) people who had called or written the senator's office, and told only those people about the meeting.

So one of my friends was told, and spread the news.  But then someone else told her it was a different time.  So there was much confusion and denial from his staffers that 1) there was any meeting at all, 2) that they couldn't give any information, and 3) yes, there's a meeting, but it's an hour earlier than had been announced.

I called the local TV channel news office and they hadn't heard anything.

But my friend drove, and someone else came, too, and I went, and we drove for an hour.

We were all (as we talked about later) expecting this to be a meeting with lots of MAGA hats and much conservative cheering.  My friend had been told that Republican politicians holding town meetings weren't allowing anyone to record them, and their staffers were temporarily confiscating phones and such, so she had three devices to record, one of which you couldn't tell was recording because it looked like it's off.  Just in case.

She's also heard that Republican politicians were holding town halls that were mostly just talking points and pre-screened questions.

Anyway, we got there early, and sat in the second row.  And gradually, before the senator arrived, the room filled.  There were folks wearing dairy cooperative shirts, and one MAGA hat worn by a very young man, there was a Native American veteran, and some other men in veteran's gear (like hats saying "Navy Vet" or whatever).  And there were some folks wearing shirts with the name of a local Democratic politician.  And the Democratic politician himself.

Introductions happened, and the local town council folks were introduced, a couple politicians at different levels, and then the senator.  And if he thought this was going to be a really friendly crowd, he was wrong.  And since we thought that, so were we.

The questions started at the immigration problem (as in, children being incarcerated and people seeking asylum being treated badly), and went from there to Social Security, health care, the farm bill (with a heavy dose of "don't mess with people who need SNAP, just help dairy farmers make a living"), and to NRA funding (he pretended to be unaware that the NRA ever donated money to him, but also refused to refrain from accepting further NRA money.  It was interesting, and plenty of people called him out quite forcefully when he BSed (about how people come to be undocumented in the US, mostly NOT by crossing the border illegally as he asserted).

The senator answered questions for over an hour, and there was ONE that seemed sympathetic, and I was surprised at that one.  (The man who identified as a Native American veteran wanted to use gambling casino tax revenues to build the wall.)

My take aways: a lot of folks came from my small city.  And we had a lot in common with the folks who came from the dairy cooperative and who seemed to come from local small communities.  We're all concerned about Social Security.  We're all concerned about children being incarcerated when their parents seek asylum or try to enter the country without documentation (or overstay visas).  We all want farmers to be able to make a living.

No one recited any slogans, and everyone listened respectfully to each other.

I was impressed that the senator seemed smart and knowledgeable, though we're very opposed ideologically.

I read somewhere that most people really do think what they're doing is right and reasonable.  (The context was about spies.)  And that seemed pretty true of this crowd.  We disagreed on some fundamental solutions to problems, and on the sorts of things we see as problems, but I got the feeling that people were reasonably well informed (and some more than that, and most more than me) and really did want to solve the problems they think are important.

And yet, look at how my state votes.  It's hard to reconcile the two: what I saw at the meeting, and the way this state votes.


I had coffee and a long conversation with a new colleague.  I'm sorry to say, they seem very young and not very interesting.  (Those two don't necessarily go together, of course.)  I'm feeling a little "old guard" about them, I'm afraid.  I hope they end up being wonderful, though.


I did more biking this week and no hiking.  There was weather, and there was not feeling well, and there was keeping busy.

So much to do, and the time is rushing by!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Week 5/66: Starting to Write

This week, thanks to Top Left Quadrant, I started writing an essay.  I'd put outlining the essay as one of my goals, and so felt just enough pressure to actually do it.  And then yesterday, I went to the office to work on a different project, but didn't have the information I needed, so decided to just start writing the essay instead.  So I did.  I didn't write much, and it's not very good, but it's actually there, in pixels and everything.

I also found more little research to do, and was able to do that.

The other project's been frustrating.  It's an assessment report, and I need actual assessment numbers and such.  But I didn't really have those.  Now I have significantly more of them, and that's really going to be useful.

I haven't hiked since my big hike.  It's been either really hot (heat index of 112F) or raining.  I'm hoping to get out this afternoon, at least to walk around a local park.  The rains have been really bad in some areas, including where I took my last hike, and it doesn't seem fun to go and slog through mud with a pack, not when I'm mostly trying to get into basic shape.

