Saturday, November 29, 2008

announcement: got posts for the GRADual progress carnival?

I will be doing the November round-up (in the next few days...) of posts for the 23rd Carnival of GRADual Progress. I have a bunch of things bookmarked, but if anyone wants to suggest things of their own or things they've seen from others, just to ensure that I get them, then please leave them in comments or e-mail me.



Tuesday, November 25, 2008

two things i realized today

1) I am going to be 35 in a month and 5 days. Thirty fucking five. I'm kinda having a hard time with it. It could be because I spend a lot of time with people 10+ years younger than I am and, as much as I adore some of them, it's really difficult for me to communicate in meaningful ways. I need to figure that out or forget about it. But right now I'm just pretty wigged out that I'm going to be 35 in a month and 5 days (yes, my birthday is during MLA, so any of you who will be at MLA on the 30th, come drink cool refreshing beverages with me in a town I know pretty darn well).

2) I could sit down right now and write my dissertation prospectus. I really could. That would be great if today was November 25 of 2009. If I didn't have two seminar papers to write and ~200 pieces of student work to comment on in some way, I'd probably do it. Maybe over break.

It's kind of been a weird day.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

go go gadget time machine

It's that time of the semester when grad students everywhere are furiously pulling together seminar papers during that "vacation time" we have around the end of November. At least that's what I'm doing...

I'm also grading like a madwoman. I plan to grade through the weekend (it helps that this year's Apple Cup is between the 0-10 UW Huskies and the 1-10 WSU Cougars, hence this year's unofficial name, the "Crapple Cup," and my complete lack of interest in it, which is saying something because I love me some football) and then work like crazy on my seminar papers. I have a draft of one due on the 1st, and a presentation on the other on the 2nd, with the final versions due two weeks hence.

I feel a lot better about these things than I did at this time last year. Then again I only have two instead of three and a language exam like last year. Then again, I wasn't teaching three classes last year, so it should be a wash. But whatever...could just be that I've learned some stuff between then and now!

It's hard to imagine that I only have two courses left in my PhD program. Seems like only yesterday I was deciding between Davis and WSU, and here I am starting to work on exam lists and a rough idea for a dissertation. That's pretty cool.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, I have to finish up these papers...and for that I would really like that magical calendar or time machine or whatever that gives me three or four hours for every actual hour in the day.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

two years later, I offer some brief thoughts on a movie

Last night we watched The Prestige with our students. When this film came out (two years ago), I wanted to see it. I want to see a lot of movies, but rarely actually do for various and sundry reasons. But in 2006 I wanted to see The Prestige (and The Illusionist) if for no other reason than to continue the conversation that Mel started. But I'm not going to do that now (in grading jail).

I will say that I feel I stayed reasonably away from spoilers or any discussion of the film that would give away the secrets...and I found it remarkably easy to figure it all out early on. It was still enjoyable, because who doesn't love Batman vs. Wolverine, and I had a good time mock-threatening T with great bodily harm if any small animals were going to be harmed, but for the most part I thought it was pretty meh.

Then again, who am I to talk...we're showing Harold and Maude on Thursday and I'm pretty sure I'll have to answer for myself quite a bit with that one.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

"I sure hope he doesn't turn out to be some lunatic, because that would really suck"

That's what I said on July 28, 2004, when I said I'd move to Illinois just to vote for Barack Obama for the US Senate.

/looks around

Nope, not a lunatic. And it doesn't suck. I, of course, look like a genius.

Ok, granted, thinking "Obama is awesome" after he spoke at the DNC in '04 was not a thought limited to my pea brain, but it still is pretty cool that everything worked out...


Saturday, November 8, 2008

i taught charles chesnutt stories the week an african-american was elected president

...and I think that's really cool.

True, it would have been cool to teach Chesnutt any week of the year, any year, because I heart Charles Chesnutt. But it was especially fun to discuss his stories the day before, and the day after, Obama became president-elect.

I am shadowing Donna Campbell's ENGL 481: American Lit 1855-1915 upper division course. "Shadowing" means we come to the class and watch and learn, and teach a few days if we want (duh! do want!). There are only nine students in the class, which is sad, because it is such an awesome class and the DMC is such a good teacher.

Anyway, before the semester began, Dr. Campbell asked which days I'd be interested in teaching, and I said definitely Chesnutt day(s) because I love Chesnutt and the first time I teach literature to upper division students I'd rather it be something I know pretty well and love quite a bit. Right? Luckily she said ok—even though she also loves Chesnutt. I thought that was mighty nice of her. Then it turned out that she had a workshop thing to go to and I would get to teach both days of Chesnutt. Score!

