Thursday, September 27, 2007

conversation at the grocery store

Checker, holding up a bag from the produce department: "What kind of potatoes are these?"

Me: "rutabagas"

Checker: oh. huh. [rings up more items]

Checker, holding up another bag from the produce department: "and what kind of potatoes are these?"

Me: "turnips"

I took my stew fixins and went home, lamenting the loss of root vegetable knowledge among the youth of today.


Monday, September 24, 2007

breaking the spirits of freshmen everywhere

[Look! I'm actually writing one of the posts in my list! Amazing.]

I might have mentioned before that I'm a grader for World Civ this semester. Why, you're right—I am in the English department.... But here, World Civ I and II are required courses for freshmen, and they fall under the General Education department, which "borrows" (buys) graders from English (and other departments like American Studies, History, and maybe a few others). The good news is that being a grader is relatively easy—relative to actually teaching an entire class—and being a grader replaces one of our required teaching slots for our TAships. In other words, I only have to teach one comp course next semester because I was a grader this semester. Sometimes people request grader positions during exam semesters so that they can lighten their load while studying.

I should begin by saying that I'm a grader for a good prof. She asks good questions. Unfortunately, the students are not yet up to speed when it comes to thinking or writing like college students. Or, in the case of many of the students in my section, even up to speed in reading like college students—namely, reading the assignment sheet (and correctly). The first essays were, to put it mildly, trainwrecks. Something like 102 of the 110 essays were Ds or Fs (the class average was a 66). The majority of the Fs were simply because they failed to read and write on the assigned topic. The majority of the Ds were because they came close to writing on the assigned topic but then failed to do something (anything!) close to analysis. I almost cried when I got to the lone A- paper. The clouds parted, angels sang, etc.

Bardiac has a post about stamps for grading. I could have used ones that said "thesis?" and "and...?" and "generalization!" and "cite your source" and (my fave) "essay does not address assigned topic."

In the three sections of composition that I have under my belt, I've graded something like 500 essays. I think I gave 5 Fs out of those 500. I hate giving Fs. I hate even more that the students earn Fs. I don't hate the students, of course. Hell no. I just want to teach them something.

Students who have complaints have to come see me before they go to the prof. Lucky me, eh? I had seventeen students make appointments. I had more student conferences in one set of office hours than I had in two semesters of teaching. I only had two loud, belligerant, "but I'm an A student so you must be mistaken" fellows. I would have preferred more of them if it meant that more than seventeen came to see me.

I also made a handout that diffused most of the situations. It was three pages of bullet items: what the assignment asked, what the assignment specifically said not to do, examples of bad theses and why, a template of a good thesis for this assignment, and then numerous fallacies they clearly forgot (or never learned) from high school English. The first thing I did in these meetings was go through the handout. By the time I was through with it and let them yell/ask their questions, very few of them had a thing to say. Except for the one or two students who, of course, are just now finding out they're not the big fish in the little pond anymore, and that they can't rest on their high school laurels, and that yeah, while they might be A students, they wrote F essays. Get over it. It happens. Learn from it.

But I admit I felt like absolute crap for an entire week because so many students did poorly. Not that I did anything wrong—I graded to the rubric, the prof backed me up, and some people who came to see me did learn from their mistakes. We'll see how the next set of papers look when I get them this Friday...

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

four months later and almost everything is crossed off the list

On May 22 I posted a long and boring to-do list. Today, four months later, everything is crossed off the list EXCEPT for the selling-of-the-condo.

I think I should take that off my list because I can't do a damn thing about it (except stress about it from afar, and keep paying the mortgage and HOA bill).

I really hope the housing market turns around. I don't want to have to refi and turn this into a rental. That'll screw up all sorts of things like capital gains and blah blah blah.

In other news, I finally got my diploma in the mail today. I chuckle whenever I look at it, because I think it's hilarious that Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature is on it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

so today's excitement was...

...the sewer line broke! It was tree roots and such, and wasn't at all my fault or the fault of the fellow who lives in the other half of the duplex.

