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.