Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brain Fog

The problem with super early classes is that going to bed early doesn't necessarily help me get enough sleep --- I can just toss and turn until it is closer to a "normal" bedtime --- and then when the alarm goes off I am exhausted and in deep in the middle of my sleep cycle.

Sidebar: I don't know if you have been reading up on all those fit tracker things and how monitoring and recording your own sleep cycles is now A Thing, because it is better to wake up at one of the points where you are already very close to being awake rather than in deep sleep, but I can't ever hear about one's sleep cycle without visualizing it as the equivalent of the spin cycle on a washing machine. Does your brain whirr softly in circles until you lift the lid? Is there a little green light somewhere that lights when you move from the spin cycle to second rinse? Do I feel foggy because I wake up with my brain still covered in suds? Maybe it's best I don't know.

Anyway, right now I am in a state where I get home and need to immediately eat my body weight in snack-dinner (also known as sninner) even though it is only about 3 pm, and then collapse on the couch in a weird, ugly fog-state where I am too tired to keep my eyes open but not tired enough to fall into a nap. And of course, grading homework sucks at the best of times, so there is no way I want to do that while feeling yucky and mostly asleep. This is all exacerbated by the fact that late evening is always a pretty alert point in my circadian rhythm (no clue where that is on the sleep/wash cycle) and if I go back to grade or prepare or, god forbid, check my email at this point, I will be roused into a state it is almost impossible to wind down from in time to go to bed ... and if I have managed to sleep at 3, I'm not tired enough to go to bed and sleep anyway.

And ironically, this makes me hate weekends and holidays, like the one we just had, because sheer exhaustion can eventually re-set me to the new schedule by the end of the week, but then it all pops back again --- sproing! --- if I don't have some absolutely imperative reason for getting out of bed over the weekend. And we're talking 5:30 or 6 here, so there is pretty much no imperative reason on the weekend short of an alien attack.

We're also actually doing all our department and division meetings this year (previous chair stepped down suddenly because of illness so last year was an oddly-meeting-free year) and I get to do committee work and other project type things this year while pretending I know what I'm doing, which entails late-afternoon meetings. Everyone has been very good about keeping things to a fairly decent length and getting us out at 5 (despite all sorts of crazy budget crap we need to deal with and other crises), which is great for everyone who needs to get home and feed kids, but I am suffering, teaching all early morning classes and then slogging about trying to stay conscious for a 3:30 or 4 pm meeting! And last year our last big combined meeting was around Halloween and they gave us candy. I think we need candy at every meeting, stapled to the agendas they hand out. And a coffee bar. That reminds me: one of my projects is to get a taco truck on campus near our building.

You think I'm kidding.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Money Game --- No-Spend September Challenge

I'm going to play a little game with myself this month, because I went ahead and decorated my office yay!!!! Now it is shiny and beautiful. Too bad I bought lots of expensive things on the first. 

Hence my challenge as a way to get back to my goal of paying off those credit cards: how long can I go without spending any money* this month? Could I make it the whole way? I keep waffling on my food, which brings up the good point that I have a lot of food around here but I like to think that because I am out of one thing, I "have nothing to eat." I could work on my planning and my using up things and on not wasting food. And even though I just broke my sandals, I have a bazillion other shoes and am just fine not getting any more this month. I have 2 3rds a tank of gas. The cats are all stocked up. How far will I get?

Uh oh. How much Diet Coke do I have? This might get ugly.

* I'm not counting rent and my regular bills, student loan, credit card payment.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your poem is ajar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
--- What hill? The hill
where Fragonard hung
a slovenly wilderness. 
The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around --- but
why a jar? --- Aigh! As if that answered
anything. --- Ah, yes. The jar was round
upon the ground and of a port in air.
It took dominion every where,
and was gray and --- but why a jar?
It did not give of bird or bush ---
Which jar?
Aigh, Dominion maybe. How
should I know?
What hill? What jar?
It did not give of bird
or bush --- but why a jar?
I said a hill in Tennessee.

* at last I have figured out that what I want to say when I talk about this poem is actually in reference to this poem. Clearly they needed to be stirred together.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The straw that broke the camel's --- foot. Or the foot that broke the camel's straw. Or something.

8:15, people. That is plenty of time to get to campus and finish up some homework marking before a 9 am class. And especially when I live so close!

The first problem came when I tried to get into my car this morning. Huh, I thought I pushed the little remote button. Nope, the passenger side is definitely not unlocking. I am definitely pressing things. Ok, well I'll use the key ... why does the passenger side not have a keyhole? Does this somehow save money? Protect me from evildoers? This is bizarre!

