Friday, April 29, 2005

time zone hurrah!

In keeping with my resolution to find the positive about current political affairs, I rejoice in the Time Zone news. All right, so some law-makers referred to it as "unncessary intrusion into people's private lives." They'e probably the same folks who voted againist civil unions last week. Governor Daniels may be gutting the already pitiful education system, but at least we will finally have a time zone.

A friend leaves this evening for ten days in England. Knowing that he'd have abundant time to pass after clearing security, he sent an e-mail to a few of us earlier this week, asking if we'd mind chatting with him via cell phone this afternoon. Sure, no problem - so we were due to connect at 2 PM. I neglected to ask about time zones (he has one) and am not sure he knew we were back on Central, so a little juggling had to take place on my end. I rejoice that such confusions will become a thing of the past.

I did watch part of the press conference last night. I got as far as 90 seconds (I timed them) of listening to George W. talk about why No Child Left Behind is working before changing channels, which for me shows great progress.

Speaking of progress, pencil mark person showed greater stamina than blue pen. I should have purchased Green Book from Amazon, as the marks are proving distracting. I secretly suspect Roger of being pencil, actually, but cannot prove it. I'm halfway through the text, and should read the tables sometime tonight. To all of you who will be out at the movies or attending social events this evening, I raise my coffee cup and post-it notes in salute.

Words Written: still no microfilm
Lessons Graded: three

Thursday, April 28, 2005

holding pattern

The Indiana legislature was due to vote on adopting an actual time zone at 11:30 today, but I haven't had the nerve to check on their progress. I think we should have one and I vote for Central, but I'm not optimistic about either succeeding. Probably someone will come up with yet another so-called morality bill and sidetrack the whole process all over again.

I still do not understand people's resistance to this bill. One congressperson suggested adding a clause that allowed individual counties to vote on whether they wanted to opt out of having a time zone, no matter what the state decided. That's Indiana for you, folks.

Still trudging through The Green Book. The pencil marks from a grad student have been joined by blue ball point pen from someone else. Oddly enough, neither appears to have read the lengthy tables at the back which to me look like the most exciting part of the book. (Really!)

On Roger's advice I redid Chapter Two as a possible journal article. My advisor (may he live forever) sent it back to me with comments. He likes it, but thinks it needs a new introduction. Oddly enough, the advisor (may his good health and happiness continue) didn't offer any suggestions as to what I might say or change: very unusual. Instead he suggests sending it to the journal we chose and wait to see what their editors say.

Words Written: none, nada, zip
Lessons Graded: Fifteen to go and then the in-box will be empty

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

ain't necessarily so

After reading yesterday's post John tried to persuade me that in future I should make all exams multiple choice. (I suspect him of pulling my leg, but with John one never knows...) If I had a nickel for every time a student tried to persuade me that multiple guess was easier, I would be able to endow my own chair at the academic institution of my choosing.

Having experimented with multiple guess quizzes and one exam, I can state with great certainty that they are not easier. Whether students study less or are simply untrained in taking such tests, the grades are always lower, and I do mean a lot lower, than on the good old-fashioned "now you will write something" format.

Despite the explosion of writing created by blogs, I am of the opinion that good writing is an art, and one that we should all practice.

Speaking of which - I would write, except that I must first read. The Green Book is one that I'd checked out at least four times since starting grad school but never gotten around to reading. Now that I'm forcing myself through it, I know why; it's dry, far drier than it should be, given the topic. Yet since Green Book plays a vital role in Roger's plan for the diss, reading it and not just its reviews, I must and shall.

The library's copy is full of marks. For the first two chapters I blamed the undergrads. Then I noticed the occasional references to historians now only read by doctoral students and conclude that the guilt belongs to one of my peers. Shame upon you, whomever you are.

Words Written: (yawn)
Lessons Graded: twenty

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

blue ink (and black and green and blue again)

The bathroom of the English department at my alma mater had a poster tacked up with lots of ammendments to Murphy's Law. This being the lone decoration of a facility heavily used by English majors, all sorts of corrections had been written on the poster to fix the grammar, spelling, etc. Some of the corrections (and corrections to corrections) were funnier than the sayings on the poster.

