Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anonymous, the movie

First of all I want to point out that the movie trailers for that new version of the Three Musketeers makes the baby Jesus cry. Seriously, why are you remaking the book ---- no, more accurately. why are you making an explosion-action movie with boobs and tacking the title of the Three Musketeers on to it? It certainly doesn't get the point of the book nor really seem to bother with any of the plot details. Or even really the costuming of the period, which was more than just decolletage. There's a funky mark somewhere on that word, isn't there? Eh, I'm not gonna look it up.

But now on to the big point, which is someone has made a movie about the Oxford conspiracy. You know, the whole "Shakespeare couldn't have written Shakespeare's stuff, so it must have been a nobleman of your choice depending on what week it is." Seriously, is that interesting? Do people really care who wrote Shakespeare? Wasn't the point of Theory and Foucault's What is an Author that the whole concept of "author" is socially constructed anyway?  I didn't think even Shakespeareans cared, since it's not like we know a whole lot about his biography. You still have the plays. Doing criticism through straight-up biographical criticism is about as interesting as whether you find a character "relatable."

But you know I wanted to ask all my Shakespeare peeps about the film and see what they thought and if there was anything exciting they could weigh in on.

I was thinking it would be more of an interesting movie if they did a thing where the author of "Shakespeare's plays" wore the Anonymous mask from V for Vendetta. Ooh, and also tried to blow up Parliament. And ran Wikileaks. While tweeting from inside the Iranian revolution. Because that would be a story, at least. And really they should just go with this new and interesting story and jettison the stupid attempts at referencing history altogether. Then they could work on imagining new ideas and representing our lives back to us in original ways rather than rely on the crutch of a pre-made story everyone already sorta knows to allow them more time to work on getting all those expensive explosions perfect. Oh. Well that explains a lot.

Well what does our buddy Michel have to say about this?
We are accustomed, as we have seen earlier, to saying that the author is the genial creator of a work in which he deposits, with infinite wealth and generosity, an inexhaustible world of significations. ... The truth is quite the contrary: the author is not an indefinite source of significations that fill a work; the author does not precede the works; he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of fiction. In fact, if we are accustomed to presenting the author as a genius, as a perpetual surging of invention, it is because, in reality, we make him function in exactly the opposite fashion. One can say that the author is an ideological product, since we represent him as the opposite of his historically real function. When a historically given function is represented in a figure that inverts it, one has an ideological production. The author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning.
In other words, to hash it up a bit, We don't care if Joe Brown did or did not write a laundry list or even a particular play. And we only care that Shakespeare did or did not write some plays or even about those plays at all because an immense amount of cultural work erected an apparatus of meaning and value around them, from festivals to English departments to RSC videos to required reading lists and mandatory high school assignments --- to say nothing of the many parodies, citations, or homages of those plays and the very notion of "Shakespeareness" you see constantly in popular culture.

This, I think, is why I have lately become very depressed about the latest rollouts in social media promising to "seamlessly integrate" every single search and button clicked on the web with your "real life" identity --- and now with a "timeline" function that will chart out your every awkward attempt to reinvent yourself in the past. No more moving to the big city and starting a new life, or hiding your photos from a bad fashion moment or bad relationship ---- you get to carry your baggage with you and share it with anyone who clicks "friend." And that's to say nothing of the skeletons you may have in your closet, whether mental illness or money problems, you might want to conceal in order to start over with new people and a clean slate. Or even the ability to be whimsical and random and inconsistent and changeable in mood ---- can you "seamlessly integrate" all the disparate identities we usually paper over with the term "subject" and roll them out on a single timeline?

It really does seem like "we fear the proliferation of meaning" and want to make sure that, once and for all, all identities get securely pinned down to one name, one body, with full authenticity and no masks, role-playing or contradictions. No pretending to be someone else, no imagining what it could be like as someone else. Ironically, to lock down the proliferation of meaning and fasten it securely to a single unified identity, we all must endlessly proliferate data to be mined for corporate commerce as playlists and shopping preferences, and upload representations of ourselves that we sign away all rights to.

