Sunday, October 28, 2012

The logic of student essays

Bleah. Grading. While most of my students have gotten better about the basic structure of an essay and the idea of making an arguable claim, followed by some sort of evidence that supports it, the actual quality of the evidence and the analysis of that evidence is still, shall we say, lacking.

I had my students in peer review highlight each others' paragraphs to color-code for claims and evidence and analysis, and by and large they discovered that the structures were perfect because there were, indeed, sentences on either side of the quotes being used. The actual content or relevance of those sentences to the evidence, however, doesn't necessarily match up. Clearly there is a disconnect in terms of quality control on both the writer and the peer-reviewer ends. Argh.

And the logic as they walk me through their argument processes! Sigh. My friend posted this satire of a TED talk from the Onion, and I shall re-post it as my students all seem to suffer from Because?Magic! in their logic:

I don't know how to teach this sort of basic "there's a hole in your logic three miles long and you have to actually explain how each step in the logic works" thinking. All of the "logic" I find posted on the web from philosophy courses and Toulminian argument is way more structured and advanced than I am going for. I just want them to show the steps of their thinking and not contradict their own claims half a page later.

Of course, if this satire is right that they're getting it from the business world (and political campaigns too!), I don't know how much I could do about it. ...Wait! I have an idea! An idea that will solve our students' logic problems, completely revamp NCLB and save our country money! Wanna know what it is?

You're gonna have to pay me to find out. Make checks payable to the Save the Sisyphus Foundation, Ltd.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It is sweater weather and I have nothing to wear.

Ever since I found multiple moth holes in my fairisle sweater (sigh --- I liked it, even if it was just a Gap sweater) and thrifted it, I have been sad about my sweater collection. I have quite a few --- although several have at least one or two holes, and a couple have been shrunk in washing and they are not comfy any more, and some shed constantly or are just uncomfortable to wear --- but they are all very plain basics. They are either purple or red, since the last of the blue ones was the fairisle, and they have no patterns. That means that once winter comes I wear black pants and a purple sweater, or some such combination that is very boring, every day. Since I have worked hard on adding dresses with crazy prints to my wardrobe, the impending boringness of the sweater season weighs heavily on me.

And yet all of the sweaters out these days are beyond interesting and into the weird category. As in, I do not want weird dolman sleeves, working buttons all the way down the sleeves, or a mullet hem. (seriously people???) And I definitely do not want all of the above on a single garment! I just want some sort of cute detail up near the collar or a simple pattern.

And so I went on my quest!

Actually, I clicked around a lot on the internet. But still. There were actually some interesting sweaters at Piperlime, but once you select for sweaters under $200, most of them go away. And I don't really want to pay even $100 for a sweater.

Modcloth, however, had some interesting possibilities. Not necessarily possibilities I ordinarily would have chosen, but possibilities nevertheless. What do you think? I need opinions:

I know that horizontal stripes are not friendly to someone who is short and apple-shaped. Alas. While I love the sheer weirdness of cinnamon and hot pink, the arms on that sweater are especially schumpfy and make my upper arms look huge, which is not usually something I particularly notice. And I'm not really loving the crew-neck on any of them, since that can tend to make one's chest into just a big amorphous blob.

So --- keep any, return any, keep looking? Any suggestions or leads for pretty sweaters that aren't a zillion dollars and cashmere? Maybe I could just tie my cats to my body before going to class?

Monday, October 22, 2012

And I hate the orchids worse than anything.

Today I spent a half hour on my book revisions! Yay! And then I got papers and am already behind on my daily grading quota. No, I'm not going to grade right now --- I got up at 6 after one of those horrible nights where you go to bed but aren't tired and don't fall asleep. That's the only problem with weekends ---- all week I fight to be a morning person and get crap done before my early class, and then the weekend hits and I am unable to stop thinking and go to bed as early as I do on weeknights, and the weekend is just long enough to totally screw up my early morning schedule. Meh.

In other news, I have been sharing this link to a letter by Charles Darwin, because it makes me happy. I love to hear that other people --- particularly brilliant and notable scholars --- have grumpy days. Days where, as the letter says, "I am very poorly today and very stupid and I hate everybody and everything." Dude! That's me, every morning! That's me every time I start work on my writing or research! I mean, if I can get through the first fifteen minutes of bitching or so, I get into a groove and actually enjoy myself and my work (it takes coffee), but I always have to work myself up over the hump of sheer pissyness. And you know how that doesn't always happen, amirite?

