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

Thursday, August 26, 2004

this is awesome

All right - to follow the long and meditative post on teaching and its after-effects, I offer something fun and clever:

ancient laughter from Brad Delong.

Thanks to threebed for the link.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

(call me a slacker!)


Betty's class was taught, brilliantly, by "Doug." Doug arranged a meeting with me after the students took their first exam. It wasn't what I had expected. We covered the usual grading policies, and then he handed me a very large diet coke. "Mizz Lemming," he said, while opening one for himself, "why are you studying history?" I burbled out a quick version of 'how I came to apply to grad school' and he chuckled. "Yes, I thought it might be something like that."

I froze. A love of history and a passionate need to teach made this phenom in the classroom chuckle? "You are about to encounter the best and the worst part of this job," said Doug. "The students in this class are mostly freshmen and sophomores. They took some history in high school; some loved it and many probably hated it. Now, they're in this class for a variety of reasons: it fit their schedule, they needed a 100 level class to fulfill a graduation requirement - and a few of them may even like history. Even if they like history, they will probably not be particualrly good at it, because if they were, they would have found some way of getting credit for this class and taken one of the more advanced classes."

None of this had ever occured to me, and some of it seemed awfully cold. "Very few of them will ever take another history class at this university. Educational studies have shown that, within six months, they will have forgotten 80% of what they learned in here. 10-20% of the students who are admitted fail out within the first two years, and most of them will do so thanks to classes like this." He stopped, and took a long look at me. "I know what you're thinking; I thought that when I looked at my first stack of blue books. We love history. We can't imagine anyone not taking a history class seriously. That's why we're in this field."

Another long look followed. I still hadn't sipped my drink. " Mizz Lemming, do you know the old story of the sower and the seeds? The sower throws out seeds on the ground at planting time, not worrying about where they fall. They will land on all sorts of ground, grow or not grow, late or early, but they will only grow if the sower throws them with everything he - or in your case, she - has. These exams may depress or baffle you, and more than a few will make you laugh. Take all of them seriously. It is up to us to see that the 20% is worthwhile, and might get the student to purchase a history book for a long plane flight twenty years from now, preferably one of mine," he laughed. "If we do our job right, they will enjoy the class, do reasonably well, and take more, and possibly turn into history majors in spite of having me around."

I've been thinking a lot about Doug lately. I've had a string of really awful, terrible, garbage-level lessons cross my desk, written by people who needed a history class for their degree, and thought that mine would be easy. They're not interested in the causes of the Civil War, or the religious complications of the seventeenth century, and a few are angry that I expect them to understand opposing points of view. One complained that I corrected his grammar and punctuation. ("Consider yourself lucky; my aunt, who is a high school English teacher, would have failed you.") Yet I notice that all of them, even the ones who cannot use the apostrophe correctly, have still learned from this class. They comment that a particular battle took place near their hometown or mention something from today's headlines that reminds them of a situation in the textbook. A few of them even send me postcards, c/o the university, from vacations to historic places. Is this the 20%? I hope so.

Maybe I'd better have a diet coke.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: forty-one

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

purple pens (no, not that kind)

I've been grading in purple ink for nearly ten years. Nice to know that, for once, I was ahead of a trend.

Nice to know, too, that I might soon have more options for style and construction; I'm almost out of my favorite kind, and that style has long since been discontinued.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: four

(not counting the six that I sent back for thinking that one paragraph constituted an essay...)

Look Out For Men on Horseback...

There's no caffeine in the house at the moment: no coffee, no Diet Coke, no tea, no chocolate. This has to be a warning that Apocalypse is nigh...

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-eight

Monday, August 23, 2004


A nod to Hip Deep for the reminder that little things are essential to happiness.

Even if I never complete my dissertation, I wil never, ever, ever have to take the SATs, ever again.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: fifty-eight

Sunday, August 22, 2004


Many years ago, I worked as the T.A. for a relatively small (100 students) introductory 100 level class. Most of the students were typical 18-23 year olds, but there were a few exceptions. Two of them were women in their forties, and although they were strangers when the class began, I noticed that they started sitting together almost immidiately.

I graded the first set of exams "blind," meaning that I didn't know the names of any of the 100 students, at least to connect with a face. By sheer providence I wrote "please see me if I can be of any help" on the exams of both of these women. Both had done an acceptable job, but clearly could do far better with a little one on one assistance.