I had everything planned out for the first day—I wanted to avoid any sort of issues with time because I had teased Toria about her inability to tell time when she taught the class she was shadowing (she wrapped her class up after precisely 50 minutes...except T/Th classes are 75 minutes long) because payback's a bitch—including meeting up with DMC 20 minutes before class started to make sure my plan was a good one. Except, um, I wasn't 20 minutes early, I was 5 minutes early...just in time to walk to class. That was dumb. But I did my 20 minute intro/ppt stuff, then 25 minutes of discussing the first story ("The Goophered Grapevine"), and then planted my segue to the second story ("Dave's Neckliss") and...crickets.

None of them got the handout for the second story.

One industrious student looked it up and read it, thank god, so we walked through a summary and talked about stuff anyway. But it was pretty funny.

On the second day, everyone who was there had read both stories (or at least faked it really well), and we had a good conversation about "The Wife of His Youth" and "The Passing of Grandison." Everyone seemed to really dig Chesnutt. No one had read him before. Some of them wrote blog posts for class about the stories. That's cool.

Earlier in the semester, I mentioned very briefly that these students had done some cool stuff with Wordle, and it's true—they did. The other two days I that were "my days" were early in the semester, in the computer lab, and it was all about working with the Dickinson and Whitman archives. Over a couple of days, some looked at editions of Leaves of Grass, or just the covers, and then a bunch of people did word clouds—for Drum Taps, the 1867 Leaves of Grass, the deathbed version of "Song of Myself", and a very interesting one for Dickinson's 1862 poems. Sometimes the simplest tools are the most helpful for students. That's what I learned pretty quickly about word clouds.

Oh wait, this was supposed to be about Chesnutt. Sorry! I just got on an excited little tangent. I'm pretty excitable. I'm also trying to avoid grading papers.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

remember, remember the 5th of november

...for obvious reasons.

Tonight we are hosting a showing of V for Vendetta for our students (also for obvious reasons, hence the title of this post).

We are very, very happy we don't actually have to go blow shit up afterward.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

there's still work to do

So, it looks like CA prop 8 will pass (and AZ prop 102, and AR initiative 1, and FL amendment 2).

While I am thrilled, and I mean thoroughly and utterly thrilled, that Obama won, I am finding it extremely difficult to muster a happy face. I didn't expect that to be the case.

It's hard to still be happy when you have actual numbers staring you in the face—numbers of people who specifically do not want you to have something they have.


Monday, November 3, 2008

just sayin'....

I've had this image in my saved mail since 10/22/2004. Figured it was time to bust it out.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

lives are hard

I have this friend who refers to herself as the manchurian grad student because she is freakishly obedient when told to do something a certain way—usually having to do with the actual mechanical processes of academia and not the content she works with, thank god. I, on the other hand, am almost willfully disobedient. The quickest way to get me to do something? Tell me to do the opposite of what you want me to do. I swear it's (not always) a conscious effort to be a jerk or anything. I am just not very good at being told what to do. At all.

But sometimes I do what I'm told and it works out. For example, the early 2000s were kind of crappy for me. In 2003 I was trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. Why yes, that was the year I turned 30. Anyway, as you can imagine, conversations between my best friend and myself went something like this (ad infinitum): "What am I doing? This doesn't seem like enough. Is this it? Shouldn't I be doing more?" Ok, that's not so much a conversation as it was the stuff that I was stuck on and would repeat over and over because there was no real answer (because really? What do you say to that?)

Finally, one day she sent me an e-mail, and at the beginning it said "I think you should read this email, keep it and refer back to it when needed." I have done that—and it's kind of amazing that I haven't mangled the file in the last five years—and today was one of those days I had to refer back to it, as needed. This is one of the only things I've done because I was told to do it—unlike my manchurian grad student friend.

The e-mail has a quotation in it, and it's actually one of those quotations from The Big Book of Quotations for All Times or some such—in other words, not somewhere I'd typically go for some life-affirming piece of text (I usually get those from Emerson). Anyway, we were talking about understanding where and how you fit in the world and just making peace with it. The quotation goes like this: "The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make a difference that you lived at all."

So that's how I try to live. I don't evaluate happy vs sad or anything like that. At least I try not to. In fact, I pretty much screwed some stuff up recently when I reached a point when I looked around and thought to myself "hey, this makes me happy." What happened next was I realized that I wasn't doing any of the things I needed to be doing to matter, to be productive, to be useful, or to make a difference. I was living for happy and not for useful and productive, and that really screwed me up.

I know a lot of people will say something like "um, you have to be happy" and I get that. I'm not saying I want to be unhappy or anything. But when "happy" is my main focus, I'm not...rightly oriented, I guess is what I mean. Off-kilter. Screwed up. So I've had to regain my focus, my plans, my productivity, and my path—both in school and in the job I still have to pay for the other life I am not actually living in. I've had to look my friends in the eye and then turn around and walk away, leaving the pure happy on the side and getting back on the track that leads me toward useful and productive. There are some times when I get to do both—be useful and productive and matter to people, and get some happy out of it, but it's really kind of messed up, I get that.

I just want to make a difference, I guess. That would be nice.