Saturday, December 30, 2006

the positive and the negative

In line at the grocery store (no liquor sales tomorrow, must stock up now) I stood behind a mother and daughter pair, the daughter maybe eight years old. The mother had a copy of the local paper in hand, complete with "Hussein Hanged" headline. She was trying, with far more patience than I feel at the moment, to explain to her child just who this person was, why executed, etc. "Well, all right, but what does he have to do with the war? Is this like the airplanes and the big buildings in New York?"

The execution accomplished naught except pleasing some people and creating a martyr for others. I suppose that's a positive.

On a happier note, I've just stumbled across a truly wonderful blog, oz and ends by a historian who also writes (and obviously loves_ children's literature. Any blog stumble that results in twenty minutes of reading is obviously a keeper.

If I don't make it on line tomorrow, a very Happy new year to one and all. Wishing us joy, laughter and peace in 2007.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

one of the last of the good men

I've always had a soft spot for Gerald Ford.

In a world of political chaos and treachery, Ford strove to rise above the fray, protect the nation and never mind the expense to his own political career or ambitions. How many people would describe a call to the presidency as a duty? as a part of civic responsibility? GWB feels "called by God" and WJC worked for decades to reach the Oval Office but that's not the same thing.

Ford was one of the last of the good guys and a dog lover to boot. A very sincere RIP to a man who did a very hard job to the very best of his ability and certainly far better than I would have coped under a more generous set of historical events.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I heard it! I heard it! I heard it!

All I want for Christmas...

Now I can go back to thinking of Mariah Carey as a very bizarre and flawed talent.

Friday, December 15, 2006

a happier note

Speaking of holiday music, as we've been, I've been trying to sing one of my favorite songs of the season in the car. The problem is that "Jesus Child" by John Rutter is written for four parts and, alas, I do not have an alto, tenor and bass along with me for these trips.

"Jesus Child" is written to be sung at a very fast "spit out the consonants" tempo and if you lose concentration for even a moment you'll be behind for the next five pages. Thus it is a glorious fun to ride the musical wave of knowing that you are at exactly the right point, know which notes are next and when you get to make a brief gasp. It's difficult to learn, but just a glorious joyride of a piece to sing once you've learned it.

I did hear Adam Sandler's "Hannukah Song" on the radio yesterday; not nearly as good as his one about Thanksgiving.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

regional Christmas

I'm becoming quite envious of Harriet's Christmas experience. I heard (scanned past) "Little Drummer Boy" four times this morning, electing instead to listen to the BBC coverage of the conclusion of the Diana investifation, which is at least cheerful. Meanwhile Harriet obviously only hears the song occasionally, but has had it up to here with Mariah Carey.

Not only does she have these musical advantages, but she lives around people with strange ideas about creche displays. (A Homer Simpson theme?)

Quite a few folks around here set up their glow-up outdoor creches the day after Thanksgiving. They will take them down on December 26. I think they're mostly pretty ugly, but rarely amusing.

Maybe it's the history teacher in me (OK, it is) but let's have a little accuracy here. Mary and Joseph only got to Bethlehem the night of Jesus' birth. The shepherds didn't come to teh stable until after Jesus was born and the angels gave them a quick heads up. The Wise Men didn't start out on their epic trip until they saw the star in the east and there's no star until after Jesus' birth.

Ergo, the only creatures in the stable as of December 13 should be the animals.

Then there's the issue of was Jesus really born on December 25, because shepherds wouldn't have been in the fields with lambs until spring... oh, never mind.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I am a grinch of music

That does it!!!!

If I hear "Little Drummer Boy" once more I shall scream, and I don't mean that in a rhetorical, ironic or otherwise over used cliche sense.

The song its self is fine - all gifts that we have are important, little things can bring even more joy than big thngs (much of the time, anyway... still waiting to find out how happy that that diamond tennis bracelet might make me) and "rum pum pum pum" is probaby more scintillating as lyrics go for the folks who get stuck with the harmony.

The problem is that it's been recorded by everyone and their Uncle Fred.

Have I heard "All I Want For Christrmas is You" yet? Of course not. It's all "rum pum pum pum." One Mariah Carey moment as I grade papers, is that too much to ask?

rum pum pum pum

Thursday, December 07, 2006

for what it's worth, it was worth all the while

The semester is winding down. There's a frantic scramble amomng some students to catch up with last minute details, while others have worked ahead and can calmly anticipate the exam. The quiet kids (why is it always the quiet kids?!) are coming out of the woodwork to say that they love my class and what will I teach next semester?

(No clue.)

The bottom feeders and ankle biters are trying to rouse my sympathies, patience and indulgence, sometimes indulgences.

I love the seasonal aspect of teaching. We build up to mid-terms, rest for a moment, then race to exams, before collapsing into the wonderful holiday embrace, be it Christmas or the fun of summer vacation. A series of sprints, in a sense, I suppose, but it's also a long-distance trek. Long after my young 'uns have returned home or started logging extra hours at work, I will be reading and reading their final work, calculating and recalculating their grades.

It's rare for me to be satisfied, but I am satisfied with this semester. Remind me again how having a Ph.D. would make it any better?

OK, job security - but other than that? I have done well and so have they.

Monday, December 04, 2006

sudden discoveries

While looking through a desk drawer, I found an uneaten Cadbury Cream Egg.

Elderly? Maybe. Delicious? You betcha.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

famous last words

Tomorrow should be the easiest, funniest, most enjoyable teaching day of the semester. I have depth and breadth in everything I must discuss and lecture upon, and plenty of canned jokes besides.

This probably means total classroom failure, but I am an optimist.

By the by, I've had the chance to use one of my favorite lines on several occasions recently. I try hard to present historical figures in a neutral light. "Well, lemming was a sneak, a liar and a murderer" sounds dreadful, but if you add a few details, plus throw in the observation that I'm fond of my mother or encouraged the Visigoths to invent central plumbing or told Warren Harding that his Cabinet was corrupt, well, it sounds better.