He goes on to say that, although he recognizes that doing away with the author-function is utopian, or "pure romanticism," conceivably, as the culture changes from bourgeois individualism and private property into something else, the author-function might be replaced by something else entirely, "and in such a manner that fiction and its polysemous texts will once again function according to another mode, but still with a system of constraint-one that will no longer be the author but will have to be determined or, perhaps, experienced." In this new social configuration, "there would be other questions, like these: What are the modes of existence of this discourse? Where has it been used, how can it circulate, and who can appropriate it for himself? What are the places in it where there is room for possible subjects? Who can assume these various subject functions? And behind all these questions, we would hear hardly anything but the stirring of an indifference: What difference does it make who is speaking?"

What difference does it make who is speaking, indeed, Mike. Except for that earlier bit you said about authorship being born out of torture. When it comes to torture, as long as it's still a risk, a lot rests on who is speaking.

Monday, September 26, 2011

You need some cats.

So here you go:

You also need a big pile of grading to do, I can feel it. I'll trade you the privilege of kitty head-scritches for essay grading. You can see Loquito there hiding behind the pitcher meowing for more food and willing to chew up papers to get my attention. He'll handle some, but you'll need to pick up the leftovers. Plenty to go around. Scritch, scritch.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Nitty Gritty

I hate it when I have a weekend that didn't get much done on the to-list, and yet didn't feel very relaxing either. Plus, I am in the weird state of being both done and not done with everything this evening.

Today at least I got the catbox cleaned. And the kitchen floor was gritty; you know that means I have to deal with it. So I did. And a lot of cooking so I have leftovers to bring in all week. Yesterday I only did half of a job application and then pissed the rest of the day away on class prep for my Fruit Studies course. I have been doing pretty well at not allowing myself to prep the Fruit or Stripey classes at all, only going off of last semester, and that really helps free up time for grading. Although it doesn't really make my life feel any better, since then I'm grading all the time. But prepping a lecture or a powerpoint show can really eat up the time, and feels productive and fun.

I got comp papers on Friday and you know I should have graded like a fiend on them all weekend. Instead I haven't started them. That's what I mean about this evening: I have done a lot of little stuff on the to-do list but there's no way I'm going to start tackling a pile of essays at 10pm. Which means I tidied everything and picked out clothes for tomorrow and packed a lunch just like I am sending a sex year old off to school instead of myself --- no, wait, that's not all that different really --- and now I am taking a moment to blog.

The nice thing about the week before an essay is due, if you are like me, is that you have students doing peer review days and revision days and you have handouts and slides that you think work really well and only require updating the due dates and making copies. You don't get any paper that week and can spend the in class time catching up on other classes' quizzes and the out-of-class time on other class assignments. Then you suddenly realize that on Monday, you're going to have to start teaching again, and you look at your syllabus and are confused by the motley readings. WTH do these have to do with each other? you think to yourself. What am I going to do in class on those days? And how the hell will I get this into a new essay sequence?

So instead of grading I have been writing a prompt for essay 2 and planning out all the stuff we will work on in class, moving backwards from what the prompt says and backwards across the calendar. I don't know if that's the best way to do it, but I like planning backwards this way. Today I waffled back and forth on the types of in-class writing I would have them do and whether or not I would collect it ---- holy cats am I going to be collecting a lot of homework paragraphs and in class paragraphs from them! Argh.

On the other hand, I think I have all of next week for comp planned out. Now I just have to really discipline myself to grade grade grade those essays and peer reviews all week to make up for the slacking this weekend. Except it wasn't slacking so much as trying to make sure the next essay is doable and will not cause me to commit hara-kiri. Which really is a possibility when I go into the class and try to wing it or write an essay prompt at the last minute and then discover that it inspired extra sucky papers.

Oh, and I entered grades from the latest batch of Stripey quizzes ---- lots and lots of zeros and 1s out of five questions. Some ok ones that clearly read. I will be taking a moment to remind them of the existence of the midterm and to nag them about keeping up on the reading. I don't know if it is resistance to the topic or not enough quizzes smacking them across the ass but the Stripey students are not in the game yet compared to my comp students. They are also very sullen and bored looking. let the nagging begin, I guess. At least blank and obviously-wrong quizzes don't take long to grade.

Ok, I guess now it is time to sleep.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Damned Notorious Writing Group Week 2: Haha!