Later I learned that each had wanted to drop by my office hours before the first exam, but felt a bit shy; together, they felt brave enough to come. I reassured the ladies that, "if I'm not nice to you, my mother will kill me," and we all laughed. Ice broken, I walked them through their mistakes, and got them to laugh a bit, too. They came back together a few more times over the semester, and even tried to buy me coffee before the final exam review session. (Conflict of interest: I had to say no.) Both improved their work, and took delight in being able to help their teenaged children study. Both sent me wonderful e-mails at the start of the next semester, thanking me for my help and full of enthusiasm at having succeeded in their first semester of college. "Tell your Mom to let you live," said "Betty."

I ran into Betty several years later, and learned that she had completed her General Studies degree, which thrilled Betty's mother and inspired her daughter. "I'm the first person ever in my family to graduate from college! So what if I'm 50?! I did it!" We chatted briefly about inspiration, role models and what she remembered from the class, and left the ladies' room.

This afternoon, I read Betty's obituary. It gave no details, so I can only assume that she suffered a heart attack, or some other cause that wasn't newsworthy in a small town. It did mention her diploma.

R.I.P. Teaching can give immortality, but so does being an exceptional student.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twelve

Friday, August 20, 2004

almost the weekend!

I've read several op/ed pieces in the newspaper lately about the death of reading, particularly novels, in American society. The belief shared by these writers is that no one will be reading novels for fun in another fifty years: for school, yes, but not for fun. I suspect that this is true, though I do wonder about the rise of "chick lit" and what impact it will have upon American readers. Forty years ago, romance novels tended to be mostly historical pieces, and they offered a certain amount of useful educational material for the reader; perhaps Helen Fielding is the new Victoria Holt.

Not that I am of any use to the cause; I read a lot of mysteries and obsessively reread the Harry Potter books, but most of my reading, even for fun, is history. It's not that I dislike novels, but that I need suggestions for good titles, and ideas that aren't straight from Oprah. DISCLAIMER: I've read some Oprah-suggested recent publication novels, and found them too predictable. Yes, I still read the occasional Victoria "predictable" Holt romance...

Took my latest "must read" history text to the bookstore coffeeshop. It turned out to be very interesting, and I got through quite a bit of it, before being distracted by a mother with an adorable child. He chewed on his bagel, waved happily at me, and offered a piece. How could I refuse? I waved, took the bagel, and smiled at the mother. "Oh! Hello." Pleasant chit-chat follows, ending with the inevitable question, "so, what are you reading?"

"Oh! it's this incredible article about sexual misconduct in the islands off the coast of Florida during the colonial period, and the ways in which sexuality and gender roles interacted with race and class to define the otherwise unclear hierarchical..."

It's like a Victoria Holt novel, but with less kissing, and more references to Michel Foucault!

* * * * * * * * * * *

After several "bad stories about students" posts, I have a good one.

"Dear Prof. Lemming,
I've got about three minutes and a page of blue book left before this class is over. For a long time, I was annoyed at being in this class all summer, when I wanted to be outside with my John Deere. Then my son pointed out that you've been inside all summer, too. I read Edmund Morgan's biography of Benjamin Franklin for the first time; you've probably read it and read so many reviews that you no longer like the book. I'm going to go home and go out to dinner to celebrate the end of my degree; you have another forty years before you're done. Wow."

I still like Morgan's books. I still love my job. Now, if only statements like this were enough to earn me a Ph.D without this dissertation thing...

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-eight

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Liza and the French

I'm paying for my written progress and cleared grading backlog; my fingers and arm are a solid mass of pain today. This is my just dessert for never having learned to type properly and for hitting the keys rather, er, forcefully. The voice recognition software on my computer looks awfully complicated, but I may have no choice.

Then again, I'm no longer certain that I can trust my (much beloved) computer. A week ago, I installed the "shuffle" function for itunes. Out of several hundred songs I've saved, five of them are sung by Liza Minnelli. (Yes, yes, I know.) At least one, often more, of them turn up on every random playlist. I have fifteen or twenty Beethoven piano Sonatas saved; none of them have turned up yet. The computer is also very fond of Philip Glass.