One of my classes is on to me. I'll try to prevaricate, combining the positive with the negative and they'll pause. "So, lemming was a dreadful person who deserved a painful death," one of them will observe. "Well," I casually say, "I'd have phrased it more gracefully myself..." I stole this line. I claim no credit - but I do deliver it well.

(ego ego ego ego)

Still no word if my contract has been renewed for spring semester.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

and what a lovely morning!

I was surprised to discover a full classroom the morning before Thanksgiving break - surely at least a few of them would leave early for break? No. I do notice that, now that we're all back, attendance has dropped. I think they're every bit as tired as I.

Monday, November 20, 2006

seasonal music

Jason has spent the past few weeks in eager preparation for playing as much Christmas music as possible immidiately if not sooner. As long as I don't spend too much time in malls or drug stores during the next few weeks, I'll share his enthusiasm. There's a sufficient variety of seasonal music out there that, if done right, you will will hear a little bit of everything over the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At the same time, it does seem a pity that we don't have a few traditional Thanksgiving tunes. I've been wracking my brains (too much time in the car today - 200 miles) and I've only come up with two: the university football team fight song of your choice and the hymn "We Gather Together."

I know the words (most of them) to two U fight songs, UMich and Georgia Tech. Both a nice, rousing "yay team" tunes, but neither mentions turkey or family.

"We Gather" starts out well - "We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing" OK, that's good. Then then we get "He hastens and chastens His will to make known." I've had plenty of hastening and chastening this year and am no closer to knowing His will. "The wicked oppressing" - eeek! Quickly we enter less cozy territory. Are there any seasonal tunes that are a tad more, well, positive? Thankful?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

marks on a page

I'm one of those people who writes in books - underlines critical phrases, asterisks main arguments, etc. It's pretty much impossible to get through graduate school without adopting some sort of marking up habits and after you start grading papers and exams, well, the compulsion to comment on everything written becomes hard to overcome. I loved my 19th century British Lit class in college, but I never would have gotten through Vanity Fair (which I loved!) without notes to myself as to what on earth all of those obscure words and phrases meant. (Probably less obscure 100 years ago, or had I been older, but no matter.)

I also tend to mark up textbooks these days, if only to help myself remember what it is that I want the class to discuss next week. One of the books I'm using at the moment (not of my selection) has downright beautiful illustrations even if the authors deserve to be taken out back and beaten with my old copy of Vanity Fair for their appalling prose and lack of detailed explanation of major points.

Last night I think I committed an unforgiveable sin - I started doodling and drawing pictures in the margins, filling up every available milimeter of space with squiggles and inter-connected triangles. This did nothing to inhence my unedrstanding of the authors' intentions or improve my teaching, but it did make the time go more quickly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

of animals with tails

I don't know a great deal about squirrels, and most of what I do know is as a result of watching Sam chase them. He's spent a busy afternoon stalking them around the back yard. I am convinced that they laugh behind their paws as they scamper toward acorns and away from him.

Lots of squirrels live in the neighborhood trees - I haven't personally counted all of them, though I'm sure Sam has. Most are ordinary looking, but one is unusually small, not much bigger than a mouse. For a long time I thought I must be imagining, that it was just a chipmunk with long fur. Following further conversation with neighbors, I've learned that several of us have seen it and all assumed that we were hallucinating, etc. Right now it's perched outside my window, staring at me (and, presumably, Sam) in a manner best descrbed as saucy.

At least I know it's for real!

Friday, November 10, 2006

no Cassandra am I

rarely have I been so pleased about being wrong.

I still stand by the Whig Party comparison - all right, you're the opposition, now what will you do with it?

I should hear in the next two weeks as to whether or not my evaluation went well. One of my adjunct gigs is mine for life, pretty much, but I'd like ot keep the other as well.

Meanwhile Sam is chasing squirrels.

Monday, November 06, 2006

a prediction

The Republicans will retain control of both the House and the Senate.

I base this prognostication upon the BBC reports. In 2004, the BBC reporteres were confident that John Kerry would win. Now they are confident that Congress will enter the hands of the Democrats.

As the Whig party found out in the 19th century, a platform which consists of "I am opposed to the party in power" just isn't enough.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I was wondering what the "eek" could be about, and then it occurred to me: you hate to be embarrassed by your department chair getting down on the floor, hugging your ankles, smooching your feet, and crying over and over, "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

Oh, Bartleby, would that such were possible!

The chair is one of the nicest people I've met in a long time and word through the grapevine is that while he won't be casual or perfunctory in his evaluation, I shouldn't lose sleep over it.

At the same time, said chair is best described as "inscrutable." In other words, he's hard to read. Therein lies the source of my neurosis. Naturally, he has opted to attend the class about which I am least confident. On the other hand, the students (to my astonishment and delight) do seem to not only pay attention, but to retain the material, sometimes better than I.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

a trade secret

I'll let you in on a trade secret: when teachers write an exam, thwy do it with two important factors in mind. First, does the test fairly examine what the students learned (or ought to have learned) from that particualr section of the course? Second (and nearly as important) which topics, personalities, etc, can I stand to read about over and over and over and over in a fairly short period of time?

There's one in the pipeline at the moment. My students have, with less and less subtlety, been trying to weasel hints out of me. Do you suppose this was enough of a hint?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

fund raising idea

Cities, towns, etc. are always short on funds for worthy projects, ranging from schools to roads to libraries to health care for the poor. I have come up with the answer, and it doesn't involve bake sales: parking tickets.

