Friday, December 31, 2004

all right, all right

As per John's request that his Indiana blog pals contribute, here's my Death Meme. (Greg! You're next!)

Three names you go by:
Professor Lemming
Your Imperial Highness (RIP, Sir Fred)

Three screennames you have:
Three wha?

Three things you like about yourself:
I have an excellent memory.
I’m a good, if long-winded, storyteller.
I’m compassionate.

Three parts of your heritage:
Illiterate and outspoken peasants.

Three things that scare you:
Large crowds
Cruelty, particularly toward children

Three of your everyday essentials:
Warm socks

Three things you are wearing right now:
Warm socks (red)
Arm splint
Contact lenses

Three things you want to try in the next twelve months:
Eating more vegetables
Reading more fiction
Getting more sleep

I must be getting older if these are the first three activities that come to mind... Obviously I'd like to get the diss done, too.

Three things you want in a relationship (love is a given):
Intelligence (must read books, too!)
Strong religious belief

Patience would also be a big plus, as would a love of music!

Three things you just can't do:
Remember street names
Navigate I-465
Geometry (hmm… any connection between these 3, do you think?)

Three things you want to do really badly right now:
Eat a big breakfast – mushrooms, eggs, toast, jam, sausage and bacon, hash browns, you get the idea – prepared by someone else.
Find out what Sam is dreaming about – his tail is wagging, he’s half-barking, but he’s sound asleep.
Knock off ten pages of my next chapter.

Three careers you're considering:
Interpreter at a living museum such as Old Sturbridge Village
Eccentric millionaire – is anyone hiring?
I don’t think I’m fit for any profession other than what I do right now…

Three places you want to go on vacation:
(I’m assuming that this means “places I’ve never been but would very much like to visit.”)
Northern Scotland
the Oregon Trail

Three kids names:

Not that I would ever actually saddle a child with one of these, but I do think they sound and look fantastic.

Three things you want to do before you die:
Read more books
Tell the ones I love how much I love them
Receive Last Rites

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Thursday, December 30, 2004

the scale of the devastation

Others CPF and TRP in particular) have blogged powerfully about the devastation left in the wake of the 9.0 earthquake.

I'm staggered by the scale of the loss of life. 30, 000 is about the size of a state university. 50, 000 is (I think) the enrollment of OSU, one of the largest in the country. The last I'd heard, the tally stood at something like 67, 000 dead, which is larger than the population of some state capitals.

This string of analogies isn't perfect - the devastation is spread across several countries - but still over-whelming.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: six

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

sad news

You've probably heard this news already, but Jerry Orbach, star of stage, screen and television, has died at age sixty-nine, due to prostate cancer.

I've logged a great many hours watching this man perform, and written countless papers (even graded a few) while listening to him sing. Though Dick Wolf seems to pretty much dominate the few hours of A & E not already given to Bill Curtis, we did need another Law & Order, if only so that I could spend more time with Jerry-Lennie.

RIP, Mr. Orbach. Sixty-nine seems far too young for us to lose you.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

four calling birds

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday weekend, short though it was. Best wishes to all who are still digging out from under the snow, and a shout out to Washington for finally having recounted the ballots often enough to have new governor.

On Christmas Eve, I read a long newpaper article about the "new old-fashioned" tradition among many Jewish families to go out to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas. This sounds like an excellent tradition; I'd choose hot & sour soup over turkey any day. Maybe if the turkey were stir-fried in a spicy garlic sauce, that does sound like a nice alternative...

I'm trying very hard to relax during my vacation. Several family members gave me movies (all of them English) or mysteries (all of them set near the Atlantic Ocean) for Christmas. I tried to watch a really interesting film yesterday afternoon, and instead ended up taking a four hour nap. I notice that while some families do exchange Scotch or nice wine for Christmas, no one ever gifts sleeping pills.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: two

Friday, December 24, 2004

to all, and to all

Merry Christmas to all.

Wishing you and yours warmth, love, and safe travel over this weekend.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

now it's time to say good-bye

Cue the Cambridge Singers and open the Handel score to the appropriate page. Ready?

"Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"

I am done. Done done done, do you hear?

Harken unto me as I shout from the rooftop (er, backyard patio) and sing to me ye angels (or yapping dog next door.) Final grade are IN and I am DONE.

Well, OK, there's that freelance work that was due three weeks ago, and the honest to gosh professional book review that's due in two weeks. That's different. Way way different. Done!

Where's Mariah when I need her?Heck, I'd settle for Liza M.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: DONE DONE DONE!!!!

first snowstorm of the year

There's inches and inches of snow on the ground. I-465 is (or so says the radio) awash in accidents. Yet the school buses are running and I've already seen two dog walkers. Go Hoosiers!

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: eleven left!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

challenge, joy and sorrow

My Friday afternoon addiction is the "week in review" quiz put up on-line by The Week Magazine. Each Friday a ten question quiz appears, and I get to find out just how conversant I am with current events. The current offering is a slightly longer Year In Review quiz and great fun... also reminds me that I really should keep up with the news!

The publication date for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been announced: July 16, 2005. To say that I'm REALLY excited would be an understatement. I've been a fan of the series since the first book quietly appeared (apparated!) in bookstores - back when Scholastic thought it would be a small-seller book and didn't bother with any publicity. (gales of laughter) Anyway, don't expect a post from me on the 15th or 16th, except perhaps "Oh, this is fantastic!" and a yawn or six.

Occasionally students will ask me how I would prefer to be addressed. (Professor Lemming) If the student is above a certain age - say 60 - and seems to have a sense of fun, I'll add the joke, "but I've always liked the sound of 'Your Royal Highness.'" Fred (68 years young) took me up on it - all of his e-mails began with the phrase "Your Imperial Highness" and he signed the messages "your humble servant Sir Frederick of Hoosier." Naturally he was an A student and just as funny in class. An e-mail came this morning from Fred's daughter, to say that he had died unexpectedly this weekend. RIP, Sir Fred.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: more stragglers than anticpiated

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hand Over the Ben & Jerry's RIGHT NOW

OK, I take it back. I love almost all Christmas Carols, hymns and satirical pieces, but I do not like "Grown-up Christmas List" at all. This morning I heard versions of this song performed by Amy Grant, Barbra Streisand and a duet that sounded like Pebo Bryson and Vanessa Williams, and all of them were ghastly. I understand the song's purpose and premise, but it's still awful.

I've been grading non-stop last night this morning, and can now look at the pile in terms of "what is left to do" rather than "what I have done" which is a terrific feeling. After I turn in my final grades on12/22, I get some time off, for which I am deeply grateful.

I say "non-stop" - Sam has decided that he needs to go outside about once every seventy minutes, Once he gets outside, Sam quickly realizes that it is REALLY COLD today and decides that he'd like to come back inside and warm up - naturally warming up is best done by lying down at my feet, which makes me cold all over again. An hour later he forgets this whole experience, and spends ten minutes telling me that he REALLY REALLY wants to go outside. I've even tried remonstrating with him - "Sam, for a dog who is at least 50% border collie, you're being awfully dim today." No go - it's imperative that he go outside, then foolish that he did so.

Maybe that's where he's hidden my Christmas presents.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-six left to go (the stragglers are still handing things in)

Oh yes - an F for plagarizing turns out of be a zero after all. (grin)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

good timing to be late

I was late getting out the door to church this morning. The weather forecast last night called for "scattered snowstorns, with no more than a half inch acumulating on the ground." They neglected to mention the 30 m.p.h. winds that blew said half inch of snow all over the roads and through the air. This added still more time onto the drive and my lateness.

All was not lost! Today is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent, so the processional hymn was "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and we sang (of course) all of the verses. I slipped in at the back door halfway through the last one. Whew!

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: do you think the dean would notice if I didn't hand in final grades?

Friday, December 17, 2004


I hesitate to admit this - but perhaps it will help others who need support...

ever since Indianapolis lost its 80s station, I have been bereft... until November, when the Christmas music season began. I love Christmas music - all of it. Be it "O Holy Night" or "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" it doesn't matter, I love it. The closer we get to Christmas, the more likely I am to hear Springsteen warble "Santa Claus is Coming' to Town" five times a day and the happier I am.

Now, I love Bing singing "White Christmas" as much as the next shopper, and yearn to hear Judy's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on the radio again. Yet today I realized a sad truth about my musical enjoyment - and alas for my liberal arts aducation - I want nothing more right now than to hear Mariah Carey. How did this happen? All that I ask from any of the FOUR available stations is thay they play Mariah (or one of her knocks offs) singing the oldie classics... I hide my head in shame.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty and counting

Yes, Joe, I did tell a plagarist that F meant zero and she filed a formal complaint that her F should mean 59...
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

a moment of culture

Despite living in Central Indiana for - er, too long - I've never visited the Eiteljorg Museum. In the interests of keeping my mood positive (tends to mean that I use a slightly more reasonable grading policy) I took the morning off to tour the Lewis & Clark exhibit.

The Eiteljorg is an art museum, so rather than seeing artifacts of the expedition, they have a terrific display of paintings done by a contemporary artist who spent several months driving, hiking and boating their path, and then painting what he saw. Thus some paintings were of woods, valleys and rivers, while others were of the St. Louis Arch, modern day bridges, etc. It was really neat, and just the right length - took me about forty minutes to walk through, reading all of the cards. Eiteljorg specializes in Native American art, so they had lots of information on both sides of the story. They also included lots of quotations from the expedition journals, early 19th century observations and the artists comments. I should have gone sooner, and am excited to visit when the next exhibit goes up.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: There are sixty waiting for me. (sigh)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Food of Choice

Dear Readers,

A query for all of you, however many that may be this week. If on a road trip, seeking lunch, what would be your ideal restaurant choice? Distance is not an object - all choices will be available, there's no problem with lines or making turns againist multiple lanes of traffic.