Necessity breeds creativity, and I did manage to mark a few essays with my left hand; as I result, I learned that Maryland was founded in 1778 and is now known as Georgia. Another student, who noted my comment on an earlier assignment that "France and England spent several centuries at war," wondered if I'd ever heard of the 1066 Norman Invasion. You see, he said, it wasn't the French, but the Normans who invaded England...

Perhaps I could take up a neighborhood collection to repair the brakes. When I went outside this morning to feed the mailbox, I overheard the kids next-door who were waiting for the school bus say, "Look! Here comes the squeaky bus!"

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: ten

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

of brakes and budgets

I realize that the state of Indiana suffers from a serious budget deficit. I also realize, all too well, that our schools are underfunded, and don't have lots of money to spend on extras.

That having been said, the school bus with the squeaky brakes is back. If the brakes on my vehicle made that sort of noise, I'd take it into the shop. This bus made the same squeaks last year, even in snow. This can't be good.

Words Written: three hundred
Lessons Graded: twenty

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

musing on basic training

The first year of graduate school is designed to be difficult, no matter what program or field you're in. Obviously some of this is a weeding-out process, as faculty figure out which gambles by the admissions folks unearthed some fantastic students, and which shoo-ins with full rides really need to find another line of work. During the long-dark tea times of the soul and this chapter, I keep trying to remnd myself that I've outlasted all of the shoo-ins from my year, just by having taken (and passed) my qualifying exams.

It's the unanticipated "basic training" part of that first year, in which students discover what they can (and cannot) do, that really deserves closer study, by someone with a lot more patience than this very frazzled lemming. I entered grad school knowing that I can write all night long, but that if I am to retain what I read, I must close the book by 10:00. I mentioned this to a friend, who had discovered that while he could read at any time of the day or night, he couldn't read more than two hundred pages of anything in one 24 hour period.

I've cleared most of the backlog, found the water bill (holding my place in a book, of course!) and if no other distractions present themselves, I might get some more written this afternoon.

Actual quote from a student essay: a foretelling sign of future events yet to come."

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty-eight

Monday, August 16, 2004


This is what I get for a productive weekend: an in-box full of unanswered student questions, unread lessons, and
the water bill is buried somewhere underneath the books I've strewn all over the floor. I want to write more, I'm psyched to write more, I've got something to say, but if I ignore this pile another day, it will be ten times worse tomorrow.

I'm a good teacher, and I hate it when I have a night when I resent my students for expecting me to do my job.

Words Written: two hundred and eighty-two
Lessons Graded: twenty-six


Synchronized diving is far, far too much fun to watch...

Words Written: three hundred and ninety six
Lessons Graded: eighteen

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Several good, mystical, though-proking hymns today, including "Let All Mortal Flesh" with a last verse all about "cherubim with sleepless eye" and not looking directly at God, even in heaven.

Like many Anglicans, I'm not all that familiar with the book of Revelation, and what I do know is tough for me to wrap my post-modern brain around. (Probably not surprising that I know the names of all four of Jacob's wives, but stumble here!) I can think in symbolic terms about "washing robes in the blood of the lamb" but, never having lived around sheep, it's a difficult literal image.As an overly optimistic person, I'm not comfortable with the idea that only 180, 000 (or is it that number times the twelve tribes of Israel?) are saved. As a historian-in-training, I know that the book was very nearly removed from the Bible several centuries ago, which probably also colors my urge not to think about it too much.

Yet the image of angels dazzled by the light, power and love of God, so deeply moved that "with ceasless voice they cry" his praise is amazing to me.

Words Written: forty-five
Lessons Graded: eighteen

Saturday, August 14, 2004

a journey of a thousand pages...

Forgive a brief dance of joy --

Words Written: eight hundred and sixty-three, plus one hundred and fifty in footnotes
Lessons Graded: zero

to work!

All right - I took the night off, watched the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, and now should be fresh and ready to tackle the issues of the day. I have a fresh cup of coffee for the grading, and then some chocolate for the writing. By 5:00 their combined effects should have pushed me into something progressive.

The work space really needs a tidy though - not really any room for books and scratch paper when it's already covered with soda cans, stray CDs and pens. Somehow I've managed to accumulate two boxes of band-aids, a bottle of pain-killers... cleaning as distraction. Obviously I'm going to need a second cup of coffee.