To be more specific, anyone who pulls into a fire zone and doesn't immidiately drop off a handicapped, heavily pregnant or otherwise classified "person in need of a short walk" then pull away to park will be ticketed to the tune of, oh $1000. The ticketee will complain bitterly, but I guarantee you that no matter how many tickets they earn, the ticketee will do it again.

I've noticed this trend several times today - on campus, at the library, grocery store, church - and out of thirty-nine cars (yes, I counted) only one pulled up, droppped someone off and moved on, as is required by law.

Such smugness on my part is only possible because I can honestly state that I've never parked in a fire zone. I saw the film Backdraft right about the time that I was learning to drive. There's a moment when a fire truck pulls up to a building and the way is blocked by a very expensive sports car. The fire department them is entitled to break all of its windows and pretty much trash it because they need to get to the burning building, damnit, and save the 10, 000 people trapped inside. Thanks to director Ron Howard, I got the message!

Friday, October 20, 2006

So many of your who scored a mere 60% and I rank as a 100% nameless guest figure? Is that ever good for my ego...

Ego, what ego?

My student loan payments kick in as of November 1. In other words, I will be reminded at least once a month for ten years that I failed out of grad school. This will trouble my advisor (who I hope is happy) and #2 (who maybe can have nice days) not a whit and will not even occur to #3 and #4 so may they die in - well, may they at least be miserable, though it won't happen as they are well insulated.

Target is hiring seasonable employees. #2 and advisor would be horrified that the idea of making $7/hour is appealing, but neither would they offer to help with the bills. I am qualified to do much, but paid to do little.

Sorry so morose - positive thoughts later.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Quiz - a tad more serious

I posted the last quiz with a firm sense of humor.

This one is rather creepier.

Your results:
You are An Expendable Character (Redshirt)

An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Deanna Troi
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Geordi LaForge
Will Riker
Beverly Crusher
Mr. Scott
Jean-Luc Picard
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Mr. Sulu
Since your accomplishments are seldom noticed,
and you are rarely thought of, you are expendable.
That doesn't mean your job isn't important but if you
were in Star Trek you would be killed off in the first
episode you appeared in.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character are you?" quiz...

This is rather what I've always suspected - I'm not a star. My ex-advisor (who I hope leads a reasonably happy life, be it short or long, preferably wracked with guilt) is s star. He's rank as a Picard. How apt is this ranking? Ye gads.

ours in humility
(no more quizes!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm who?

It's been a few decades since I watched the Superfriends, but my only memory of Green Lantern is that his mask stayed on without any sort of support.

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
The Flash
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

ko-hoh! ko-hoh!

There are several different routes that I could take to work, but the one which is generally the shortest is also the prettiest. The road winds along past sheep pastures, plus the occasional horses, cows and, to my astonishment, swans.

The first time I drove past the swan pond, I assumed that the fog or my bleary eyes misled the active part of my brain. On following trips, I watched for the pair again. It took me a while to realize that on some mornings they swam in their pond, and on others simply dozed in the grass, under the weeping willow tree.

I'm curious about this pair; clearly this is home, but for how long? Why do they not waddle into the road as with the Canadian Geese who seem to have invaded suburban Indianapolis on such mornings? There's no visible fense, and with everything I've been told about the potential agressiveness of swans, I can't imagine installing the collars for an invisible fence.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

rant revisited

My rant about the draft has generated more comments and more "blog traffic" than I ever anticipated, so a follow up.

I am a firm believer in the old maxim of "put your money where your mouth is." It's very easy to put a bumper sticker or magnet on the back of a car, or wear a purple heart band-aid. However I believe that such choices should only be made if the consequences are taken on as well.

An annonymous comment on my rant begins:

How does the draft = if you support the war then fight in it.

Um, it does. If you support the war, you should be prepared to fight in it. During World War II (the gold standard of wars) people over the age of 18 fought. People over the age of 40 organized the black-out drills, Victory Gardens, administered rationing, etc. Dropping a box of wet wipes into a collection box at Kroger isn't the same thing.

There are alot of young people who do not support the war and I don't see how making them join the war is going to help anything.

Huh? Did you actually read what I said? These are not the folks I want to be drafted. The people with the bumper stickers get drafted, not the people who oppose the war. By the way, "a lot" is two words.

I say NO to the draft. If they need troops then offer good incentives for young men and women to a living salary, better benefits and combat pay.

No disagreement from me on that point.

Americans have always responded when in need at war time. They will continue to do that into the future.

Ah, but that response takes many forms. Again, consider the WW II ration program and imagine trying to implement it today. Wouldn't happen. Apart from the inevitable lawsuits, Americans are not willing to be restricted, even if it means supporting the troops. Yes, we'll respond, but where are the 60, 000 additional soldiers going to come from? There aren't enough volunteers for the present need and to carry out the present need well. We're going to see troops serving multiple tours of duty ever longer and closer together.

All branches of the military have exceeded their quotas and will continue to do so. Young people do not have to join the military to get an education. If they did it's because their parents & guidance counselors did not take the time to advise them of what's available. Joining the military for money for college is a cop out. There is money available if you're willing to sacrafice and work for it.

This connects to my post how? I said nothing at all about this. I'm actually all in favor of giving educational credits to military folks, but I have no idea how this is related to my argument that we need 60, 000 additional troops and should get them from the bumper sticker people.

Why do I think Americans should be held to a higher standard? Two reasons. 1) We're the last super-power and 2) because we're Americans. If we are truly the greatest nation on Earth, we should prove it - in other words, put our actions where we've put our words.

here endeth the rant revisited.

Friday, October 06, 2006

on teaching

I'm exausted. Every time I hear someone say that teachers work wimpy hours, with summers off and all sorts of holidays, I want to scream, "yeah, you do what I do and then say that." Teaching is not only mentally hard (you grade 100 essays on the Lewis & Clark expedition without turning to vodka) but hard on the body as well. Teachers have to be perky and "on" all day - no coffee breaks, just there. 110%, all the time, whether in front of a blackboard, in the elevator, walking along the main path of campus, etc.

