Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bullets and a Question

Well, yesterday didn't quite work out as a blog posting day, because of my schedule. OK, that's just a sad excuse. The reality is that I am feeling such freedom from having turned in my grades, that I can't focus on any one thing for any length of time.

Some interesting tidbits from yesterday:
  • I walked on the treadmill for an hour (largely because my jeans are feeling a bit tight around the middle and I know I need to be getting more exercise to loosen them up).
  • Wrapped presents, cleaned the kitchen floor, and did sundry stuff to get ready for Christmas visit from City Girl.
  • Red and I went to a coffee shop for lunch, so that she could get some grading done and I could work on my t&p packet, online course, and whatever else. I spilled my coffee, which came close to drowning her computer (but didn't! hallelujah!) and did drown her cute little backpack, and then I apologized heartily and profusely, over and over again, ad nauseum. We ended up talking so much -- mostly about my online course setup -- that she graded NO papers. But I did get a lot done on my online course. Red also gave me a great idea for the introduction to my t&p narrative. And she bought lunch! So it was an all-about-me type of afternoon...
  • We got back to campus just in time to attend a surprise birthday party for our dean, which was nice. Strawberry lemonade and some really dense chocolate cake.
  • Got home in time to actually cook dinner. One of my favorite casseroles, involving ground turkey and eggplant. Yummy. And it was an opportunity to cook dinner for my favorite person, Footslogger, which is always a treat.
  • Spent the evening at Rowdy Friend's house with friends that I don't get to see often, drinking wine and eating cheese. Which reminds me, this recipe for Walnut-Glazed Brie was a huge hit. Easy and delicious. One party-goer said that it was "elegant." Since I'm almost never elegant, I was quite excited about this.

On the whole, a busy day, so I hope you'll forgive me for not blogging about whatever crap I said I was going to blog about the day before.

Oh, one question. It's the norm here to write a narrative to go in the reappointment/tenure packet every year. It's a tricky business, because one doesn't want to just restate what's already on one's vita. Usually I adopt some kind of theme for the year. Now this is my tenure year, so I'm trying to do a nice job of it, rather than throwing it together at the last minute, as I usually do. I am using my completion of the AT last summer, after many years of plugging away at it, as a metaphor for my tenure trudge in the introductory section. I would like to include a summit shot with that, although my dean frowns on this type of fru-fru in t&p packets.

I'm leaning toward taking it out, because of the whole dean frowning thing. But another part of me says Go Ahead and Take the Risk. It's a Small One After All.

What say you, internets?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tune in Tomorrow

Before I head for bed and a few chapters, I thought I would check in and say -- I'll be writing more tomorrow.

I'm going to try to come up with something more interesting than that I've finished my grading. Something about happiness? the academy? academic happiness?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Back, After a Long Absence

OK, so I may have been overreacting a bit to the end of NaBloPoMo.

I haven't posted in weeks, largely because I didn't have anything worthwhile to say AND I was tired of daily posting AND I've been snowed under with grading AND I had to study for my final exam in FOG (finished, thank God, and I think I got an A). In fact, I'm still not finished with grading, though I expect to finish up on Monday and turn in my grades at the end of the day.

So in the meantime, Belle tagged me for a Book Meme. And since I'm a sucker for Belle (hey, what can I say? She leaves comments!) and a reading freak, I thought I would give in to the posting temptation.

Here's how the meme works. (Just on a side note, it's only been a short time that I've known what a meme is. Isn't that odd?)

The rules: List five books that you have read in 2007 that you love. These do not have to be books that came out in 2007, but books that you (re)discovered/(re)read in 2007 that have become or are important to you. Link back to the person who tagged you. Tag five others.

I have this funny habit of re-reading books that I love. So although some of these books are old standbys, I re-read them this year. Others were new to me.

Pride and Prejudice. During the summer, I read this book about 5 times. I don't know why I was so enchanted with it, but ... I guess there's a reason it's a classic.

Friday Night Lights. A friend loaned me this one, and I put it in my reading stack but never read it. Then when we were getting ready to leave for our backpacking trip in Maine, I was looking for a small book with small print. I must always have a book on a backpacking trip, and if I can get one that won't weigh much but will last me a week or so, that's good. This one was fantastic, as it brought back so much of my experience as a high-school student and a high-school teacher in Texas, dealing with football players and football coaches and football fans.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I re-read this one, too, several times. Characters make any book for me, and I loved getting closure on these kids.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. OK, this brings my fantasy freak out of the closet. Kudos to my neices (also fantasy freaks! hi girls!) for directing me to a brand new series! That is long! And has bunches more books for me to read! With dragons!

Which brings me to my final book, Eldest. This is the second in a young adult lit series -- and I both love to and have to read YA lit, because I teach courses in it -- that satisfies my hankering for dragons, heroes, and engaging sets of characters.

This year I also discovered Library Thing (which I'll be using in relation to classes I teach in future) -- you can see most of my library here.

Hmm. Who to tag?

Dr. Brazen Hussy, Eddie, Female Science Professor, Jen, and RV.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Your Score: Saffron

You scored 75% intoxication, 50% hotness, 75% complexity, and 0% craziness!

You are Saffron! Those other spices have nothing on you! You're warm, smart, and you make people feel really good (and with no side-effects!). You can be difficult to get to know and require a lot of those who try, but you're so totally worth it. *Sigh*

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The End of NaBloPoMo

December 1st! I made it! Now the questions arise:
  • Will I continue to feel compelled to post every day?
  • Will I actually have something worthwhile to post?
  • Will my students actually take responsibility for their work? [oh, sorry, that's not about my blog, but I'm still annoyed!]

Whew. Very proud. Thank you all for reading and sometimes commenting.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Meangrump Jerkypants

That's right. That's me. Or at least, that's my Grinch Name.

And oh how I am feeling like Meangrump Jerkypants Bitchswamp Alligatorgirl.

Seriously. I am a bit hungover from drinking margaritas last night (only 3! so how can I feel so crappy? except that it WAS tequila, and lord knows tequila doesn't like me very much), so perhaps that has something to do with it.

But also I'm raging over some of my students not following directions on their assignments.

Read the syllabus, darlings. Really. When I say that you should turn in a draft, all previous notes and drafts, and a LETTER OF REFLECTION ABOUT YOUR PROCESS, I seriously mean it. I do want you to write a letter of reflection. And I want you to print it out. And I want you to turn it in. Really.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Finally home, after . . .
  • teaching two classes today (with a couple of seriously annoying students who apparently didn't want to take advantage of the time I gave them in class to work on HUGE projects)
  • several phone and in-person meetings
  • grading like a demon to get ahead for next week, when I'll be looking at an immense stack of unit designs to grade
  • meeting a friend (and then several other friends) for margaritas and Mexican food
  • watching our womens' basketball team win over a team that beat us twice last season

I realized at the game that I hadn't posted, and since I'm so close to being finished with NaBloPoMo, I couldn't let that happen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Math Issues

OK, so the homework problem for the last couple of weeks in my geology class (that's a sophomore-level course I'm taking FOR THE FUN OF IT!) has involved calculating the diameter of the asteroid that probably hit the earth at the boundary of the Cretaceous/Tertiary periods (called the K-T boundary) based on the amount of iridium in the K-T boundary layer, the density of the iridium, etc. Lots of dimensional analysis, really. I've been fretting over it, but finally sat down today with a "more knowledgeable other" who helped me figure out how to get there from here.

It is a lovely feeling to be learning something new.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Heart Methods

As the fall semester is winding to a close now, I've been giving some thought to how I will teach my classes differently next fall. The bulk of my teaching occurs in the fall, when I teach my two methods courses; I do teach at least one course in the spring as well, and I supervise student teachers, but my two methods courses are the centers of my heart, so to speak.

To imitate my students, "I heart methods."

One of the teaching techniques that has been working well for me the last two years has been in my junior-level methods class, which focuses on teaching writing. This class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays, we do the normal college class thing -- read chapters and articles, discuss them, do assignments, etc. On Thursdays, however, we workshop. Students are assigned to write three pieces through the course of the semester: a book review, a memoir, and a set of three poems. We spend Thursdays writing, peer and teacher conferencing, reading our works aloud, and doing mini-lessons. I've been quite happy with the way this has worked, so -- except for a little tweaking -- I'll be leaving that one alone.