I am going to declare my week's goal met ---- fix all the bolded parts of sections 1 and 2 ---- even though I am still missing a subhead title for the section. Titles don't really come to me when I think about them but appear on their own time instead, so I don't want to hold things up while waiting. I have a list of nouns; maybe I could thumbtack them up over my bed and the perfect witty phrase will drift into my mind while I am sleeping.

So last week I was complaining about time to write, and just the overall exhaustion of teaching four classes when you are making them do piddly homework and quiz crap every day. And I just got essays, oh god! Wait, don't let me distract myself. Anyway, I tried putting in a short writing period immediately after my yoga practices and it sorta works but it is a far from ideal situation. Monday I skipped yoga but got in 30 minutes of revising; Wed I did a short yoga and did 30 min of revising; and today I skipped yoga and spent all day except for when I was actually collecting my essays revising. Hmm. And yes, this blog really is going to get this boring for the next few weeks. Maybe if you are lucky I will take pictures of my cats and pretend they are in yoga poses. That's as exciting as it's gonna get.

Part of the problem there is I slipped and fell and banged up my knee, which still has a massive scab like I am five. It made doing any sort of yoga that involved kneeling impossible. And then I went straight into cramps for my period and that just adds to the amount of self-discipline I need to make me get up at 6 am and actually do exercise. Dammit. I don't want to fall off the exercise habit, not when I spent so long building it up this summer! I will do a make-up session tomorrow morning and see if that helps get be back on track.

Writing between exercising and teaching isn't the best spot either, since I want to do it undisturbed at home yet feel very worried and antsy until I actually make it on campus and know that nothing is going to prevent me from getting there ---- I know, I'm such a worrier, what the hell can I do about it? ---- but at least I kept my mind semi-involved in the article and on track and polished up a few bits. I would never be able to do this at the writing stage, so I am soooo glad I got it pretty much drafted before school hit. No, wait, I am pissed that I only got it mostly drafted! I wanted to send that completely polished fucker out and not have to deal with it during the school year! Ah well. Make the best of whatever stupid situation you find yourself in, I guess.

Ok, now I know I promised to say how I found stuff and finally read the "scoop" article which is not actually on my argument or even particularly interesting, and I will, some day, but those will go in my "lit review" section and other than that the lit review is pretty much done. So it is not next on my to-do list. Nope, the center subsection is next and it is a mess --- there are two pages that basically need writing (as in they are a bulleted to-do list) and the rest are very rough and drafty. I must get this section polished next. So that is my goal for next week for the ADNWG! Actually, I think, given the roughness of the section, that I will need two weeks on it, so: I will have it half done on Fri, Sept 30, and completely polished up on Fri, Oct 7. If I then take two weeks on the final section and one week on the intro/lit review stuff, I could be done with it by the end of Oct and then just go proofy-proofy and fix up the bibliography. I do think that schedule will slide a bit though as I hit even more grading and do some damn job apps. Argh. In fact, I want to work on this all day tomorrow, but think I will have to do job app stuff instead. Double argh.

Anyway, if I wasn't always tired and overwhelmed and trying to get out from under one pile of something or another, I'd be able to tell you something interesting. Stay tuned. But don't hold your breath, because these days, when it comes down to a choice between blogging and taking a nap, blogging is coming in a distant second.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Audience Exercise Whaa?

First order of business: I worked on my article for about an hour this morning, returned for a couple snatches in the afternoon, and currently have all my piles neatly organized on the kitchen table with newly-made to-do-lists and notes on each one. :) And I plan to try revising first thing after I exercise tomorrow morning! Even if it's only 30 min, I can work out a topic sentence or a couple transition passages.
Go go super Sisyphus!

Second, I tried assigning homework questions from the new comp book for almost every day (to force them to read, and hopefully read carefully enough to understand these little articles), and my students have out-stupided me, the cheeky little weasels. We had a day with horrible discussion last week, and getting to their homework, it is clear that most of them tried to answer the comprehension questions I assigned without actually reading the article!!! Geeez! I didn't like question 1 so I assigned 2, 3, and 4, and many students couldn't even tell me who the author of the article was ... the author being identified in the first question and referred to as "the author" in most of the remaining questions.