For some reason I remembered that poster today when grading an exam. I always tell students that they should bring an extra pen or pencil to exams, just in case. This student clearly followed my advice, because on the second page the ink gradually grew fainter, only to be replaced by another color. This pen lasted a few pages more, then grew faint and was replaced by a third. In all, the poor fellow went though six pens.

I hear those snickers - no, it's not my fault for writing a long exam. (laughter)

Words Written: zero - where's my microfilm?!
Lessons Graded: almost done!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

shiver in my bones

Massive thunderstorms hit yesterday afternoon and last night, complete with pounding rain and several bouts of hail. Despite all that I know about the devastation hail causes for farmers and gardeners there's something exhilarating about weather so wild. An appropriate event for Earth Day, no?

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: (sighs)

Evening follow-up: it snowed during my walk with Sam. Snow fer pete's sake!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

nerd bliss

I subscribe to several academic journals. One of them covers my time period and is the "must-read" for all of us in the sub-field. Lately the issues have been, well, dull even by academic standards. By "dull" I mean "not a single article I want to read and only one or two book reviews of any interest whatsoever."

The latest issue arrived today, and I want to read every single page. All of the articles look terrific, as do the reviews, and there's a neat looking piece about an archeological dig that even has pictures.

I'm almost as excited about this as I am about the new Harry Potter book - almost.

(sips the last of the coffee)

oh, but this is wonderful

NewMexiCan has posted this video of a professor's warning to a student who stole his laptop. Skip ahead to 48:40 or so, though the rest of the lecture is pretty interesting, too.

Rachel & TRP - now we just need to get jobs as consultants.

By the way, I've just brewed a perfect pot of coffee.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

running in place

The weather is very transitional this afternoon. A thunderstorm will break soon, probably sometime late this afternoon, so at times the air is cooler and the sky grey. At others the sun bursts back through the clouds and the birds get loud again. Something must be blooming, because the wind blowing in smells terrific. I love spring.

Very little progress of any sort by the lemming of late.

- Still no bathtub plug but I promise to visit a big-box hardware store soon.

- The end of the semester is nigh, which means another round of plagarists who are baffled that I can spot them so quickly. (Hint: when a B student starts talking about obscure political terms unrelated to the class, that's a good sign.)

- A friend took me out to lunch yesterday at the big downtown Indy mall. Though I managed to get there without incident, my innate inability to navigate meant that I had a tour of greater (and not so great) downtown before finding home. I though the streets named after states only ran east-west: oops. I did manage to stay in the right general area, which I suppose counts as progress of a sort.

- The advisor (may he live forever) is not happy with my latest written work. That is to say, he likes the ideas, but the execution isn't what he had in mind. I'd revise and give him rapid turn-around, except that there are papers of my own to be graded, and I'm being paid for rapid turn-around. I am getting lots of thank-yous from students which is always nice.

Speaking of which, a former student, now living in New Zealand, has offered to name a sheep after me. Compliment? I hope so.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-eight

Monday, April 18, 2005

the quest is the quest

I seek a plug for the bathtub drain. This seemed an easy errand, and I simply tacked "plug" onto the grocery list. Four stores later, I'm still looking.

I've discovered all sorts of really neat bathroom gadgets along the way through: special holders, designed to hold one toothbrush or one razor, a day-glo blue plexiglass toilet seat cover (very futuristic), all sorts of different baskets and bins to hold soap, contact supplies, bathroom cleaning agents, and magazines.

It's excitment enough to make me want to redecorate the bathroom, but still wouldn't solve the plug problem.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-nine, and miles to go before I sleep
Books on floor: eleven

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Book Meme

Hugh at Three Bed Two Bath tossed this Meme my way - so here goes.

You are stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?

I've already got most of Pride and Prejudice memorized, so I'd probably brush up on that, while dedicating most of my efforts toward memorizing A Mid Wife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Probably lots of people would pick Jane Austen, so having some Ulrich around would be helpful. My memory just isn't strong enough to learn, say, a Shelby Foote Civil War book, or any of the volumes of Notable American Women.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Quite a few Victoria Holt heroes have caught my fancy over the years, yes... * blush *

What is the last book you bought?

