Wednesday, February 28, 2007

if you're happy and you're busy, clap your hands

Busy. Busy. Busy. With little things that take up too much time. Meetings and such, smack in the middle of the day.

S. and I went to a Pampered Chef party last night at his friends' house, and the thing I'm happiest about purchasing is a little mini-whipper, which cost me all of $3.00. We bought a couple other things--a big ol' pizza stone, for one--but I'm most excited about having a frothy coffee drink with my $3.00 kitchen gadget.

Oh, and goodbye to February. Shortest month, my ass. Snow, sleet, freezing rain, some more snow, and one or two doggie emergencies made this a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long month. Buh-bye.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

good lord, I just found my mother in my handwriting

I'm responding to student work today and it just occurred to me as I was reading back over a comment that my handwriting is my mother's.

The other big thing I share with my mother: a repulsion toward clutter. I can't bear it. I can't stand it. It makes me depressed and I find myself asking S., when he's about to buy something, where he's going to put it. That is my mother speaking and as much as I dislike the idea of being a nag about the very same thing she was a nag about, I think it's preferable to being surrounded by piles of crap.

Car sickness.

Deep compassion for animals.

In these ways I am my mother.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

I don't like the ends

of tomatoes

of bananas

of sliced bread

of sweet potatoes

of jars of sauce

of toes

But I DO like the ends of frosted cakes. Yummers.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

I think I'm the only one who thought this was funny

Except, of course, for my students.

On Tuesday in senior seminar, we're talking about strategies I might use in contacting forger and murderer Mark Hofmann. One person suggests that I play to his ego. Another suggests my sharing my own intellectual interest in rhetoric with him, tell him I think he's a master rhetorician--there's one very specific method for playing to his ego. Let him know I'm with him in the fight to make people less gullible, less blindly trusting.

Yes, but, says one student. You don't want to play to his ego too much cuz he'll just have fun manipulating you.

And then another student says, and this is the funny part: I don't think it's possible for you not to show how excited you are about his genius.

Me: Uh, thanks.

He: No, that's not what I meant. That came out sounding wrong. I don't mean that you wouldn't be able to contain your excitement, just that in the very act of visiting him, you're showing your interest in his work, you obviously think he's good.

Me: Yeah, well, I probably wouldn't be able to contain my enthusiasm anyway. I can't wait to tell my friends about this one.

And then when I did nobody thought it was funny. Nobody got it. Ah well. I still like it.

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Monday, February 19, 2007


Okay, so sometimes I've been known to oversell. SOMEtimes.

Day 1 of senior seminar, I'm giving students an overview of the framework for the course, the books we're reading, etc., and I say something to the tune of, "Chapter 6 in Lanham's gonna blow your mind."

Fast-forward a couple weeks to the day they've finished reading Chapter 6. Amy puts on her dentist coat and begins pulling teeth.

Me: Did anyone get anything from this chapter? I mean, didn't you guys laugh in places?

A few pathetic grumbles about how parts of it were funny, but the bulk of it was just overwhelming.

Then one student says: As I was reading this, I kept feeling really bad that I wasn't liking it as much as you wanted us to like it.

Another student: You said something about it on the first day of class. I was really expecting something big.

Me: Sigh.

A week later, when we've finished Lanham and we're about to begin reading Simon Worrall's The Poet and the Murderer about infamous forger and murderer Mark Hofmann, I tell them a bit about the "plot" and about how I really want to go to Utah to interview Hofmann, but I'm very afwaid. So they've got to help me figure out how to write to him, what to say, how to formulate questions.

As they're leaving, I tell them to have a good weekend and, well, "I'm not gonna say anything about how much you're going to like this book. Look at me not overselling."

Last Thursday, as I'm walking in, a student says: I swear to god, as I was reading this, I really said out loud to myself, 'this is blowing my mind. Robillard was right.'

Me: Be nice. It's not nice to make fun of me like that.

Student: No, really, this book was blowing my mind and I actually thought of that phrase.

Me: It's not April Fool's Day, is it?