I finished reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.  I had high hopes for it, but I was a little disappointed that it ended up being more of a straight "love overcomes" sort of narrative.  I did enjoy the blogging stuff, though.  But the whole thing seemed more dated than a lot of books, perhaps because blogging seems dated these days?  Are there still blogs making loads of money?  No doubt, but I don't seem them mentioned as much.  Anyone else?

I started Helen Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni, which seems fun so far.  I hope it doesn't end up being another "love overcomes" thing with the two of them getting together.

I recently listened to a CD of a book called The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce.  It seemed oddly familiar.  And then I read a review of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (or maybe I read of review of The Music Shop?), which I'd also listened to, and there it was, the same basic "male curmudgeon who runs a small shop devoted to a specialized artistic thing unexpectedly finds true love."  I bet there's a similar novel where the main character runs an art supply shop somewhere and also needs to find true love.  (If anyone recognizes where I probably read this review, please do let me know.)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Doing Math

I wrote before about trying to sort out the union local's books.  I don't know what the previous treasurer was doing, but it apparently wasn't math.  At least not math recognizable to me.

Back when I wrote this post, I thought I'd sorted everything out.  I was wrong.  So very wrong.

We send a certain amount of money per member to the state and to the national organizations.  That's the basics.

So, what you do is multiply the number of members, by some numbers for affiliation, insurance, and so forth, and then you send each a check.  The money comes out of the draw that the union pulls from members' bank, credit card, or whatever account each month (with the member's permission, of course).

Seems easy enough, doesn't it.  So, in May, I had help from the state union person who takes care of us, and got us caught up, I thought.  She was incredibly helpful and walked me through filling out the forms.  So I sent off money to the state office and to the national office.

And then I got back this confusing bundle of paperwork from the national office saying we owed more then $500.  But what they'd sent was copies of what I'd sent to catch up, with no explanation.  I called on Monday, and then called again fairly early this morning.  And the accountant I talked to was sort of helpful (and sort of not) and emailed me more useful paperwork.  And then I spent the morning going over my colleague's (the previous treasurer's) math, and lo and behold, we underpaid each month for about a year, and we do, indeed, owe over $500.  It took me most of a morning to check all his math.  (I wrote up an Excel spread sheet to make it easier, but just figuring out what he was writing on the papers that I had copies of was a struggle for me.)

But now I've written that check to make up, and written the May check (things always run about a month behind, which is probably part of the difficulty he had... maybe?), and will mail them off this afternoon.

I bet it's frustrating for real accountants to deal with people like my colleague and I who are trying to keep books but have no training at all.  I've set up a basic excel spread sheet with places for checks and short notes and the math, so hopefully I'll be able to keep track of everything neatly so that the next person who does it will have an easier time taking over.  AND so that I can easily do it now that I THINK I'm actually up to date with absolutely everything!

I had planned to start writing today, so now I'm going to go into another room with a big desk and start doing that.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Week 4/66: Keep On Keeping On

Today, I went on what's probably the longest hike I've ever been on, 7 miles (according to my Garmin).  42 floors up (46 down, according to the Garmin, which makes no sense, because I hiked a circular trail, and ended up where I started, so I went down as much as up.  I wonder if the Garmin doesn't think it only counts if there's a certain steepness?)

My first 5 miles went really well, I averaged just over 2 miles an hour (with my 15 pound pack).  But I slowed down considerably in the final mile, especially.  I was really tired.  My total time was 3:45.

I pretty much hit all my current Garmin goals and more.  (My current step goal is 7k, but I'll change that to 8k for this coming week.  My floors goal is 10, but since I don't usually hit that unless I go for a hike, I'm not changing it.  And my intensity minutes is 200, which I may move to 250.)

I meant to take a picture during the hike, but by the time I finished, I was really done.

I had a really good violin lesson this past week, and now have even more to practice on!

What I didn't do this past week was pretty much any real work.  And that needs to change this coming week.

A bit about my hike, so I don't forget.  I went on a small part of the Ice Age Trail called the Chippewa Moraine, starting at the Dave Obey Interpretive Center, and did the Circle Loop, with an extra two miles of Ice Age trail (out and back, one mile each way).

Edited to add (on 6/11): I also finished the three level 2 training sessions last week.  So that small project should be done!

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Week 3/66: Where Does Time Go?

It's week 3, and I've been busy, but not accomplishing much, if that makes sense.  And feeling a bit worried about that.

And then yesterday, I got an email from campus announcing the death of a colleague.  I didn't know D well at all; they were in a different department, doing very different work.  But they, too, were involved in the union, much more than me, so I knew them through that.

And in the campus email, it told when D was born, and they were about a year older than me.