My senior level class, however, is a different story. This class focuses on teaching literature, and I have yet to find a textbook that I like for the course. I've been fairly unsatisfied with this semester's textbook, as have my students, and so I've decided to imitate my success with the junior class and to create a literature workshop that will be engaging and will provide a model of the kind of teaching they could put into practice.

I haven't thought it through carefully, yet, but here are some initial thoughts about how the workshop might look for that senior class:
  • I will choose a type of literature and focus on that during the semester. I've been thinking about environmental literature or perhaps magical realism.
  • We'll read at least one novel and supplement that with other texts, such as young adult literature, poetry, art, etc.
  • We'll use some online functionality, though I'm not sure yet exactly what. It will probably involve our course wiki, at the least. Perhaps a webquest? I'm not sure.

And that's all I've got! One thing is certain, and that is that providing structure and a format for some kind of reflection piece on how this might translate into teaching junior high or high school English will be important. I've learned that from my experience with the junior class.

If any of the internets have suggestions for literature/approaches/assignments that would fit into these quite broad genres, I would be happy to hear them!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Whirlwind and Thankfulness

Today was a bit of a whirlwind. First day back to work after a long Thanksgiving that involved lots of driving, a prospectus defense that was a bit shaky, my last geology lab of the semester, and ... that's it.

But since the Thanksgiving season has come and gone, I thought this might be a good time to make a list of what I'm thankful for (some serious, some not so).

* The way my fabulous partner in life, Footslogger, seems to know when I'm not up to planning and cooking. He takes over and I love it! Tonight he texted me this message: "Thinking tomato soup and crackers for dinner. That ok?" Are ya kidding? Anything I don't have to mess with after a day like today is PERFECT!

* The soothing effect of repetition. As in movies, books, music, etc. -- I love the way I can forget all of my troubles by reading/watching something over and over again.

* Television shows that are entertaining and teach me something (or at least that's the way I frame it!). My examples: Project Runway, Top Chef.

* My cat Loner's habits: jumping up on my chair when it gets close to dinnertime, sneaking on my bed AFTER I'm asleep,

* My department and our ability to work together. It's cool to not have to vote anyone off the island!

* That all of my outside reviewer letters have come in in a timely fashion.

There's more, but I must save something for tomorrow's post, ala NaBloPoMo.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Random Thoughts

Footslogger went to bed early. We're both exhausted from our driving, but I wanted to stay up for a while and finish re-reading Harry Potter #7. I've recently discovered, and I've requested a copy of Harry Potter #3, which should be here soon. I don't know why I'm compelled to re-read those books, but I seem to be.

There is some possibility that my spring course won't make, which would be a blessing, really. I suppose I would have to do an independent study or something with the few students who are signed up for it, though I don't really want to.

I'm definitely planning on teaching an online version of the young adult lit course next summer, which is going to involve a good bit of work to get it ready.

My two cats suddenly decided -- at the same time -- that it was bath time.

And I'm ready for bed myself.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On the Road Again

Another day of driving, followed by a fantastic steak dinner and two beautiful Hefeweizens. We'll be back in High Plains City tomorrow, in time to do laundry and get ready for work on Monday.

More later!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day (The Day After)

We're in Really Cold Northern City for Thanksgiving, visiting family members that we don't usually get to see. So that's cool. But damn is it cold. CCCccccCCCCCcccccold.

Driving up here was actually kind of fun -- lots of beautiful landscapes. We actually saw 4 bald eagles. You heard me: Four. Bald. Eagles.

And also, several elk, lots of deer and antelope, and a wolf.

All of that, from the interstate. Not bad, I'd say.

Tomorrow morning we head back home again. We're hoping to make the trip in one day, but we're prepared in case we need to spend a night in some ice-bound town along the way.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Ours was quite fabulous, with this really yummy rice stuffing, the recipe for which I will be begging soon.

That last sentence didn't quite make sense, but anyway.

We also had an enjoyable game of Scrabble. Which we lost.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I was wondering if I would EVER get tagged by this 7 things meme that's going around (sounds like a disease, doesn't it?). Maybaby tagged me for it, leaving me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Or maybe that's just the cat snuggled against my ankles? Anyhoo . . .

Here's how it goes. I link back to her site (check) and then explain the rules and then follow them. (check, check). [By the way, on those "checks" think Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats.]

Rules: List seven weird or random things about yourself, then tag 7 random people from NaBloPoMo.

Seven Weird/Random Things About Dr. Bad Ass:

[Note: I've decided to go thematic on this one, and make them all about my obsession, namely, reading. ]
* As a teenager, I worked in the library for one class period in my junior high school (that right there shows you that I have never, ever been cool). My friend Suzie (no, not the one I went hiking with a few summers ago) and I decided to have a competition to see who could read all of the fiction in the library first. You heard me, all of it. I started at the A's; she started at the Z's. I got about to the N's by the end of the school year.
* Whenever I get depressed, I read Watership Down by Richard Adams. Something about those bunnies just soothes me.
* I taught myself how to read from a phonics book for teachers. That must have been some kind of indicator of my future path (not).
* My mom knew, when I was in junior high and high school, that if she couldn't find the salt shaker, she could find it in my bedroom. Why? Because every time I sat down to read (which was OFTEN) I wanted to have half a lemon and some salt to eat.
* Last summer I read Pride and Prejudice about 10 times.
* I get stuck in bookstores and libraries because I'm afraid to give new authors (i.e., authors I haven't read yet) a chance. I can only take on a new author when I have NO CHOICE. Like last year when I was on a dive cruise, and I had read all of the books I had with me. The good news is that I discovered a couple of authors that I adore on that trip -- particularly Charles Todd.
* I have books started in every room of the house, including the bathroom.

OK, I tag the following:
Motherwise Cracks, Megan, My Chihuahua Bites, HR Wench, Affectioknit, Outposts in My Head, and Jess.

Changes, ChChChChChanges

As I was running around this morning, doing pre-Thanksgiving errands, I realized that part of my malaise (see yesterday's post) could be due to changes taking place in my office hallway. My office is on the south side of an east-west hallway in a fairly small building. All of my colleagues on the north side of the hallway (members of two different departments) have been moved over to another building, where the top floor has been renovated for them. I'm happy for them that they've got snazzy new office spaces. Really! I like my office and I certainly don't want to have to box up all of my mountains of books and move again. Even with the shabby orange carpet, it's a great office.

Change is not hard for me to accept, when I make the choice to change. But not having all of my buds on my floor was definiitely not my choice. And now it looks like some other folks will be moving in. They're nice and all, I like those people even, but I want my old world back.

OK, enough whining. I know that everything will be fine, eventually. I'll just have to deal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cranky Girl

I've been struggling all day with an odd malaise. Not just today, really, but the last couple of days. Sadness, crankiness, anxiety. Stemming perhaps from the t&p process? exhaustion from the conference? End-of-semester grading woes? I'm not sure. But it is definitely making me not so much fun to be with.

So what to do with myself? Tomorrow should help, as I don't need to go to the office, I can get in a good workout, and I'll have time to do all of the chores I need to finish before heading out for our Thanksgiving trip (weather permitting).

So here's to a couple of glasses of wine tonight, a good night's sleep, and a better day tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Exam III

So today I took exam #3 in Fundamentals of Geology (affectionately known as FOG). I studied a bit on the plane yesterday, but when I got home I was too wrung out to study. I was actually too tired to sleep, if that makes any sense. So I went to bed fairly early, lay there for a while and finally fell asleep. This morning I got to work early and sat in the Union to study (along with a toasted sesame bagel-- yum!) for a couple of hours. Then an hour of class, and then the exam. It was actually easier than I had anticipated, except for one problem. I didn't understand the problem really, so I did about half of it and left the other half blank.