I love what I do, but it does wear me down. Right now I'm really looking forward to a hot bath, a large glass of merlot and an early bedtime.

Then I do a blogroll check and read about Xy's work as a teacher in New Orleans and feel quite ashamed of my weakness. I may invest heart and soul into what I do, but my students do not face the same challenges or dangers, God willing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

onward, onward and onward

Lemming progresses.

It happens more slowly than I would like most days, but as I plow through the first set of exams and assignments, I can see that I have actually managed to teach something to everyone. I've never done of one my current courses before, so I keep waiting to be called an imposter and sent out - yet I seem to be able to communicate not only the material, but a passion for it.


I am sickened by and having nightmares about the attack on the Amish schoolhouse. Unlike so many events that are described as "freak accidents" this truly was unpredictable and probably unpreveventable. Nonetheless it is horrific. Listenng to the BBC radio reports, I am struck by how frequently the British commentators expect that this will somehow change American gun policy.

Please don't get me wrong - nothing in current or future gun laws cold have prevented this from happening. Still, it doesn't improve our international standing.

Yours in pondering national and foreign policy,

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Warning: rant ahead

Bring back the draft.

I teach American History. I do not utter those words lightly.

Rational but informed military figures have indicated that 60, 000 additional soldiers are needed for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am still not clear as to why we entered this zone of the world in a military fashion, but now that we're there, we should do the thing properly. I'm of the opinion that as Americans we should be held to a higher standard and if we're going to do this "thing" for another three+ years (if not more, as seems quite likely) we should do it properly.

Our present military force is strained, exausted and needs, nay deserves, assistance and support. 60, 000 additional military folks can only be obtained through reinstituting the draft. All right then - if this is truly war, as I keep being told it is, then make it so.

However, I (in my control of the country) wish to reconstruct the terms of the draft. Unlike Vietnam, we will not send the poor, the minorities, the under-educated (remember, in the 1960s college professors were warned that poor grades would land a student on the front line) and the unconnected. No. This time, Americans will be forced to show how deeply they believe in their bumper stickers. Everyone with a "United We Stand" "Support Our Troops" and "GWB '04" emblem on their car must send a family member to serve in the Middle East. If you support the war enough to put on a sticker (or magnet) then you support it enough to send a loved one over there and, no, I don't mean the Texas National Guard.

I have another student scrambling to complete his classwork before being shipped back (and I emphasize back) to Iraq. He seems like a really great guy - and every time he leaves my office, I want to cry.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

weather musings

When I first looked out the window this morning, it looked to be a grey, glum, chilly Indiana day. There's not a shred of sunshine, everything is wet from last night's drenching and the leaves have begun to depart from the trees. Oddly enough, I haven't noticed any leaves still on the trees changing color, but the pile ups, now very slimy, have begun.

Then I remembered that said window, the one I can peer from without leaving bed, was open and my room wasn't cold. Instead of having his tail wrapped around his nose in "woman, what are you thinking?!! It's freezing in here! Close that window!" Sam was happily sprawled out, fast asleep, and occupying as much geography as possible. Perhaps this morning (day) wouldn't be quite so much like the land of Mordor after all.

Sam is none too happy about the wet ground. On mornings like this I imagine walking ahead of him with a hairdryer to dry out the landscape. Much as I love my dog, I don't love him that much, though I'm certain he would approve of the idea.

My neighbor assures me that dreadful weather is due to blow in later this morning, with perhaps a few plagues of locusts and frogs thrown in for good measure. Meanwhile, I'll enjoy what I have: a fresh cup of coffee, a happy dog and forty-eight hours in which to plow through a pile of homework assignments.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

thought to ponder

"Success and failure are greatly overrated. But failure gives you a whole lot more to talk about."
- Hildegard Knef

How so very true.

By the by, I had a fantastic work day today. I may be a PhD failure (the initial topic of this blog) but I'm by no means through in the classroom. Thanks be to God, Alleluia, alleluia.

Friday, September 15, 2006

weekend plans

I love teaching - one student, a room full of 500 - it's all fun.

It's the writing of horkwork assignments and exam questions (and the grading of the same) which is less fun. HJowever, being as I sent in another student loan payment today, I'm grateful to be employed.

I dreamed last night that I had on pajamas and a bathrobe, but was in a state of panic at tryiong to put on a second bathrobe before answering the door. I prefer not to examine the symbolic possibilities too closely!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

may I blame MD?

It is 8:15 AM.

It is dark.

Why on (swear word) (swear word) is Indiana on Eastern Time??!!

Dark, I tell you, it is dark outside.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

a threat

Dear Neighbor,

It's 8:30 PM on a school night. You have been pounding away at your gutters since 7:00 AM. Kindly cease and desist or I will throw what's left of my high heels at you.

P.S. your dog is silly.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I do not understand the fetish/ obsession/ adoration most women seem to have for shoes. I own perhaps five pairs, counting boots. This is because shoe stores are among my least favorite shopping excusions.

Through some bit of potluck, I'd managd to find a pair of heels that looked dressy, matched nearly all of my teaching clothes and were actually comfortable to wear for eight hours straight (bear in mind that I'm on my feet for most of that time.) Said shoes have now betrayed me and I am grateful for Motrin. (sighs) Back to the mall!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Act II

You know, I think this semester is going to be a really good one. My morning class still seemed a bit annoyed this week (hey, they're college students and therefore much cooler than I) but I've managed to slowly lure them into being intereted in the matreial and the class.