A couple of years ago, my cousin M(2), my age, had a heart attack.  I felt disbelief.  Last year, my friend M had a heart attack.  I felt less disbelief.

And now D.  I still feel like people my age aren't supposed to just die.  Yes, famous people my age die of drug stuff, and lots of people die in car accidents and such.  But not of health stuff.

I just can't quite wrap my mind around it, and at the same time, I feel so trite and self-absorbed feeling that way.

The memorial is this afternoon.  And then I have a violin lesson.

I've done better practicing this week, and feel like I'm making progress on some of the hard stuff.  There's a passage in my current Seitz piece (the second in Suzuki Book 4), where you're supposed to play basically by mostly rotating your wrist to change strings.  But at the same time you have to do fingering, putting fingers down on the A string without touching the E string your fingers are "bridging" over.  It's hard.

I've spent a bit of time just working on the wrist rotation, and then once that's good in a given session, working on the bridging.  Breaking things into small bits helps a lot.

Tomorrow, I'm signed up for the campus professional development day.  If you'll remember, I posted in April about our levels of diversity training.  In May, I got an email saying that my Level 3 project had passed.  That meant I only had to complete my 10 level 2 training sessions to get the campus certificate.  On one level, yay for diversity training, because it's so very important.

And on another level, I'm sort of cynical.  But I really want to finish this certificate because I want to go up for promotion in fall.  This year I went through the Review After Tenure process, which felt a whole lot like going up for tenure again.  And my results were fine.  The thing is, a year on, I need to show that I've been busy, doing important stuff.  So the certificate thing is one small way to show that.  I have three more sessions to complete the certificate, and there are three sessions tomorrow, so I've signed up for all three.  It's going to be a long day!

The more important is getting an article out there for review.  I have one I should have sent out a while back, but didn't.  So now I need to put in a solid week and get that into better shape.  And then send it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Week 2, Gone Camping

As I posted back in January, I'm looking for an adventure for my sabbatical.  It turns out, a couple of my cousins do some backpacking, and so they're arranging a short backpacking weekend in Yosemite!

But I'm unsure: unsure if I can be fit enough, unsure if I know what to do, and so on.  But a friend of mine suggested some "backpacking lite" as she called it.  The idea is that we'd take a ferry to an island where you then backpack a short distance to campsites, and then you're done with the carrying a pack, and just hike around.

One place that works really well for this is Rock Island State Park, up in Wisconsin.  So that's where we went.
 We drove and drove and drove, eventually getting on a ferry to Washington Island.  We drove across Washington Island, parked the car, got our gear, and then took a people (and gear) ferry to Rock Island.  And there we were, on Lake Michigan!  It's amazingly clear!

We went on Friday, and got settled and went for a short walk Friday.  We made dinner (dehydrated backpacking food because we wanted to try it).  And then it started raining.  A LOT.

But the next day, we walked to the Lighthouse and went on a tour, and then walked some more, over 8 miles total.  And then there was thunder and lightning.
Before the rain, though, I did have a chance to take a couple pictures, including a selfie in Lake Michigan.  The water IS amazingly clear, but oh so cold!
 Sunset over "Michgan Ave," the main trail from our camping spot to the boathouse.

All in all, we had a great time.  We spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, walked more than 8 miles both Saturday and Sunday, and about 4 each on Friday and Monday.  I learned that I shouldn't forget hot cocoa!  But my little stove worked great, and one fuel cannister lasted the whole time.

I also learned that I need to get better long pants for camping.

One of the best parts for me was that I got to see a LOT of migrant birds!  The trees weren't as leafed out as they are further down south, and so it was way easier to see birds.  (I usually miss that part of the migration period because I'm grading.)  I got really good views of Red-eyed Vireo, also Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian Warblers, Redstarts, Indigo Buntings, a flying snow goose, and some more common birds (Grey Catbirds, for example, and Ring-billed Gulls, and Double-crested Cormorants).

And now, back in the North Woods, and making a list of the things I want to get accomplished this coming week!

I really, really need to get more exercise to try to be ready to go to Yosemite!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Out of Grading Jail

I'm now officially on sabbatical!  66 weeks of adventure, work, and not teaching!

I'm going backpacking (lite) this weekend; the campsite is on an island that you get to by ferry, and then walk for a mile or so.  From there, my friend and I will camp, walk around, read, maybe swim, and just relax.

It's the first adventure of the sabbatical!

Friday, May 04, 2018


Two more weeks of school stuff (maybe a tad more for grading) and then 66 weeks of sabbatical!  (Yes, I counted.  Twice.  Using two different methods.)