Tonight we're having some leftover barbequed chicken in chicken tacos, which will also be yummy and go a long way toward making up for the meeting and class and exam packed day. Perhaps by tomorrow I will have caught up on my sleep and be ready for our Thanksgiving trip.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Big City Conference

In order to share cab expense, and because I’m really ready to head for home, I got up early and rode to the airport with Lovely Marathoner. I had no idea that there was an earlier flight to Large Western City, but there was and I’m waitlisted on it. The guy at the ticket desk seemed quite confident that I would be on that flight. If he’s right, it will be one of the few bits of good news from the travel fairies on this trip.

I didn’t do all of the cool things that I should have done on my trip to The Big City, but I did eat in some lovely restaurants (and once for free at a seriously 4-star place, on a publisher’s tab). I did a bit of walking around downtown, which was entertaining, but also quite chilly.

All in all, I understand more deeply now that I am well and truly spoiled by High Plains City. I am not made for The Big City, though it has been entertaining to visit. I’m amazed that anyone could afford to live here, but maybe for those who love it, the expense is worth it.

I’ve about decided that I won’t be attending this conference next year, and will be instead attending a different conference during the same season that is attended by most of my friends from graduate school. My thinking on which conference is somewhat related to my desire to be reconnected with my grad school buds, but also because of my frustration with a sub-group of this organization and its cliquish, closed-off nature. I have tried to get involved in this sub-group for the last 5 years, all to no avail. It seems like some kind of high school group (the prom queens, maybe? the field hockey team?). Outsiders of any stripe need not apply. Is this a purposeful exclusion? Possibly, says my cynical side. The popular kids recognize each other and keep out the riff-raff. On the other hand, maybe the popular kids just don’t see that there is an inside and an outside.

I did submit a bid for nomination for myself for office in this organization. IF I get nominated and IF I get elected to office, I plan to try to do something about it. If not, forget it. I’ll just move in rather than continue to try and bash my head against this brick wall.

Update: I'm at home now, for which I say "Hallelujah!" I was able to stand by on both flights, and even my luggage came with me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday in The Big City

Our presentation this morning went extremely well, with a fairly large group in attendance and some thoughtful discussion afterward. I hope they all went and bought a copy of the book!

Earlier this morning, I met with an acquisitions editor for a fairly large press and got pressured (very soft pressure, it was, though) to submit a book proposal for a series of books aimed at practitioners. I have a great idea of what I might do, so I think I just might write up a proposal when I get home. It would actually be great preparation for my sabbatical, which I hope to take within the next few years (assuming all goes well with the T&P gods).

Now I'm off with my grad school colleague -- whom I'll call Lovely Marathoner -- to an Italian restaurant for a dinner on a publisher's dime.

And tomorrow I'll be heading home!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Conference Day One

Meals eaten in lovely restaurants: 0
Meals eaten in diners: 2

Good, thoughtful sessions I've attended: 1
Good, thoughtful sessions I've presented in: 0

Miles I've walked in The Big City: about 10
Numbers of times I've ridden on the ferry: 4

Average temperature: 28 degrees F
Amount of shampoo used due to extremely hard water: three times normal amount
(I would have written shampoo cubed, but I don't know how to type a superscript. And yes, I do know that three times something is not the same as three cubed. Still, that's a lot of shampoo.)

Norwegian sparkling water drank: 1 cup
Beers drank: 3

Mini-bars in my conference hotel room: 0

Hours until the next presentation: 11

Minutes until my head hits the pillow: 5

Free dinner (tomorrow night) at Italian restaurant with an open bar: Priceless.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Controlling the Drama"

Today, dear friends, was about not letting transportation get the best of me. I got to the airport on time (natch) and my tiny flight from High Plains Town to Large Western City went without a hitch. I even got to sit in the back row of the 21-seater (my fave) and talk about Africa with a man and his son(?) from the Sudan by way of Chicago, who might have been checking out universities.

The need to "control the drama" began on arrival in Big Western City. I bypassed the lovely coffee shop, because I knew I needed to get a boarding pass. Hiked down to the gate and got said boarding pass, only to be told that because of back-ups in The Big City, our flight would be delayed about an hour. No problem. Traveling Colleague and I hiked back down to the coffee shop, where grabbed a non-fat latte and an extremely fatty croissant, hiked back to the gate. And waited. And waited. Eventually a voice came over the loudspeaker (picture Charlie Brown's teacher here, ok?). This is what we heard:

"wonh wonh wonh wonh eleven o'clock wonh wonh gate B-26 wonh wonh wonh."

When we inquired, we were told that we would probably loud up at 10, but would be sitting in the plane on the tarmac for an hour and a half, because another plane needed our slot. That's right, you heard me. Sitting in the plane for an hour and a half.

It was actually more like 2 hours, but who's counting.

We were supposed to arrive in The Big City at 2:30; we finally got off our flight at 4:45. And went to the luggage carousel to claim our luggage (I had bought a spanking new red suitcase specially for this trip, cousins!). You know what happened next -- our luggage didn't arrive. When we inquired, we were told that it was loaded on the NEXT flight from Large Western City to The Big City, which was due to arrive in 20 minutes. About 45 minutes later, lo and behold, our luggage arrived.

Then we took a taxi to Traveling Colleague's hotel, had a nice dinner at a little Italian place (Cha-ching, $60), went back to the hotel to get my luggage, and I hailed a taxi out to my hotel. (Cha-ching, $60)

And now I am here. Exhausted, well fed, and ready to snooze. But because I care so much about you, cousins, I had to tell you my day's sad tale. I have high hopes that tomorrow will include rides across a river on a ferry, a good bit of city walking, a couple of presentations, and a nice lunch and dinner.

Oh and spending a hell of a lot more cha-ching. But I'm controlling the drama!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holy Crap!

Leaving tomorrow at oh-dark-thirty for my interminably long day of traveling to get The Big City. Conference going, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways or something like that.

Still to do:

* Pack
* Get cash
* Finish one paper
* Plan a five-minute introduction thingy
* Study for geology exam

Oh, did I mention that while I'm in The Big City, I'll be missing the third exam in my geology class? Which means I'll be taking a make-up exam the day after I return, which means I'll be taking my books with me to the conference, not cracking them open, and doing some seriously panicked studying on Monday morning.

So that should be fun.

But seriously I do love this conference, and I'm looking forward to it. It's just the getting there that is hard, from this out-of-the-way, almost-end-of-the-world spot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And the irony of this is ...

Today in one of my courses we were talking about the wonders of using technology to teach English. One of the questions asked was "What happens when the technology doesn't work?"

And then the laptops that I had checked out for my students to use to do research on webquests wouldn't allow them to log in.


One Beautiful Bad Ass, Coming Up

I can't remember where I first saw this, but when I saw Belle's this morning, my resolve not to do it crumbled. And look at the result of my falling into temptation's slimy grip:

William Shakespeare

She's beautiful and therefore to be wooed;
She is a Bad Ass, therefore to be won.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

That is just fucking perfect.

On another note, my outside review letters are due in this week. THAT makes me nervous.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I feel a load of whininess getting ready to burst out of every pore. So here it comes:

Why is getting ready to leave for a conference so hard?

Why do advisees always wait until the day of their registration to contact me for advising? When advising week was two weeks ago?

Why do all of the people on the other side of my hall have to move to another building?

Why won't anyone tell me who is moving in to those offices?

Why does it take so much energy for me to get anything written?

Why do I have to attend so many meetings?

Why did I commit to post in my blog every day this month?

Why do I like to gossip so much?

Why is it so damn hot in my office?

Why can't I ever type those word verification letters correctly the first time around?

OK. That is all. Tomorrow I hope all will be restored to my normal positive, if somewhat snarky, self.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is Footslogger's mom's 91st birthday. She was born on Veteran's Day, which makes it easy to remember her birthday and easy to remember to think about veterans, all on the same day. 91 years old! and still living on her own. She is a fiercely independent, widowed person, who stands all of 4 feet 11 inches. She weighs maybe 95 pounds and is almost completely blind as a result of macular degeneration.

I think if you asked her, she would say that the best thing in her life now is her seeing-eye dog, Marilyn. Marilyn is a standard poodle, white, who was trained by the Pilot Dog program in Columbus, Ohio. When Marilyn doesn't have her harness on, she's a regular dog, bouncy and rambunctious. But once she gets buckled into that harness, she is all business.