Well then, unlock the driver side and throw the enormous pile of stuff across the way instead of dumping it in from a more convenient angle. I've got plenty of time; I'll just troubleshoot this damn lock for a few minutes. Nope, there is something definitely going on wrong with that lock and it is not unlocking from inside or outside the car for any reason.  Allrightythen. Who needs passengers? Off to class.

Drive drive drive and I'm here, great. I'll just grab this enormous pile of stuff in my arms, scootch my way awkwardly out of the car and start doing that ever-so-difficult "walking" motion towards the building. Bamf! Why did I just faceplant? Am I really incompetent at walking???

I look back to discover my sandal is still back there a few feet behind me, the front thong strap that holds all the rest of the straps having ripped right out of the footbed. Dammit! Re-load everything and what is left of the coffee back in the car while not using the passenger door and start driving back home, since I do not have spare shoes stored in my office and there is no way I could get through an entire day of teaching and running around. (Note to self: get spare shoes for office emergency stash. Maybe stock spare clothing and a flask and a punching bag as well.)

But wait, what time is it? How did it get to be 8:45? Where did the time go aaaaaaaah! It is time to do 80 down the State Road and pray to hit every green light on the major cross street and arrgh construction! Who put construction on the other side of the highway? Arrrrrgh!

Lookit the clock, lookit the road, back and forth again while yelling obscenities at any drivers in front of me, speed limit signs I am passing, red lights, the damn shoe I threw in the passenger seat, random pigeons (fuck you pigeons! my life sucks right now! fuck you and your smug little head-bobbing walks!) and the curvy part of the road where you have to slow down. Screech into the parking lot, leap out of the car and hobble one-shoed to the apartment, slam the door open and yell at the terrified, rapidly-retreating cat for no reason, fling the other shoe across the room and utter a few "motherfucker!"s just for good measure, sprint down the stairs to my closet and grab a pair of flats that so help me God if you break or stretch or fall off my feet for ANY reason I'm giving you a beatdown are closest to hand. Sprint upstairs and fling self into the car at a run. 8:53? Shit!

Back again, back again, same way I just came, same expletives, same lights (possibly different pigeons), slam out of the car with enormous pile of crap and proceed to race-walk my way in for a quick stop at my office and grab what I need for class.

But wait! Who's this dude walking up on a diagonal collision course toward me? It's a student! Must be my student: "Hello there Mrs. Cog! I figure I must not be late if I'm getting there before Teacher!"

Reader, I punched him. Or wait, I think I just did that in my head. I'm not sure. It's just all been a downhill blur from there.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Teaching Critical Thinking and Information Literacy: John Oliver on Native Advertising

I'm a little bit behind the times on the latest Daily Show spinoff, Last Week Tonight --- partly because I liked John Oliver but didn't think he had the pull to captivate us through an entire show. But it seems that not only is he doing good stuff, his segments are often longer and more researched than actual news shows. In fact, the ones I've watched have been straight-up information-based arguments punctuated with the occasional sarcastic joke rather than really being comedy bits. While having more informative, thoughtful journalism out there is great, I'm thinking the show won't last that long for exactly the aforementioned reasons.

Here is his clip on the relatively-new phenomena dubbed "native advertising." He may think it is recent in "traditional" or "hard-hitting" journalism, but it has been present in fashion mags as the "advertorial" since Ms. magazine got co-opted by its own funders back in the 60s (early 70s?).

I would love to show this clip to my students when I move into the research paper section of my comp class, but I'm torn. I have been using Steven Colbert's wikipedia sketches for so long my students no longer get the topical references (was Gulf War II so long ago, people?), but I do so as part of explaining why wikipedia has so many problems and why they need to use academic sources. Similarly, I make a huge effort to show them how to read articles carefully and skeptically and sift out the well-researched articles from the biased and cheerleading fluff. If I show this, I bet my students are going to take the same "they're all crooks" conclusion that people use in politics to justify not voting at all, and wash their hands of even trying to find news articles with balanced and objective reporting, or decide that if everybody is going to be a corporate shill, there must not be any problems with anything they are shilling.

So, yes, my frustration is more with what's left of journalism for gutting their commitment to reporting the truth and asking all the questions people don't want asked rather than what people hope they'll be asked, but I really want to teach my students to value education and that whole belief that an independent and free press is necessary for democracy, and how can I do that and simultaneously show them evidence that the free and independent press no longer exists? My students aren't sophisticated to do a postmodern critique of the institution of journalism without defaulting to "it's all lies so who cares, shrug." It's easier to teach them that there are certain crappy, poorly-sourced, useless link aggregation or advertorial sources and there are certain other trustworthy and useful ones. Grumble grumble stupid news outlets mistaking themselves for buzzfeed.