I have spring fever, but almost no grading this weekend, just sunshine, violin practice, and some reading!

And housework, lots of housework!

In violin news, Strings passed me on the first piece in Book 4, so now I'll focus on the second piece, on shifting practice, vibrato practice, double stop practice, and trying not to hold my hands so tightly!

I'm thrilled to be done with that piece, but also, I was just getting to like it again.  A couple of weeks ago, Strings started me on the second piece, and I was balancing both, and it was just what I needed to deal with my frustrations with the first piece and really work through the hard parts more effectively.  I'm so lucky to have such a good teacher!

Thursday, May 03, 2018


The semester's almost over.  6 teaching days left (for me), plus three finals, and then a lot of grading.

But for this moment, there's no grading to do.  I just turned back two big assignments recently, and will have still to grade:

1.  Writing course: full set of papers, plus short paper, plus revisions.  Some extra credit journals.
2.  Intro to Lit course: final exams.  Maybe some extra credit journals.
3.  Senior Seminar: full set of papers, plus draft day grades (graded on draft plus helpfulness to others group members.)

Meanwhile, there's plenty to do, and spring fever is making me inefficient.

I need to finish rereading a book to teach it.
I need to write a final exam.  (Only one, though!)

And I need to put my house back together after all the painting, put art back up, clean it thoroughly, and get it ready for my Mom to visit.

I need to find a graduation present for my nephew (college, engineering).  Ideas??

In other news: yesterday, I saw a Redpoll at my house, and four Pine Siskins.  I've also had first of year White Throated Sparrows, Common Grackles.  The Robins and American Goldfinches are wildly abundant.

Spring has come!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Crocus Smile, Year Five

It's time for the annual Crocus Smile art installation picture!  If you recall, just last week, it looked like this.  (Scroll down for picture.)  Now the snow has melted, and you can see the smile.

It's quite a bit later than last year, but also fuller.  (The spring before, I added some bulbs, and they appear to have survived to come up this spring.)

Year Four
Year Three
Year Two
The First Post

And it's way bigger than it was for the first couple of years.

In other exciting news, yesterday, I saw my first ever Purple Finches!  The top picture shows three males (one you can only see a bit of behind the feeder).  Birders always talk about male Purple Finches looking like they've been dipped in raspberry.  They're much redder than House Finches on the back and wings.  And they don't have dark stripes on their flanks as House finches do.  They also have notched tails, which House Finches don't.  (It's not the best picture as a picture, but it shows the important identification features I was looking at.)

 The next picture is a female, which is the same size, also has a notched tail, and has a serious light colored stripe above and below the eye.  It's way more streaky on the body, but the eye stripes are the field marker people point to.

In other birding news, I went to some friends' house for breakfast this morning; they live on a wooded lot next to a lake, and it's their first spring there.  It was glorious weather, and we saw all sorts of great birds.

I saw my first Red-Breasted Nuthatch not in-hand (I'd previously seen one that had been mist netted for banding at bird school last year).

We also saw Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers, including one that was sucking sap, so to speak.  It was monitoring three holes drilled closely together, and sucking sap from each in turn, all without moving more than it's head.

We may have seen a female Redstart or maybe it was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler (it was very grey, and seemed more grey with no real yellow markings, but...)

Also Mergansers, Buffleheads, Kingfisher, Bald eagle, Downy and Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Jays, Chickadees, Robins.  A very good morning!

I still have some Redpolls feeding on my deck, and a few Juncos, but the American Goldfinches are bright yellow now.  There are also Mourning Doves.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Time of the Term . . .

when alliteration hits.  Or not.

I met with a student this morning to talk about a paper that's due tomorrow.  The student had cancelled a meeting last week, when I was doing a second full round of conferences about the paper.  And they hadn't signed up for one the week before, despite my telling them it was required.

The draft they showed me, which they quite obviously thought I should be deeply impressed with, wasn't impressive.  It started in one direction, veered sharply to another direction, and then concluded in a pretty unrelated direction.  Any one of those directions would have been fine, but the veering made clear that the student hadn't paid attention to the assignment from the get go.

And now they've just emailed me that they won't be in class today, when we're discussing the final project, which counts for more than any previous project, because they're working on this paper.

I think they've finally figured out that they need to do more than fart around BSing in this course.

(Fortunately, there are revision opportunities.  Unfortunately, revision takes a good deal of time, and the student hasn't got a history of putting in time in this course.)

I have spring fever.  Badly.  There's no spring in sight here yet, though.