When mom goes to church or to the grocery store or to the mall, she takes Marilyn. Marilyn is -- of course -- a superior attention grabber. We've been with mom when stranger after stranger has approached her, exclaiming over how beautiful and well behaved Marilyn is, and mom loves it! What a great experience for her, to be the focus of so much positive attention at the age of 91.

We call mom every Sunday (Footslogger is talking with her on the speakerphone as I write this) and of course, this morning we sang her happy birthday as soon as she answered the phone. This morning, after mass, her buddies gave her a donut with a candle in it to blow out and wished her a happy birthday. We sent her a novel on CD to listen to, and of course she opened it this morning while we were on the phone. She's planning to start listening to it tonight.

So happy birthday, mom! We wish you good health, lots of family around you, and all of the love and attention you can get today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Plan for Today

When Footslogger and I were first together, I would wake up on Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings, turn to him and say "OK, what's the plan for today?" It got to the point where he would purposefully refuse to develop any kind of schedule because I apparently needed one so badly.

Well, here's my plan for today:

Take it as it comes.
Read/respond to my students' poems.
Watch the football game (unless that becomes too painful).
Read for fun.
Go to another basketball game tonight.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Oh, Lordy.

Well, today has been a mixed bag. First, it is almost 4:30 and i'm still at work. Not getting anything done, but I'm here nonetheless.

I did make huge progress on a conference presentation I will be making next week in New York. (Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!). This meaning that I finished the paper and created most of the powerpoint. I also ordered a new external hard drive and this cool device for automatically forwarding my presentation. It also has a built-in timer! And it's wireless!

The coolest. What with my shiny new printer and this gadget, I should win some kind of technology award. Or at least be given tenure.

This evening it's a women's basketball game. Tomorrow, tons of reading students' poetry and responding. I have to say that I find responding to students' poems much harder than responding to their academic papers or even to their memoirs. Is it because I don't have much experience with responding to students' poems? Or because their poems are so much more personal than their academic papers? Or because I don't want to intrude with my poetic voice into theirs?

Anyway, that's what I'll be working on this weekend. That and trying to get ready to head out of town.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sleek, Shiny Newness

A couple of weeks ago my office printer stopped printing multi-page documents. Actually, it still printed them, but it printed all of the pages on one page. This led to an agonizing week or so of being forced to print out one page at a time, or of sending documents to our long-suffering department secretary for her to print, while I waited for a new printer to get ordered and shipped. Last Friday my new printer arrived and I spent a good two hours OF MY RESEARCH DAY getting it unpacked and set up.

Here it is in all of its shininess:

Isn't this the most freaking awesome thing you've ever seen? I mean, for a woman who has been printing in black and white, with cheap bubble-jet printers. This one not only prints in color, it also COPIES. AND SCANS.

I feel like doing the happy dance around my office every time I use it.

So I know it's a bit of a tank -- it's huge and it takes up tons of space on my already cluttered desk. And I am a bit worried about the amount of dust I found underneath my old printer when I moved it. Will that much dust pile up again on my new printer? And if so, will it ruin my new shiny printer? Perhaps I should purchase a dust cover for it? Or maybe a little umbrella thingy?

If only I had Dobby. Where are the house elves when you need them?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fred Smith

Didn't get an opportunity to schmooze last night at the basketball game, after all. The game was good, but apparently the Prez was out of town. So much for that.

On another note, however, a phenomenon occurred at the game last night that kept me giggling for hours. I woke up this morning still laughing about it.

Every time one of our players whose name is all one-syllable words (I'll call him Fred Smith) would line up to shoot a free throw, the folks a few rows behind me would mutter or shriek or yell his name, very quickly, just before his shot. I think this was some kind of ritualistic attempt to make sure that the ball went successfully through the hoop, but it was hilarious.

Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
All of this "Fred Smith" done at different tones, volumes, speeds. Hilarious!
And then when you add in the fellow behind and a bit to the left (whom we affectionately call "Whoosh" for reasons you'll see in a moment), it sounded like this:
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
This morning, Footslogger and I woke up, yelled at the cat, and muttered to each other . .
Fred Smith.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have six minutes before I have to head downstairs (damn this building that is not ADA compliant!) to meet with a prospective student who can't navigate stairs. So I thought I'd post, just to make sure I get one in for the day. I know, it's not a quality post, but what the hell. I'm driven by my commitment to NaBloPoMo to post about any old crap.

OK, the good news for today? I scored two free basketball tickets to our men's exhibition game tonight. Footslogger and I will be seated with the UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT. Hmm. Opportunity to schmooze? I'll take it!

Oh, and that reminds me of a funny story involving said president, a colleague and me, and the line at a sandwich shop. I'll tell it if I get a chance later today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Central City Day

Today my department head and I took the university plane (it's a 6-seater!) up to Central City for the mentor teacher/student teacher workshop. All of our student teachers, from all content areas, who are placed for spring student teaching in Central City were there (except for one of mine, who apparently has the stomach flu -- ook), along with their respective mentor teachers. It was a fun time, with relatively little B.S. (which is AMAZING, as these workshops can turn into massive overdoses of administrivia) and a great opportunity to meet some folks I've never met before.

Some things that happened today:
  • I found out that one of this year's mentor teachers (we'll call this teacher X) was the mentor of one of last year's mentor teachers (Y). I know a bit about X, but only from Y's perspective, and it's all negative. I'll give X a chance to prove Y wrong . . . but I'm definitely keeping an eye on that situation.
  • One of the pilots called me "Hollywood." This nickname could only have been given to him by ONE PERSON, and you know who you are.
  • We had lunch at a fantabulous Mexican cafe. Yummy. And reimburseable!
  • There was a bit of sheer wind on our landing. Luckily, my back was to the pilots, cause I hate seeing the plane slew all over the place when we're coming in to the runway. I trust the pilots, but I really don't need to see that at all.
  • I got to use one of those cool FM receiver microphones that you drape around your neck.
  • My students are going to do really well. I know this because they are all marvelous, smart, industrious, and open-minded.

So that's it for today. So far, I'm keeping up with NaBloPoMo. Yeah, me!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Avoiding Grading, Redux

I've not got a full-fledged headache from grading. So I'm going to drink some water, take some Advil, and go outside to play!

It's too beautiful a day to stay indoors. I'll post some pix later.

Mid-Term Evaluations

One of the tools that I use in my courses to help me get a better handle on how things are going (before students fire off a massive cannon salvo in the end-of-term course evaluations) is a loose mid-term evaluation. This year, I asked three questions in my mid-term evals:
1. What's working for you in this class?
2. What's not working for you, and how would you tweak it to make it work?
3. If you had "SuperEducator" powers, what one thing would you change?

Now, those sound all cool and stuff, but really, I had a more staid version ready to go -- only I forgot to bring the forms to class.

So this morning I sat down to read those evaluations and type up summaries for my students (I like to do this, so that they get a sense of the contradictions and why I can't change everything to work for them).

The good news:
  • The workshop format, which I instituted last fall for one day a week of my class on how to teach writing, is quite popular.
  • Most students think the atmosphere/community of the class is positive and helpful.
  • Most students think that they are learning teaching methods that will be applicable during their student teaching and beyond.

The bad news:

  • There are a lot of haters for the text in my senior-level class.
  • Even though I provide models for most of my assignments, have a calendar of assignment due dates in the syllabus, do regular reminders of due dates in class, and provide rubrics for most assignments, there are several who are still unclear as to what is wanted on assignments, when they are due.

The mixed news:

  • Powerpoints -- love 'em and hate 'em.
  • Reading response sheets -- love 'em and hate 'em.
  • Use of a wiki for feedback -- love it and hate it.

So what's a professor to do?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Avoiding Grading

Today's Method:

  • Wake up early and head to the post office, then breakfast at a cafe.
  • Read blogs for an hour and a half.
  • Start the laundry, then head to campus for the women's volleyball game.
  • After the volleyball game, don't go home; instead, use your free tickets to the men's basketball game.
  • Contemplate leaving the game at half-time; instead, stay till the very end.
  • After that game, head to the grocery store for supplies.
  • Bring your groceries home and make a salad.
  • Eat your salad just as the football game starts.
  • Watch the football game while drinking enough beer to make sure you're too tipsy to grade papers.

