Thursday, September 25, 2008

yes. i am an academic.

Often, I think a post and a comment thread from years ago (it's here if you're interested) in which George Williams included my old blog in a list of academic blogs. I wrote about that here, in 2004, and it's really interesting to go back and read that now (ok, maybe just to me). Back then I was not an academic. I was just, as I said, "a geek who blogs, and I happen to go to school." I wasn't even doing my MA in English—I was still in B-school mode. Bitch PhD commented that her blog was "Scholarship plus crazy personal shit plus bitching" and George piped up with "Right. That's what I said: Academic Blogging."

That moment was probably one of those "had to be there" moments, but it has always stuck with me. Academics read a lot. They bitch. They have lives.

Today I had the feeling that I've really arrived as a professional in this field (ok, still a grad student, but whatever. I get paid.). No, I wasn't notified of an award or a publication, and no, a student did not come to me after class and tell me how I changed his or her life for the better.

Instead, like every day this week (and last week, and the week before that, and the week before that, and oh yeah, the week before that and finally, yes, the week before that) I arrived on campus with coffee in hand before 7:30, had several meetings in a row, taught class, sat in class, had more meetings, was too stupid to eat, and got home around 6pm....AND DID NOT GET ONE SHRED OF MY OWN WORK DONE.

So there. That is the definition of an academic. I have arrived.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

no one told me about this in teacher school

That's what I said to one of my classes the other day. "No one told me about this in teacher school." They laughed. They understood.

Let me tell you a little story. Then tell me your story, about something "they" didn't tell you in teacher school.

The plan for the class [one of my 101 sections:—introductory writing, all brand-new freshmen] was to do a practice peer review in preparation for workshopping their own papers during the next class meeting. We took the time to read a sample essay, then they marked areas they liked, areas of confusion, areas they'd change if it were their paper, and mechanical stuff. Then we were going to get into small groups and discuss common things, and report back to the class. Your standard thing, right? Right.


[I should pause now and note that I do indeed love my students, despite their occasional chuckleheadedness, and they know that. They also know I'm telling this story.]

One student got a phone call in class. Yes, that's bad enough. I count it as a win that she got up to take the call out in the hall rather than actually in class. We all continued working in our small groups, and were just starting the "report back to the class" phase, with approximately 10 minutes remaining in the class period. One fellow started to say something interesting and smart, and the student who had been outside the class burst back into the classroom and announced to everyone....

"I just dropped my phone in the toilet!"

We all stopped, looked at her, burst out laughing, students looked at me for direction—for which I had none—and then she said...

"And I had to reach into my pee to get it!"

How to deal with that, folks, is something you don't learn in teacher school.

I'm not sure I moved from my spot. I certainly didn't say anything, because the things going through my head weren't appropriate or even really fully formed. The student sat down, said "What do I do?" and, when I was about ready to say "I have no idea, but you can figure it out after class" another student turned to her and said "Oh, see, what you do first is take out your SIM card, then let the phone dry in the sun, then clean it with a qtip and rubbing alcohol and..."

To which I said, "you've done this too??" Several students have done the same thing. Amazing.

Anyway, the class is still in various stages of incredulity and laughter. One student finally just looked at me and said "how do we continue on after that?"

I said, "yeah, when I figure that out, I'll let you know..."

We managed to get class back on track long enough to wrap up and dismiss until next time. One student now has the unfortunate nickname (and this has made it through their dorm) of "pee phone". And me? I'm pretty sure I'm on Candid Camera every single day in that class.


Thursday, September 11, 2008


Today, several undergrads in a class I'm shadowing did cool things with Wordle and the poetry of Whitman and Dickinson.

If I get a moment to crawl out from the rock I'm under, I'll write about it. But it was really wonderful.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

thanks everyone...

...for all the nice words about Max. Luckily (I guess?) I've been so freaking busy that I haven't had time to really decompress and deal with it, but hey, that's what the weekend is for I suppose.

thanks again.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

RIP Max 1993-2008

maxMany of you already know this, but yesterday my cat Max went to the great catnip field in the sky. The thing about Max is that he wasn't a big fluffy cat like Mini or a cute little tuxedo cat like Deuce—he was a big black cat who never photographed well. But he was a wonderful boy. A big baby, actually, who never outgrew some of his kitten traits such as sucking on my shirt collar when he was tired or scared.

Max was born on the side of a road in Durham, NC on April 24, 1993. I know this because the side of the road happened to be pretty damn near a veterinary clinic and Max (and his litter of brothers and sisters) was taken in immediately by the people at the clinic. Through chance—since I didn't have any animals of my own at the time—I was in that vet's waiting room when Max was approximately six weeks old and he was the first kitten who jumped up against the side of the cage and wanted to be held. I found myself back there a few weeks later and he was the only one of his litter that hadn't been adopted out. I took him home the next day. Toby, my orange cat who died in Feb of '05, joined us a few weeks later. They were best pals.

In his life, Max had been stepped on by a ballerina, drooled on by an unruly Chow, flown on an airplane from North Carolina to California, and logged approx 8,000 miles in the car as we moved together from California to Virginia to DC to California to Washington over the years. He was a hugger. He never complained. Well, sometimes he did but only for a few minutes just to register his disdain and then deal with it. I learned a lot from my cat.

In April or so of this year, I noticed a weird lump between his shoulder blades and took him in to the vet. Now, we have spectacular vets here, between the vets in private practice who are typically trained by the WSU vet school and then the WSU vet school itself. So I wasn't worried about getting quality care. Turns out that Max managed to get what's known as an injection site sarcoma, which is a particularly nasty and aggressive sort of thing. The weird part is that Max hadn't had an injection in that site for several years, so the stupid cells were just hanging around building strength all that time. There wouldn't have been anything to do about it though, because putting a geriatric cat through radiation and chemo for something with a very very very small chance of remission is just not cool. So we went on maintenance for the last several months. As long as he was acting normally—with the exception of a gnarly growing lump between his shoulder blades that we drained once a week—then so be it.

But the last week he was noticeably less-than-thrilled about his lump. He was alert and loving and all those things, but couldn't really get comfortable any more. So that's when it became time to relieve him of all this. It was sad, but the vet people are great and soon Max's little box will join Toby's on the shelf.

It's just me and the girls now—Deuce and Mini. They're asleep. I'm tired. It's business as usual. And I miss my boy.


Monday, September 8, 2008

i should really blog something

Uh....really busy? It's true. Maybe later today I will take a moment and write some stuff down. It's not like things aren't happening 'round here.