This morning, I heard gurgling and smelled laundry detergent. "That's odd," I thought, "I'm not doing laundry."

But my neighbor was! And it backed into my tub as his washer worked its way through the spin cycle. Several hours later, I made the mistake of flushing the toilet. Several hours after that, I walked up to campus to use the potty. I wasn't going to flush the toilet again.

Landlady sent the plumber out, and he knocked on my door to explain how the sewer line was broken and to minimize water use throughout the weekend and that they'd be out at the beginning of the week to dig things up and such.

I am SO GLAD I rent. I am also very glad to have access to a 24-hr gym, even if it doesn't have a shower, and to have friends who do have showers, and to have a laundromat, and to have a lot of clothes so I don't necessarily have to use a laundromat. So it's really not bad at all.

Except my friends call me "puppy bladder" and I rarely have fewer than two bottles of water in my possession at all times. Oh well! Should be an interesting weekend.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

wsu r/c and 4Cs

I thought I'd left the world of acronyms behind when I left the tech field. But no!

Wednesday was a good day in the English Dept building* at WSU as notices of 4Cs acceptances just kept coming and coming and coming...I think at least ten or twelve of our grad students are going (and we only have seventy or so in both r/c and literature combined).

I've only been here for a quarter of a semester, but I've made a lot of friends who are rhet/comp people. When I applied to schools, choosing between r/c and literature was a difficult decision since I really dig both. Heck, I think most of my bloggy buddies are r/c folks! I chose WSU because I could do literature but still take advantage of all the r/c goodness that we have here—and people are good about it, teasing me and poking fun rather than being all protective and weird about their space. Some of them try to pull me over to the Other Side, such as our comp director who said I should just stay after four years and do another PhD. Ha ha! Ahem.

Anyway, the point is that I really really like our r/c people and I am enormously proud of those who are going off to New Orleans in April. It does my heart good to see so many newish members of academia walking around displaying unmitigated joy at the thought of being a participant at their first significant professional conference. They're all very cool people trying to do very cool things, and they dig their students.

So if you all see a bunch of happy young people from the Pacific NW at 4Cs, those would be my new friends. How lucky am I?

* Avery Hall, home of the English Dept AND the Military Science Dept. Go figure. My office is on the floor with the ROTC folks. They're very polite, and when we ride the elevator together I feel very safe. But it's still strange. English and Military Science.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

tempus fugit

I'd love to write the posts I said I'd write, because I find some things very interesting and I just want to share something relatively interesting with you all. But DAMN am I busy! This week has the added bonus of 110 World Civ essays that need to be graded.

So instead of discussing any of the lovely things I wanted to discuss, I will leave you with this tip:

Coffee does not magically brew itself just because the water is near the coffeemaker and the machine is turned on. Instead, you must actually pour the water from the pot into the maker, else it will spit and steam and hiss but no coffee will appear.

Amazing, I know!

Also necessary: putting coffee in the filter. Basically, when I made coffee this morning I made it entirely incorrectly. Couldn't have been further away from correct.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

i still don't get it

Why the hell do random strangers think it is perfectly FINE to call up authors of books because THEY can't get something to work?

Seriously. On the fucking phone.

[The only phone I have now is my mobile and it's not listed. This was likely a redirect from my old number, which was listed. Anyone who needs to reach me who had that number has the new one, so I believe I shall promptly go remove the forwarding.]


Monday, September 10, 2007

i have returned

Actually, I returned yesterday.

I doubt you all even knew I was gone. But I was. I went to Seattle to hang out with Jane Dark (and her cat), to go to Ikea, and to eat ethnic food (Pullman is very white).

The drive from Pullman to Seattle is wicked easy. It is not at all like driving from San Jose to LA, although the distances are damn close (~30 mi).

Came home and went to play softball. We won the first game by forfeit and lost the second game because of meltdown (myself included) although we played well for 3/4 of the game...

Must go catch up on all the things I have to do for today (oops! bad grad student!) but I have plenty of things to write about (see post below).