I love the Opening Ceremonies, primarily because I love the Parade of Nations as a geography quiz. There are always a few island nations, with beautiful outfits, that I haven't a clue as to where they are located. Thus, I watched with a glass of wine in one hand and an atlas in the other.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: zero

Friday, August 13, 2004

Broken Glass

Now the student who wrote a review of the textbook has written a book review of the textbook for another class. Naturally, this book is chronologically inappropriate, as well as being a TEXTBOOK, for pete's sake.

Still struggling to write about this autopsy. I can't even find enough documentation to give me a general sense of what really killed this child.

Words Written: three
Lessons Graded: twelve

Thursday, August 12, 2004

it's cold

For Indiana in August, it's downright chilly - long sleeves and jeans and my neighbor even fired up his woodstove. Wow. I assume that this is linked to Tropical Storm Bonnie and Hurricane Whasis in Florida.

Probably the cold is augmented by my being tired. Where's a shot of whiskey in my coffee when I need it?

Words Written: goose egg
Lessons Graded: seven

sleepless in the heartland

I can't sleep. In a mad desire to do something useful with the time, I ended up grading papers in the middle of the night, and answering all sorts of student e-mails that perhaps were best answered when I was a bit sleepy, and less inclined to be blunt.

For example: last week, a student e-mailed to ask if he could do a review on a book not on the approved list. "Perhaps," said I, "which one?" "X," replies the student. Since X is the required textbook for the class, I politely told him no, "because it's the textbook." Guess what book he wrote a review of and submitted? This is a paper best commented upon at 2:00 AM.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


My standard joke is that I study history because I prefer that any people I read about be long gone, dead, and buried, lest they tell me that I've gotten my facts wrong, or that my interpretation is off. We the living care often care deeply about how the dead whom we love are portrayed. (Pat Nixon would make a fascinating subject for a biography, but I think it will be impossible to write one until her grandchildren have been dead for a while.) After a few hundred years, though, some of the raw emotion dies down, and research and writing are easier; indeed, for some subjects, writers are driven by the compulsion to give a voice to a formerly silent part of the record.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I wrote for nearly two hours yesterday, and saved none of it. (I did add a missing word, so progress of one.) The current section necessitates writing about the autopsy of a child who died a horrible, painful death. I have no genetic or familial connection to this little girl, yet it's painful going.

Words Written: one
Lessons Graded: three

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I suggest that you confine your discussion...

"to your health and the weather." - Alan Jay Lerner

I have a mild headache, due to having yanked lots of dusty papers around, trying to locate something I scrawled down a month ago. Naturally I finally found it, thumb-tacked to the board set up for that purpose.

Completed Midwinter today. Like many first-time novelists, there are some holes in what Spencer-Fleming has crafted, but it's a good read. Best of all, I think, are her descriptions of the biting cold of a winter in the mountains of New York. Though there are plenty of things that I dislike about Indiana, I do like the climate. We usually have a few weeks of bitter cold each winter, enough to strain the finances and remind us what cold really is, but not so many (usually) that we are forced into hibernation. The same is true for summer: a few weeks that are bitterly hot, but most of them simply warm. Spring and fall are longer here than elsewhere, so that they can be properly enjoyed.

Today is one of those wonderful Indiana summer days, with a slight breeze to rustle the trees; it's warm enough for shorts, but not unpleasantly humid and stiffling.

Words Written: none, but that's what I'll do next
Lessons Graded: twenty-two


I made a junk food run late last night, so as to stay awake for my grading and writing. The man ahead of me inline at the grocery store had two items: a very large bottle of good wine, and Bill Clintion's memoir.

Words Written: a hundred
Lessons Graded: I lost track last night

Monday, August 09, 2004

little serendipities

It's a cliche to hate Mondays, and on one level I dislike the shift away from weekends, but in another, I like the freshness of it. Something about Monday gives me extra energy to make the phone call, scrub the floor, pay the bills, etc.

Sam woke me up this morning with that "I really need to go outside RIGHT NOW" expression. I'm glad that he did, because something about the look on his face made me remember winter, which switched on the fuzzy place in my brain, and I remembered the title of the mystery novel I'd forgotten -- In the Bleak Midwinter. Somehow I managed to write this down before Sam nudged me to the door and dashed to his favorite tree.