(heh heh)

I do mourn the lost PhD. I'm highly annoyed by what happened. At the same time, I do notice how many people spent the extra $20, 000 plus blood, sweat and soul selling only to be 60 and still working one year gigs. Right now (and I don't know for how long) I get to teach, teach and teach (fun) and skip the meetings, conferences and politics. If my nose is clean and my powder dry, I'm OK for the time being.

In fact, I'm better than okay. My students are amazed by me (good) and I am happy. For right now, that's plenty.

Monday, August 28, 2006

last minute chaos

When more than one person is teaching a section of a survey class, it's a good idea to touch base ahead of time. I got in touch with my partner-in-crime this summer and we agreed on a textbook and careful use of occasional primary documents. I planned out the class and various assignments based upon this conversation.

Throught sheer potluck, I just learned that my PIC is also using another textbook, one I've never seen before and about which I know nothing. I have very little time in which to retool my syllabus, not to mention at least scan the book.

Still in all, this is far more fun than struggling with yet another diss rewrite!!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Many, many years ago, I somehow fell into a discussion group. The leader drew questions from The Book of Questions and then people would signify agreement or disagreement with a position. To the question, "Would you watch an execution if broadcast on TV" all but one of us said an emphatic NO. One very small but strong voice replied, "Yes, I would. I am pro-death penalty, and if I am prepared to vote that way, write to my representatives about it and support it in a group such as this, I should be prepared to witness the outcome."

I mention this because I whiled about the hours of class preparation yesterday by listening to NPR. A story discussed a new movement toward asking anethesiologists to perform lethal injections to prevent additional pain and suffering. When the authorities asked for volunteers, no one in that state proved willing to, as they saw it, violate their professional oath or office to preserve life by participation. (One doctor in another state did volunteer, but has yet to be accepted.)

Listening to this while fumbling through my notes, I saw the words "public spectacle" and became chilled to the bone. Today "spectacle" includes AP wire photos of Boy George sweeping streets on his first day of community service for lying to police. It's not all that long ago that hanging, quartering, disemboweling, castration and floggings, far from limited to twelve carefully chosen witnessed, served as entertainment for the masses.

I truly believe, from all that I have read, that post-modern snuff films are every bit as barbaric as the executions of old. I do not advocate their public consumption. At the same time, what if randomly selected groups of 2006 Americans were required to watch executions as civic duty?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

ah, the possibilities

New Mexican suggests another possible set of uses for my history degree.

Fess Parker's birthday was yesterday - Davy Crockett's birthday is today. Coincedence?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

what's in a name?

It occured to me that many cities have streets or roads or blvds name after Martin Luther King, Jr. Now ths is all well and good - he's an important, significant and great man of American History. I'm all in favor of naming streets for him. At the same time, I can't think of a single street I've ever seen named for, say, Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman. I assume that they exist, but it's far less common.

Now I grant you that Malcolm X is, for some people, far more controversial than King, so perhaps that explains the geographical difference. What about someone like Jackie Robinson? Are there streets named for him?

Clearly it is my summer vacation. It's about to end - classes to prepare, textbooks to scan, syllabuses to plan. I am more grateful than I can say that I still have a job and can make such plans, even as I curse the mechanics necessary to enable me to go into the classroom.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Thunderstorms at night are exciting and occasionally even romantic. Thunderstorms at 10:30 AM on a Thursday are a nuiscance and not much more.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

pain and suffering

I realize that my students spent plenty of time and energy studying for their final exam. They are entitled to a final grade based upon that exam. I still hate reading and grading the blasted things. This is the moment when I must face the fact that, despite all of my enthusiasm, sleepless nights and personal passion, quite a few of them see me as just another Dibert cartoon. It's not personal - they might even have enjoyed my class - but they didn't study.

Three more exams to read and then I will be done and I will have a very large glass of red wine to aid in my recovery. Excuse me.

Words Written: zero
Lessons Graded: too many

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

dog days of summer enlivened

Another good, solid, fun teaching day - I got to talk quite a bit about sex and reproduction. This is always fun. I've been at this game long enough that I can throw out the name of various anatomical features and sexual activities without batting an eyelash. The same is not true of my students, so out of the corners of my eyes I can watch them slowly cross their legs, shift slightly away from the person next to them and raise eyebrows.

I promise, the bits about sex were entirely appropriate and fully relevant to the course materials. All students are 18 or older. (grins)

Sam is thoroughly tired of heat indexes of 105+. He desperately needs a walk, but neither of us has the fortitude to do it properly. We've grown soft in the last few years, he and I, and can no longer brave the elements. I do worry about taxing his heart and nervous system. He's almost ten, pretty old for a dog. With all of the news accounts of death due to heat indexes in the news... all right, I worry too much, but Sam is a pretty special fellow.

Monday, July 31, 2006

time well spent

Did anyone else watch the first episode of Alton Brown's new show on Food Network on Saturday night?

It was a two hour bonus - first an hour of behind-the-scenes insights: how do they get all of those wacky camera angles? Who are the visiting faces - how many are crew, how many are friends, how many are actors? (His chiropractor appears on a regular basis, did ya know that??!) As a frustrated actor who did plenty of tech work, I like his line that "if you work on Good Eats, you appear on Good Eats."

Then the new show, Feasting on Asphalt - Alton and three other motocyclists, plus men in a support truck, drive about, sampling "authentic" cuisine. (Authentic cuisine sounds to me like the original Iron Chef, but no matter.) The definition eliminates any and all chain restaurants and I suspect that before the month is out he'll have eaten a vast amount of grease. Nonetheless, all of last week's food looked great - except for the pig's foot. From careful examination of the promos, next week's authentic cuisine all looks good too, except for the brain sandwich.

Hey Jason 266! Can you get Food network to play in the neonatal ward? Perhaps a little Alton Brown will inspire Jacob's efforts?

