Thursday, January 30, 2014

Random bullets of Grade All The Homework Day

  • Ugh!  Have I graded all the homework? No I have not! Clearly I am not doing at all well on my new year's resolutions. Except doing my yoga. I have been working on that regularly and on extending my time/difficulty back to where I last was before I had to deal with moving and falling off the exercise wagon.
  • I have a huge stack of poetry responses which I really need to have all finished by tomorrow morning, as I got essays today and will get more poetry homework tomorrow, but all I want to do right now is eat another snack and take a nap. I'm hungry! I'm yawning! Bleah!
  • Back to my resolutions: I guess it is good that the Lunar New Year is coming up and I can re-dedicate myself to the resolutions all over again. I'm probably gonna need another holiday/ceremony a month after that. Sigh.
  • I had a bagel and put apricot jam on it (that's what's in the house, dude) and now I think I am even more hungry than before. Weird. And I have very little food in the house so I need to make a meal plan and grocery list for tomorrow. And I need to eat all the stuff that is about to go "off" any minute tonight. That doesn't include unfreezing another bagel and adding jam.
  • Also: my little laptop has had some warning windows pop up at me, so that means I think I need to travel across the country and visit an Apple store this weekend for a tune-up of some kind. I made an appointment, so that's what I'm doing when you all are caring about the Superbowl. Which is fine by me, but, man! It's a long drive to anywhere with a Genius Bar.
  • I totally should label my office "Genius Bar." And serve drinks. And witty advice. 'Cause there's nothing absurd or egotistical about labeling some workplace a Genius Bar, right?
  • My list of Other Random Crap I Need to Get Around To is growing exponentially. If only I was able to explain my lack of time by pointing to all the fun stuff or hard work I have done, but I have been faffing about on the internet a lot lately. I finally wrote to get my old retirement stuff rolled over and a bunch of bills paid off, (ooh and drs visits too) but now our school has changed around health care plans, and I thought I understood, but can't make head or tail of the new abbreviations and labels on my paycheck, so I think I need to go in and have someone explain it all to me again. 
  • Oh, and the wellness center is doing reduced-cost cholesterol checks, and I kinda want to get that done (not really interested in the fasting or the calling and making an appointment bits, though). And my parents are nagging me to get a flu shot. Sigh. I should get a flu shot. I can't think of a good time to get a flu shot. Grumble.
  • Did I tell you that I went to put something away in my glovebox and the whole handle thingy pulled off in my hand? And that it doesn't open now? Argh. I should take it in and have it fixed, except I'm not positive they can fix that.
  • In the spirit of not grumbling for a second, my students seem pretty great so far. And I like meeting with them all at 9 every morning. I'm up, awake, and in a good mood. And almost completely caffeinated by that time. (I usually get up about 6 or 6:30.) It is a good thing that I am spending my "best" hour in the classroom, although it means once I'm done and have done a little grading or prep I am pretty pooped and disinclined to read or write anything. So good for my students, not so good for you or any other potential readers. I'm just too grumpy and whiny to write my half-finished funny posts in the late afternoon.
  • My cat says hello. Oh, wait --- no, he says "refill my bowl you ignorant jerkwad." Guess I better go.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Belated Resolutions Post, Or, I Still Don't Know What I am Doing With My Life

I have been somewhat following these goals while not feeling the time/alertness to post much that is interesting in this space (I have been getting lots of prep-ahead work done, which you would probably agree is more important), but I am worried that without making these much more specific and public I will fall off them before long.

Resolution/Goal # 1: Having established a beachhead and planted a flag, I should explore further out into the territory. I was going to make a joke about being saved and fed thanksgiving dinner by friendly Indians, but on further thought realized that put me in the role of really shitty and terrible people who went out and colonized and exterminated everybody, so maybe I don't want to be using that metaphor. Anyway, a character weakness I have is the tendency to hide at home and waste time on the internet looking at stuff I am not even interested in, so this goal covers exploring the area, going out with people and doing various activities, and meeting new people, and in general do stuff that will result in wonderful memories, not vague feelings of regret like when I binge on Go Fug Yourself and cat pictures. And this goal has some additional difficulties I will return to and discuss in a second.

Resolution/Goal # 2: Read more books for pleasure. Again, inertia and the internet work against this, but I love reading things just because they are awesome and I am not doing enough of it. Since I have an unhealthy obsession with lists, and with checking things off, I might need to do some sort of checklist or log on here.

Reading for work and grading do not count under this goal, which leads us to:

Resolution/Goal # 3: Start grading earlier; stop grading earlier. I need to just get the grading done in my grading sessions and not sit around feeling terrible about the grading I am about to do but haven't actually jumped into yet. I should also work on using the pomodoro method, as it is not the working but the breaks that then stretch on way too long that get me. Start, finish and then get outside!

Resolution/Goal # 4: Get back into the practice of my yoga practice. This is actually the one I have been having most success with so far. I hope I have a workable teaching schedule (9am classes are a bit early to yoga and shower and get lots of crap ready beforehand. And I am not good about getting to bed early.) It is my hope that getting back to my 3x a week yoga practice along with weekend walking/hiking will lead to my next goal,

Resolution/Goal # 5:  Lose the beer gut! Actually, it's probably a cheese and ice cream gut. I would really like to drop off some of this weight so I don't have a fat roll in pictures where I am sitting down. However, while I eat pretty healthy, this goal conflicts with the parts of Goal #1 that involve eating out or drinking with new friends, as well as Goal #6:

Resolution/Goal #6: Learn to cook more things, including for other people! This would involve inviting people over for things, which I haven't done in sooo long. I have some cookbooks I have barely opened, and cooking is always fun. 