Me, later, once we're into the meaty part of our discussion of the book: Later you'll realize why the phrase "blowing your mind" is so apt to describe this book.

Thereby taking the attention off the fact that no, I didn't oversell this book, and it really is as fascinating as I think it is. And not just to me.


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Saturday, February 17, 2007

now we're ALL on a diet

Lordie, lordie, Belly's gained 3 pounds in a month. Not good. Not good atall (all one word).

On Wednesday, S. had the DIRECTV guy over for SEVEN hours, but that, my friends is another story, one for the telephone rather than the blog because I just can't bear to write it all out. But in the meantime I will give you one word: IDIOT (all three syllables drawn out for full effect). In any case, part of that idiocy involved leaving the fence gate open as he went in and out, and your favorite doggie got out. She didn't get far because the snow drifts are so high in everybody's yards, so we got her back pretty quickly, but god, I was furious. So back in the house, Belly's holding up her front paw and I think it's just because it's cold, so I warm it up with a towel. She walks away and goes into S.'s bathroom to hide. Now we know something's wrong. So I look more closely at her foot and find that her dew claw--or, the spot where her dew claw should be--is bleeding. Her nail seems to have been torn off.

We take her to the vet the next day and find that she's gained 3 pounds in a month and has no waist left. I mean, I guess we could've seen that she has no waist, but it took the scale to point it out to us. Two years ago she was 76 lbs, now she's 84, and that's just not good. Off to Target I went to buy a big bag of IAMS weight control food, along with some weight control biscuits. I realize that a big part of this is the weather. We're just not getting out as much because of the snow and the cold. But I worry about her gaining this weight and not losing it, so we're taking action. For the dew claw, she's on antibiotics to prevent infection.

And you can all rest assured that DIRECTV has taken a BIG chunk of money off S.'s bill to make up for the vet bill that we never would've had to pay if it weren't for this guy's IDIOCY. They couldn't pay the vet bill directly unless we sued the individual installer, but S. will be watching TV for three months free, thank you very much.

Sometimes I really hate people. I'm even beginning a new category for blog entries: idiocy.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

happy birthday, ISU

150 years old today. Happy Founder's day, happy birthday, etc. I do declare, we've got some might heavy hitters coming to speak this year, including David McCullough (today), Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Doris Kearns Goodwin, RFK Jr, Jonathan Kozol, Robert Ballard, and Naomi Judd (I had to look that one up to see that it was really that Naomi Judd. Yup).

Last week one of my seniors told me she'd be missing senior sem today. When I asked her why, she said she was attending a luncheon with President Bowman. Well, then. Harumph. Please tell President Bowman that you'll be missing out on a tantalizing discussion of Mark Hoffman's Emily Dickinson forgery.

We is old.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

good thing I never got too much praise as a kid

Okay, sarcasm. It gets me every time.

But seriously, folks, here's an intriguing article about the effects of different types of praise on kids. Praising a kid's intelligence, it seems, renders them less likely to put forth any effort because intelligence is something we either have or we don't. But praising a kid's effort makes them far more willing to try, try again, to believe that this effort thing is valuable. The implications of this piece for the work we do as writing teachers are huge, not the least of which being our understanding of why some students cheat. "Students turn to cheating because they haven't developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child's failures and insists he'll [sic] do better next time... A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can't learn from them."

Even better, think about this in the context of grade inflation: "teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it's a teacher's criticism--not praise at all--that really conveys a positive belief in a student's aptitude."

A friend once told me that she remembers thinking, as a college student who'd gotten back a paper with quite a bit of criticism, that she respected her teacher for respecting her enough to teach her.

A big part of the reason I'm blogging this piece, of course, is that it affirms all of my own experiences, affirmation being akin, of course, to praise.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

my new teaching philosophy

PUSH. PUSH. PUSH. PUSH until you get them where you think you want them to be, then sit back and reap the rewards.

To what am I referring, you wonder?