Darwin goes on to state "I am going to write a little book for Murray on orchids and today I hate them worse than anything." Awwww! Go you, Darwin! I know exactly how you feel. And I love to see that behind the facade of public politeness, or competence, people feel frustrated and tired and annoyed and grumpy just like me. One of the biographies I was reading for my actual research had this statement which I absolutely loved, about how the author's father was a bit of a fuck-up who never figured out what he should be doing in life, even though he seemed outwardly successful, and was constantly dissatisfied and constantly feeling ignorant and incompetent. Those totally weren't the actual words, but it made me happy to see that other people, who look like they are grown-ups, go through the same feelings of confusion and lost-ness that I get. And it used the word supercilious, which is just awesome. Kinda reminds me of orchids, those smug supercilious bastards.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

In which Sisyphus determines she is actually a historical cog, and loves to procrastinate.

Ok, ok, of course I love to procrastinate! Everybody knew that already. And, we all probably knew that I love haring off after something shiny and new instead of doing the work of finishing anything --- or boring stuff like revising a dissertation into a book manuscript.


I was prepping some random weird stuff for the Stripey class --- which, you should remember, is some random crap that is totally out of my wheelhouse and not really anything that I trained in during my graduate or undergraduate days (now now, I have done a lot to rectify the situation! That is why my first semester here sucked so much.) and was reading a little text I haven't taught before when I noticed a little reference to my dissertation topic.

[cue dramatic music and zooming-in closeup on the book!]

It's not a reference that the average person would immediately know was about my topic (let us continue to call it nose-picking, as I have always disguised it on the blog), but someone who has done an entire scholarly project and spent far more time procrastinating on the historical footnotes and background than was efficient or wise would instantly say, hmm, that's interesting. Furthermore, this text is clearly in conversation with that other, way more canonical, text I will teach in a few weeks. I wonder what access this person had to [electric nose-hair trimmers]. What is the material history for that object and my dissertation objects for this region and time period?

I went and did a Google search and a Google image search and --- whoah! How would this person have access to nose-hair trimmers? He would probably have had access to all these publications about that topic, though, and whoah, all this weird historical stuff I had no clue about, and I wonder whether anyone has written about my topic and this person, or my topic and that Canonical Writer?

So then I go over, toodley-do, tweedley-do, and poke some buttons on the MLA bibliography and discover, nope, nobody has written about my topic and these writers. Where did this person access --- well, anything? Hmm. The titles of the few articles written about him --- and there are really only a handful or so --- all seem to be "closed," close reading or rhetorical readings. There are a couple biographical things but the anthology really has covered it all in the introduction. Maybe there is no historical record about this minor historical figure, but we don't even appear to know anything about the publication and reception history of the text I'm going to be teaching.

Fascinating! I am totally intrigued --- sucked in to the detective work, even. This dude is pretty interesting and needs more articles written about him. And clearly someone needs to show the importance of nose-picking to the major movements of the Stripey period!

For a minute I am all excited ---- I will go and research and write an entire article of amazingness on Random Dude and the history of electric nose hair trimmers! It will be brilliant and groundbreaking and bring much-needed attention to Random Dude and land me an academic job so elite and fancy that it doesn't even involve teaching or research, just sitting atop a mountain and having people bow to me constantly!

Then I realize that I don't even know enough about "real" historical research to navigate all the damn different history databases to find secondary material, that I have only done limited archival research, and that I wouldn't have the first clue how to piece through letters and stuff go find reception history, and furthermore that I have read so few scholarly books on the period that pretty much anything I say in terms of background (other than on my direct dissertation topic) would be laughably wrong.


Someone needs to do it, though. Maybe once I publish my book I can start walking up to Stripey scholars and ordering them to read it and do research on this random minor historical figure.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A random shoe post

Well, I said I would post here if I did a good amount of work today. What is a good amount, anyway? Ugh. I spent hours finishing up one of those crazy-complicated apps for a research leave type position, and then spent more hours just fiddling with the damn hr websites for job apps! I hate you all! And by you, I mean whoever decided to create application pages that require my salary for all the various "jobs" I have held and whether I would work the swing shift if offered the job (no I could not bypass those questions) only to have everything crash and not be saved when I tried to finally confirm my app. Argh.

I ended up eating almost a whole bowl of sour cream while doing the apps today. I wanted to put some on top of the chips I was eating (no more salsa) and ended up putting a whole lot in the bowl, like it was ice cream, and then ... well, I had been losing weight, just by happenstance, the past few weeks. It is probably all back now. Ah well.

I also had a beer for dinner tonight. I'm not really hungry after an afternoon of chips and sour cream, you know? Then later I was thirsty, so I had a nice juicy apple. This somehow works out nicely for nutrients and calories. I declare it to be so.

Anyway, shoes! Modcloth has been showing lots of really really cute colorful stuff that I am drooling over, but I'm holding off. It is getting cold, to say nothing of rainy, and the thought of wearing something open on the top of my foot or with lots of cutouts is no longer appealing. All I have in my wardrobe besides knee-high boots, however (and you know I am never slighting those) are tennis shoes. Not really workwear. So I was inspired by Maude (wait, she's Lola now, right? Nola?), who is getting clogs but is interested in oxfords, and I went and looked at, you know, shoe-shaped shoes instead of boots or pumps. I haven't worn any of those for years. Usually everything looks too manly for my style or I just don't like it with dressy pants. But I did see these:

 Snazzy, no? I kinda want them, and am kinda worried that they won't really go into my current wardrobe since I don't wear jeans to teach. And yet they are so shiny!

