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?)