Friday, September 7, 2007

list of posts i'm going to write

This is a placeholder post for myself. I've been meaning to write a bunch of short (I swear!) posts on various things related to school, but I tend to forget/get busy. Since I woke up a good two-and-a-half hours before my alarm and I don't especially want to go to the gym right at this moment, I'm going to make this list. I'll eventually fill in the list with links to the actual posts.

* meetings meetings meetings
* seminars: two thumbs up!
* working with the writing center
* the commitment to mentoring
* the commitment to professionalization
* grading for world civ


Thursday, September 6, 2007

outdoorsy observations

* The squirrels love the makeshift birdbath/drinking receptacle I put in the yard. It's just one of those plastic pans that go under large flowerpots, and I clean it and fill it back up every morning. I got the idea (not that it's anything unusual) from a neighbor's yard. That yard has a few large pools made from things like round litter pans and other types of tubs, and I saw a magpie taking a bath in one of them and just having a grand old time. So I picked up this little pan and made a lot of birds and squirrels happier. There are often ten or twelve little birds from the flock perched on the edges, drinking up. Then the squirrels go over and drink, and wash their faces (really). I feel a little bad that I didn't have a tub of water at my condo in San Jose. I guess I thought since the ducks were in the pond, the birds and squirrels would use it too. Thinking back, I don't ever think I saw a bird or squirrel using the pond. Guess they didn't have the gene that allows them to process dyed and soapy water used in man-made ponds.

* Quail are aggressive. The quail flock that comes by the yard three times daily (morning, noon, and night, like clockwork) has grown in number (and in the size of the little ones). They run around chasing each other and chasing the small non-quail birds. The quail are not as easily spooked by noise (or wind) like the small birds, probably because they're so much bigger. But when the quail decide to fly away, en masse, it's quite a sight. It's not as...graceful? as when the flock of small birds all decide to run off into the trees. The quail leave the yard in a purposeful sort of way, as if they're off to conquer the next feeder on the block.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

sports-loving grad students

Many people in my program also love sports. That's probably not unusual, but what is unusual is that we all freely admit it and it's ok. It doesn't make us less intelligent or serious or scholarly to admit to liking football (or baseball or basketball or soccer). Except for the occasional posts from Collin, Derek, and Billie, I don't recall reading much about team sports and rooting for same. I know the comments sure pop up when sports are mentioned, but not so much with the individual posts, and some of us are in pick 'em pools on Facebook and the like. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places for academic-bloggers-who-talk-about-sports-too. More likely, my memory is crappy and there are tons of you who write about such things and I've just forgotten. Sorry!


One of my new school chums is in the process of visiting all the major league baseball parks—I think she has eighteen under her belt. During the first week of classes we were killing time in her office and ended up talking for well over an hour about baseball before we switched over to something like Henry James or how to teach FYC.

Then there's the softball team. We're part of an actual intramural league, with rules and tournaments and everything!

But most of all, there's football. I had at least five or six conversations last week, with different people, all about the upcoming college and pro season. Not just "Go Cougs" but thoughtful insights on various players and teams. Sigh. So wonderful.

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random notes on a tuesday

* I almost wrote "on a monday" in the title. I was glad to have the Monday free of on-campus obligations. Typically, I am on campus on Monday from 7:30am until 6pm and I take my computer (it's not light) so by the time I get home I just crash hard almost right away. But free of on-campus obligations, I was able to do a lot of administrative crap (and finish that document) and sort of get ahead on that sort of stuff.

* Since I dealt with a bunch of crap all day yesterday but didn't get up early and go to the gym, I walked up to the library and got a few books. I finally have a handle on the library. The first time I went in there to get something, I wandered around all confused (and this was after our library tour during orientation, so I felt like an idiot). I finally realized that bound periodicals are shelved in with the books (and they circulate, although only for a few days at a time) and don't live in a special periodicals area. I'm not used to that, and it didn't even occur to me as I was walking around and around looking for the periodicals room (as opposed to the "current journals" room) that everything was just on the shelves. Duh. So this time, my third time in there (second successful trip), I think I've figured most of it out.