And finally, I am not sure if this is a goal or not, but I want to learn how to really use my fancy camera. I think this means I want to take a class, but I'm not sure. I will ponder and make decisions later, and possibly this will be a big goal for next year instead.

Now I am going to go to bed and tomorrow will post about the problems with these goals and the pitfalls of The Hot Place.

Friday, January 17, 2014

C is for collards

Seen here with a little of the black eyed peas too. The collards don't look as shiny as they did; they are cooked with a lot of browned butter. Yum!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

B is for beets,

"Nested in their greens." 

You know, I hadn't cooked the greens before; they are very soft like cooked chard (yum!) but very bitter. And not in the usual tasty way of greens. Not sure I like them.

The recipe from the Deborah Madison cookbook was very easy to follow; I just wish she didn't always require me to use every single pan I own.

Now I have a tremendous urge to drink wine.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A is for asparagus

With lemon and Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Scheduling Frustrations

Arrgh! Who put all these goddamn holidays and teacher inservice days all right next to each other at the beginning of the semester!?!?! This is messing with my scheduling. How am I supposed to train my students into my system and good student behavior if we aren't meeting consistently? This is just all exacerbated by my MWF schedule for the one class. Grumble Grumble.

Plus one of the complaints students had about me in the student evals was that they had trouble knowing their grade in the class especially early in the semester. I worked with my dean to make a plan for using the early grade report button online (not the course management system but the actual place where we upload final grades), which comes available in week 5, and he suggested his system of breaking the semester into 3 6 week segments and giving a grade update to them in class of where they were in the points total at the end of each of these sections.

But 4 major essays (poetry, drama, short story, novel), 3 grading segments, a week 5 grade report and 5 holidays in the first 6 weeks, AND a 3 times a week schedule all add up to nothing matching up with anything else. Argh.

It reminds me of counting triplets in music,

except not, because you can just run things cleanly together musically in a way that doesn't quite work with reading assignments.

And THEN, to add insult to injury, everything turns into a vast desert of class sessions in the middle, with no holidays in sight for weeks! Do we need refreshing from our schedules in the beginning of the semester? No!!! We need consistency and practice! Later in the semester, when my students were not doing the reading and were looking exhausted and putting their heads down on their desks, do we get any holidays? No! Of course not. This all makes me grumpy.

Last semester I front loaded one class's assignments and back loaded the other, but students complained that they did not really know how they were doing in the class before the drop dates, but this semester I can't really front load if there are damn holidays in the way!

Plus, there is the additional problem where MWF is great for walking through the writing process and tough to really get into depth in terms of literary content. I have mentioned before that I love teaching freshman comp MWF, but here it is an extra unit and they will only let me do it 2 or even 1 day a week (which messes with my system M bring in an outline W bring in a draft for peer review F turn in the final (or do a second revision exercise)) and they much prefer to do the intro to lit classes MWF. The problem is, if I want to assign multiple short stories on the same day, 50 minutes is too tough to look at literary terms and set the context of the story and discuss the story in detail ---- or, while I might be able to get at that for 1 story, 2 stories and 2 contexts is too much. This means I assign an incredibly tiny amount of reading, even when you add up the whole week. I think it might work well to do a class of novels this often and break it up, but my anthology doesn't have more than one work by each author. Putting a 19th century Russian short story along side a modernist English story and a contemporary American story totally throws them for a loop, too, even if they have very similar themes. Clearly I need a different anthology. I might, in the future, revamp this class to have a very limited historical/geographical focus even though I am not supposed to --- that way I can have my historical background stuff carry over across the weeks, and then if we end up losing a lot of time discussing, say, why Ireland is not so fond of England, or that yes indeed women were not allowed
to own property at one point, then they can apply that knowledge next week instead of jumping into introducing them to the existence of serfs.

Hmm, maybe if I started off with poetry instead? That seems slightly easier to work with through disruptions. Though that still gets me at the troubles of context ... and poetry from other time periods was written for vastly different purposes and contexts than today's lyric/MFA journal, and I've found that setting up that idea takes a lot of time, too.

I am starting to see why people in my department don't want to teach this class and prefer to teach the into to nonfiction writing class instead. If I had less oversight and fewer restrictions I might be able to throw out a lot of these lumpy, conflicting elements and teach something that worked really well, but that's not really a possibility. Yet. And it doesn't help me with the damn holidays and schedule and do not even get me started on my classrooms next semester. Grrrr grumble grumble grrr.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

And happy healthcare coverage for all those just getting it!

I'm happy about that, but also annoyed since I have pledged to actually find all my various doctors and get all my checkups now before classes start again. I hope I will be able to schedule appts. not too far off.

My New Year's Eve was highly boring ---- I couldn't make it that long with the family (you might remember previous years where I have had a fight and/or tried to leave early) so after 10 days at my parents' house (that's a good long stint for me) I drove back to The Hot Place and spent the NYE alone here, cleaning and organizing. I hope that doesn't become a predictor of the whole year.

I need to finish all my springcleaning and organizing! And do all the crap on that big pile of "do/fix this eventually"! And still need to revamp all my classes and create some new year's resolutions! And let's not forget the top-ten lists! And get back to writing funny posts again!

Ok, so am still at my usual level of wildly overestimating what can be accomplished on my to-do list and making over-the-top,  pie-in-the-sky resolutions. Maybe it's nice to see that some things don't change.

One big change, though, is that I AM STILL EMPLOYED! And I don't need to go to the MLA conference! I wish luck and poise on anyone who is going for an interview, and express many regrets that I won't be able to hang out and have a drink with all of you who are going to present your research. It's good though to have the time off right now --- maybe I can get things so that they are not crazy and overwhelming me this semester.