Sigh. I'm really good at this.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Marty's Tail

At the risk of being lumped into some stereotypical category (i.e., professors who write about their cats), I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell the tale of my female scaredy-cat Marty.

When I was teaching high school English in East Texas, I came out of the building at the end of a long day one spring to find a tiny kitten -- really, too small to be weaned -- in the front seat of my car. She was obviously sick, and her face had been damaged. One side of her face looked like it had been smashed in -- I thought that maybe someone had kicked her, or perhaps run over her with a bicycle. I stopped by a gas station on the way home, and put some water in a cup for her. She drank a bit and then just lay still, mewing quietly.

When I got her home, I put her in the middle of the bed. She didn't move. I remember that she seemed so tiny, swamped by the ocean of the huge white bedspread all around her. I really didn't think that she would live through the night, but I promised myself -- and her -- that if she did, I would take her to the vet the next day.

We named her Marty, because her eye was swollen out, reminding us of Marty Feldman.

Ten years later, she's my chubby, shy girl. It's my guess that Marty was born a barn cat, because she's deathly afraid of people, even me sometimes. She hides in the basement whenever people are over; she is not a lap cat; she prefers to be left alone most of the time. But as soon as we turn out the lights, she makes a beeline for the easy chair. Every once in a while, she works up the nerve to brush up next to my leg. But she soon thinks better of it and hides -- under the dining room table, mostly.

I found out later that one of my high school students (you know who you are, Frank!) found her in the parking lot, and thought "Hmm. Ms. Bad Ass likes animals. I think I'll just put this kitten in her car."

Well, thanks Frank. She's been a good cat for us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Staying Because ...

There has been a good bit of kerfuffle on some of the blogs I read, around junior and senior faculty perceptions of each other, particularly focused on junior faculty who leave one position for another. My initial take on that is to say -- well, duh! Of course any faculty member is going to be hunting for the best possible position for themselves. That "best" may mean best pay, best geography, best colleagues, best job fit, best housing market, best two-body position, best whatever. When I took my position, Footslogger and I agreed that we would give it two years, and if we were not satisfied, we would go elsewhere. Five and a half years later, we're still here.

However, it's not my intention to add any fuel to that fire; flames enough are blazing away! I want, instead, to give a description of one of the reasons I'm still here: my department research group.

My department members are in the interesting position of hailing from different disciplines, all related by a common thread. Thus, although we have some things in common, we have very different ways of looking at life, work, the world, education, etc. We do all get along, though we don't always agree.

For the last year and a half, we have made it our goal to improve the research productivity of all members of the department (we have all have a similar teaching/research/service and advising load: 65/25/10. Here's what we do:

  • Friday is research day (we all teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays). That means we don't schedule meetings on Fridays.
  • We meet every Friday at 8:30 AM for coffee and breakfast downstairs in the student union, where we keep track of both short-term and long-term research goals to help keep each other accountable for meeting them.
  • Every semester we go off for a research/writing retreat. We book rooms at a cheap but classy hotel, we write all afternoon on a Thursday and most of the day Friday, emerging occasionally to report on our progress, get help with roadblocks, and eat meals (so far, we've been able to do this on the department's dime).
  • We celebrate our publications and give credit to the "Department Research Group."

All in all, though I think that I would have been almost as productive without it, the research group provides the kind of support and accountability that many of us need to get work done.

Having these goals, meeting in these ways, helps us to be collegial, to feel that we are not along, and is part of why I decided to stay here. I know that not everyone enjoys the kind of collegiality we have (and we haven't always had it!). But to those senior faculty who have been griping about junior faculty leaving them in the lurch, I say, maybe it's because your environment is not conducive to collaboration and collegiality.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nine-tenths of the LAW

Every Sunday morning, Footslogger and I walk downtown to a little coffee shop, where we order a bagel and coffee, read the newspaper, and chat. We enjoy the 15-minute walk each way, we see the same folks every week both behind the counter and around tables in the shop. It's a tradition that we've been enjoying since we bought our "new" house about two years ago.

Another couple who frequent our coffee shop (yes, I'm noting the possessive there, but I truly feel a sense of ownership. In fact, Slogger and I talked this morning about buying it, should it come on the market. That's another post, however .. .) is a couple we call "The Deacon" and "The Minister." They seem to be a married couple, and they're headed for church after coffee. We guffaw at that, for sure, since our church IS the coffee, or maybe the coffee shop, but again . . . another post. They both wear HUGE cross pendants with fancy stones in them. I mean, seriously, those crosses' spread is enough to weigh down any neck that they are draped around. Something like this:

only draped on a multi-colored beaded braided thing around their necks.

Anyway, this is not about their choice of jewelry, but dang! those things are showy and ugly.

So anyway, there is only one big table at this coffee shop, and our Sunday mornings have taken on a bit of a competitive nature, as we wake up early and hustle so we can get there before The Deacon and The Minister take over our favorite table and spread their newspapers all over it. Hmph. I hate that. They've been winning the competition lately, forcing us to take a small table and to minimize our own newspaper spreading.

So this morning we got up at 6:15, walked downtown WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK AND 28 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. And yes, we got our table. Happy dance!

Even better was the defeated expression on the faces of The Deacon and The Minister when we had the table they wanted and they had to settle for the tiny table.

Yes, I am a competitive bitch. Can't help it. Winning is so sweet!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Georgia beats Florida! 42-30!

Have you read Harry Potter #7?

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

OK, so if I hadn't read the last one, I would be seriously disturbed by this. But just think of the lifelong loyalty and love (note the alliterative power, there, folks) displayed by one Severus Snape. Proud to be Slytherin, thank you. Though "...perhaps sometimes we sort too soon."

Football Weather

We're getting bundled up and ready to head off for a football game. With a predicted high of 39 degrees F today, that means lots of layers and blankets. Thank goodness that we rented seats in the stadium so our rear ends don't have to be in contact with those ccccoooooollllllddddd aluminum seats.

We always stop by the pizza place to bring home a pizza to cook on game days. Gourmet veggie! Yum.

Friday, October 26, 2007


You might have noticed the new badge on the left for NaBloPoMo, otherwise known as National Blog Posting Month. I've made a commitment to blog every day for the month of November (which starts soon! eek! and in the middle of advising week! double-eek!). So check back here, folks -- after this post, I'll be taking a deep breath (blog-wise) to prepare myself for the craziness that will be November. After the nuthouse that October has been, November should be a breeze!

This morning I'm headed in to get my annual blood draw, followed by
* research meeting
* geology class
* phone conference about upcoming research
* meeting with a student (who needs an ass-whuppin')
* meeting with another student (who needs something signed)

these events will be punctuated with grading, writing an article review, prepping for next week's classes, etc.

I'm up for it, though. I've got my Dansko's on!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme

I've been tagged by Dr. Brazen Hussy with the Pharyngula Mutating Genre Meme, which honestly sounds like some kind of a disease rather than a cool bloggy deliciousness. I do like memes, and I'm so excited to be tagged.(That's really goofy, I know, but what can I say? I'm a nerd.) This meme was started by PZ Meyers at Pharyngula as a means of demonstrating evolution in cyberspace.

First, the rules:

There is a set of questions below, all of which are in this format: "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is . . . ."

Copy the quesions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:
*You can leave them exactly as is.
*You can delete any one question.
*You can mutate eiher the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question.
For instance, you could change"The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . " to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is . . ." or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is . . ." or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . ."
*You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...."
*You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extince, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify trcing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

So, without further ado:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great-great-great-great grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great grandparent is Primate Diaries.
My great-great-great grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great grandparent is k8, a cat, a mission.
My great grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My grandparent is DancingFish.
My parent is Brazen Hussy.