* Then again, I was getting books to look for readings for the writing sequence I'll have the students do next semester when I teach, so I was in the HDs and the GEs. That's new territory for me; I usually stick to PS. Oh well. We all need to branch out!

* If I had known the traffic spike that happens when you mention anything related to things in this post, I would have made sure to talk about more than just writing documents, liking football, going to school, and quail. But hey, that's what makes this a "life" blog.

* I paid my $2.40 share, and for that I am a bona fide member of The Run-Ons (the English grad student softball team). Hooray!

* I got a bunch of heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market on Saturday. I love heirloom tomatoes. All I do is cut them into wedges and maybe throw a dash of salt on them, or some feta cheese. Good stuff.

* I made a bunch of food on Sunday; it should carry me through the week. Last week I moved a little too close to "just grab some crap food on the way home" territory. It might have been the free pizza at back-to-back workshops on Thursday afternoon/evening...I haven't had pizza since the first week I was here. Haven't had fast food since the second week I was here. That one taste of lovely, lovely pizza (actually, it was pretty darn good) almost pushed me over the edge into "oh, just get a pizza and eat it over several days" land, but I bounced back and went to "make a bunch of rice and beans and chicken because it's good for you" land instead.

* I didn't go to the gym today because I had some work stuff to get done this morning and a bunch of reading to do before I leave for campus. I will go tomorrow, though! I go at least three times during the week, often four times. I haven't gone five times/week since school started, but since I walk up and down hills all day I think that's fine.


Monday, September 3, 2007

document: complete!

Two days short of a month ago, I mentioned I lost an important document I had been working on for several weeks. This document was (and is) an instructions document for my job, such that if an emergency issue came up and I wasn't around, since I'm technically a contractor and not an employee anymore, my boss or other boss could do the task.

Well, I just finished recreating it and I sent it off. And yes, I backed it up to several different places. It has been a stressful month, not having that document for them. I planned for them to have it before orientation and then classes started (three weeks ago) but...yeah. Lost the doc and had to start over almost from scratch.

Since my schedule has me on campus a lot, and I only bring my computer to school on one of those days, it has been stressful being away from things. Luckily there weren't any work emergencies. Truly, we don't have a lot of them, and none of them are true emergencies...they're more like clients who create emergencies because they lack foresight and planning skills. But it would be my luck to have one that I couldn't address because I was on campus reading Gramsci or tutoring freshmen.

But no more! I can carry on knowing that I've done what I was supposed to and I shouldn't worry about things that aren't mine to worry about any longer.

Yeah right. Like that just happens overnight.


river tam beats up everyone

You simply must click through to this xkcd comic: "Action Movies" if you are a fan of Serenity, Firefly, or even just Summer Glau.

I laughed a lot at this comic, but it was only 4:30am.

I checked back just now (at almost 7am) and yeah...still funny.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

football season

I am very very very very very happy that it is football season. I am always happy to see football season roll around, but this year I'm even happier because it's been rough rooting for Giants baseball this spring/summer.

Then again, I am now morally obligated to root for the WSU Cougars (go cougs!) and they're not exactly poised to win the conference. But I will root for them nonetheless, such as today when they are playing Sara's team, Wisconsin. The next two games (home) should produce wins, but then we go to USC. Hmmm. I predict WSU will win six games overall. That's bowl eligible, baby!

A few fun facts: I walk past Martin Stadium almost every day. I can see the very tops of the lights from my living room. Next to the stadium are the 50-yard practice fields, and I've walked past football practice a few times. It's pretty cool. The practice fields are between the stadium and the library; the study carrels on the third floor of the library offer a spectacular view of the game!

I still care about my alma mater and will also root for SJSU (go spartans!). I predict they will win seven or eight games. Then there's Penn State, the school near my hometown. I was raised a Penn State fan. I took a few classes there and I care about how they do, so I root for them as well. Go Nittany Lions! I think they have a good chance to run the table, but I'll go conservative and say they'll go 10-2.

I am pleased that none of my teams play each other this year. Whew! That could get rough.