I am quite fond of Rallys, and noticed today that they have a sign up announcing that they are the official burger (presumably that means burger-makers) of the Indy Colts. The sign does not claim that the players or trainers or refs actually eat Rallyburgers or Big Bufords, but I tend to think too much about such things anyway.

Yours in a Starbucks-driven caffeine haze,

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: I love teaching - it's the grading that becomes a grind

Sunday, December 12, 2004


I've been buried under grading while trying to rest my elbow and hand. This means a lot of time in a splint that makes it hard to type or do anything else, but at least can be hidden under a sweater.

Though most of the time Dave Barry's writing is simply designed to make readers chuckle, every now and then he'll write something or make a point that reminds you he really does have a degree in English and a Pulitzer Prize. One of his introductions notes that as a "trained humor writer" he spends some of his time thinking about which words are funnier than other words. I'm not sure that "weasel" is as funny as he thinks it is, but concede that it is funnier than "hamster".

Today's sermon primarily examined John the Baptist and his place in Matthew's gospel. John being the kind of man he was, a certain amount of violent imagery was included. I noticed that most of the time we the congregation simply listened, but that every time the word "smite" or "smiting" came up, we all laughed, every time. I'd never thought of "smite" as funny word before.

One of my current favorite students (sssh!) is a sixty-something pastor. I'm not exactly sure why he's in my class, as he's never spoken a word, and I don't think he has an e-mail account. I'm partial to him not simply because his essays are clear and thoughtful (and have none of the extraneous prose and parenthesis that are so often found in my own work) but because his use of langauge is so different from the others in the class. Much of his vocabulary clearly comes from his time spent with the Bible (yes, he has used the word "smite") and some may also be explained by generational difference, but his homework is great reading.

Speaking of which (I hope!) the chapter is in the mail to #2, #3 and #4.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: since my last post? (laughs) Quite a lot.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I see dead people

Actually, the funny thing is that I don't really have a clear picture of what the people I live with so intimately really looked like. Sometimes I know that they were tall or old or "stronger than they look" but rarely does my generally over-active imagination try to come up with a visual portrait. I do have maps to suggest neighbors and my own suspicions about their emotions, but I'm usually pretty detached from my subjects as people.

I say "usually" because lately that hasn't been true. The sheer and stark reality of these big pieces of paper on my wall representing real people, people who lived, laughed, loved and died, only to be forgotten until I metaphorically dug them up and started writing about them, really hit me hard this week. The chapter is in really great shape right now, and I've sent it off to #2, #3 and #4. In all honesty, I'm suddenly more worried about what my subjects would say than what my readers will comment.

Family resemblence is something we hear about all the time, particularly during holiday celebrations - you look just like your sister, you and your mother both love hot mustard, etc. I have blue eyes, a recessive genetic trait, so it's safe to assume that most of my ancestors either had blue eyes or were married to other folks with blue eyes. Do I look anything like my great-great-great-great-great grandmothers? (I know the name of one of my great great great grandmothers, but that's as far back as I can go.) If I could time travel back to 1066, to pick a date at random, would I recognize my ancestors right away?

Words Written: one thousand, five hundred and ninety seven
Lessons Graded: fourteen

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

forgotten and remembered

It's surprisingly warm today for December, even by Indiana Standards. Greg's weather link said 62 degrees last time I checked. Driving rain accompanied the warm weather, along with a fierce wind - except when driving the northern chunk of I-65, I usually forget that the flatness of Indiana is actually prairie. Not today!

Today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A few years ago, a Japanese student dropped by my office on this day. He pretended to have a question about the class, but really wanted to discuss what I thought of the attack, sixty years later, and of the Japanese people. He was surprised to find no mention of the anniversary in the paper or on the news that morning.

WW II was a huge turning point for my grandfather, aka the Pickle Monster. Thanks to the navy, he saw the world, and it changed his life (hence mine, too) for the better. I explained this to the Japanese student, who grinned, the first time I'd seen this all semester. "Mine, too - well, my great-grandfather."

Words Written: eight hundred and sixty three
Lessons Graded: twenty-two

Monday, December 06, 2004

Christmas Time is here, by golly

CatholicPackerFan has set up his tree for the year. I'm partial to blue spruce Christmas trees, but they seem to run $80-$100, at which point I begin to understand the urge to invest in a fake tree. The lights and various glowing displays are starting to go up in my neighborhood. I'm a big fan of lights to line the house, and maybe a small creche (pretend I put an accent on the "e") but the massive glowing sculptures seem to dominate. One house has a glowing bicycle, complete with moving rider. Sam has taken to growling at the flourescent snowmen.

My aunt the English teacher not only approved of my chapter's commas, but said the words every writer longs to hear: I couldn't put it down!

Words Written: that's next
Lessons Graded: thirty-six

Friday, December 03, 2004

so this is Christmas?

Remember this summer when you couldn't so much as walk into a gas station without stumbling over a massive pile of Bill Clinton memoirs?

There's not a single copy to be had at my local bookstore.

Words Written: nine hundred and three
Lessons Graded: nineteen

Thursday, December 02, 2004

poets and the gridiron

I hesitate to blog about poetry for much the same reason that hesitate to blog about sports: I don't know a great deal about either, and know that I have readers who know lots about both. I know enough to enjoy them, though I'd have to give poetry the edge over hockey.

A month or so ago, Mme Q challenged her readers to post a poem, any poem, preferably one we knew well. This was very thought provoking for me, as it led me to realize that while I've memorized lots of lines from poems, there are very few that I can recite in their entirety - and for me, at least, poetry just HAS to be read out loud.

Probably every teenaged girl of a certain intellectual bent goes through a Sylva Plath phase; certainly I did. A few years ago someone wrote a piece for the New Yorker which pointed this out and claimed that her poetry loses most of its power if read after the age of thirty or so. I confess that I don't pull out my complete Sylvia Plath as often as I do my T.S. Eliot, but I still find her lines and verses very, well, powerful in their images.

"I made a fire; being tired
Of the white fists of old
Letters and their death rattle
When I came too close to the wastebasket.
What did they know that I didn't?"

Morning Edition played an interview with Frieda Hughes, Plath's daughter, this morning. A complete edition of the Ariel poems is being issued, including twelve poems that Ted Hughes edited out when they were first published. Hughes Interview Hughes seems to have wonderful sense of peace about having a mother whom the world associates with angst and suicide.

Oh, and CFP -- I think IU should pick a football coach and keep him (are there are female football coaches) around for twenty years. If more effort were put into attracting fans through making the experience fun, more fans would attend, but as all efforts are now concentrated on bringing as much money as possible from the out-of-town spectators...

Words Written: four hundred and six, plus a lot of commas fixed
Lessons Graded: thirty-one

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


What do you suppose Charles Lindbergh thought about during his Atlantic crossing? I mean, apart from the obvious "wow!" and "gee, I hope I get home in one piece" and "this is history in the making" he had hours and hours alone in the plane to just think about, well, stuff.

Words Written: two hundred and twenty six
Lessons Graded: twenty-six (tidy, no?)

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Happiness is a warm puppy

Sam is back.

I can't tell you how wonderful it is to write those words. He stayed at the kennel an extra day to get a thorough grooming, so now his coat is soft and even smells good. It's been wet, so Sam hasn't had a chance to go outside and roll in teh leaves to ruin this effect - though part lab, Sam cannot stand the rain.

Thanks to having spent five days playing with other dogs, Sam is very tired - too tired even to supervise my writing and suggest that I take a break. He's fast asleep under the table, his nose buried in his tail. It's amazing to me how much company and companionship can come from someone who doesn't speak, except to defend me from the neighbors.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: seven

Monday, November 29, 2004

back to base camp

Hi everyone! (waves) My Thanksgiving was delicious and I had a fantastic time with my family. Nothing worth blogging about, really, except to be really thankful that I can say that and mean it when it is not true for so many others. Oddly enough, the younger generation (10-15 years old) have decided that I am "way cool" something I was not when I was 10-15 years old. They all wanted to sit next to me and talk about their lives. Wow.

I passed around a copy of my latest chapter to various relatives, partly for any advice they might have (my commas always need help) and partly to show them that I really have been doing something with my life, other than memorizing information about presidential assassins. The fifteen year old actually read half of it (wow!) and posed good questions about research and drawing hypothetical conclusions.

My advisor's comments (may he and his good will endure forever) include the words "clear" and "thorough." He even went so far as to use the word "interesting" which delights me no end.

Now to the grindstone - must grade papers and do a few more revisions. For benefit of any readers (it seems I have twenty of you!) not familiar with the diss process I should explain that in addition to my advisor (whose goodness and graciousness shall reach eternally) I have readers #2, #3 and #4. I will probably end up with a #5, and have my eye on someone, but that's down the pike. #2 likes me a lot. #3 and #4 are nice people, but know me less well and must be impressed. My hope is to have them impressed by Christmas.

"Go softly on!"

Words Written: too busy dancing
Lessons Graded: sixteen

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

are we there yet?

Terrific - the first snow of the year is scheduled to fall just as a record number of Americans head to the roads and the air for the holidays. I don't care if St. Christopher is mythical and scorned by Englightenment thinkers - today is a day for a 24 foot giant to keep us all safe. I know that lemmings are best known for jumping off cliffs en masse, but since that's also mythical, perhaps the two will work together in everyone's favor.

After seven hours of grading, I'm stiff, but not in pain. With any luck, this means that beloved Doc's first remedy is working.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: let's see, twenty, forty, sixty -- er, let's not go there

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Good news and Bad news

Well, the hand news is good and bad. It is good that I do not have carpal tunnel. It is bad trhat I have some sort of nerve damage, possibly requiring the services of a specialist and definitely requiring that I spend less time at the keyboard. (My beloved Doc realizes that these are both complications for me.) I hope to rest the hand over the holidays, though this means that I will be unable to defend my title as "Adult with the Lowest Score" in the annual bowling tourny.

