Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ok, I am so over dogsitting

These rules are cramping my style. And just not something I need to deal with while also finalizing grades before a deadline. 

This has turned out to be way different than what I ask for my cats ---- you can't leave him without a bathroom for more than about 8 hours but I should only come over twice a day, and he won't use the back yard for me, only on his walks. So the time I need to come over before he explodes changes around every day. You have to walk him but not when it hits 100 but you do have to let him pee so stick around for the actual walk once it cools off. Then I have to stay here most of the evening and keep him company ---- and I don't like grading here and can't get the Dish to work and this all really impacts my own stuff and cat care. Frankly, cats are much easier --- mine are terrified of people so they don't want the company anyway, and all you have to do is leave food and water and scoop the litter box a bit. 

Also, when my cats puke up a hairball, it is way less disgusting and they don't do it while I am trying to cross the street with traffic.

All of this might mean that a dog is not for me. But if I could somehow bring him into my house without him trying to eat the cats (a major adventure on our daily walks) and without the cats being terrified of him, I think this would be much simpler. Although the whole reason she is not boarding him is that he is less stressed at his own place. By the way, he's still stressed. He is letting me know through the runnyness of his poop, which I have to pick up. And he may or may not have pooped a big mess on the local middle school track. I can neither confirm or deny that, officer.

Speaking of which, I have a conference to go to and I also want to go on various little trips this summer, which means that I too must go through the same thing. And I am trying to have this tomato plant I experimented with actually ripen tomatoes, which probably means I need someone to water it very day. Sigh. Catsitting seems to run about 25 a day here which really adds up at a week here and a week there. I am not sure, after this, about asking anyone in my department --- and this person I am sitting for plans to come back, move everything into storage, and go spend the summer where she is from in LA. Meh. She did give me 75 dollars at least. I would have preferred reciprocity more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

This Old House


Not so cute:


Cute and not cute (swamp cooler):

And backyard cute:

The problem is that with hundreds and hundreds of houses on the market now, I could pick any age, size, and style house I want in a variety of neighborhoods. Too many options! No clue what I want! Stymied by indecision! And I really really didn't feel like finishing up my grading this weekend, le sigh. Grab a pile of exams, would you? The dog is providing no help at all.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


I'm currently at a friend's house twice a day checking in on her dog. It's been weird being friends with her; that might require a whole separate post (also a new faculty, she has decided to leave later and made up her mind to hate The Hot Place. It is making planning to stay hard for me.) 

Anyway, she decided to rent a house in a little 1950s tract neighborhood on the other side of downtown from the cute 20s neighborhood I like, so I am trying out both house living and dog living this weekend. Here is what I have learned, in random bullet form:

- walking a dog is fun; picking up hot poop in a Baggie is not.
- this neighborhood is full of cute little ranch houses in varying states of upkeep; I love looking at the colors and teeny yards.
- I forgot which houses had the pit bulls that my friend said never to walk by. Now I know exactly why I should never walk by. (Soooo glad those fences go all around their property)
- the downtown is on flat land by the river and is muggier and full of more mosquitos than where I live. I might like hill views and breezes more than cute and historic places.
- cute and historic places feel pretty dark and hemmed in inside and I might not like that.
- I can see into the neighbor's living room and watch tv with them from her kitchen sink, because there is hardly any side yard.
- this teeny back yard is awesome and just the right size, although mature shade trees mean it must be hard to grow things.
- today I saw a welded scrap metal sculpture in one yard and also talked with a very friendly street preacher who looked like a hippie/biker. He was also walking his dog. I like meeting up with "characters" in a neighborhood; I do not like encountering shifty eyed dudes who appear to be on meth, checking all the cars for any ciggies and loose change.
- oh yeah, and living next to a rented house is a huge crapshoot: the next house over has just been rented by a bunch of Dudebros who do nothing but drink and party all the time. They have set up a beer pong table and trampoline (!) in the front yard and festooned the air above with garlands advertising Bud Light. Good thing she has already put a deposit down on a cheaper place across town! No yard for the dog, unfortunately.

In sum: I have no clue how people buy houses without living in them for a week or two first. How do you know if you like the neighborhood? Or, god forbid, how do you vet the neighbors?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I might not be evil enough for this job

I am not yet done with this semester, but I'm getting close. I might be at the exact crappiest point: I am finishing up the research paper grading and handing them back in the final.

This sucks.

I already had to deal with one class ---- the college writing class, which is "off schedule" this semester and thus has everyone who failed it last semester or took the remedial class right before it ----- today and I eventually decided that a lot of those borderline papers were in fact, not passing quality. A LOT. As in I only passed a couple of the students in that class. It was really shitty to sit there and watch them hyperventilate about writing this in-class essay (though if they can't respond with the standard 5-paragraph in class essay blorp within 2 hours, that is yet another sign that they probably should take the course again, eh) all the while I had on my lap this huge stack of D and F papers and had already told them they would not be allowed to pass the class without passing the research paper. Then I got to hand these back to them and look at them while they turned in the essay. I felt really awful. And yet, I couldn't bear to pass those essays.

Hmmm maybe my problem is the confrontation not the evil grading. Maybe I should switch over to online grading and send back the final papers via turnitin or moodle. Or not return them at all? I already have the intro to literature/writing class turn their big papers in at the final; maybe I should switch it around so that I am handing back those and getting the college writing research papers during the final? Interestingly, I am not at all worried about my intro to lit classes this semester ---- which is the normal semester to take it if you passed college writing. And even more interestingly, my "weird" class last semester, where I could not get them to understand the concept of buying the book or reading or doing the homework, was the second-semester class i.e. we were "off schedule."