Last book I bought or last I book read? (I assume that this means "books read voluntarily" as opposed to "books I enjoyed but wouldn't have picked up were they not dissertation useful.)

I've a pile of books that are "in progress" on my desk. The only one not diss-related is The Memory of All That the memoirs of Betsy Blair, aka the first Mrs. Gene Kelly, who became a Marxist and activist with a large FBI file. Last academic book read was a survey of domestic violence in American History. It has a rather disturbing cover and elicited a lot of curious looks. (Then again, I elicit a lot of curious looks anyway, even without a book in my hands...)

The last book that I purchased was Where the Bodies Are, a book about graveyards. It proved useful for killing a spider.

Five books you would take to a deserted island

Do the Harry Potter books count as one volume if I bring the boxed set?
the Shelby Foote Civil War triology
A Mid Wife's Tale
A Bible, probably the King James for the beauty of the language
a copy of the dissertation, so that I can make corrections, ammendments, alterations in peace

I'd probably also try to sneak a copy of Swiss Family Robinson along. Their shipwrecked time is handled with such grace and improbable good fortune, plus I might get some useful survival tips. Wait, if the diss isn't done it doesn't count as a book, right? So it can just be something I throw in the life raft alongside Sam.

Lesse, I get to throw this meme to three others? (ponders blog cross-over options) Rachel, Drewster and Steven.

words written: lots, but not enough - must have into in by 4
lessons graded: zero

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I speak for the trees

I'm very fond of Jared, the Subway spokesman. A college classmate of mine turns up on a lot of commercials, mostly as a "damsel in distress" whose life is made instantly better by the product. Both of these folks have student loans to pay and I say, more power to them.

Did Mandy Patinkin really need to start hawking cholesterol-reducing medication?

The advisor (may he live forever) loves Roger's idea. We tweaked it a little yesterday, and now I have a lot of writing to do and a book or two to reread; he'd like to see the new introduction tomorrow afternoon.

My students are not going to like this.

Words Written: eight hundred and six
Lessons Graded: zero

Monday, April 11, 2005

coming up tulips

The first tulips bloomed today, a long line of them.

The mystery plants that I dug out of the neighbors' sandbox also thrive, which excites me no end. I must see about transplanting them sometime soon - I odn't know what size pot they need, but I'm sure they'll be happier in the ground. Still no blooms, so for all I know they're chives or prairie grass, but it's been a fun experiment in gardening.

I'm really hoping that Daylight Saving Time gets adopted today in the Indiana state legislature, even though I'd have preferred that we adopt Central Time as our zone. I still don't understand the argument that we shouldn't pick a time zone and stick with it because it won't accomplish anything. If nothing else, it will standardize television listings - right now you have to remember which networks think we're on Eastern in the summer and which ones think we're on Central.

Words Written: nine hundred or so (needs editing)
Lessons Graded: nineteen
Books on Floor: seven, not counting The Memory of All That

Saturday, April 09, 2005

spare a thought

I've blogged before about one of the strongest students I'll ever have. Please spare him a thought today, as he started basic training this morning. I had an e-mail from him this week mentioning that he'd been working on push-ups and feared how the first week would go.

Words Written: zero - been reading things Roger gave me
Lessons Graded: zero

Friday, April 08, 2005

Yet another dissertation post

Sorry, here's yet another dissertation post. I'm obsessed these days, and finally making the progress I really wanted to make years ago.

Roger, one of my academic siblings who has managed to actually (gasp!) graduate, was in town yesterday. What I thought would be an hour of coffee and light conversation turned into three+ hours in which we broke my dissertation chapters down into sections and then into ideas and came up with a new way to structure the whole thing. Plus we outlined a new introduction that pulls in new material.

Did I mention that, in addition to being smart, kind, funny and devestatingly attractive, Roger knows #3? (laughter) The new idea is designed to thwart some of #3's objections; we also came up with a list of books that support the new approach. I now have until Tuesday morning to write the intro, mock up the new structure, and present it to my advisor (may he live forever.)