The book--usually referred to as "the alleged book"--I'm working on with graduate students from the course a year and a half ago on social class in comp. It's a collection of 8 essays on the violence of class, and for a while there, I'd been kind of blase about the whole thing because, well, it was a bit like pulling teeth. But most of them gave me revisions recently, and I used my snow day to read through them and I. was. so. happy. Reenergized about the project, convinced it'll work, and excited to get moving on it again.

All that pushing was about getting students to see themselves as implicated (and by extension their readers) in classism in ways that went beyond cliche and surface understandings. Middle-class and working-class alike, they've done it.

And now my teaching philosophy can take up only one line. Saves a lotta paper that way.

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I feel like a kid again. Well, I felt like a kid again for about 30 seconds until I immediately began planning how I'd use this gift of a day: responding to chapters, figuring out how to make up for this lost time in my classes--that kind of thing. But there will be a trek out in this blizzard, no doubt, each of us girls with our boots and our coats on.

The last time ISU closed was December 1, and that was a Friday, so it didn't affect my classes. The time before that nobody can remember. Is the weather really getting worse or are we turning into bigger and bigger wussies because of the relative rarity of this kind of weather? Syracuse always got much much worse weather than this, and it never closed once during my four years there. (It didn't even close on 9/11.) Ditto for my undergrad and master's institutions, both in Massachusetts.

I love the drama of it all. I've always loved dramatic weather. Love love love thunderstorms, especially really bad ones, and when I lived in Alaska for a year, that was something I really missed. Belly and I shall spend some quality time today watching the snow blow around, taking comfort in our warm home and lots of blankies. Too bad she can't share a cup of hot cocoa with me.


Sunday, February 11, 2007


sans boots
Originally uploaded by aerobil.
How much does this dog look like she's engaging in a very serious discussion about Barack Obama's official bid for president? Or about the media hype surrounding Anna Nicole Smith's death? Or you could see her trying to reason with those who control the weather. Please, please, please, says the girl. I can only wear those dang boots for so long.

Tell the girl your problems. She's listening.

Friday, February 09, 2007

from this day forth, February 8th shall be known as...

...International Fix-the-Toilet Day

Warning: this post contains euphemisms that don't do their job very well.

The water pressure at my house, it ain't good. So there's a risk, especially when you're losing weight at a fairly steady pace, to, um, clog things up. This happened. At my house. Yesterday morning. Belly and I were the only ones home.

I figured I'd just let things sit for a time while I went off to school to shape a few young minds. I told S. about it and he was willing to show me how to use a plunger, but not willing to take the next step and actually DO the plunging for me. Whatev.

S. took a couple hours of personal time yesterday afternoon to fix his own toilet, which had internal I'm-always-running-and-I-don't-know-when-to-quit problems. As any good handyman would, he made more than one trip to Lowe's (on the second trip he bought me a new fancy schmancy plunger--it works like an air pump, pushing air through the pipes. Pretty darn cool). When I got to his place after school, he was knee deep in parts and tanks and stuff I didn't recognize, and I wanted no part of it, so I took Belly for a walk in her boots. We like walking in his neighborhood cuz it's a change of scenery. Plus it's really fun to look inside people's houses--easier over there somehow. Bigger windows, I guess.

I was wearing the gorgeous pair of earrings that Wonka had given me for Christmas. I should know better than to wear these with a scarf because the scarf pushes them up and out of my ears, but I'm an idiot. As Belly and I were crossing the street, I felt one of the earrings fall out of my ear and onto the ground, but try as I might, I couldn't find it and my thighs were freezing off. I even had Belly try to sniff around and help me find it, but no luck. And I'll admit, I am one to give up easily.

But I was sad.

After S. had finished fixing the toilet, I whined a bit about my earring that Julie Wonka had given me.

"Do you know where you were when you lost it?"

"Yup. At the corner of Washington and Greenleaf."

He convinces me that he's really good at finding stuff like this, citing as evidence a time when he found a friend's ring. So we put Belly in the car (she had to help us make sure we were at the right spot) and went to the site of loss. S. had his lantern and his flashlight and his detective hat on (okay, there was no hat, but still). He found it within five minutes. I told him he's my hero. So so proud of him. And so happy to get my earring back.