More good/bad news: a student contacted me with a policy question. I replied, "gee, um, I don't know, but I think it's covered in the student handbook." The good news is that said question is answered very explicitly. Student mentioned this when he contacted the appropriate administrator. Bad news: the administrator is furious that I would give a student advice on a non-academic topic and complained to my chair that my actions were "out of line." I am utterly serious when I say that this will probably come up when I ask for teaching recs.

In all of this talk about the NBA, why isn't anyone talking about the two South Carolina football teams (Clemson and, er, another one) that also had a big riot this weekend? (Source: beloved Doc.)

My advisor (may his good health and spirits continue) sez my chapter is "much improved" and "good."

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero - but am about to stay up VERY late...

Monday, November 22, 2004

hint taken

I'm booked in to see the doctor (love my doctor) tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks again to all. I haven't been pain free for days and expect the worst.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve (yes, I know, bad idea)

Friday, November 19, 2004

things that are cold

One of the advantages to living in central Indiana is that we get winters, but they're generally pretty mild. Snow and ice hit, usually right around Christmas, but then things warm up (usually) and it all melts. Living here also means that winter comes later and spring comes earlier. It's now cold enough for sweaters, and I'll wear gloves when I walk Sam in the mornings, but I haven't yet needed a winter jacket.

On the one hand, this is terrific. On the other hand, I'm trying to put myself into the minds of people who by now were snowed in and all but frozen, gathered around the fireplace, and that's tricky to do with my window open.

My hands are acting up again - does anyone else have this problem? My right hand is bitterly cold (probably poor circulation) and my left hand is fine.

Words Written: one more big sheet
Lessons Graded: four

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Very nice

I mailed some packages this morning. The lady at the P.O. asked if I needed anything else.
"Yes, please, some stamps. Could I have "and before I'd said a word she handed over two sheets of Lewis & Clark. "I saved the L&C stamps for you - they're the last ones we have, and I know you like them."

Aw! Thank you, U.S. Postal Service!

OK, yes, I obsess about my stamp choices. Before L&C it was the Ogden Nash stamps. I'm tired of birds and flags. Yes, I do also buy the breast cancer stamps.

Words Written: two big sheets of paper
Lessons Graded: thirty

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Each of my chapters starts life on little scraps of paper. Eventually the really big concepts make it onto big pieces of paper and get posted on the wall above my desk. Sometimes the little scraps get tacked up somewhere, other times they are torn into lots of little pieces. While theraputic, it's also risky, as I tend to knock over my wastebasket quite often. When I have enough big pieces of paper, I start to write.

The hardest part of this is the initial transfer onto big pieces of paper. I try to find clever ways to distract myself - I'll watch a movie, for example - but it's always nerve wracking. I know that I will rely on these sheets of paper and stare at them for hours on end, and I'll always woried that I will get a critical date wrong. I also need to leave enough room for the little pieces of paper yet to emerge from the dark corners of my brain. Did I mention that I have really lousy handwriting? (It's improved due to the need to use blackboards and leave legible comments, but that's not saying much.)

Since the advisor (may his good health and spirits remain constant, particularly when he is writing his comments on my chapter) won't be getting back to me any time soon, this is a good time to do the big pieces for the next chapter. I've done one, and started a second. Gulp! Thank goodness for Simon Schama's "History of Britain" miniseries.

Words Written: working on the big pieces of paper
Lessons Graded: twenty-eight

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gertrude the Great

Today is the feast day of Gertrude the Great. No, she's not one I'd ever heard of until this moment (she's patron of the West Indies, so not someone I've needed to call upon by name just yet.)

Gertrude was born in Saxony in the 1350s, and placed in a convent at the age of five. She never again left the convent. (The world is a very different place than it was 700 years ago...)

At the age of twenty-six, Christ appeared to her in a vision and told her to stop studying so hard. On the one hand, this admonition could be taken as "you are a woman so you don't need to study" but I prefer to take it as "slow down and be still!" Pretty good advice in the 1370s or 2004.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve

P.S. Thanks for all of the kind replies to my Saturday post.

Monday, November 15, 2004

the beat goes on...

I've blogged before about my computer's obsession with Liza Minnelli tunes. In the past month I've experimented with her (yes, my computer has a gender) preferences by adding lots of new artists and songs to see what happened to the "random" selections. I didn't notice much change.

Drawing upon my experience as a liberal arts major, I then decided to further investigate Minnelli's musical career. I found another half dozen songs which are either very interesting performance-wise or excellent choices for singing under my breath while writing. The computer was delighted, and now at least I listen to a wider variety of Liza M tunes. Yet Liza now has competition! The Finn Brothers, quiet figures on itunes for many months, have suddenly emerged as second only to Liza in frequency of randomly selected play. I've no idea what this connection might suggest (did the Pet Shop Boys ever produce a Crowded House album?) but I'm very amused.

The advisor (may he live forever) got my chapter in today's mail. (crosses fingers) I'm tackling some minor changes while I wait.

Words Written: three hundred and six
Lessons Graded: nineteen

Saturday, November 13, 2004

oh come on!

The dust jacket. The student copied the text of the dust jacket and submitted it as a book review.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: too depressing - are they all like this? am I this awful?

Friday, November 12, 2004

the morass of the mall

It is difficult enough to pick out and try on a pair of blue jeans, but even more difficult when "Frosty the Snowman" is playing in the mall, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is playing inside the store and the sales clerk is whistling "Jingle Bells." As an act of musical rebellion, I whistled "We Gather Together To Ask the Lord's Blessing" the only Thanksgiving song I know.

Lots of people complain (and blog) about the early arrival of Christmas promotions, yet every year it happens. I conclude that it happens because it is an effective sales technique. I wonder what would happen if a new technique was attempted. It was a mistake to mention this to the clerk who rang up my purchase.

Speaking of which, I again understand that if you are selling an impulse purchase product from one of the little booths, you need to pester folks into being impulsive. If I have already told you "no" twice and am walking away from you, chasing after me is probably not an effective sales tactic and does not suggest positive things about your morals or your values. It is even less effective if you use a foreign accent in accosting me, and then reassume a Kentucky drawl when chatting with the person in the booth next to you.

I understand the desire to purchase calendars with pictures of Yorkies or ferrets. In this pattern, swimsuit models and Star Trek ships also make sense. I suppose I have to lump Paris Hilton calendars in with this category, though I wish I didn't. I was not prepared for the "Ronnie Reagan pin-ups" calendar next to Ms Hilton. Reagan with Gorbachev, sure, or taking the oath of office - well, OK, maybe it's just me who would prefer that kind of Reagan calendar.

A gold star to the Santa on duty for giving out candy canes to the seniors doing laps around the mall when his handlers weren't looking.

Chapter should be in the hands of my advisor (may his good health continue) any minute now.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: eighteen

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Martha Washington

In 1793, war broke out between France and England. Thomas Jefferson, then the Sec. of State, urged President Washington to enter the conflict on the side of France. Alexander Hamilton, Sec. of the Teasury, disagreed. Martha Washington was asked what she thought of the situation. She replied that as Hamilton had seen combat and Jefferson had not, she wasn't surprised.

A nod of my head and a thank-you to thsoe who serve and to those at home who love them.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

a brief rant

Not one but three book reviews in a row cribbed from Amazon.

How stupid do they think I am? The one I caught this morning has already e-mailed me to announce that he wrote the Amazon review, so it's not plagarism. Obviously he doesn't realize that such things can be checked.

Words Written:
Lessons Graded: twelve, not counting the three

up on the roof

One neighbor is on top of his roof. Another is on the roof of his garage. A third is on the roof of her camper.

I am staying down here, on the ground floor.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-one

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

N is for...

(yawn) So nice to spend my writing time taking a nap.

I haven't touched my e-mail account for 36 hours, which must be some sort of record for me.

Too much fun, too much relaxation - I could get used to this. Pass the hot cocoa.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: three

Monday, November 08, 2004

it's in the mail!

Only a week behind schedule, the chapter wends now toward the desk of my advisor (may he live forever) and further comment. I did some really painful cuts this morning - ideas that i really liked, but had little to do with the material at hand - and naturally was struck by inspiration about twenty minutes before the mailman's arrival. I think I pounded out 500 words in that time. I'm starting to memorize page numbers in my references, which is always a good sign.

Yes, Joe, I am taking very good care of the 117 year old book. I tend to drop books, but this one is treated with more TLC than a full coffee cup near my keyboard.

There's nothing like knowing a repair technician will be crawling around the baseboard this afternoon to get me feeling enthusiastic about running the vacuum cleaner. Do excuse me.

Words Written: more than I'd expected
Lessons Graded: two

Sunday, November 07, 2004

awed in the pew

A truly amazing sermon this morning on the Beautitudes, which included the words "Peacemakers do not demonize." Christ calls us to make peace, to love and live in harmony. If Christians are busy pinning labels on each other and vilifying opinions which differ from their own, we are not "leading a life worthy of our calling."

Wow. That may be the best prayer I've yet heard for the next four years, of not for the rest of our lives. Amen.

Words Written: a bushel and a peck - chapter in Monday's mail
Lessons Graded: ten

Friday, November 05, 2004

I fought the beltway...

and the beltway won. I-465 4, Lemming 0.

You would think that on my fourth trip to the same location in two months, I would be able to keep east/west and north/south straight. I repeat, it's useless to tell me that "all I need is Meredian Street" if I haven't a clue where it is.

I wish that Indy had an AM radio program that tells passers-by the history of various names. "Northeastern Ave" isn't hard to figure out, but probably not everyopne knows that "Fort Harrison" is named after President Benjamin Harrison. Then there are names like "Lick Creek." I'm reasonably sure that it was named after a salt lick, but curious to know how the name survived into 2004.