Also, if I see another paragraph burbling about "flow" I am going to smack someone. Seriously, I got sooo many homework paragraphs that read "The author organizes the information in this article from general to specific because that gives it a nice flow and makes his arguments more persuasive. I found the essay to be very well organized and persuasive. The way the tone changes between the fifth and seventh paragraphs was also important because it helped with the flow." Basically, a restatement of all the questions (without the answer to "and why?") and not a single specific noun much less an example from the article. I am giving out a lot of zero-credits and will hand them back with a stern lecture on Monday before peer review. I am hoping that they will learn and I will have less actual marking to do on the pages. Actually they are going pretty fast, I just have to take breaks like this to avoid bursting into flames from the repressed rage.

And finally, the title of my post: who bothers to do audience exercises in their comp class? I ask because one colleague had no luck last semester getting students to understand writing differently to different specific audiences, and so this colleague is doing nothing but audience exercises this first four-five weeks and that is all they are discussing in their first essay. I fail to see the point. I mean, I am only teaching them to do one thing: write academic essays. I do discuss the conventions of different disciplines and how they do research a bit, but really the only emphasis I put on audience is that they need to think of audience for their essays as if they are a scholar in that discipline and writing to other scholars and that this is a fairly formal structure. I don't spend any time having them rewrite an essay for a general newspaper audience, or to compare how they would describe a car accident to the cops vs their mom vs their best friend, or whatever. I have things way higher on my priority list --- like for example the fact that my students see nothing wrong with a thesis that reads "computers are bad, but on the other hand they are good." Argh. On the other hand, by Friday I had gotten them to be able to explain why "There are many problems with computers" and "The thesis of  my paper is the many problems with computers" are examples of bad thesis statements, so perhaps there is hope. Maybe once they start reading the essays they will be able to find examples of actual quality thesis statements! A girl can dream.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Another Damned Notorious Writing Group Week 1: It could have been worse

At least, I think it could have been worse. Part of the problem is that this is not week 1 at school for me, but week 4, and I have gotten stacks of essays from all four of my classes already. Yeah, I know, I am the one scheduling and so on, but really, if you need the comp students to do 4 essays in a semester, you don't really have that much leeway for scheduling since stuff is going to be constantly coming in. Plus I have stacks and stacks of quizzes and homeworks I need to at least check off that they did them (these are the other classes) which is also kinda weighing on me right now.

On the happier side, my Fruit Studies class is doing all the reading, brings their books and loves to talk, so that class is such a joy compared to the last time I taught it. And the stripey class just got an average of zero on their first quiz and I pointed out that getting a zero on the midterm would probably be A Bad Thing, so I'm hoping that this lesson has now been learned.

Anyway, Floyd the article. I worked on Floyd last weekend and Monday, and then was buried by grading all week. I always feel so harried and behind on it and have anxious students wondering how soon they will get material back. But! They are only part of my job. And i need to make sure I make time for my article writing and my job search applying. (Applicating? whatever.) So my goal is, even more importantly than cleaning up the middle sections, to look at my schedule and my semester assignment schedule and give some priority time to revising. As part of that, I promise to write first thing tomorrow morning,  as soon as my coffee has kicked in, and then do my planning.

(I am most willing to do unpleasant or stressful stuff first thing in the morning --- my "sweet spot" for energy and alertness. But so far this semester I have missed only one 6 am MWF yoga dvd session, and I really don't want to give that up. But there's not really time afterwards to do anything besides shower and go to teach, and I won't do anything so unpleasant as exercise at any other time of the day. Get it over with and off the plate, you know. Will have to ponder this.)

I looked on the MLA Job List and it was like lancing a boil: painful but great afterwards. I haven't had the urge to look at it again or do any applicating since. I mean, I printed out anything that looked remotely possible and put it in my big binder organized by due date, so I know when the apps are going to start coming due. It's just strange to me how I had to *know,* like I was worried there would not be any jobs at all on the JIL and once I reassured myself I could stop compulsively checking to see if it was up. I'm weird, I know.

I am so tired. Later I will tell you about The Scooped Article That Totally Was Not, and the Potential Exciting Crazy Thing I accidentally discovered about my author. Now, though, I'm going to bed. ZZZZZZ.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Missoni for MLA

The JIL website has gone live, a few days early, as it often does.

Target released their Missoni line of stuff today --- stores have already sold out of Missoni merchandise in certain major cities --- and their website is crashing under the huge numbers of people.

Guess which site I'm more interested in.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I made you a Another Damned Notiorious Writing Group Sticker, but I eated it.