I don't like this new plan. It's not what I wanted to write. Roger pointed out that "want" is not what the dissertation process is about. I must write about a topic I enjoy, but in a way that the four PhDs want. I don't like it, but I can live with it, and it will probably be easier to write this way. It also means that Chapter Two could become an article, a thing much to be desired.

For all of you who wondered why so many professors are bitter and nasty, I think I may have the answer.

Words Written: (deep breath - here comes the plunge)
Lessons Graded: zero

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I've been revising today. Mid-afternoon, a large spider scuttled across my toes and stopped next to the trash can. Without thinking, I picked up the nearest book and threw it on top of said spider, crushing it. To my amusement, the nearest book turned out to be Where the Bodies Are, a guide to finding "rich, famous and Interesting" grave sites throughout America.

That's sites by the way, not cites.

Words Written: I'm in the eight hundreds
Lessons Graded: fifteen

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

little things

My daffodils bloomed yesterday afternoon, around 3 PM. Despite my inadequacies as a gardener, they survived the winter and looks fantastic. Happy happy

I'm quite partial to Rachel's latest student blooper. Yesterday, one of my students, who frequently forgets to cite his quotations, started writing about the many important historic cites in Virginia, such as Monticello and Gettysburg. No, not one of the better lessons, but it amused me, which is almost as good. I don't mind the C students as long as they're trying their best, and he clearly is. Maybe I should go back to calling them quotations again.

One of the faculty who showed up to my presentation two Fridays ago turned out to have a particularly great intuitive understanding of what I'm trying to do - plus is very funny and easy-going. I'll call this person #42. When #42 learned that a Chapter Two existed, great interest was expressed in reading it. "I'll be at a conference this week, but please send it along and I'll get to it as soon as I can." Having slogged through #3's comments (all of them critical) I'm looking forward to seeing #42's comments, whenever they arrive.

I should explain my comment dependency and fixation: I'm an extrovert, very strongly so. I figure ideas out by talking through them with other people. Sitting by myself in front of the computer, day after day, may be the traditional writing method, but it drives me bonkers. Having other people who can read what I've written and offer ideas is exactly what I need. Then I can sit by myself in front of the computer again.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: twenty or so

Monday, April 04, 2005

a house, a home

I have a favorite house on the route Sam and I take each day. In the beginning, I liked it because it was obvious no one lived there, or had for a long time. Someone kept the grass trimmed and the flowerbeds weeded, this being suburbia and all, but the bushes grew ever higher.

The fact that the rooms were devoid of furniture and quite dusty supported this theory, too. (Of course I looked in the windows!)

Me being me, I made up stories to fit the house: a ghost frightened everyone away, madwoman in the attic, heirs fighting over an estate, meth lab that had contaminated the whole property.

About a year ago, I started to notice activity, but only on the weekends and evenings. Someone cut down the gigantic pine tree out front (took two weekends and several evenings) and turnd it into sawdust. The very ugly front door was replaced by something pretty. At this point a neighbor drew me into conversation. She had no idea why the house stood empty for so long without a For Sale sign, but we agreed that the house and yard looked much better.

Late in the summer, the owner had a painting party - paint cans all over the front porch, friends laughing and waving brushes and beer bottles. Boxes for new appliances stood next to the trash cans. The owner made lots of little changes in the fall and winter, but with warm weather he's completed the landscaping and planted grass on the bare patches. When Sam and I walked by today, he was sitting outside, having a beer with a friend, talking about the baseball season opener.

Once so dead, the whole place now looks terrifically alive.

Words Written: one hundred and six
Lessons Graded: too many, but most pretty good

Saturday, April 02, 2005

the memory of all that

I remember that I was small - maybe 7? - and I saw the cover of a magazine - maybe Time - with John Paul I, in state. Someone at church, probably a convert, explained that the pope was dead, but that the new pope would carry on his name.

I am no longer a child, and now there will be a new pope. I wish I could remember who offered that explanation all these years ago.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: thirty-nine

Friday, April 01, 2005


Kermit the Frog hatched in the swamp. He then followed his dreams to Hollywood and became a television and movie star.

Which swamp? Where? Does Kermit call Florida home? Lousiana? I assume that he's from the East just because he and Fozzie take such a long road trip, and it includes the Rocky Mountains.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: three