Speaking of President Harrison, I now have on my desk a book that was published in 1887, the year before he was nominated. This book is one hundred and seventeen years old - and it's on my desk! The library let me take it home! The pages are lovely and thick, and the font is downright beautiful.

Words Written: thirty (cleaning up footnotes)
Lessons Graded: twelve

Thursday, November 04, 2004

go softly on

Possibly the best cure for the post-election blues: the phone line mysteriously gives out. Five minutes after I posted yesterday, the phone line quit. This meant no Internet and no chatting with fellow Kenyonites in pride and sadness. Turning off the TV and radio (apart from ATC last night) did even more to improve my mood. I still don't understand how a majority of Americans could see gay marriage as a bigger concern than the war in Iraq, but I don't think it's something I am going to understand.

So I read and wrote and tried to think through revisions. The family next door wondered aloud about the birth of the Electoral College and deemed it "cool" that I knew all about it. This did even more to improve my mood. I'm not often described as "cool" for any reason, let alone my ability to blither on about Alexander Hamilton.

Today I will pilgrimage to the library. There I will pay homage to generations of librarians, as the articles I need to copy were published in 1897 and 1899. It's kind of cool that these journals are still in the stacks. For old time's sake, I might even have a cup of the swill that the library cafeteria pretends is coffee.

Words Written: five hundred and three
Lessons Graded: zero

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

eating with a spoon

The sun came up this morning. I brewed an adequate cup of coffee. The comfy sweater turned up under a pile of books (a really big pile of books) and I know what I need to write about today so that I can mail the chapter in tomorrow.

I'm trying to look for the positive. I conclude that a Republican House, Senate, President and Judiciary will mean that there are no excuses. Things will either improve or burn themselves out. A lot of people will suffer in the process. I'll pray that we escape another 9/11.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

vote early, vote often

I voted this morning, and feel a whole lot better. I can't remember the last time I voted in a polling station with pen and paper - sometime in the early 1990s, I think. The poll people were very happy to have a paper trail, but I missed the "something out of a science fiction movie" button pushing. The lines were short, but steady. Turn-out is the best in memory.

The most interesting race around here, in my biased opinion, is the one for school board. The "People Who Walk Their Dogs in the Rain" focus group held wildly diverse opinions on this topic. I tend to vote for anyone who thinks the arts need more funding, but there's support here for the football candidate, too. All of us liked the smaller class size candidate, and a few thought that this candidate was the best-looking. The sleeper issue , brought up at the "meet the candidates forum" but not covered in the paper or in their fliers, was Creationism. At least one of the candidates wants evolution removed and Genesis brought back in. (Nothing was said about dinosaurs.)

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Monday, November 01, 2004

Red Sox won, Redskins lost...

I can't decide if I should purchase Ben & Jerry's for tomorrow night (assumes I watch the results coming in) or a bottle of really good wine (assumes that I spend the evening with Jon Stewart.)

Election Night 1992: the dining hall served brocoli at supper. Most of my table went back for thirds. Went back to my room, blocked out and drafted a paper on Paradise Lost. Spent two hours at a fantastic "watch the results party" which included a keg of Corona in the bathroom. Raised a toast to the results, and had the first four pages of the paper written before bed at 1:30 AM.

Election Night 2000: I proctered an exam. Most of my students assured me that they had voted. One or two had even voted absentee for Florida. At 4 AM I reconciled myself to the fact that "staying awake until the bitter end" was probably not a possibility.

Here's wishing all of us a good night's sleep tomorrow.

Words Written: six hundred and ninety-eight (ouch!)
Lessons Graded: three (the complaints have started)

Saturday, October 30, 2004

history teachers and elephants

"Dear Mizz Lemming, You probably don't remember me, but..."

Like hell I don't. Your essays were such fun to read, and took ages to comment upon because your work was so good. I wrote you letters of rec for grad school and when I looked at the copy of your transcript, I almost fainted. You should have been writing letters for me. As matter of fact, you did, and your words were quoted the last time I won a teaching award.

"You were right. The first year of grad school was horrible, but it did get better this year and I even started to have fun."

Yes indeed - this applies to many things in life, but grad school in particular. Struggle on, but look for the fun. I thought you knew this already? Wow.

"Anyway, I felt that I should pray for you, but didn't know what you needed. How are your hands doing?"

(lemming gets teary-eyed)

Words Written: nine hundred and thirty-eight (ouch! ouch!)
Lessons Graded: five

Friday, October 29, 2004


Dick Cheney is campaigning in Hawaii today or tomorrow. Well, it's not the Dakotas, as I suggested, but he's probably a lot more excited about visiting the islands than visiting the Midwest. I'm sure it's more interesting than the "undisclosed location." Do you suppose he'll vote in Wyoming, or will he vote absentee?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty

Thursday, October 28, 2004

pigs in the treetops

I had the oddest dream last night - something about the Red Sox winning the World Series and seeing a sign that said "Bill Buckner: All Is Forgiven!"

This is the first time that I've really felt confident that I might be employable. Hurrah Red Sox!

It may come as a surprise to people who read this blog, but I do enjoy watching sporting events. That is to say, I enjoy them in the same way that I enjoy opera. I don't expect to fully understand all of the nuances to what's going on (even if the opera is being performed in English) but I really enjoy the spectacle and the emotion.

Any number of boyfriends, friends and the occasional student have tried to make me enjoy the numbers and strategy behind the field. I enjoy listening to people explain such things, but seem incapable of retaining most of it. It is doubtless a failing on my part ("unsocial savage" again) that I'm happy to watch a game without understanding any of this - indeed, am probably happier when I don't know that a particular player has a particular record in a particular situation. (Keeping a scorecard at a baseball game is a lot of fun, though I always have to be reminded of how it's done.) As of late last night, "1918" and "eight victories in a row" were all that I really needed, anyway.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: ten

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

distracted, bothered and bewildered

One or possibly both of the candidates was campaigning yesterday in Minnesota. I'm quite delighted. Now I want one or both of them to go to the Dakotas.

I'm really tired, and have been for a few days now. A colony of ants has invaded, and after a weekend of futile attempts with Raid, I visited Ye Aulde Garden and Home Repairs Massive Box store for something stronger. A trustworthy neighbor suggested a product. It took not one but five employees to find this product. Naturally in the process I was sent all over the store. Usually I can laugh when this happens, but I'm tired enough that I almost burst into tears.

As you can see, and getting back to the main point of having this blog, I've gotten a lot of writing done, though there's still a lot of ground I need to cover between now and the end of the month. It's still exciting and fun, but I'm really worn out. The advisor (may he live forever) has been sending me e-mails which bear a striking resemblence to the ones I ocasionally send the students I really enjoy and want to push . No, I didn't get this stylistic angle from him! They boil down to "you're doing well, I don;t want to discourage you, but here are fifteen points you should integrate into your work and by the way, your last e-mail misused the comma on six occasions."

As individuals, I love all (almost all) of my students, but as a collective whole, I'm really not wild about them at the moment. They need and deserve careful comments on every aspect of their work, and I know from my course evaluations that this is something I do really well. Yet to do it well takes the sort of concentration I really should and want to give the chapter.

Words Written: eight hundred and twelve
Lessons Graded: forty

Monday, October 25, 2004

small, small, small, small world

I just got off the phone with the credit card company. This may be the single most entertaining conversation I ever have with a creditor. While covering important financial matters, the man on the other end of the phone mentioned in passing that he wanted to move to Northern Maine. "Oh," said I, "Aroostock County? Yes, it's beautiful up there."

Pause. "Ma'am, if I may say so, you live in Indiana, so how...." The unspoken question hovered in the air, with more than a hint of a smile.

My first-ever random road trip was to Aroostock County, Maine. "Road trip" is a bit of a misnomer as, among the four of us teenagers, only one could drive. A friend's uncle ran a very nice restaurant up there and had guest rooms to spare. Whe you're 16 or 17, going to northern Maine in a January snowstorm isn't at all daunting, and the food served at the restaurant really was delicious.

The credit card representative and I spent about one minute on the reason for my call (more than sufficient) and ten minutes on cooking lobster, the Red Sox and whether or not bacon belongs in clam chowder. Why can't all business calls be like this?

Words Written: one thousand, six hundred and eighty-six
Lessons Graded: zero

Saturday, October 23, 2004

time's winged chariot

No post yesterday, as I was writing up to the last minute in preparation for a meeting with my advisor (may he live forever.) I'm really enjoying this chapter, and the pieces are starting to come together. I'm hoping to get the revised chapter back to him by Halloween.

The mantra about his health really is something that runs in my head. I lost my first advisor to an unexpected and early death several years back, and if my present advisor (may he live forever) dies, I cannot replace him, and the PhD process will end. While scribbling down as much as I can of what he says, I do notice that I'm scanning his face for any signs of ill health or misery. He seems fine, by the way, so I'm not terribly worried.

Yesterday was an ideal day to be on a college or university campus - the kind of fall foliage and perfectly crisp weather upon which admissions officers and alumni affairs rely. My undergraduate alma mater is impossibly beautiful at all seasons. Walking through the big university, clutching a perfect cup of coffee, with my healthy advisor's praise and suggestions running through my head, leaves circling on a light wind, was almost as good as being back there.

Words Written: oops - I forgot to count. Honestly!
Lessons Graded: zero

Thursday, October 21, 2004

so tree is a leaf

Driving North on 31, there's a billboard with a large picture of a young man in a military uniform. As I'm usually looking at the road when I drive, I haven't seen all of the text, but the message is something along the lines of "John Smith, now a Soldier in the House of the Lord." The bottom has his dates of birth and death, 1980-2000.

The other day it hit me. I remember 1980. Not just little bits and pieces, which is what I remember of the Ford Administration, but quite a bit. I also remember 2001.