Does anyone have "shoe shoes" recommendations for me? Not clogs --- workwear laceup type things.

In return, I will show you the beautiful things I am window-shopping for at modcloth:

The spats are so retro-cute and playful! They are almost all sold out already, though. The "Art Deco" shoes are gorgeous and must be seen from many angles to be truly appreciated! I covet them. I do not have anything to wear with them, really. And yet...!

Ooh. Ahh. I stare at them and all thoughts of hr website troubles are wiped from my mind. Mmmmm....

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Meh. I am a sad panda with no get up and/or go. I am too tired to do anything more tonight --- and it's kinda hot in here, for some reason --- and yet I am unable to make myself go to bed. I have accomplished some things, but not many things. And of course on the list today was ALL the things. Meh.

I have also been promised a rainstorm from the weather service and have been awaiting it, for some reason, all evening. It has not yet been sent. In addition I had all the makings of black bean burritos (cooked yesterday) but instead I had the chips and salsa to go with them for dinner. Sigh.

I should empty the dishwasher. I should go through another ILL book. I should go to bed instead of switch around my sleep schedule horribly and have troubles getting to sleep in a reasonable time frame the rest of the week.

Ok, tomorrow I want to do a long yoga practice first thing, and then I need to finish and upload a bunch more job applications before returning the library books. And then I can turn my attention toward planning the rest of the week.

I will not look at shoes. Nor sweaters. (Although, if you can find me some nice-looking, but more boring than artistically weird, heavier weight sweaters for when the weather gets to winterizing, I'd be much obliged. Tissue-weight or cotton-blends don't really work around here. And everything I find online is either cashmere (Ooh! Yeah right. You can buy it for me then!) or it is red or blue. All the sweaters I have are red or blue. And you can't wear blue sweaters with blue jeans without people making Smurf jokes, if you are my height.)

Revising schedule then: Ok, if I am good and highly productive, I can post links to shoes tomorrow night.

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Music Fix --- Blasted Canyons

Ok, I don't remember where or how I heard this group, but I remember liking it and going home and leaving a note to myself on the laptop. Fast forward way into the future (does this mean I heard them on the radio or something this summer???) and I finally tracked them down based on my note.

Mmm, I like it ---- very experimental and lo-fi at the same time, kinda sounds like the guitarist from Joy Division got together with some of the British invasion bands ... and then the space creatures from Godzilla or some other wonderfully bad 60s horror flick popped up and shot everyone with their laser eyes! Come on, you know you love laser eyes. And super sweaty low-fi dissonance.

And while I was looking around for more of the songs, to see if I actually want to buy one of their EPs, I found this live version and discovered that one of the musicians is a girl! If you have any interest in watching a girl absolutely shred a guitar, click here:

This weekend I get to grade grade grade, as always. But for tonight I'm going to pretend I have at least one toe in the contemporary music scene, even if my idea of interesting "current" new finds are a couple of years old.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Yes, I am grading freshman essays, why do you ask? I have a lot to go (like I need to do 5 tonight to catch up but I don't think that's going to happen) but I need a little break from reading the same thinking and organizational problems over and over again.

Instead, I took 15 minutes to brainstorm up a to-do list on my book manuscript, which I have kind of had to neglect quite a bit in the past few weeks. Part of the problem, I realized, is that for some stupid reason the date for posting mid-term grades was moved way up this year instead of week 8 or 9, which really sucks. I like to have a major assignment or two not only written but graded and handed back in all the classes, which means the courses have been incredibly front-loaded. And the numbers of students dropping have been low! Argh. I don't know if this means I have willfully blind students in my classes or that posting the grades for some of them will cause them to actually go away. If they don't go, I'm going to have to find the time to call them in and point out that they have yet to complete any assignments, and that those are required to pass the class. I hope they drop of their own recognizance. Of course, if they had the self-awareness to know what they need to do to pass, they would not be avoiding every single written assignment in the course, would they?


I have a question for those of you who have written/revised a book manuscript for a publisher --- did you have a bibliography for each working chapter, or just throw everything in one file? And did the publisher want it as one biblio or a separate one for each chapter? I am updating each chapter's biblio separately, so far, and will weave them all together when I am done updating things. I think. I wondered if this was the best way to go. Tell me, oh internets. Because I am going to update three small proofreading edits to the chapter and count that as time served towards revising. Updating bibliographies is also doable after grading about 12 comp essays. Anything requiring more thought or fewer comma splices, not so much.