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)