Perhaps the solution is to just expect that everyone will fail in these off schedule classes and not worry about it. I did get better about not caring about the students who stopped showing up, and not taking their absences personally. But there is still the problem of the few who try soooo hard and just don't improve enough (or are making up a huge deficit) who then look at me with big anxious puppy eyes trying to read my expression before taking the research paper from my hand! Arrrgh! It sucks!

See? Evil enough to dish it out but not live with the consequences. What I really need is some sort of magic bullet that will make students learn things, and work hard, and care...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I warned you, I warned you!

So here at The Hot Place CC the semester is building to its conclusion, its peak, its point of crisis. My comp students need to take all the skills they have learned this semester and bring them all together, and demonstrate that they can complete a large project all on their own. It is their moment where the training wheels come off and they need to ride by themselves, where they need to actually make the jump out of the nest, whatever metaphor you prefer.

So of course are they doing that? Are they doing what I have been teaching and nagging them about all semester? Have they learned to actually believe me and what I told them to do? No, of course not. And they are surprised when it is not working for them like their dreams and false assumptions said it would. And at this point in the semester I always feel like this:

Not that I actually say that to them and laugh at then where they can hear, but yeah, it should have been clear when I came in wearing that same hat.

I warned you! It's only a little few classes; I don't have to buy the books and read them; I can deal with these big research papers the week they are due, uh huh, yeah right. Look at the bones! It can jump this far!!!! Death awaits you all, with nasty pointy teeth!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Starting off with the most important thing

My favorite WC Fields quote goes something like, start every day off with a smile, and get it over with. Words to live by. 

But more seriously, I have done best in my life when I put my greatest priority first thing on the morning, when I had most energy and least likeliness of procrastinating. I made my best progress on my dissertation when I put in a morning session, and I can power through more grading early with coffee than late and with grumpiness. And, alas, if I blog in the morning, that might be the only thing I accomplish that day.

So I am thinking hard about next year's schedule, which we are finalizing right now based on this year's. I teach every morning at 9, which has its advantages, not least of which is that I remember to come in on time. But I often have to get up early to have the energy to finish the last of the grading, and I am not able to prioritize any sort of workout --- I haven't done yoga or even stretched for months. This is bad. I already struggle with my weight and my love of food and my habit of eating while bored or while grading, plus I am always smunched up in a chair. But I can't get myself to bed early enough to get up early enough to do a workout and a shower and still make it to school on time. And if I don't force myself to exercise then, when will I? It is not exactly like I love it. 

I had a year where I taught every day at 10 and was magically able to do yoga and/or jump rope 3 times a week. And that was the weird magical time when I somehow managed to comment on about half of the homework paragraphs during each class, which I think also really helped free up some time. But I digress from my point, which is hardly a point at all except that I really only have the willpower to do one annoying thing after the indignity of having to get up. I would like to take better care of myself, but I mostly like the teaching aspect of my current schedule. Hmm. I will probably go along with inertia and make the decision through inaction ---- which is pretty much the point of this whole post.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dude ... wait, what?

I suppose I already posted about the time I made an absolute veto of a topic, saying "Ok, you can write about absolutely any popular culture topic you want, but I don't want to get the legalizing pot paper. It's boring and it often becomes 'dude, but I really liiiiiiike it,' which is not a viable academic argument."

All the students laughed but then one student I kinda had forgotten was in the class raised his hand and said, "but really I wouldn't make that argument! No, really! I want to convince you! We just had some important elections and there are new developments."

Arrrgh, no! I forgot I'm now in a place where people actually are part of a pot culture. Back where I did the postdoc there was a serious anti-drug culture with the exception of people on the absolute margins of society. People in the area might cook meth or make moonshine, but you didn't really find active users in a college classroom. But ahhhh, now I'm at a community college, which means you can just walk in and start taking classes, and I live in a much more mellow state. Dude.

The student and I did a little back-and-forth over it and I relented by saying, "I want a topic about the culture of pot-smoking, you understand? How has that changed our understanding of American culture? I don't want the 'legalize it!' essay." Student said fine, and since from my perspective as a cultural studies scholar, I can see how to make that a pretty good, interesting essay. I actually think that is a useful subject to study.

Of course, the student hasn't ever written a big cultural studies essay and done scholarly research before, so on our first library research day, he calls me over while we are all working on individual projects and says, "Ok I see what you mean. There isn't anything good that isn't about legalization or science and I want to change my topic. I found this book and thought it seemed interesting." He had the lib catalog open to a book something like Why We Hate.

"Ok," I say. "What was the librarian just showing us about emailing the citation to yourself? Be sure to write down this --- it's the call number --- and at the end of class she is going to help us find books in the stacks." He does everything and I see him walking out at the end with a book under his arm. Great, right?

Fast forward to our second library session, where we go over the article databases. After being walked through how to search, everyone is trying to locate an article on their own. Student calls me over and says, "I'm having trouble again." The book is on the desk next to him.

"Ok," I say. "Do you need more search terms or synonyms? What about legal terms, or 'hate crime' or 'hate speech' or 'anti-hate crime legislation'?" I was thinking this was the direction this topic was going.

"Oh wow!" He is stung, absolutely stung, like tears in the eyes for a second stung. "Why you gotta say something like that! Like, wow! Really? That topic's so, like, harsh!"

"Ok, ok, ok!" I say reassuringly. "Is that not the direction you are looking? Why don't you tell me a little more about what you'd like to argue?"

I told this story to my colleague today, who laughed and said, "you think maybe he didn't understand what those terms meant? I wonder what sort of direction he thought you were going in?"

That hadn't occurred to me, I admitted. "What do you want to bet though that this student's thesis ends up as 'why people gotta hate, man? People need to mellow out and not be so harsh!' "

My colleague nodded. "Kid found a way to bring the topic in by the back door," then he added, philosophically, "duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude."

Easy for him to say. He's not going to have to grade it.