The best young adult novel in SF/Fantasy is: Feed, by M.T. Anderson
The best teenage movie in comedy is: Dazed and Confused
The best uplifting song in country music is: I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack
The best cult novel in classic fiction is: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The best high-fat food in Mexican cooking is: Mole!
The best dissertation related words I ever received from a scholar are: "I'm surprised your committee let you do that."


You're tagged: Jen, Kathryn & Paul, Belle.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Flu Shot

Oh! and I forgot to mention an IMPORTANT THING that happened today. After my department's research meeting (in which we post goals and generally keep each other accountable), we all decided to head over to the health service to get flu shots. For me at least, if I go through another spring semester with bronchitis, I'll be seriously looking for a new place to live! I'm hoping the flu shot will help.

We stood in line for about an hour (frustrating) while the clock kept ticking closer and closer to the time when I was supposed to be in this semester's geology class, taking the second test of the semester. I got my shot just at the moment when the professor was handing out the tests (I imagine), and was packing up when Nurse Brunhilda said, "Now you'll have to wait 20 minutes to see if you have a reaction to the flu shot. We've got some nice cookies in the next room."

I looked at my watch.

"Shit. I have a test to take right now."

She put her hands on her hips, scowled down at me from her high horse, then shook her finger at me. "If you pass out, it's on your own responsibility. It'll be your own fault."

I can live with that. But I did spend the first 20 minutes of the test sort of checking myself. I was actually relieved to get past that first 20 minutes. Cause there's not a chance I'll have a reaction after that, right?

I think I did pretty well on the exam. Some stuff I didn't study very much, but on the whole pretty fair. I'll let you know when I get it back.

Some Stuff

I didn't attend either of the offered brown bag T&P discussion meetings this year (in which junior faculty can ask questions of members of the college T&P committee), though I have in the past. They're actually quite helpful, though the nervous energy strafing through the room is a bit off-putting.

It felt good to know that I don't need to attend that meeting, that the papers are all out, the packet will soon be turned in, and it's pretty much out of my hands at this moment.

Now if I had spent the time grading the looming stack of papers threatening to take over my office, THAT would have been perfect. But no, I didn't. I messed around with various screen video and voice recording systems, ways to post podcasts (short ones) so that my students could read them. I did end up using a free software called WildVoice to finish providing feedback to my students' memoirs (and I think I was able to provide much better and more thoughtful feedback than I ever have before because I just talked into a microphone about strengths of the writing, areas that needed work, etc.). I'm a bit put off by the posting site for WildVoice, as when I went to see who had downloaded their feedback, there were all these pictures of scantily clad women in the advertisements. Not really the kind of academic ambiance I was shooting for there!

But anyway, Slogger and I just returned from the volleyball game (we won in 4) and will be heading out for a football game this weekend in nearby military town. The weather is supposed to be beautiful.

Yes, I'm taking a small stack of papers to read in the car. Can't help it!

Monday, October 15, 2007

I think we already knew this . . .

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What are you doing? Not grading...

I so need to get my ass to my office and grade some papers. And I'm so not doing it.

It's snowing outside!

Surprise Prize

OK, I saw this at Maggie May's and made a commitment, which I'm honoring here. Sounds cool --

By the end of the calendar year, I will send a tangible, physical gift to each of the first five people to comment here. The catch? Each person must make the same offer on her/his blog.

So, if you (a) want a gift; and (b) have your own blog on which to post this offer, then please, comment away!

Saturday, October 13, 2007


After a chance conversation with a fellow faculty member, I got this great idea to record feedback for my students' writing. Then I found Camtasia, which is a software that allows me to record screen shots as video and to overlay voice recording. So I've been taking my students' memoirs (recently written and handed in), pulling them up on the course wiki (, and then using Camtasia to record video of their writing, along with my comments. I played around with posting them on the wiki, but was not able to get that to work (yet). So for the short term, I'm burning a cd for each student with the video on it. That's what I'll be doing most of the day tomorrow.

Also found this cool video: The class apparently used googledocs to collaboratively produce the survey that they used for the video. This is interesting, as I've been talking with another colleague about how to provide ways for students to collaborate both asynchronously and synchronously.

I'm also really interested in what I might learn from the K-12 Online Conference, which is currently underway. Presentations in the Web 2.0 thread start on Monday, and I'll be eagerly accessing those next week, when I'm not teaching, recording my thoughts on memoirs, or in meetings. Sigh. Too much to do, and all of this stuff to do is getting in the way of my technogeeking.

In other news, it was not a good day for university sports as our football team and volleyball team both got beat. Interesting football game, as it was interrupted by lightning and delayed for almost 2 hours. We went home, got warmer jackets and waterproof pants, and came back to the game so we could watch our team get pounded. Bummer.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

RBOC: Sunday Afternoon Edition

I haven't blogged in a while, largely because I've been freakishly busy getting ready for a conference, attending a conference, and recovering from the conference. But anyway, here are some things going on in my noggin lately.
  • "Old lady." I got a bit of flak from a dear reader (and lord knows, I don't have enough dear readers, so I must respond when the few I have get upset) about the way I referred to myself in a recent post as an "old lady." Granted, I have some gray hairs on my head, but I really don't think of myself as old. Or as a lady, either, but that's another story. Really, C, I was referring to my relative oldness in relation to the very young people in my geology class.
  • It snowed a bit last night, and we put the storm windows up today. Which makes me want to cry, cause I'm not ready for winter. At. all.
  • I'm thinking of becoming a bit of a philanthropist, though I probably don't have the money to qualify. Back in the 80s, I taught for three years at a secondary school in Uganda. At the time, that school was a mixed gender boarding school; now it is a girls' school. I'm trying to get in touch with the headmaster or headmistress to see if perhaps I can be a conduit for things that they might need. Books, maybe? Writing materials? I am interested in seeing if my student organization would like to work with them... anyway, I'll see how that works out. It's exciting, at the least, to contemplate the possibility of renewing ties with the school.
  • Football this weekend was scary. The last three minutes of the game practically gave me a heart attack. We did win, but it was touch-and-go there at the end.
  • I have TONS of grading to do, that I haven't yet touched.
  • We just bought a bunch of new furniture and it is making our living room much more habitable. Which makes it harder to do the grading I should be doing, in my office/dining room.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fame and Fortune; At Last They Come Home Where They Belong

In Wednesday's geology lab, we participated in a minerals/rock-identification exercise that was really a review of the previous geology course I took last fall. It was great fun, and a good reminder of why I'm so interested in geology.

So at the end of the lab, my lab partner and I were attempting to identify "unknown rock C," along with about 7 other students. Clustered around the table at the front of the room, we debated what minerals were present in the rock, whether it was more mafic or felsic, intrusive or extrusive, and attempted to locate the rock on a chart that would help us identify it.

"Andesite," I said. "I think it's andesite."

My colleagues gathered around differed, each offering a different hypothesis as to the identity of the unknown. Eventually the TA -- noticing our debate -- came over to walk us through the identification process. After this, she finally pronounced that the rock was . . . andesite.

One of the students (a member of the university marching band, I believe; probably all of 19 or 20 years old) said to me, "Next week, will you be my lab partner?"

YEAH! Score one for the old lady of the class!

Dear Geology Major . . .

who sits in front of me in my geology class:

Your swiveling classroom seat is not an easy chair or a lounge chair or your living room sofa. You are sitting in class, not in front of the TV. The professor's lecture may be boring, but I bet if you really try, you can drum up a bit of enthusiasm for understanding how the systems that make up our atmosphere work. When you slide your butt down in your chair, stretch your long legs out in front of you, and reach back with your arms as if you are participating in some crafty new-age yoga pose, your hands end up about two inches in front of my nose. I could casually reach over with my pencil and poke you in the top of the head. In other words, you are seriously invading my personal space.

I have refrained from doing so thus far, out of kindness to your kind in general (i.e. young, silly undergraduates) and because I enjoy watching the professor get astonished at your overall stretchiness and flexibility in the middle of a classroom lecture. But my patience is nearing an end. If you feel a poke on the top of your prematurely balding head, or if the backwards-pointing brim of your baseball cap gets knocked down any further than it already is, you'll know it's me.