During the last three presidential campaigns, candidates used the stories of individuals to illustrate their larger points. That hasn't happened as much this time around, for which I am truly grateful, but it does remove the "these are individuals" element.

Greg at 465 has a great piece about not making it into the army, funnily enough in the year 2000.

Words Written: four hundred and twelve
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

what's in a name?

"The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was written by Aaron Spelling."

This may be one of my all time favorite (i.e. moments to roll my eyes and laugh) statements on a book review, though 'This biography of Thomas Jefferson is a great novel" may be a close second.

Met little girl today named Peyton. I came within inches of making a comment about Mia Farrow before realizing that she was probably named after the football player, rather than the novel. This is why I am, to borrow a phrase, an "unsocial savage" and really need to get out more. 1

1 John Quincy Adams

Words Written: twenty
Lessons Graded: twenty (tidy, no?)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


The Red Sox won last night. The Astros won last night.

That's Boston and Houston, folks.

That's Massachusetts and Texas.

This does not bode well.

Matt at Basket full of Puppies makes it all seem rational.

I'm really dreading Election Day. In 2000, I was once of the diehards who stayed up until 4 AM, hoping against hope that everything would either be settled or thrown into the House of Representatives. Four years later, I'm in dissertation crisis mode, with lessons to grade. I can't do this again, and not just because I'm out of dry-erase pens. COME ON, FELLAS! Get it together!

Words Written: zero (groan)
Lessons Graded: forty (yes, since last night)

Monday, October 18, 2004


Jon Stewart and the Daily Show have kept me sane during this election cycle. Having now read the transcript of his chat with the folks on CNN's Crossfire, I like him even more. If you've not seen it, please do take a look.

Jon Stewart

By the way, the Red Sox just won.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty

one's every anything so

Just once, I'd like a news story to begin with the words, "The Presidential candidates were campaigning today in Alaska..." I know Florida is a swing state. I remember what happened in 2000. Nonetheless, I'd like to hear that they're visiting a state, any state, that isn't Florida. Do you suppose Alaska and Hawaii get any campaign visits? Even Indiana gets a few quick stops, if only for fund-raising purposes.

Mme Q claims to lurk on this site, waiting for me to join the crew of folks posting poetry. This is tricky, as I'm a very literal person, and I'm keenly aware that as such I don't bring the "right mind-set" to the table. It's far more likely that I'll have a few lines run through my head than an entire piece, except perhaps for the William Carlos Williams piece about plums. I went on a big T.S. Eliot kick a month or so ago, but more for the power and skill of the language than in a deeper search for meaning. I promise, Q, I'll think about it.

By the way, thanks to all who responded to my musing on the correct spelling of Rhinoceros. Who says blogging can't be educational?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: ten

Friday, October 15, 2004

our rain is here to stay

During the walks with Sam, I chat briefly with a lot of neighbors. The latest topic is, no surpise, the rainy weather. I'm in the minority, in that I rather like October rain. It's still reasonably warm outside and a sweatshirt is needed. November rain, which is so much colder and more dreary, wets though winter coats and mittens. The grass still has enough life in it that the rain is turning lawns a bit greener. All in all, the weather has actually made me quite cheerful.

Nearly all of the neighbors plan to vote (or so they say) for Kerry but are split down the middle on all of the other races. Somewhere there's a researcher who should be looking into the special interests of "People Who Walk Their Dogs In The Rain and Support Kerry."

Words Written: six hundred and two
Lessons Graded: four

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Rhinoceros. Why not Rhinocerous? or Rihoncerous?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

back to work, Hurrah!

With my first good night's sleep in a week, I started looking over the comments of my advisor (may his health and well-being prosper) and making a few notes about what I need to do next. Now I understand why chapters are sixty pages long. The ideas I have in my head and which I think are beautifully put need further explication, lots and lots.

Must also track down my copy of Manual of Style and review semi-colons. (smile)

I have tried, very hard, to follow this election with some degree of interest, if not enthusiasm. When Bush mentioned the Dred Scott decision at the last debate, I was very impressed. Laura often gives him biographies to read, so I thought perhaps he'd been reading about James Buchanen or Abraham Lincoln. Thanks to the Internet, I now know that mentioning Dred Scott in that context is acually a signal that Bush won't appoint any pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court.

We all knew that. We all knew that four years ago. Abortion and stem-cell research are emotionally difficult topics already, must they be further complicated by speaking in code and references to slavery? Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: four - the backlog grows ever larger

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

"You have abused the semi-colon..."

IT CAME!! My advisor (may he live forever) used words like "delight" and "engaging." Alas, he also used phrases such as "needs to be more explicit" and "you must work at the writing of simple, straight-forward sentences." (laughter) Um, yes, this would be very true.

More explicit - I can do that. Clean up my citations - I should do that. Get this back to him by the end of the month - well, I hope so!

All hail Wilfred of York.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve (and lots more to go)

Monday, October 11, 2004

a watched mailbox...

No, I didn't run out and purchase vodka at midnight, though after listening to the news all night long, I wished that I had. (joke!)

It's impossible to concentrate. This is worse than the glorious if unfocused buzz of starting to date someone - at least then you have something to be happy about.

Tomorrow (October 12) is the Feast Day of Wilfred of York. Though probably something of a difficult personality while alive, his first posthumous miracle was to cure the arthritis of the woman who was washing his corpse. Perhaps this is a sign that my chapter (mailed on Monday of last week) will arrive tomorrow, and I will wear out my hands tomorrow night making brilliant and inciteful ammendments.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero - and I have a MAJOR backlog

Sunday, October 10, 2004

41 hours until the mail arrives

Not that I'm counting. An e-mail from the advisor (may his good health continue unabated) confirmed my address today, but let nothing slip about the exact nature of his comments. I'm not usually one for vodka shots, but this seems a good time for an exception. Alas, not a drop of vodka around, and cooking sherry just doesn't have the same appeal.

I'm trying to think of this as my students' revenge for the handful of times that I've been really late in getting assignments handed back, but it's not working.

I didn't expect to enjoy Friday's debate, but I did - a lot. I didn't think Kerry could be concise, but he was. Bush is generally so unflappable that seeing him angry and/or frustrated was a really interesting change. The best part came about 65 minutes in, when the two of them started to feel tired. The rehearsed platitudes didn't roll out of their mouths as tidily, and this may be the one time in the whole campaign when we get to see the two of them as they really are.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Saturday, October 09, 2004

still waiting

The pup tent is getting a bit chilly. Perhaps I should upgrade, and build a log cabin out of the sticks falling from the trees in record number, thanks to the dry weather.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Friday, October 08, 2004

bring back the Latin Mass

The postman disappointed me again today. Now I await the Saturday postal lady.

Many years ago, I had a truly awful office job. It was skilled work which I did well, and my boss was very generous about buying lunch (or dinner and occasionally breakfast) for the department when we worked overtime, but it was still an awful experience, primarily because of the stress. Generally I was able to cope by listening to NPR non-stop, and attending Mass during my lunch hour. The priests gave wonderful homilies about love, patience and humility, and followed a version of the liturgy that I've never used anywhere else: lots of old prayers said slowly. None of them ever asked why I didn't receive communion or made me (a catholic but not a Catholic) feel in any way unwelcome. They accepted all of us in attendence as we were, whether four or forty, and I'm sure that this experience helped keep me out of the corner liquor store on the way back to the office. Clearly I am an old-fashioned sort of worshipped, in that I prefer my "new things" to be, well, old.

A mailing came today from an area church, inviting me to attend a series of seminars they will be holding on faith and families. For these classes, participants will watch a television show and then learn about the theme posed. For example, "Everybody Loves Raymond" will be followed by "Maintaining a Healthy Family," and "The X-Files" will facilitate "Meeting the Challenges of Blended Family Relationships."

I wonder how you say "The X-Files" in Latin?

Please note: I'm not opposed to this program, nor am I slighting people and families who belong to this church. It's just that , as a stodgy sort of gal, the X-Files isn't the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Christian inspiration.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Hey! Mr. Postal Carrier Person!


Lot of large envelopes in the mail today, none of them from my advisor (may he live forever.) Grrrrr. At this rate, I might actually manage to complete A Moveable Feast before I go back to work.

I've read about a hundred pages; I'm sorry, Joe, but I still don't like Hemingway. This book has made me long for French food, preferably shellfish and pastries, but he's still far too caught up in the overall meaninglessness and pointlessness of living to really attract my attention. The in-joke portraits of his buddies are fun, I grant you.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-eight

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

the waiting begins

My advisor (may he live forever) has put the chapter in the mail.

If you're looking for me, I'll be in a pup tent by the mailbox, with the neighbors' dog for company.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

windsor knots and theatrical events

A friend noted that for the first debate, Kerry wore his tie in a full Windsor knot, but Bush opted for the half-Windsor. I predict full Windsors on Cheney (yellow tie) and Edwards (red tie) tonight. Whatever else you might read, no one, not even Fox or the NY Times, will have the courage to make such a prediction.

I know why I'm excited about tonight's debate; it's because I really can't stand Cheney.

Now, before I get flamed by anyone who happens to drop by, I do not mean this in the "I am a pinhead (GWB's word) who is unpatriotic and should just put a towel over my head and move to Iraq" sense, nor in the "my God, if I went up in flames there's not a living soul who'd pee on me to put the flame out" sense. (Line cribbed from The Lion in Winter.)

My dislike for Cheney can be likened to my dislike for pork chops, the novels of Thomas Hardy, the color orange, and the hymn "On Eagle's Wings." I know that many other people very much enjoy some or all of these items, find them powerful, moving and meaningful, and more happiness to them. All five set my teeth on edge. Cheney has been very helpful to Bush in helping him formulate vision and policy, and whatever I may think of the result, I do not deny or dispute his importance and value to this administration; nonetheless, as a person, I can't stand him.