I need to grade.  And read.  And prep.  And what I really want to do is go out and play in some warm sunshine.  Unfortunately, there's no warmth outside anywhere near.

Four and a half more week.  Must end procrastination!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rush Hour in the Great North Woods

This was my commute this morning.  I stopped for turkeys?  Why did they cross the road?  To strut their stuff!

In other news, the crocus smile has started.  It was up a bit before, but it's sort of more visible through the snow right now.  (Look for the bits of yellow.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Expletive Deleted

Our Local union president has contacted all the department and program chairs around campus and asked if we can send someone (or two) to a department/program meeting to talk about the union and gather some feedback.  We've done some, and mostly gotten good feedback, and a few new members.

The other day, the President asked who could make a meeting this week with basically last minute notice.  And it just so happens I can.  So I said I could, and that got me included in some emails from the department chair to the members of the department:
As you might recall from yesterday’s email, we will not have a faculty meeting tomorrow due to me being out of town.
A few weeks ago [Union Pres], representing the faculty staff union, requested time to talk to [the department] faculty/staff during a faculty meeting.  I did not grant that request because I want to guard faculty meeting time to discuss departmental business.  That said I do not want to apply my filter and position to block access to faculty/staff input on a variety of topics.  In looking for a win-win, [Bardiac] will be available to discuss issues the union deem important with interested faculty/staff at the time we would have met tomorrow.
I have to say, the tone of this sounds [expletive deleted].  Or is it just me?

So it's not a real meeting, and people were already told that they didn't need to be there (and so no doubt planned accordingly) and then they're told basically that the chair doesn't like the Union but doesn't want to "block access" so they can meet with me if they want.

I wonder if anyone will come, or if I'll just sit there alone in the meeting room wishing I were somewhere else?

(My experience with this person is that he's an [expletive deleted, expletive deleted] from other contexts.  No doubt, he thinks even worse of me.)

Monday, April 09, 2018

Level 3, Maybe Achieved

A couple of weeks ago I blogged a bit about our diversity training program.  Here's the way it looks.  At the first level, everyone is supposed to do a (really stupid and irritating) computer module thing on diversity.  I checked that off over the summer, I think, when we were supposed to.  (Some folks are still checking it off.)

The second level involves a variety of programs put on by various folks around campus, all of which are supposed to help us be more aware and helpful to students with what we might think of as diversity challenges.  (And to be clear, the challenges aren't the students, but rather that the systems impede or block some students, either because they're poorly designed, or because they're reflecting a history of racism, sexism, heteronormativity, elitism, ableism, and so forth.)

The success of these programs relies on folks actually wanting to learn something and wanting to make some changes, even small changes, to make things better for students (and colleagues, too!).

To be clear, once folks have done the computer Level 1 thingy, they can be done.  So the folks doing the Level 2 programs are all self-selected, and so perhaps a bit more sincerely interested.

There's also a Level 3.  Level 3 involves doing some project that relates what one's learned in the Level 2 programs to one's work here.  For a faculty member, it most logically involves either teaching or research.  And if you complete 10 Level 2 sessions and do a Level 3 project, then you get a certificate.  I'm not sure the certificate is really hugely meaningful, but hopefully the learning involved and the project actually are at least somewhat meaningful.

You're supposed to consult with one of the learning/teaching experts from that office when you've completed 4-5 Level 2 sessions, and then decide on and do a project.

So, in March, having completed enough sessions, I asked for a meeting, and met with one of the L/T experts.  She's a faculty member, and really good.  She said that some teachers change their curriculum to be more inclusive, so I said that I've changed my intro to lit a couple years ago to include all writers of color.  And I told her about using critical race theory in classes and my scholarly work.  So she said I was already pretty much ahead of the game.  And she suggested I look at some materials they had on increasing student engagement, and maybe make up a project based on something there.

So I looked, and I chatted with a smart friend who teaches high school.  And I came up with two things to try in my intro to lit course to increase student engagement.

The first involved using an app called "Padlet" which enables groups to put up a sort of virtual post-it note board.  We did that, and it was okay, until some students started putting up silly videos.  (I made the mistake of not making them add the app and so get a sign on, and thus, they were anonymous.)

But it was neat to try, and if people were really engaged and excited, it would work well, I think.

Then I tried having students in groups write a googledoc and then make it available to everyone.  And that worked really well, I thought.  One student suggested that if I made the google doc (and put the group work questions in), they could all edit at the same time and then would only have one big document to look at.  So that's what I'll do next time.