Old Lady Who Sits Behind You In Class

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

You Never Call, You Never Write

I'm trying not to complain, but since I had to miss class on Monday (because I was doing some professional development work for a school district) I emailed my professor on Friday, asking for Monday's homework so I could get started on the homework on Tuesday. Here it is, Tuesday night, and still no response.

Guess I'll pick it up in class on Wednesday.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


In this semester's attempt to achieve science nerd queen-ness, I'm taking a 2000 level geology class that takes a systems approach, involves some chemistry, and really pushes on my (somewhat rusty) quantitative skills.

It's that last part that is the reason why each week's homework (handed out on Monday; due on Friday) TAKES ME ALL WEEK TO FINISH SUCCESSFULLY. Last week's assignment involved the quadratic equation. Now I do remember learning the quadratic equation back many, many years ago. But really, in my life as an English/adolescent literacy type, there's not a whole lot of call for it. So this week, as in every previous week, the homework (initially) stumped me. I got help from all and sundry, including Footslogger, my math teacher friends, the class TA, and a math professor. Eventually I did finish it, though I'm pretty sure there are mistakes in it.

We also had a test on Friday, and I'm pretty sure I did ok. As always, the content of the course is interesting, and the math points up the weaknesses in my background. Oh, and how long it has been since I took algebra (24 years, to be pointed).

On a completely unrelated topic -- but one that is on my mind this weekend -- I heard a rumor (oh, how I hope this one isn't true) this weekend about a former student caught in some reprehensible behavior with a high school student. Makes. Me. Sick. I know this behavior is not a reflection on me or my teaching, but it makes me feel that I failed this student somehow. It is a sobering reminder that my students -- future teachers -- have huge responsibilities to their students and to the parents of those students. Which makes my responsibility that much more serious.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh, the drama.

Just a short note to say that I'm freaking out because I have no idea how to do my homework assignment for my geology class. It involves half-life and requires manipulation of an equation.

Can you say 23 years since I took algebra?

I'm going to try to email my lab instructor to get some help. Or maybe my husband can help me. Otherwise, I'm lost.

Education? Computers?

OK, I saw the career thing flying around at Dr. Crazy and Profgrrrrl, and decided to go and do it myself.

So here are my top 10 careers, according to Career Cruising:


2.Foreign Language Instructor

3.ESL Teacher

4.Music Teacher / Instructor

5.Computer Support Person

6.Computer Programmer

7.Computer Trainer

8.Elementary School Teacher

9.High School Teacher

10.Multimedia Developer

I find it quite interesting that ALL of the top 10 involve either education (which I've been doing for lo these 23 years) or computers (which I'm a freakin' geek about).

If you want to go and try, the username is nycareers and the pw is landmark.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Summit video

Here's a short video of the final summit of Katahdin, the successful end of my pursuit to complete the Appalachian Trail. Narrated by Footslogger, of course.

Friday, August 31, 2007

No Need for Prerequisites

The course I'm taking this semester is a 2000-level geology course, which apparently takes an earth systems, geochemical approach to geology. The first day of class, the professor emphasized the prerequisites, including a 1000-level geology course with a lab and a chemistry course.

After class, a student came up to the professor and explained that he didn't have the 1000-level geology course prerequisite.

"But," he said, "I should be ok. My grandfather is a geologist."

Yeah, that should work.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Yesterday's college retreat (or as I like to say "retreat" cause it's not really a retreat unless I'm doing meditation or getting a facial) was actually the best we've had in recent years. The focus was on diversity and the presenters made the experience interactive, informative, and interesting. Lunch was good, the company of my colleagues was fun, and I even had the (somewhat scary) experience of roleplaying a conversation about diversity with a colleague in front of EVERYONE ELSE IN THE COLLEGE.

Don't know why I volunteered for that one, but I was SO happy when it was over.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh, Hail!

Along with our typical 2:00 rainstorm came a nice bit of hail, as seen on our deck:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Advice for New Teachers

If you're a new teacher, I hope you'll read the post by Ms. Cornelius offering advice for new teachers on classroom management, supplies, presentation, and keeping healthy. FANTASTIC STUFF! Read the comments, too, because there are some great ideas there as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


It's official. As of August 17th, I have hiked all 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

I've been working on becoming a 2000-miler for the last 6 years. Here's how that endeavor has played out:

2001: This is the year in which I hiked the majority of the trail -- about 1,700 miles. I began March 17th and hiked to Damascus, Virginia. It was during the last few days of that section that I injured the muscle in my rear which forced me to come off the trail for a month and a half. I got back on in Waynesboro, Virginia and hiked to South Egremont, Connecticut, then skipped up to Hanover, New Hampshire and hiked to Gorham, New Hampshire. Then I skipped up to Monson, Maine and hiked the 100-mile wilderness and summitted Katahdin. Good chunks of trail that I completed, but still missing a few bits here and there.

2003: Footslogger's thru-hike. I hiked with him most of the section in Virginia (between Damascus and Waynesboro.

2004: I hiked the 20 miles into Damascus, from the road where I stood, crippled, and got a ride from a kind friend into town in 2001.

2005: I finished up the Virginia section and hiked from South Egremont, Connecticut to Hanover, New Hampshire with my friend, colleague, and hiking buddy, Red.

2006: Gorham, New Hampshire to Rangeley, Maine (by far, the hardest 100 miles I have ever hiked).

2007: Rangeley, Maine to Monson, Maine. This is the bit I just finished, having returned home last night after a 20-hour travel day! After we finished this 105-mile section, we took a day off (much deserved, by the way) and then got ourselves to Mt. Katahdin for a final summit. As usual, the beauty and grandeur of that mountain completely amaze me.

As I am now a 2000-miler, I've been giving some thoughts to lessons that I've learned from the trail over the last 6 years. Here are a few ideas, for starters:

1. No matter whether I hike 10 miles or 25 miles on any particular day, I always end the day exhausted. I believe it's because I don't take enough breaks. Or maybe that I know I should be exhausted, so I make myself that way?

2. The only certain diet plan I've ever been successful with is a thru-hike. In 2001, I lost 40 pounds in 6 months; unfortunately, I wasn't able to keep off that weight.

3. There comes with a thru-hike a sense of confidence. If I can hike this amazingly difficult trail, I can do just about anything. That has helped with lots of other things that don't necessarily come easily in life.

4. Anywhere is in walking distance, if you have the time.

5. Long-distance hikers are both amazingly wonderful and wonderfully annoying. There are characters; there are thieves; there are gearheads; but mostly there's this wonderful community of people who are all aiming for the same thing, and looking out for each other along the way.

6. I should buy stock in the company that makes Snickers bars.

7. The human body is an amazing machine. Just two days ago I was sitting at the base of Mt. Katahdin, looking at the top, and thinking, "I got my body all the way up there and back again. How did I do that?" My body is strong and capable. That's a good thing.

8. Singing helps me hike when I'm exhausted and my feet are feeling battered and bruised. It's probably a good idea for me to sing more.

9. Uphill is much better than downhill. Or even flat, if you can believe it. I like the feeling of getting my breathing in a rhythm, pushing myself up a hill, and making it to the top. Going downhill punishes my knees; hiking on flat hurts my feet.

10. Whining about pain, exhaustion, dehydration, hunger, etc., only makes whatever I'm suffering from feel worse. A metaphor for life, I think.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Obviously, this man is my soulmate...

Just read a recap of a speech by Jim Cummins at the state NCTE conference in California. I so wish I had been there to hear him speak! Because just reading it, I gave him a standing ovation.

Some of the things I've been saying for years are in his speech. Just one example is the unconscionable amount of instructional time being lost to testing. This is something I have personal experience with, as student teachers under my supervision, every spring, spend literally weeks overseeing students taking tests. And that's just the time being spent on TAKING the tests, not the time spent by teachers (who are, yes indeed, afraid of losing their jobs if their students don't perform well) on preparing students to take the tests. I'm still waiting for the huge uprising of parents against the amount of time and the stress involved in these tests. Ridiculous. Parents, you should sue!

And then also there's the preposterous idea that the tests students are taking actually represent what they are capable of. We have those data, sure, but what other data might we also be collecting to help us understand how our students are doing?