I've been working on the last class of the summer. I've thought of about eight hours of material, plus numerous musical, film and artistic images I'd like to show. The question is, which ones? Jacob seems to eat better when I've had a good teaching day, so in the traditional quirkiness that fuels my ambitions, I feel like I really need to make this last class as fantastic as possible.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

more on teaching

A good teaching day - I was extremely nervous about how well I'd be able to pull off today's unit. Then, mid-stream, I realized that it truly was all coming together, that today's hook was working even better than I'd dared to hope (all ideas sound good at midnight) and through some miracle I managed to program exactly as much material as needed for the full class time.

Thanks be to Clio, the summer's race is almost done and fall semester should be calmer.

I'm more and more inclined toward giving up the frantic dash after the PhD. I feel better and happier than I have in years and, in an odd way, knowing that I don't have to be the perfect professional is a great release. Of course I say this without having yet handed out teacher evaluations...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The challenge to teaching in the summer is that the heroic instructor (moi) must cram four months of material into four weeks. This means that not only am I designing a class utterly from scratch (I've never taught this course before or even done it as a TA or even took it as an undergrad) but I have to come up with a way to make hours and hours of endless me entertaining as well as informative.

My students are a hard bunch to read - maybe it's a survival tactic. I have a couple who occasionally reveal their amusement or horror through a flicker of the eyebrow, and I've come to rely upon them more heavily than I think they know. Oh, they know the answers if I call on them and all of that and when I move onto an unusual or outrageous topic I can tell that I have their full and utter attention, but here's only so much you can say about President X that will elicit enthusiasm.

This has forced me to make all sorts of teaching choices I would usually avoid - I've showed a lot of film and documentary clips, played and analyzed music and disected pictures. I'm painfully (self) aware that this summer hasn't been my most effective teaching experience, but I think (hope) that having, through desperation, tried some new techniques and made them work, that I'll be that much better in the fall.

Perk #2 to not being a PhD - if I fell flat on my facethim summer, it wouldn't prevent me from being able to get a job somewhere else

Monday, July 24, 2006


Dave Barry (the humorist) has a Bacon number of two.

Someone with whom I was once in a play is now in the Bacon database, so I suppose that means that in theory I have one, too.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Perk #1 - no PhD means I don't have to go through the dehumanizing crunch of getting tenure. Graduate school is bad enough - don't even get me started on what profs have to do to get tenure. These are the folks who passsed the PhD hurdle, mind you.

More perks later. Meanwhile, a bit of great timing: I'm going out to dinner tonight. I met Martin when I was his TA. He being no fool, Martin would drop by office hours to discuss class, whch eventually devolved into discussing other safe topics (books, TV, that sort of thing.) A year later, he enrolled im a class but couldn't decide, based upon the description, if he wanted to take it. He showed up for the first class, saw me sitting in the TA row, and stayed.

You get the idea. Very flattering, to be sure, but also very reassuring - if my teaching inspired this kind of loyalty I must be doing something right.

At graduation, Martin e-mailed me to say that he'd always intended to take his favorite prof out for drinks and that was me. "Surely you'd rather have a PhD!" No, he wanted me. Now I'm sure that there was a certain glee in getting drunk someone who had marked up your papers, but it was a great evening. We've repeated it since and I hear from him occasionally, which gladdens my heart. He's back in Hoosier-land and we're going out tonight. Yes, we have a designated driver.

Oh, and his girlfriend is coming along, so don't get any purient ideas. (grin)

Gang of Four, eat your hearts out - how many of your old students (undergraduates, mind) make a point of staying in touch? I rest my case.

Monday, July 17, 2006

progress, but sideways

Met with #2 (upon whom may light shine) and have been pondering what was said and (more importantly) left unsaid.

#2 thinks I am smart, savvy, talented, etc. etc. etc. #2 is uncertain that I can insert enough academic gobbeldygook (my term) into a revised diss and has other reservations. #2 wants to see me with a PhD but is dubious about actuality. I've taught long enough to understand the translation.

Obviously this is a blow. I have one last shot, but it's clear that while #2 likes me and thinks highly of me, departmental and field politics are of more importance than an individual grad student. My failed diss will hurt #2 but at the end of the day closing ranks to protect #1, #3 and #4 (despite their failings, which were recognized) is more important than me graduating.

Really, I am OK.

To **** with politics and "that would make things complicated."

Obviosuly I'm angry and annoyed and all of that -- but there are perks. I'll say more later. Just keeping all of you posted, as per the terms of this blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

maliciousness and marsupials

Stories like this are why I love my BBC Headlines feature on Firefox. Killer Kangaroos might not attract the same fear as Al Q bombings, but there's nothing wrong with a brief distraction or six.

On a more somber level, I note that we've now had three attacks on the 11th of the month. On the one hand, I understand their enthusiasm for symbolism and pattern. On the other hand, I think I'd be even more frightened without such a predictable pattern.

There's a temptation to say, "Well, we're in Indiana, with no mass transit or all that many tall buildings, so we're safe." Then I think of Timothy McVeigh and Oklahoma City, chosen on purpose.

I grew up in a secondary strike zone. As a kindergartener I knew that Russia (whoever that was) might someday launch a bomb at us (a what?) and I knew where to go if that happened. I truly hoped that more than one generation would grow up without that knowlege. My students are unaware, but I do not think that their children will be able to make the same claim.

The train attack in India is horrible - yet even more horrible is that Al Q no longer has to attack on this CONTINENT to frighten us. They've made their point and we're all on guard.

Except when we aren't - because sometimes, we don't.

Marsupial off-spring spend a lot of post-birth time in the pouch. Would that we all had that comfort, maruding mothers or otherwise.

Monday, July 10, 2006

now I have seen everything

When I left for church yesterday morning, there was just enough fog on the ground to be beautiful without being a danger. Part of the drive takes me down a five-six lane bit of road. While glancing at the gas price signs, I noticed that the parking lot for this particular gas station was full of immature Canadian Geese.