I know next to nothing about Edwards, except what I've read in People. I'm hopeful that he'll catch Cheney off-guard and create some TV worth watching, if for no reason other than to inform my later viewing of the Daily Show.

Words Written: zero - this is not good
Lessons Graded: a bushel and a peck

Monday, October 04, 2004

"the cat will mew, and dog will have his day."

The neighbors' dog has a new pattern; he vaults the fence, chases the latest distraction, then walks to my yard, and waits quietly for my appearance with a leash. Though frustrating and annoying to have this little drama repeat on a near daily basis, it is touching that the dog views me as an ally. I've tried ringing the bell; the neighbors either ignore me (possible) or are rarely at home (more than likely.)

Sam isn't as young as he used to be, and I notice more and more white fur amid the black. Though more sedate in his old age, he can still surprise me; this morning Sam vaulted over an outdoor table in a sudden sprint toward the vicious groundhog on the other side of the yard. A two foot tall end table isn't quite as impressive as a six foot fence, but pretty good for an eight year old.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty-three

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Mt. St. Helens

The Pickle Monster loved St. Helens. He thought that the mountain and Spirit lake were beautiful. I sometimes wonder what he would have thought of the last erruption and the destruction that followed.

Here we go again. Applause to Swankette for a fantastic post on this topic.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty down, twenty to go

Friday, October 01, 2004

a hodgepodge

Not to be confused with a hotchpotch

The debate: well, I was wrong about the ties. I was delighted to see the two candidates taking notes on each other's statements: maybe this means, holy cow, that they actually listened to what the other was saying. As Editor B commented yesterday, I too am disappointed by the limitations of the debate format, and the exclusion of third party candidates. If nothing else, they would liven things up a tad, as happens during Prime Minister's Questions.

Sam and I took our walk early this morning (6:45 AM.) Lots of kids were waiting for the bus, including two Middle- Schoolers and their dad, who were throwing around a football. One of them was singing "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas."

A tip about plagarism: if I turn you in, it's because you've earned it. You haven't just played fast and loose with someone else's words, you have copied them, lots of them, and claimed them as your own. Threatening that you will appeal to the dean may make you feel better about having cheated, but the dean can follow the same paper (internet) trail that I followed. If you are so concerned about my impression of you, how about admitting that you didn't read the book and appologizing?

I have purchased my "it's not a banned book but I'll let you read it anyway" reading, but am still staring at the cover. Joe at hipdeep has graciously allowed me to read A Moveable Feast by Hemingway; the cover sounds good, but... hey, I still have another, um, 33 hours until banned book week ends, right?

Words Written: zero (still no comments!!)
Lessons Graded: A lot - you wouldn't believe me even if I told you.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Prepared for the Debate

Well, I'm ready. There's ice cream in the freezer, snack food on the counter, and scratch paper by the television. All of the heavy objects that I might be tempted to throw have been removed from the room.

I'm not sure why I'm so excited about watching the debates. I know what each gentleman thinks about the war in Iraq, and none of the other issues that worry me are likely to turn up. From an intellectual standpoint, I understand why the candidates want to have more control over the format, audience members and questions posed, but said control does remove any sense that it will be, well, a debate in the strict sense of the word.

Prime Minister's Questions on CSPAN is one of my favorite programs, in large part because anything and everything comes up, and yet it's all phrased so elegantly. "My honored colleague forgets to mention..." is said instead of "the stupid git doesn't know what he's talking about," members openly applaud and boo (I could swear that I once heard animal noises) and it all feels much more open and straightforward.

Deep down, I wonder if I'm watching tonight so that I will more thoroughly enjoy what Jon Stewart has to say tomorrow. Why can't he be the moderator?

P.S. I predict that Bush will wear a yellow tie and Kerry will wear a blue one.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: lots, but not enough

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

There's No Place Like Oregon...

unless it's Connecticut.

At the suggestion of Rachel at Yuppiedorm> I took the findyourspot quiz, and apparently I should be living in one of about fifteen communities in Oregon. Failing that, it also suggested five locations in CT, along with two in Wisconsin.

It's been twenty years since I last visited Oregon, and my strongest memory is of visiting Baskin Robbins 10, 000 times to order a special flavor called Grape Ice. I didn't realize that asking for lots of arts options, good medical care and religious strength would mean the Pacific Northwest - except that it just means Oregon, not Washington or, say, Montana. Tasty though I think the ice cream was, I think I'll stay here in the Crossroads of Amerioca, at least until I've had a chance to sample the (in)famous deep-fried Snickers Bars served every year at the Indiana State Fair.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-nine

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

focus group (well, a little one)

Attention candidates: I realize that Indiana voters are not among your current concerns, but I want to inform you of the results of the "Women Waiting To Purchase Coffee" focus group, which met for the first time this evening in line at Starbucks. Complete stangers, members of three different generations, we agreed on two points.

1) We would like you to dress up. The president has many important intellectual responsibilities, but also an important role on the front pages of international newspapers. The three of us remember thinking that the 2000 candidates and Mr. Lehrer needed a bit more polish. Both candiates have made all sorts of photo ops looking casual and "man on the stree;t" we want to know how you'll appear when at your best, whatever the stress level.

2) We're not interested in listening to the two of you say bad things about each other; this is why you have Cheney and Edwards around. Accentuate the positive: what will you do, what do you want to do, what do you hope to do, and how do you plan to do these things?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve

good fences and my neighbors

Dear Neighbor,
I love dogs. If anything awful happened to my dog, I would be heartbroken. Your dog doesn't just jump over his eight foot fence, he vaults it, with several feet to spare. Then he runs around the neighborhood and into the path of on-coming cars. Your neighbors eventually catch him and either put him back into your yard, or keep him in theirs until you get home from work. Neighbor, you know all of this, and yet you don't even equip your dog with a collar and tags. One of these days, a neighbor won't be around to take care of him for you.

There's a very simple solution to all of this: put the dog inside the house when you go to work.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-three

Monday, September 27, 2004

Progress Report

Handed in 10, 000 words of Chapter Two to my advisor (may he live forever) on Friday. As is his wont, said advisor (may he live forever) then flashed me that "You are the best graduate student ever to enter my office" smile that he gives everyone; this is why he is such an INCREDIBLE advisor and teacher. Just being around the man makes you believe that your project is a good one.

Caveat: he does tell people that their projects are lousy, he does tell them to do something else, and he can become quite angry and annoyed. Luckily, I've never had to have one of these discussions or moments in his office. No matter how discouraged or silly I feel when I walk in, I always always always walk out of his office feeling capable and brilliant.

Now comes the waiting... I might hear from him today, but probably not. The longer the wait, the more comments he will have for me. Comments are good - humbling, but good - but the waiting gets to me very quickly. I've already spotted two spelling mistakes I should have caught while proof-reading. Advisor (whose good health and abiding happiness etc.) will probably find all sorts of little things. (chuckle) My students don't know how lucky they are.

10, 000 words sounds great, except that when complete, the chapter will probably be twice that. I'd hoped for a repeat of my Labor Day weekend success, but not quite. Still, I suppose a record of 1-1-0 isn't all that bad.

I did take 48 hours off to relax and recover from the last nightmare-induced push. Joe at hipdeep wants us all to read something for Banned Book week. Since I read far too many banned and bannable books on a regular basis, I'm leaning toward reading something that I expect not to like, such as a Hemingway novel. I don't think I've ever read anything by Melville, Steinbeck or Hemingway voluntarily; of the three, Hemingway is probably my best chance to find something, somewhere, that I might actually enjoy, and if I don't like it, I will hate it with enthusiasm.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Patron Saints Strike Back

Maybe I shouldn't have discounted Gabriel Possenti so quickly. When I finally fell into bed last night (far earlier than in my collegiate days, alas) I had several very violent and frghtening nightmares - that is to say, violent things happened, but in all instances, I was sheilded and safe from harm. After the most horrible, I woke up, scrawled two sentences on a pad of paper, and fell asleep to more bad dreams.

The two sentences, combined into one complex sentence (OK, so I don't use semi colons in the middle of the night) are a much strong, refined and explicit version of my Chapter Two thesis.

Either Gabriel P. is proving his worth, or my beloved St. Brigid is grinning wildly.

Words Written: lots and lots, and more to come
Lessons Graded: zero

Thursday, September 23, 2004

of cabbages and kings

hotchpot = bringing together of shares in order to divide them up again on an equal basis

(Thank you, Random House Dictionary.)

The writing (obviously) progresses, but the chapter isn't going to be as polished or as complete as I would like it to be by tomorrow afternoon. I've got the scraps of paper with the jotted thoughts yet to be included lined up on my desk; I might be through two-thirds of them. I miss the days when I could pull all-nighters. Another sixteen hours of solid work, a few pots of coffee, plenty of pain pills, and things would be in pretty good shape. (laughter) OK, maybe I don't.

I debated having a word with one or more of the Patron Saints of students on this subject, but having looked them up, I'm not sure about this. Three of them (Jerome, Thomas Aquinas and Gregory the Great) didn't think much of women, and Gabriel Possenti never went to graduate school.
Words Written: four hundred and six
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Philander's Feast Day

In addition to the usual saints and martrys, the Episcopal Church also encourages the remembrance of people who led lives worthy of emulation. For example, on July 19, the anniversary of Seneca Falls Convention, the church remembers Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Sojourner Truth.

Today, we remember the < Martyrdom of St. Wasilides, but that's not all. Thanks to the 2003 Bishops' convention, today we celebrate the life of Bishop Philander "This will do" Chase, too. Happy Philander's Pheast Day to all!