Since I joined the writing group hosted by Notorious, PhD and Another Damned Medievalist, and since I was doing fine with revising while eating dinner until I decided to drink the last of the wine I used on the lentil sauce, I made you a sticker.

If you are doing the writing group this fall, you can put it on your blog! Or you can design a better one, as I don't vouch for my visual-design skills. (I made it in Word and it wouldn't let me play with the leading, for one thing.)

Now I don't know what to do, as I really can't concentrate on revising or grading after a glass of wine. And boy, do I have lots of grading! There's nothing like a pile of in-class essays to make revising your article seem really enticing. I'm buried already and it is only, what, week 3? Fun fun.

I feel like I should incorporate LOLcats into my ANDWG sticker. I think I have exhausted my store of patience for fiddling about with image and font programs for the day, though.

True, true! Though really, if I had the energy, I'd re-do this pic to read WRITING R HARD. Because it so is. Even with wine.

New new or same old? Or, do search committees care about breadth of courses taught?

Hello! I got an email asking about spring courses already. The emailer asked if I wanted to teach the same Introduction to Fruit Studies course in spring, or if I wanted the chance to try out a specific different GE course for Fruit Studies. I have a few days to think about it.

This basically comes down to ease of prep time vs adding to my repertoire of courses to look good on the job market. Of course, I won't have taught the new course by the time MLA rolls around, but I could always mention it in my letter or cv and hopefully impress people with my application. On the other hand, I could be looking at nada on the job market and be moving in to the spring "alternate" job market for ccs or even nonacademic jobs and the possibility, yet again, of moving into my parents' basement, which would mean prepping up a new course while feeling sad and anxious and completely revamping my life. (But is teaching already-prepped and practiced courses while feeling sad and completely revamping one's life better? Hmm.)

I kinda think that any time I have taught a new course it has been a lot of work and kinda sucked, and then the second time things go much more smoothly. Plus I know me and I might be tempted to blow off article writing and current class grading to prep the shiny potential of the future class instead this semester, but I bet I can work to keep that to a minimum.

The email said I haven't been put into the schedule for the regular comp/English classes yet, so there might be a chance I get offered a different comp class or something other than the Stripey class in spring (hmm, a Plaid class? Checks? Polka dots?), so depending on the whims of the department, I could have lots of new classes to prep instead of just this one. Not sure yet if that would be a good thing or bad. Probably bad. OTOH, I have taught almost the same thing for three semesters now (except when the fuckers changed comp anthologies on me this fall, rrrr) and maybe I will explode from sheer frustration if I teach them for a fourth semester.

Do you think search committees care about the variety and breadth of courses taught? Is there a point at which the payoff is negligible? Because I TA'd a shitload of lit classes on different topics (to say nothing of the years I worked in other departments) and then got to run some of my own and adjunct teach some topics classes before I even got here to teach the whole sequence of gen ed classes. Would it matter to anyone that I had taught the same stuff vs. lots of different classes here?

And would your answer be any different if the Stripey Class was world lit and this new course was Fruits Around the World? Or alternately, what if they're not?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Missoni for Target

You might remember the last time I blogged about Liberty Fabric at Target, but was sad when I looked at the actual stuff and found it not as nice as I was hoping. Also, I don't do well in head-to-toe loud clashing floral patterns.

However, I have high hopes for the Missoni collection coming to Target later this week! I like geometric stuff better than flowers. Bring on the wild-colored chevrons!

Now, I will probably look about as good in loud, head-to-toe horizontal chevrons as I do in clashing florals, but I am not really so stoked about the outfits as much as I am interested in livening up my solids with some interesting accessories. Like the scarves or shoes:

Why, oh why, did I buy some plain black serviceable wellies last year when clearly I need crazy chevron ones??????? Sigh.
I might have to try on the clothes and see if there is anything I can work into my wardrobe without being silly --- but the shoes are a must-have. They are awesome. Also, I want to wear men's ties, just so that I can steal the ones from this collection.

What I am really stoked on, though, are the housewares. I found a "lookbook" previewing all their products (Target doesn't have any of them online yet; must wait for the 13th...) and I am worried. There was a tv commercial that had crazy towels. I would really like a loud and cheerful set of bath towels! I can't find them previewed anywhere and I am worried that they don't really exist. That makes me sad. I do not need a set of zany black-and-white melamine dinnerware; I need crazy towels!