The geese, as is their wont, decided to cross the street on foot. There so many of them that even walking three or four abreast, tightly together, the flock strung out all the way across all six lanes of the road. It was a brief nuiscance, but oddly beautiful in the half-grey light... also rather amusing, as I think about it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

for this I am paid

Dear Prof Lemming

That should be a lower-case l, but no matter.

I'm sorry that I've not yet come to class no problem, it's only been a matter of weeks that class has met and I've never heard of or from you... but I've been busy, etc. etc.

I have every sympathy with students who have lives outside of class. There's a reason why I don't attach a grade to attendence.

At the same time, the mid-term is next week and you still haven't come to class? Not even long enough to get the syllabus and then walk out?


Thursday, July 06, 2006

tales from the front lines

Student: Prof lemming, that was a pretty biased left-wing documentary. Why can't you show something unbiased, like from Fox News?
Me: Trust me, when Fox makes a documentary on (relatively obscure topic) I'll show it.

Student: Gee, Mizz lemming, I never bought any of those stories about minorities being beaten up and threatened after 9/11. It must have been all New York Times propaganda.
Me: Um, well, yes, it happened. Even here in Indiana...
Another Student (upon whom may Clio smile): Oh yeah, I knw it did. It even made Fox News. (provides examples)

I've been accused, on more than one occasion, of being "out of touch" because I teach at the university level rather than in junior or senior high school. It's day slike today that make me feel I am truly accomplishing something good and significant, one student at a time. By the end of class I had taught my students useful information about their history, encouraged a thoughtful discussion or six and only ran through three dry-erase markers in the process.

I like days like this.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

today's saint

Today is the Feast Day of St. Athanasius the Athonite. He is known for founding the famous monastary on the top of Mt. Athos. He doesn't appear to be the patron of much of anything.

You just don't meet very many people named Athanasius. Were I a Roman Catholic, I'd be tempted to pick it as a confirmation name.

Jason266 and his wife welcomed a baby boy this morning - as of his posting, they still didn't have a name. Just my little suggestion... (grins)

Monday, July 03, 2006

anvils, hang-gliders and the like

I've officially asked #2 (upon whom may light shine) for a meeting to "discuss possibilities."

There are no words sufficient to describe my terror. Suffice it that, to cobble a lin from Sylvia Plath, I have been to the bottom, seen its roots, and I am not afraid.

Well, not too much, anyway...

American spoken here

I'm not sure how I feel about the Philly cheese steak shop's Please order in English sign. I'm not at all surprised that the person whom the reporter chose to quote claimed that in the United States we speak "American."

Yes, yes, English as spoken in the United States has its linguistic variations that are its own. Someone from, say, Manchester, could handle walking into a fast food restaurant and ordering a value meal, but might have just as many problems ordering a Philly Sub "wit" as would I.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

a nice thought

"Historians like the quiet life. For the most part, they get it."
-Simon Schama

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I thought so.

Am listening to the news as I write this, and the Archbishop of Canturbury has just released a statement. At base, he's siding with the Africans.


Bearing in mind that the British are far less likely to be practicing church members than the Africans or the Americans... but it's the symbolism that gives his voice clout.

Marilyn, my Marilyn

My summer classroom is a pleasant space as industrial-type classrooms go. It's well lit (yay) and has plenty of dry erase board space. (Chalkboards are just so 20th century.) The students have plenty of space for books, beverages and notebooks and the chairs are surprisingly comfortable.

"All right then, lemming, so what's the problem toward which you seem to be building?"

Well, it's not a problem exactly. I noticed that the room was a trifle warm, not surprising in an Indiana summer. Then I noticed that most of the students in the back row wore sweatshirts. Utilizing the problem-solving skills learned during the course of my liberal arts education, I deduced that the air conditioning vents which were actually on must all be at the back of the room.

During the break, I took a stroll back there - and my skirt flew up in the blast of arctic air coming from the floor vent. Fortunately no one else was there, so I may still pretend to be dignified in front of my class.

Oh, OK, one complaint: I have to bring my own dry-erase markers for the dry erase board.

Monday, June 26, 2006

oh the humanity!

I've been chatting with people, in person and via the Internet, about the visions our new Presiding Bishop-elect will bring to the position and how she might choose to implement them. Most people seem generally positive about Jefferts Schori's qualifications - having an airplane pilot and oceanographer for a bishop delights me - though inevitably the discussion turns to the unity of the greater Anglican Communion.

The Church of England can't seem to decide where it stands on the current arguments. The United States has more than a generation of ordained women within our experience, and if we can ordain women, why not have them as bishops and presiding bishops? Other areas of teh church, the Africans in particular, still oppose the ordination of women and have urged all sorts of penalties for homosexuality, whether among the clergy or otherwise. As I see it (in my own biased way) if a split does happen, the big question will be and is: on which side will the Church of England chose to ally its self?

In discussing this with one person, the conversation moved on to the subject that the African Episcopal clergy are still grappling with trying to eliminate polygamy: the acceptance of homosexuality, however grudging, is unthinkable there due to the social/ cultural/ economic situation. The other person then commented that his concern with Jefferts Schori is that she wants to continue working with AIDS/ HIV issues in Africa. "This is pouring good money down a sieve. I see no point in sending them drugs or working toward curing them with the various therapies available in the West until they change their culture. Why throw away our efforts on people who refuse to change their behaviors? Until the beliefs about the sexual availability of women..."

I almost burst into tears.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

a shameless plug

Hey there! This is an official plug. Drew is finally back to blogging. As he's the person I generally describe as "most likely to successfully blackmail me" go read his blog. Now. Please read it six or seven times a day at the very least - please! Plus he knows the names of all of the presidential assasins, would-be and successful. 'nuff said.