I made dinner while he CONTINUED to work on his damn toilet. I whined a little bit about my poor toilet and how he wasn't paying IT any attention.

After dinner we stopped by my house during the course of some errands. I poured some Rid-x crap down the toilet, but it was still looking a little sketchy. I whined a bit more about not knowing how to use the plunger and, because the plunger he'd gotten was so fancy schmancy, he gave in and plunged my toilet. This, my friends, is love. He was scared, but he did it. And the toilets lived happily ever after.

And for his birthday in April, I just may sign him up for the Handyman Club of America. He deserves it. That, and perhaps I'll get him a little Sherlock Holmes hat and cape.

My hero.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

going NUTS

If this cold snap doesn't break soon, I'm gonna shoot myself. And Belly's gonna need to be admitted at the doggie insane asylum.

It ain't pretty.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

on redirecting stress

me: I'm scared something bad is gonna happen.

S.: why?

me: Well, right now everything's so good. Teaching's good, publishing's good, you're good. All is good. So I'm scared something bad's gonna happen.

S.: Well, you could look at it another way and just ride the wave. Or think, it's about time things are all falling into place for you.

me: yeah.....[pause] Now what am I gonna stress about?

Long pause. Very long pause. So long that I'm assuming he's forgotten the question.

S.: you could become a Cubs fan.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

she stops traffic in these boots

Belly with boots
Originally uploaded by aerobil.
Um, have I mentioned how freaking cold it is here? Holy shitters, batman. I bought one of those 4-in-1 hood/scarf things that makes me look like a bank robber, but it keeps most of my head warm as I'm walking with this girl in her camo boots.

The boots, well, they draw attention, I'll say that much. Yesterday in the 4-degree weather we took a VERY short walk. I looked like a bank robber and Belly was happily clopping along in her boots when we sensed a car slowing down to look at us. The driver was more interested in the boots, I think I can safely say. He shook his head and laughed. From the warmth of his car. Grrrr.

There's no better sound in this weather than the clop clop clop of her little feet on cement. Booda in boots.

Friday, February 02, 2007

2 years ago when it was this cold, I almost got a cat

I miss my dog park friends. We haven't been to the park since Monday, and even then it was for only a half hour. Before that, I can't remember when we'd been last. It's just been too damn cold. Even with her coat and her boots, Annabelle can't last very long in these temperatures. Last night she came in from her last call at around 11:00, and she was shaking, tail between her legs, so damn cold and wondering why her mommy sent her out there in the first place.

During my first winter here, two years ago, I seriously considered getting a cat. I wanted Belly to have something to chase, er, to play with so that she wouldn't drive me quite as nuts. She's two years older now, of course, so she doesn't need quite as much exercise as she needed when she was 3, but there are still those moments when I think she just might drive me to drink. So I bundle her up and I bundle myself up and we go for a walk and my boogers freeze and her boogers freeze and we come home and snuggle up with some hot tea.

But life is really so much less fun without my dog park friends. I'm doubting we'll be going tomorrow morning, as the HIGH temperature is predicted to be 14, with a "realfeel" of -1. That's the HIGH. Mother o' god.

Wake me up when this shit's over.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

this girl is tired

There's a difference between sleepy and tired, of course. I'm not the least bit sleepy. I'm just T.I.R.E.D.

On Saturday I got all this good news in the space of two hours. Then on Monday and Wednesday I was busy busy busy with job candidates. Plus the regular work of teaching and committees. I've been feeling anxious finding time to do the revisions I need to do on my two articles.

So I'm thinking I'm taking all of tomorrow off. I need to not think for a day. I probably won't be able to do it completely, but I'm gonna try.

Oh, AND I've been having all these fantastic ideas for essays as I'm teaching my personal essay class. I've got to write one. I don't know how I can not write one.

This girl is tired. This girl is overwhelmed. This girl needs to just sit and stare at a wall. But S. is coming over. So I'll just sit and stare at him instead.

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