Also, I feel like Flavia needs these snazzy bar accessories, mainly because on the internet she's an Art Deco head. (Side note: does that mean I should be wearing lots of furs and animal prints? I actually do wear lots of black-and-white, just like my photo of me hiding behind poststructuralist theory over there.)
Long live the chevron! I hope that all this snazzy stuff lives up to my expectations.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hilarious and Wrong

Funny day yesterday.

First of all, the squeaking was still there when I went back to school, although not so loud that you could hear it when the classroom doors were closed. I guess the water was off for most of the day after I left, but they had it back on yesterday morning.

So I had my two comp classes yesterday, back to back, and of course we do exactly the same thing in both of them, because I'm no dummy who needs to over-prep things. Yesterday I had a PP slide up when the students came into the class that read "You will need the article I put on the course management software and assigned for today!" or words close to it.

First section, everything went fine. I had them write paragraphs in little groups analyzing how this article included evidence. And we had a lovely discussion about the reading afterwards.  Then I cleaned up my piles of stuff and marked the attendance sheet while the next class filed in --- I even have the same classroom for both classes. So, I sit around and do my stuff the whole "passing period" while students file in and get all ready.

I happen to be going to get something --- a marker? I forget --- when one girl stops me in the doorway, right as class should be starting. I don't have the article, she tells me, but I read it. I can just deal with it from memory, right?

No, I tell her. We are doing an assignment that will mean you have to use quotes from the essay and talk about the statistics. Try printing it out from the computer lab downstairs, but sometimes there is a class in there and you aren't allowed in. Maybe the library?

There is this noise like a damn breaking and I turn around only to be swept out of the classroom by a tide of students. Wha??? Where is everyone going? Almost the entire class files sheepishly past me. Four students are left out of twenty-eight. I stare at them for a minute and begin laughing.

"Gee, if I had known nobody had it at the beginning of passing period I would have improvised some other sort of assignment." I comment to the near-empty room.

"So, how about that weather, huh?" I joke. "How bout those 49ers?" To my horror, one of the students actually wants to talk about how the weather impacted the local games this weekend. I bluff for a minute or two then take roll, and have the students break into two pairs and begin the assignment.

About halfway through the class, students start trickling back in with their copies, in ones and twos, and I can't help laughing again. I give them the assignment and tell them they need to haul ass in order to finish because they need to turn it in at the end of the class period. I realize I should probably not be saying "haul ass" but think it's even worse to start censoring myself on the 8th or 9th time. We don't have time to discuss the reading at the end of class but I collect the paragraphs of varying lengths.

So I think my freshmen have learned something, in a far more valuable way than my lecturing could ever do. Heh. Long live the object lesson! Ahhh, freshmen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When this water fountain's arockin', don't come aknockin'

Today has to rank pretty highly on the list of Highly Annoying Things That Distract My Classroom, although not as high as the time a very cute and photogenic puppy wandered into view and plomped himself down on the grass outside the classroom window and distracted even the most cynical of my students with his gleeful cavorting. But it was Highly Annoying nonetheless.

Evidently a water main broke sometime right between my first and my second class. This meant that the water fountains on every floor ---- and all the bathroom plumbing, I later found out ---- started making interesting and horrible noises. At first, it consisted of various knockings and banging and pops, with varied tempos and accents that had me poking my head in next door to ask if they were playing music or practicing a drum circle. They protested their innocence and pointed to the rattling, shaking water fountain that appeared to be having a seizure right outside our doorways. Someone ran the water for a second and said, "maybe if we relieve the pressure," and a lot of the noise subsided. Of course, we did not know that the pipe had burst and not yet been located or the water turned off, so no, the problem was not solved.

Instead the banging and rattling subsided down to a steady, rhythmic squeak, about ten minutes into the class. It sounded for all the world like someone having vigorous sex in a very squeaky bed, and I mentioned that to my class. What can I say? The whole thing was distracting me too. From the looks of flat disapproval on most of my students' faces, they did not want me to talk of Such Things. I forgot that I am basically a high school teacher here and it is not ok to acknowledge that they know anything about sex. It probably wasn't helped by me adding, "Jeeez, could they change it up a little? I'd get pretty damn bored of the lack of variety even if it's squeaky-bed sex, much less pipes breaking." Someone made a weak joke about staying power and I retorted that's way less impressive from the perspective of the other person involved.