Words Written: four hundred and sixty-seven
Lessons Graded: thirteen

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Great Moments in Music

While waiting at a stoplight, I realized that my radio (the BBC news) could not be heard over the music from the car next to mine. Sure enough, the windows were open, and the SUV's driver looked about twenty. Then I realized that she was listening to, I kid you not, "Il Matrimonio Segreto" as sung by Samuel Ramey and Thomas Hampson on No Tenors Allowed. (I don't usually recognize Classical music so quickly, but I just listened to the disc last night; it's good writing music.) Sure enough, she had an IU School of Music window sticker.

For all lovers of Broadway Musicals, I link to the following wonderful story. Cease Calling me Satan or I will Sing Show Tunes." (Thanks, Mme. Q.)

Words Written: one thousand and six
Lessons Graded: thirty-six

Monday, September 20, 2004

Andrew Carnegie, I love you.

eek. That last post is a bit, um, exuberant, isn't it. I was pretty happy that night: still am, in fact.

I have a new book (fun fun fun) so took it to the local library this morning. I'm fond of the the place. It's clean, well-maintained, with plenty of parking and some fun displays in the lobby. The reference librarians are always talking, well, reference, except for the time that I caught them discussing the attractiveness of the men in the film "Love, Actually." Not surprisingly, the children's section is usually a lot quieter in the morning than the adult section, so I can get a fair amount done.

Yet - and you knew I'm find something historial upon which to ruminate - it is very much a new suburban place. I'd guess that the structure was built in the 1970s, which is about the time that my 'burb really began to expand. Most of the books are newer, too. I know, intellectually, why this is, and why it makes sense, and why many libraries cannot keep every title ever purchased or donated.

I grew up with an older library, something like a hundred years old. Though it had lots of new titles, you also had a pretty good chance of stumbling across a title that hadn't been checked out in since the Truman administration, but was a still a fantastic read. I had fun simply walking down a row of shelves, looking at title or author names.

My present library, I hasten to add, has excellent ILL services, and I'm sure that if I requested a forty year old mystery novel, they would find it. This is more efficient, but not as spontaneous.

Words Written: six hundred and two (but had to do a lot of editing of old progress)
Lessons Graded: forty-two

Saturday, September 18, 2004

dance up the stairs

I'd given up. I'd consigned my theory to the realm of, "well, it did happen 400+ years ago, maybe the written records that allow us to make educated and informed guesses have just disappeared." I'd accepted my limitations. I'd moved on. Records do decay, after all. I could cope with the uncertainity. It's a little, minor element, not vital to my larger arguments or presentation, just a little niggling wonder at the back of my mind... I was looking up details for an unrelated element of the chapter, blithely thinking about something else.... AND THERE IT WAS! Proof! Not just a guestimate, but proof! 110% proof! Four hundred year old proof! I am right, the older generation is wrong, and I can prove it, conclusively! Not just "well, this would be a logical supposition," but PROOF!

I screamed, "Eureka!" OK, I screamed it two or three times. I jumped. I danced. I shouted. I hugged the dog. Deion Sanders I am not, but I did a boogie that he would envy. Who needs choreography when you have pure joy? This is a small piece of a much larger puzzle, but I am SO happy.

"Men live in the estimation of posterity not by their deeds alone, but by their historians as well." - Jefferson Davis

Words Written: three hundred and thirty-six
Lessons Graded: twenty-five

on the record, part II

I've mentioned this to a few folks, but one of my primary reasons for starting a blog was to force a certain degree of public accountability in my writing: more specifically, making progress in my writing on a steady basis. Typing in "zero" is almost as effective as knowing that I could run into my advisor at an hour of the day or night was during college. The "lessons" is a reminder that, even if I haven't written, I have still accomplished something professional that day; I knew that I did a lot of grading, but hadn't realized just how much. (ye gads!)

So, here goes another attempt to push a massive productivity period. The present chapter, which is about 7400 words at the moment, will be wrapped up and roughed out by Friday of next week, circa 2 PM. It need not be polished or excellent, but the bones must be developed and essentials fleshed up.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-one

Friday, September 17, 2004


It is officially fall. It was chilly this morning when I fed the mailbox - I had to throw on a sweatshirt to stay warm. By noon things had warmed up a bit, but they'll be chilly again by the time Sam and I take our evening stroll. The leaves are everywhere, falling slowly enough that you can catch them on their way down.

There are lots of Halloween cards, decorations and costumes in the stores, but as they appeared back in July, no longer count as harbingers. (Harbinger is a cool word, and I don't have many excuses to use it.)

This is my cue to wonder what I did with all of my sweaters.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Thursday, September 16, 2004

the pickle monster speaks

Having read the cache of letters, I now know that Grandpa and I must have bonded over pickles, as there are lots of references to the two of us having eaten an entire jar of them one winter's afternoon. For several months, he signed his letters, "the pickle monster."

"Ellen broke her wrist last week. Age 72 isn't the best age for bone breaking; she should have waited until 73. I wonder if she roller skates?"

"Glad that Lemming likes the silverware. I'll borrow another set for her the next time I fly overseas."

"You dig the basement to teh desired depth, and then another eighteen inches for a layer of coarse gravel, which will improve drainage. You are then left with surplus dirt for the neighbor of your choosing; I would suggest the one with the dog who howls whever you turn on the opera."

"The birthday was lovely; the ambulance techs were kind, the ER nurses teased me, and I went home with 5 mg of valium, in addition to the heart attack and ulcer meds." (He really did have heart trouble that day.)

Words Written: four hundred and six
Lessons Graded: zero

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Hurricane Ivan

I've been following Editor B's "Ivan Experience." He's among the hardy souls who are staying put in Louisiana.

I miss hurricanes. They're destructive and dangerous, but you also know that they are coming, which gives you time to prepare. A tornado might come, or it might not come, and you might or might not hear the sirens in time to go someplace safe.

Words Written: four hundred and ninety-eight
Lessons Graded: twelve

You Get What You Pay For

Big news story this morning about the high drop-out rate among college students in the US; more than 35% of the people who start college will drop-out before graduation. The news folks seem to attribute this mostly to the high cost of tuition and poor preparation in high school.

Yes, college is expensive. Why? Because students expect (and deserve) access to the latest technology. Having power-point set-ups in each classroom is educationally useful in some cases, but expensive. Putting in 24 hour computer labs with top of the line equipment and training people to staff the help-desk is expensive. Students who spend hours of their time downloading movies and music off the Internet mean that more connections and bandwidth must be purchased for the students who are e-mailing their professors. Students who print out five copies of the complete script to Monty Python and the Holy Grail drive up what the institution must spend on paper and toner cartridges.

Today's college faculty are generally more qualified and better trained (though I'll save my thoughts on adjuncts for another blog rant.) The additional training and experience cost money, so we need larger paychecks go cover the cost of our student loans. The litter in large lecture halls continues to stun me; if students AND faculty picked up after themselves, probably quite a bit of money could be saved there as well.

Library books are expensive. Visit Amazon and take a look at what books from the university presses cost. I have my eye on an exciting new title, but it is $55. I'm counting on my university's library to purchase it. Add to this (no pun intended) that Americans are saving less and spending more, and larger student loan debt and part-time jobs become a necessary, though painful, element of college.

Are there some lousy teachers out there, apathetic to whether or not their students learn how to use the apostrophe, the construction of a thesis statement, and the difference between it's and its? Of course there are: I've taught quite a few of them, and I studied under a few more. As an explanation for the present situation, however, this is a poor one. Even the best teacher cannot teach pupils who do not want to learn; it's much easier to blame the teachers than to accept the possibility that our students simply do not work hard enough.

Then again, as Greg at I-465 notes, the football stadium is more important than installing air-conditioning in our schools.

Enough with my ranting; I'd like to get another thousand words done today.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-nine

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

of shoes and ships and sealing wax...

With the profusion of chain restaurants in this part of town, why are none of them ethnic? That is to say, I could patronize a Chinese restaurant, but the food would pretty much taste the same. There's Mexican, but nothing spicy... you get the idea. In my copious spare time, I must learn to make hot & sour soup.

Bumper sticker: my Australian Cattle Dog is smarter than your honors student.

Last night, I nearly called the police to complain about loud music - then realized that the music being played at top volume (were this Spinal Tap, the knob would have been at eleven) was Enya. I grappled with the wording of the phone call ("excuse me, but my neighbors seem to be a little too much into Titanic...") decided that it could be worse, and turned up my Beethoven symphony instead.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: sixty

Monday, September 13, 2004

Fred Ebb, dead at 76

Fred Ebb, the lyricist half of Kander & Ebb, has died. Best known for the musicals Cabaret, Chicago and New York, New York, he and John Kander wrote "New York, New York" specifically for my computer's itunes sweetheart, Liza Minnelli.

NPR played pieces of several Kander & Ebb songs this morning, including Jill Haworth's original Broadway interpretation of "Cabaret." One element of this song which sends it into the realm of brilliance, is that it can be plausibly interpreted in several ways by different actors. Haworth's version is that this song is simply part of Sally's job at the cabaret. The recent revival interpretation is that Sally's life is one of constant struggle, and she "loves a cabaret" because, in a tragic way, she must. Liza Minnelli's version, which I think is the best, is one of woman who will survive and triumph. It's hardly surprising that I would prefer this interpretation in general, but amidst the Liza Minnelli pop culture morass, it's easy to forget that she really can sing. The best moment in Minnelli's interpretation comes in the final notes. Where most singers simply sing what's written, Minnelli adds an extra two grace notes just before the final note, with a punch behind all three that can only be sung at a triple forte.

Words Written: five hundred and two
Lessons Graded: one, and do I ever have a backlog...

Saturday, September 11, 2004

primary documents

Three years ago, I was pouring a cup of coffee when a friend called and told me to turn on the television.