I actually really liked the way it worked, and that students who rarely talk in class contributed in the class discussion of their googledoc responses.

I have to get a bit more experience with googledocs to make one and invite folks to it (because I've never tried to do that before), but I suspect it's not too difficult to figure out the basics.

So I spent some time today writing that up, and filling out the form for the Level 3 project thing.  I still have some Level 2 programs to complete to finish 10, but I'm glad I did the project and learned something in the process.  (I sent it in today, and now am like an impatient student, waiting to hear if I "passed.")

Friday, April 06, 2018


You may remember that I was having my house painted.  Here are the colors I chose and some "before" pictures.  It's worth noting that the house didn't feel nearly as dark before I had new floors put in last spring.  But the new floors made everything feel darker.

Now here's how things turned out!

Or not quite.  This first picture shows the new yellow wall in the living room, but with the old green walls not yet white.

And here's the living room a bit later, with some furniture back in place, and late afternoon sun playing on the wall.

Here's the bedroom (with my neighbor's lovely dog who was visiting), only partly reconstituted.

 And the kitchen!

I can't decide which is my favorite, but PURPLE is surely up there.

This weekend, I'm putting art and such back on the walls, and moving things back into place.

(A bunch of my art is sitting on the office table in that last shot.)

In other good news, I was given a very nice "Feminist Faculty Service" award from our Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies group.  I'm not sure I'm the most deserving person, but I'm quite honored by the recognition.

And finally, one more piece of good news!  I get to start the second piece in Book 4 of Suzuki!  (I still need to work on the first piece, but I'm delighted to get to start the second!)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Minor Turmoil

There's been some minor turmoil here; it's nothing that really affects me personally, but perhaps tangentially.

I'm disappointed in one of my colleagues, but not hugely.

I look around, and it looks like another colleague is shooting themselves in the metaphorical foot, followed closely by a second.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Sharing Good News

After a really wonderful and restful break, I'm having a good week.  Sometimes, things work like that.

First, a good friend and amazing poet came to visit and did a reading on campus.  The visit and reading were both a total pleasure.  This friend is one of those people I could happily spend a lot more time with, very kind, smart, thoughtful about poetry and teaching and life.

I also got good news on several fronts.  First, you may recall that I blogged about our Review After Tenure process, and that while both department level reviews (faculty and chair) said I "exceed expectations" the dean's review said I "meet" expectations.  This week, I got the Provost's review, and that's back to "exceeds."  This isn't just about my ego, remember.  Overall, here in the NorthWoods,  we haven't gotten regular raises in years (though there have been one or two small "bumps" for different people, including me, who were given "equity" bumps because we're so far below people of the same rank/experience at our peer institutions in the area).  (Those bumps haven't brought us up to the same level, though.  Of course.)  But RAT comes with a possibility of a raise, and for those at the "exceeds" level, it's a nice raise to base pay.  (About one third to half of the raise for promotion.)

On the second front, I also received notice that I have travel funding from our research funding office for next year, while I'm on sabbatical.  And the funding is quite a bit more than I'd dared to hope for.  So I may actually be able to go back to my happy place, the British Library.  I'm pretty thrilled!

And now, back to grading and prepping!  The countdown to sabbatical is at just over 7 weeks!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Spring Break, the Last Day

It's been a productive AND restful break!

Here's what my list looked like:

1.  Grade 12 more papers.
2.  Reread Faustus for class on the Monday after break.
3.  Reread Reservation Blues for the Wednesday after break.  (yep, conflicted!)
4.  Reread "Yellow Woman" for the Monday after break.
5.  Write the next assignment sheet for the first year writing class.
6.  Clean up the garage (mostly sweeping at this point).  Move the kayak up out of storage, if I can get some help.
7.  Read Sing for your Life, which a friend lent me.  I wasn't as impressed by the writing as my friend was.
8.  Red up my campus office.  (The clutter bothers me!)
9.  Practice violin every day!
10.  Get out and ride my bike!
11.  Put up art in the living room.
12.  Do some birding!
13.  Start drafting the paper I worked on at the British Library.
14.  Clean up the house as I can (as the painting gets done).
15.  Put fishing line on birdhouses
16.  Cut a branch from one of the pine trees.
17.  Meet with person from the campus teaching center about a project.

So, not everything got done, but lots did.  I didn't practice every day.  But I did most days.  

And I'm feeling good about getting back to classes after getting some good (local) news.

Best of all, I'm expecting a friend to come visit because she's doing a poetry reading on campus this coming week!