"So, ok class (cree-Eek), when we look at this (cree-Eek) line of the poem, what's (cree-Eek) going on here? (cree-Eek ... cree-Eek ... cree-Eek) What are the two things being compared in (cree-Eek) the metaphor here in this line? (cree-Eek) Anyone able to tell me (cree-Eek) arrrgh god make it stop! Nooooooooooo!"

Except I didn't actually start screaming and cursing out loud. I don't think. I guess it wasn't too bad --- I already have to pace and repeat my sentences around all the coughing and throat-clearing going on in that class. This was just fighting distraction outside of the room instead of within it.

The only problem is that the rhythm has now been burned on my brain. I was joking with a couple postdocs afterwards that if I knew how to beatbox, I could rap along with it. It is about twenty times louder on the floor where my office is, and ended up driving me away instead of me staying in the office to get my class prep done. And even now, I still have it echoing in my ears as if I were still hearing it. I sure hope they fix that damn pipe before (cree-Eek) tomorrow.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A venture off into the unknown

Hmm. They appear to have changed the Blogger dashboard. Do I like it? I don't know.

Anyway, I'd like you to meet my nephew:

(Blue-crowned Mot Mot, from wikipedia)

I am very proud of him. He just came back (fairly recently, now he's back in school) from a month-long trip to Nicaragua, with some sort of high school student-exchange-do-charity group. I got to hear all about it on the phone last night.

My nephew's the one with all sorts of learning disabilities and lots of trouble reading, and very shy and not really self-sufficient. My dad had taken a look at his grades and his LD reports and thought he would never make it through high school. And now he is finishing up this year and looking into colleges! The bad news is that his GPA is truly terrible and he wants to do engineering, and he might not be able to do that in college, since it is competitive. But he has really grown up and learned how to manage studying and his various learning problems in a good way.

For this summer exchange program, he got nominated by a teacher, but then had to do an essay and a big old application to compete to get in. And he did it all by himself and was very proactive about getting his app looked at by that teacher and doing drafts of the essay and bringing them by his English teacher, so I feel like even that process was great for teaching him some maturity and self-sufficiency.

And then he got picked and went to a foreign country, which is awesome and very eye-opening! My nephew is very nice, but very sheltered by his parents. And, though I love my brother, my bro is an engineer and they can tend to range from libertarian-don't-believe-in-taxes-and-social-programs to totally self-centered dicks. My brother is definitely on the mild side of it, but he thinks that because he went to (from a solidly middle-class secure background) a nice middle-class life and plenty of money through a secure job, everybody can and anyone who is poor is simply lazy and worthless. So my nephew got a strong dose of what it is like in other countries and just what poverty might mean. And he helped people weed their crops and dig a well and all sorts of stuff that just might make him really think about the relationship between his wealthy first-world lifestyle and other parts of the world. I think I'm going to point him towards Engineers Without Borders and try to get him involved on his campus (if and when he goes to college.)

Anyway, I hadn't gone to another country by the time I hit high school or really thought about global poverty by that point, so I am thrilled that he is gaining an awareness of it ---- they had the students do an exercise where they lived off a dollar a day, roughly, and went without electricity and hauled their own water. My nephew said they ate only rice and beans those days, but those tasted so amazing, they were so hungry; the best food of the trip. --- And I think being away from his parents and on his own and trading off leadership duties with the other students was a great exercise in him coming out of his shell a bit and being more mature and self-sufficient. It just sounds like an overall awesome experience and I am glad he had the chance to do it.

He also told me about rainforests and humidity with afternoon thunderstorms and monkeys and lots of birds and bus trips around in the mountains and all sorts of stuff. It really made me want to go traveling; there are so many places I have not been! Next time I am back in CA I get to see all his pictures, too. Good stuff.

Nothing so exciting is happening over at my place, though. I had a couple really bad nights' sleep and also thought that I ate something I was allergic to --- but more likely was me having a panic attack about something. Sigh. Now I have to figure that out. Why does my body have to have a stress reaction that makes it infinitely more stressed? After all that not sleeping I might need to take a nap. Forget being able to get myself back on a super-early-morning sleep schedule, that's for sure.