On the other hand, the whole sketch is set up as an argument, though not one that traces out consequences of this trend. I could have them watch it and write arguments in response to how native advertising is or is not a problem, or perhaps some sort of problem/solution essay?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Preparing for another incoming round

(If only I looked this debonair...)

Soon, soon I must finish juggling around readings and assignments and finalize my syllabi. I'm doing some last replenishment shopping before I get swamped with work (at least I hope; how does shampoo manage to magically empty a day after I shook all the bottles and made a list?) and I still need to get my office all organized and prepared.

I just realized that we switched one of my classes and the new one starts at 7 am. Shit. I hadn't recognized the implications of that. I probably, most likely, in all likelihood, will not be able to wake up at 7 for my 7 o'clock class. Well this causes many kinks in my plans, and the necessity of having to change my alarm clock setting may actually be the worst. It only leads "wake up" and "go to bed unnaturally early" by a hair, though. Gak.

I also think I need to clean out my freezer and force myself to consume this stuff. There is a frozen sandwich bun and several soups that are almost exactly a year old, and are probably not any good any more. There are also popsicles and frozen yogurt and frozen mixed berries that are much more recent, but I had better eat all of them just to ensure quality. :)

Also I have no clue whether I am supposed to change the water filter and other fridge-related stuff, but the ice cubes smell and taste a bit ... stale? I have never had this problem before. My first impulse is to ignore it. I should get on that though before back to school craziness. And they were supposed to shampoo my carpets (or whatever the deep cleaning thing is) because I signed another year lease with them ... they are going to wait until I have my first batch of essays and am cranky and trying to concentrate before they come in and make a mess of everything, right? I just know it.

In other news, it is not as hot and dry as it should be, though we did kick off fire season. Other places have hunting season, we have fire season. We celebrated it with rain and mud, though, because a parade would make too much sense.

You know, I'd better go...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Money pothole

Argh! Ouch! Grrr!

So I have the situation of many academics and teachers where I am only on contract and paid for nine months of the year. When I learned this, I opted for the plan --- also, theoretically, common for academics --- of having smaller paychecks paid 12 times a year. I'd rather get regular checks than have to deal with making sure that my big rent amounts stay there in the account all summer. My mom, the conservative, has always railed against this "infantilizing" treatment of teachers which was in place when she first became a high school teacher back in the early 60s, saying that it was insulting for them to withhold your money as if they knew better how to steward it than you. Well, I am totally ok with that, and these days my savings accounts are getting about zero in interest, so it's not like I would be better at investing it than the school. Sign me up for a paycheck every month the rent is due, please.

Then I discovered that HR is basically closed during summer and they cut all the summer checks at the same time and you have to come to campus and pick them up and dump them in the bank yourself. Argh. So I am in the same place as where I started. Why is your 12-check method in any way useful, HR?

This left me in the position of having to budget and plan and generally not be an infant ---- and I swear! budgeting went on! there were columns and plans and lists and stuff! I swear!

But what has now come out to bite me are: 1) my desire to pay off these damn credit cards and 2) my inability to realize the the one-year anniversary in this place would mean that various introductory deals for things like the internet would be ending and the prices rising and the new higher rent rate would also kick in. Plus my dad, who has been getting ever more confused, told me it was time I took the cell phone bill back ---- he had been really nice and put us all on a family plan that he paid for back when I was adjuncting and then my brother and then my sister all lost their jobs. It was real nice of him, and I gladly agreed that I could go back to paying my cell phone bill now that I have salary. I just didn't know that I would be doing all the paperwork and calls in June and then not get a bill until the end of July and that the bill would include all of June, July and August. Crap. I guess that would be unknown number 3).

Problem number 1) of course is not actually an unknown ---- it is well documented that I am an impatient, impetuous, idiot. So when I had this big pile of money all in a lump sum and goal date of October for the credit cards and one of them being tantalizingly close to zero, of course, after totting up a couple budget scenarios, I decided to cut it as close to the line as possible and slam as much money at the credit cards as I could. Hahahahahaha! Stupid me. Sigh.

Anyway, super frustrating. With the higher bills and paying the minimum on my cards next month and one tiny savings account stockpile paying the cell phone and the other paying the electric bill (have I mentioned I live in The Hot Place?), I will be able to squeak through August to the next paycheck with literally pennies to spare over the required minimum balances I need to keep. Yes, that is including my student loan payment. Everything just barely covers. Sigh. I struggled so hard to build up those teeny silly savings balances!!! This whole adult responsibility thing blows sometimes doesn't it?

Ooh, and did I mention that another house came on the market in that historical neighborhood I like looking at? This one is a total all-American 50s style, flag on the porch and Harvest Gold carpet and everything. It's cute! ....Yes, I know .... another good word for me and my bad habits would be incorrigible.