I spent my "finger rest time" reading a cache of letters I just discovered. I knew that my grandfather was a prolific letter writer in the last years of his life, but I was startled to discover that a three inch think file contained letters from a single year; as his handwriting was even worse than mine, it's just as well that most of them are typed. There are plenty of the obligatory descriptions of the weather, and fun musings as to the cuteness, sunniness and intellectual brilliance of his grandchild (cough, cough) but mostly the letters describe a trip he has just taken or his plans for the next one. "Trip" is a bit of an understatement; the letter on top muses the pros and cons of four weeks in Australia and a presentation he just saw about Nepal. He thoroughly enjoyed his week in Stratford-on-Avon, and though he laughed at the tourist trap elements, I think he secretly enjoyed them, too.

I vaguely remember Grandpa, and knew that he did a great deal of traveling, but it's been fun to read "a year in the life." Later this afternoon I may tackle the 30+ handwritten postcards. I note that this 8th grade drop-out, the son of illiterate parents, has excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Words Written: three-hundred and twenty
Lessons Graded: two

I'm taking the pain pills, even though they make me groggy, so I'm a little nervous about grading in this state.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


This is what I get for being productive: my hands hurt again. I took last night off and tried to track down a few citations, thinking that the rest would help. I've scanned my e-mail and my blog roll and my fingers are almost numb. DAMNIT!

Words Written: four hundred and twelve
Lessons Graded: thrity-eight

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

food for thought

I have very mixed feelings about the death penalty. I really don't know how I'd react if called to serve on a jury for a capital murder case. Addendum: of course I would serve, but I've no idea what I would say when asked for my views. I worry about the possibility (nay probability) of making a mistake, I'm not sure that I believe closure is possible, but I also know that there are some individuals whose personalities have been so badly damaged... yet I firmly believe that life is sacred, and no one is beyond redemption in the eyes of God.

I have a link to privatehand's hilarious animation of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements" in my "Quick Distractions" section. Privatehand has also done a much more serious piece about the last requests of prisoners before execution. It takes a while to load, but is powerful viewing. Last Request.

Words Written: two hundred and twenty-six
Lessons Graded: eighteen, plus I caught a would-be plagarist

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


The neighbors are having some sort of work done which requires lots of workmen and trailers full of supplies. This has created a terrible ethical problem for Sam, in that there are lots of strange people very close to, but not in, his yard. He's settled for supervising them, with the occasional bark if they get "too close."

I was so excited about the weekend's writing that I couldn't get to sleep last night. I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it is to type that last sentence. My advisor (may he live forever!) uses the phrase "break the back" of a project, meaning to finally get to a point with the research and the writing that it is easy to slip in at any point. I'd like to get this chapter suficiently together that I can show it to peers for suggestions by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the essays continue. "Professor Lemming, you had a three day weekend! Why didn't you grade the assignment I turned in on Friday morning?" Maybe I could blame it on Liza M...

Words Written: two hundred
Lessons Graded: forty-seven

Monday, September 06, 2004


I'm going to walk the dog, grade some essays and then indulge in a glass of good red wine.

Thanks to all for the support - I'm hoping for another thousand this week: words, not lessons.

Words Written: three thousand, two hundred and seventy-one
Lessons Graded: zero

Saturday, September 04, 2004


All right - here goes. I have an ample supply of diet coke and chocolate, I've returned the latest Julia Spencer-Fleming mystery to the library, and there are no "turn-off the computer before the lightning hits" thunderstorms in the forecast.

I hereby promise that I will do my very best to write 3, 000 words between now and Monday evening, by which time I will have about 100 essays to grade.

Wish me luck!

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: sixteen

Update: as of 4:00 PM on Monday, 2767 words written
it had to happen - the "random" play programmed all
of the Liza Minnelli in a row

Friday, September 03, 2004

zip around the beltway

The Indianapolis beltway is I-465. I'm notorious for getting lost at the best of times, but I'm told by people who do possess a sense of direction that I-465 is very badly labeled. Note that these kind souls are people from out of town. People who have lived in Indianapolis for a while insist that it's quite easy to navigate 465: just remember that Meridian Street is the North/South line which bisects the loop into the Western and Eastern sections.

My response to this is the same as my response to people who insist that it's easy to navigate Chicago because of the Lake; it's not easy if you don't know where Meridian Street (or the Lake) is in the first place! I became terribly lost yesterday on the beltway, and must brave it again today. My enthusiasm for this bit of driving lies somewhere between my enthusiasm for root canal and snake bite.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: four

Thursday, September 02, 2004

We'll Always Have Paris

Assignment: read 75+ pages about the aftermath of the Battle of Yorktown (1781) and the negotiations for the Peace of Paris (1783) and then write an essay on each of these topics.

Opening of an actual answer: The assasination of Franz Ferdinand in 1914 set of a chain of reactions which erupted in great violence, but eventually resolved in the Treaty of Paris.

The essay then goes on to discuss World War I. The other essay does a fine job with the Battle of Yorktown. I haven't a clue what I'm going to say in my comments.

Words Written: fity
Lessons Graded: stopped counting at fifty

P.S. Treaty of Versailles ended WW I.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

apostrophic rant - forgive me.

Why why why why why why why do people (translation: students taking classes from me) think that apostrophes make nouns plural? One Federalist, two (or more) Federalists: this is not complicated. The correct term is not "Federalist's" as that indicates ownership, not "Federalist" because that suggest that only one person was doing all of the things you're writing about, but Federalists...

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: a lot (maybe forty?)

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I ain't missin' you at all

What, no Olympics coverage?! I woke up at 3 AM, unable to sleep, and scanned the dial for Bob Costas-free late-night coverage of darts or white water rafting or knitting, for pete's sake, and all I found were infomercials. Usually I'm bored by the Summer Olympics, but this year I watched quite a bit and really enjoyed it. After fuming at George for his attrocious grammar ("catastrophic success" - what?!) over the last few years, it was probably a theraputic exercise to ignore the election and concentrate on the diving expert as she made-up even odder words and phrases to describe the angles and splashes.

I won't miss the commentators. I will miss the little flag icons everywhere, but that's about it.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: a bushel and a bunch

Monday, August 30, 2004

Mme. Q is to blame...

One of my favorite humor writers is Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry. More than ten years ago, he wrote a piece asking readers to send in their nominatiions for the "Worst Song Ever" in several categories. Barry hoped to get one easy column out of it; instead he got two, which he eventually turned into a book. The book includes sample lyrics for those of us not fortunate enough to have grown up with fifties radio, and offers various theories as to why certain songs drew strong votes.

The overall winner of the survey was MacArthur's Park. Barry posited that the song's win can be attributed not only to its odd metaphorical imagery of a cake left out in the rain, but also due to its having been recorded by both Richard "Dumbledore" Harris and then several years later, disco-style, by Donna Summer.

Now, I'll go on record as loathing Harris' recording and rather liking Summer's performance, so my musical preferences are perhaps questionable, even without all of the Liza Minnelli my computer selects. Although the words are repetitious, there's a dance break in the middle, and the reprises means that the words are easily memorized. On those occasions when the song pops into my head, I can usually come up with the rest of whatever line it is my subconcious wants, and then move on.

A few days ago, Mme. Q posted an entry which referenced Escape (the Pina Colada Song.). It was a passing phrase, but it was enough to tweak the corner of my mind where lyrics are stored. Now, with all appologies to Rupert Holmes, and to those who do know all of the words, this isn't a song I've ever completely memorized. I haven't heard it since April (visiting friends, who played me a live recording of an excellent a cappella arrangement) and probably not for several years before that.

I don't think "Escape" is all that painful a song, but, unlike "MacArthur's Park" the words do not repeat. This is to say that many of the words, but not all of them, repeat. There are reoccuring themes to the words and their order, but not enough - I keep thinking that "yogurt" is mentioned, but having looked up the words on the ever-reliable Internet, I now know that it's "yoga," which I have probably conflated with the actual mention of granola. Correct and incorrect words now form an endless loop in my head, no matter what else I play.

Barry needs to reissue the survey, and include a category for this syndrome. Meanwhile, Mme Q, I will have my revenge. You just wait.
"Another hundred people just got off of the train..."

Words Written: one hundred and six
Lessons Graded: twenty-four

Sunday, August 29, 2004


The Rector gave a really neat sermon today about humility, primarily about the challenge of giving without accepting any sort of reward or appreciation. During the "silence that follows so that the people may meditate upon the meaning of the sermon" it occured to me that humility is also accepting that which is given to you. We live in a world firmly confident of a general sense of entitlement, though our specific definitions of the term would vary greatly. Yet at the same time, there is an expectation that we will reciprocate any charity or kindness; the Amish help their neighbor build a new barn in part because someday they too will need a new barn. The barn-building also happens, though, because it is part of their Christian faith and life; they are called to help each other and strengthen the community.

It is accepting gifts given simply to be kind and thoughtful that can be hardest to accept, I suppose. There are plenty of people who give to be noticed, or give to be admired, but that's not what I'm talking about; I mean the simple, "hey, I saw this and it made me think of you" gifts, for which a thank-you note is nice, but not needed, and reciprocity isn't necesarily expected, or the care package during exams.

Words Written: none, but I'm about to tackle it
Lessons Graded: thirty-six

Friday, August 27, 2004


For yet another day, it is as humid as a glass of water. I was up far too late and up far too early, and even then, it was hot and humid. It's been a pleasantly cool summer, but I suppose Indiana had to sock it to us one last time before August ended.

Despite the weather, the local schools have sent out lots of fresh-faced, well-scrubbed children, selling various items door-to-door to raise additional financial support for said schools. I don't mind Girl Scout cookies, or Boy Scout popcorn, but somehow having the schools send out children for this reason bothers me. Is there a larger plan or purpose to this?

Hurrah for the USA Women of soccer! A second 'hurrah' that they were willing to sing the national anthem in front of millions of people, whatever their actual sound.

Speaking of music, the later the hour, the more Liza Minnelli my computer selects at random.

Words Written: two hundred and three
Lessons Graded: fifty-nine