And don't get me started on notions of "highly qualified" teachers that take into account ONLY the content the teachers have and not their actual ability to develop a classroom community, organize and carry out instruction, interact with other humans, etc.

Anyway, if you have a minute, go and read the overview of Jim Cummins' talk. That is an enlightened man.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Writing Project notes

The weekend beginning Friday, July 13th (and no, there was no bad luck associated with it) began this summer's invitational with the Wyoming Writing Project. I'm one of 12 "fellows" and -- along with several staff members -- we spent the initial weekend at the lovely Elk Mountain Hotel. The fellows are mostly teachers, with me (teacher educator), a school librarian, and a couple of principals. All education folks, anyway. We spent all day last Wednesday through Friday writing, brainstorming, and taking a field trip to Rock Springs. Why Rock Spring? you may be asking.

The culminating project of this year's Wyoming Writing Project will be writing, producing, and performing a play based on the massacre of @30 Chinese miners in Rock Springs in September of 1885. So we had a little tour of Rock Springs, so that we could more clearly envision the events and the places of the massacre.

If you'd like a little more information, here's a Wikipedia entry to get you started.

We also had to develop an essential question . . . I decided to focus on this one: "How does knowledge work?" which will allow me to do some personal and professional research related to knowledge transfer between differing types of settings.

I have a feeling that, over the course of the project (still 2 more weeks to run) we'll all get to know each other really well. I'm happy that so far no one has emerged as a complete wack job, and everyone is getting along fairly well. Perhaps we are still in a honeymoon phase . . .

I am most excited about being pushed to write. I don't take enough time to write for myself; instead, I'm constantly doing professional forms of writing, which are fulfilling, certainly, but lack a certain intimacy that I would like to have in my writing. So far I've done a scad of journaling, written a few poems, and begun reading on high-road and low-road transfer. I think that this experience will also be helpful in terms of my classes next fall; I'm hoping that I can transfer some of the community-building experiences and build teaching patterns for transfer into my classes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Finals Week

Well, sort of. I have basically this week to finish my syllabi for fall courses, write and prepare materials to send to outside reviewers, and write my program report for accreditation. Why so much in just one week? Well, because starting Friday I'll be a "fellow" in the Wyoming Writing Project and when that finishes we'll be heading out east to hike about 100 miles on the AT in Maine. When we come back from that (much slimmer, I hope!), I'll have 4 days before the meetings and other crap begin that signal the onset of the fall semester.

So, I'll be working my ass off this week -- no slacking!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Day Hike

Yesterday's day hike down French Creek Canyon in the Snowy Range was delightful! The trail begins on the ridge of a steep canyon (the French Creek Canyon, don't ya know) and then follows that ridge down into a beautiful meadow. Going out is mostly downhill, which means that going back is mostly uphill. It was a great hike, a good workout, with lots of beautiful sights.

The trail follows French Creek down its canyon, which means our hike was accompanied by the sounds of rushing water and opportunities to soak our feet. . .

. . . and now that I'm a nerdy geology buff, I noticed some interesting rock formations that I still know nothing about. One day, however, I will understand these . . .

Friday, June 29, 2007

8 Things Meme

OK, I've seen this meme at Russian Violets, Dr. Crazy, and others. No one tagged me, but I thought it might be interesting to see what I can come up with, then to tag some folks and see if anyone actually follows through.

Here are the rules to play:

1. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.

2. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.

3. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

So -- 8 random facts about Dr. Bad Ass:

1. I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles; I can only keep myself from doing this by giving myself frequent manicures and keeping my nails painted.

2. When I was in third grade, I told a fellow third-grader (yes, a "popular" girl) that I had broken my leg the summer before. Somehow, I thought this would make me cool.

3. I went to Girl Scout camp every year between the ages of 8 and 14. Then I became a Girl Scout camp counselor.

4. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to be a truck driver. My mother did not approve. Now I'm THRILLED that I didn't become a truck driver, since I hate driving 45 minutes to the mall in the next town over!

5. I like going to conferences, but I rarely go to sessions not presented by me, my students, or my grad school colleagues (yeah, Margaret, Gwynne, Melanie, Cheri, George, and Alison!).

6. The young adult lit course that I taught last spring was my best experience as a college teacher ever. You guys were fabulous!

7. According to my mother, when I was two years old, I wanted to do everything "my-by-self." Still do.

8. I love our Farmer's Market here in town, but I wish they would just give away baskets of cherries and forget everything else.

I know I'm supposed to tag 8 people, but .... I don't think 8 people who blog read this! So here are the folks I'm tagging:

Tessa (your mom or dad can do it for you!), Jen, Kathryn and/or Paul and of course, anyone else out there who hasn't already done it.

Connie, it's time for you to have your own blog, now . . .


Once Again, with the Old Manuscript

Now I'm finally back to revising (for the umpteenth time) that old manuscript. We got a revise and resubmit for it, and fairly good and substantial reviews, so I'm at it again. I do like revise and resubmits, for the improvements I can make to my writing. However, having been burned last year with two revise and resubmits that were later rejected, I've become a bit cynical.

Some of you may find that hard to believe.

But really, the reviewers are asking for additional data (which we have!) and it's a matter of polishing up, adding material, being thoughtful about our implications, and in general, good researchers and writers. I think we can do it. Whether it will then get accepted and I can stop messing around with this old thing (which is now called version 17) is yet to be seen.

Anyway, it's Friday, and I've about done everything I can on it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


  • Recovering from a Weird Virus. Well, first Loving Spouse (hereafter known as LS) had it. Then I got it. What is "it" you may ask? It's a weird virus that only made us a little sick, but sick enough to feel crappy, dragged down, and lie around in our easy chairs for several days. Neither of us could figure it out, but we did lots of sleeping and lots of complaining for the 3-4 days that it took to work out of our systems.

  • Underwater Video Progress. I've already got the camcorder; two days ago LS ordered the video housing for me. Yesterday I ordered a battery that should last 100 minutes. Next thing you know, I'll be posting videos from our next dive trip on this blog.

  • Work Stuff. Movement toward this year's T&P review is underway. I won't say more about it, but getting confirmation of a manuscript's acceptance several weeks ago leaves me feeling pretty good about it.

  • More Work Stuff. The Weird Virus (see above) put a big kibosh on my work, which means I have tons to do this week and it is already Wednesday! So I should stop blogging immediately and get to work. But I won't.

  • LibraryThing. Love it. I can spend HOURS cataloguing my books, which means hours not spent working.

  • Window Boxes. We put up window boxes on our house and filled them with flowers. They are beautiful!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy Nude Hiking Day!

OK, it's really the Summer Solstice, but to long-distance hikers, it is Nude Hiking Day. In 2001, I was hiking through the Shenandoahs on June 21st, so I didn't hike nude. Why, you may ask? Well, because I didn't want to freak out the little children and their parents (tourists) that I encountered multiple times a day as the trail crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway. I didn't think that little children should be exposed to adult hiker nudity. Way too hairy, believe me!

I did see several hikers who hiked nude, though -- using bandanas for strategic coverage. Let's see, the trail names of those folks were Hippy Longstocking, and a couple of others I can't remember . . . maybe Stovetop? I know that my buddies Skidmark and Balloo hiked naked in 2003, cause that's the kind of folks they are. Fun-loving and crazy. Anyone who takes their three-month old on her first camping trip has my complete love and respect.

It's been a week or so of helping Continental Divide Trail (CDT) thru-hikers. Today we shuttled Sly to Cheyenne, so he could take a bus to Glacier in Montana; and we dropped Haiku off at the bus station, where he's taking a bus to Denver as I write this. None of them were naked, by the way.

I spent a good bit of time today -- no, not being naked, get your mind out of the gutter! -- checking the edits of my fantastic chapter authors. You should know that almost all of them got their edits back to me within the deadline, and they did an excellent job of addressing all of the queries posted by the publisher. I just had one clarification to make, and it was easy. All of THAT makes me a happy co-editor.

I have a manuscript to review, a dissertation to read, and a manuscript to revise, but maybe I'll get to all of those tomorrow . . . when it's NOT nude hiking day.

Monday, June 18, 2007