I should explain that I'm dreadful about remembering book titles. In my mind's eye, I'll see the cover of the book, the font used for the title, sometimes even the author's picture, but never the title. This is a handicap in dealing with students ("Oh! You should read -- er -- the one with the red spine and the curly letters!) and even worse with faculty, as it gives the impression that I'm lost. I usually compensate with lots of examples from the text, to prove that I did read and comprehend the pages.

Then I discovered that the plant I was certain just HAD to be a weed has exploded into some really colorful blossoms that look quite purposeful. I'm glad I never got around to pulling it up.

Post-coffee, I made a trip to the store, where the make-up item I wanted was not only on sale, but came with all sorts of fun freebies.

I'd take this as a good sign for the rest of the day, except that it's Monday, and we all know about Mondays, right?

Words Written: zero, but I'm roughed out a tricky explanation in my head
Lessons Graded: eight

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

I've always loved the section of communion in which we remember our spiritual past. The words, "Lord God of our ancestor; God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" fill me with awe in a way that I can't explain. I'm particularly pleased when the celebrant says the long version, which goes on to name, "Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah," for our ancestors are feminine as well as masculine. This morning it occured to me that this is still a limited list. We don't pray for Hagar and Ishmael, or for Billah and Zilpah. Ishmael is, I suppose, more of a spiritual cousin than an ancestor, which would put Hagar out of our prayers, too, but poor Billah and Zilpah.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-seven

Friday, August 06, 2004

Reading Lists

This is the third time today that I've been asked if a student can substitute a book suitable for Middle Schoolers instead of a 300 level college text. Though I complain, on another level, I sympathize; pictures and friendly to read fonts are all too often missing in such books. Much of the vocabulary, not just words such as 'declension' but also the difference between 'Democratic' with a capital D and 'democratic' with a lower case d, is comfortable ground for me, but probably a bit daunting for less experienced readers. I miss books with words and pictures.

Words Written: forty-five
Lessons Graded: nine

Thursday, August 05, 2004

dog walking as distraction

On our nightly walk, the dog and I were distracted from our usual routine by the ice cream truck as it drove by, blaring "Pop Goes the Weasel" at a volume loud enough to attract attention, but not loud enough to attract the police. After the third or fourth pass, I counted - the song, played at an exceptionally rapid pace, took about 12 seconds, but was repeated continuously. Over the course of, say, a three hour shift, that means that the driver has listened to the same song more times than I can calculate. (4 times a minute times 60 minutes in an hour - what's that, something like 700+?)

I grant you, there are plenty of repetative tasks in my daily life, but I think that this really would be more than I can take!

Words Written: zero (sense a theme?)
Lessons Graded: seventeen

We'll Always Have Paris

Just when I think I've seen it all... a student, when asked to discuss the peace negotiations at the end of the Revolutionary War, has handed in an essay about the peace negotiations at the end of WW I.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: five

further distractions

Distractions can take many forms.

1) I did quite a bit of grading last night, but still had more to go as midnight approached. Sam, my canine pal, decided that it was well past my bedtime (it was) and put his head in my lap. A quick pet did not suffice, nor did he want to go outside. Only when I turned off the computer did he stop, quite certain that this meant I (and he) were off to bed. I can read for fun with Sam curled up beside me or at my feet, but find it impossible to work.

2) Speaking of reading for fun, I read the first 75 or so pages of a great mystery novel last week while on vacation. Naturally, I've now forgotten the title, author, publisher, etc. but can't stop thinking about it. The title came from a song, and the heroine was an Anglican priest somehere in New York.... possibly enough information for a book-slerre, but too much information for an on-line search. I remind myself that, with vacation over, I really shouldn't be thinking about reading for fun anyway, given the pile of essays and academic journals.

3) While looking at the academic journals, it suddenly because of vital importance that I arrange all of them in chronological order. I had half of them off the shelves before I realized that I'd already given into this distraction a while back...

4) Oh, look! The mailman is here!

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-eight

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Hello There

The biggest long-term challenge to working on a long-term project is the constant guilt whenever you do something other than it. In addition to the usual reasons for starting a blog, this is an effort to prove that I really have accomplished something productive toward my dissertation.

At this point, I have on paper the rough shape for my first chapter, and the first eight pages (much less rough) for my second. I also have several hundred students, who send me lessons and e-mail almost every day. Within the next few months, I hope to switch those numbers. :-)

Words Written: 5
Lessons Graded: 1