Monday, June 19, 2006

movie meme

OK, I swiped this. It's increasingly common, so I jump on now. OK, OK, I am a lemming.

A. Pick 11 of your favorite movies.
B. Then pick one of your favorite quotes from each movie.
C. Post the quotes on your blog.
D. Have commenters guess what the movie is.
E. Either strike out the quote once it has been correctly identified or place the guesser’s user name directly after the quote.
F. Extra points for knowing the actor or character’s name.

1) By god I have had this congress!!!
Alison 1776 - credit to Drew, too!

2) I was sorry that our aquaintance would be so short.
Joe Kind Hearts and Coronets

3) Let's strike a flint and see.
Hugh, but it's not Anthony Hopkins, Lion In Winter
(I remember it as Geoffrey, but I suppose it could be AH)

4) I've seen better organized riots.
Alison and Harriet Chariots of Fire

5) Your son is alive!
Jason Gosford Park

6) It is a truth universally...
Harriet Pride and Prejudice

7) Jewel, my jewel...
Joe & the Internet Betrayal

8) We met at work.
JasonLove, Actually

9) Dad, I was the next man.
Brownie IJ and the Last Crusade

10) A skating instructor??!
Drew with bonus points for Gaston

11) Your mother was a hamster!
Sumo MP and the Holy Grail

Jason officially qualifies for additional reproductive organs for his excellent (and correct) guesses.

Friday, June 16, 2006

the toll paid

Yesterday the tally of dead American service personnel officially reached 2500. The number of Iraqi civilian casualties is far higher. Tonight on "The Evening New With Jim Lehrer" the names and photographs of twenty dead soldiers were shown.

I do not pretend to have answers, whether easy or difficult. I do know that something has got to change, for all of our sakes.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

another useful saint

Today is the feast day of St. Vitus. He is the patron saint of comedians, dancers and Sicily. He can be invoked against choera, epilepsy, lightening, snake-bite, wild animals and, my personal favorite, over-sleeping.

My saint guide observes that while his "cult is very old... credible details about his life are few, nor can we be certain of his connection with the debilitating medical condition of rheumatic chorea called St. Vitus's Dance." Vitus's life includes last minute escapes from lions and immersion in boiling oil, and at least one instance of dancing angels distracting a would-be executioner.

The guide makes no mention whatsoever of why he is associated with over-sleeping.

Historical note: I am reasonable confident that I am one of a very few Indiana bloggers ever to use the word "chorea" in an entry.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

country roads (and not)

I managed to get myself quite thoroughly lost yesterday, Brown County is a lovely place at any time of year, but Interstate is Interstate after a while.

Though I've never been much interested in urban history, the many varieties of strip mall I saw yesterday might actually insprire me to do a little reading in Wikipedia. There's an incredible range in design and lay-out among them, and the degree of upkeep seems to vary wildly.

Whether driving past them once or three times, I still think all strip malls are ugly.

Monday, June 12, 2006

your dimple, your snoring, how dear

I had no idea that JQA's ideal lemonade would attract such interest. Against my will, I have come to find blogging and its world great fun, in part because I never know what random bits of my thinking might actually be interesting. #1 Reason why blogging is like and yet unlike a cocktail party...

To ressurrect an old rant, why the @)&*^#$$@@**$&*(*$%^$#%^ is Indiana now on Eastern time? Maine is on Eastern Time. Boston, NYC, etc - and so why are we, a grudingly Midwesterm location, pretending to be Maine??!!

Friday, June 02, 2006

suggestion for the weekend

In 1835, John Quincy Adams attended a party and thoroughly enjoyed the lemonade served. He liked it so much that he recorded the recipe in his diary.

Add to one gallon of water:

a bottle of Jamaican rum
a bottle of cognac
a bottle of champagne
a pound of sugar

optional: a pint of lemon juice

Source: Paul Nagel, John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life , page 351

Thursday, June 01, 2006

History, Ancient and Modern

I had an odd dream last night involving dinosaurs. I've never been a huge dinosaur buff, really. It's incredible to me that, millions of years ago, some dinosaur built nests in the same area where Sam and I now take our evening constitutionals, but I've never done any research into which varieties inhabited the Midwest. I suspect that there's probably an eight year old in my neighborhood who could tell me all about it. (Precocious Neighborhood Child didn't know but was amused that I asked.)

Let's just say that the interview went very very well and I suspect that I am going to have a truly lovely fall semester. Several of the aspects of my work cited as great weaknesses by the Gang of Four (tm) were praised today as my greatest assets. Oh for a video camera... Where's Big Brother when you need him?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

amazing book

On a whim I picked up The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman. (Yes, Joe, it's a library book.)

The dust jacket said something about mother/daughter relation ships, blah blah blah, not all that appealing given the rather large number of books available on that topic.

The second paragraph indicated that the heroine is in her thirties, All But Dissertation, works several adjunct teaching jobs.... right there, I was interested. "[T]he buts are all but taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married..." Through happenstance, Iris meets with a literary agent who says that if Iris can find her deceased mother's unpublished final novel and write a book about the process, the agent can get it published. (Syntax, I know.) The book could also serve as Iris's dissertation, how perfect?

Goodman includes some wonderful ideas about the "teachable moment." She brilliantly describes what can happen when an instructor takes a chance with an assignment and it pays off in spades.

It's not all about teaching though - there's suspense, humor, romance, drama and truly terrific prose. Interspersed with the narrative are "excerpts" from Iris's mother's novels, which can be read just for fun or mined for clues and symbolism.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

this, that and the other

I do occasional soul-selling freelance work. My latest editor (upon whom may locusts and plague decend) consistantly doubts my word because it contradicts the Internet. I know what you're thinking - said editor is a good 20 years older than I. I have corrected the same citation four times - The Lighthouses of Belgium was written by Eva Olsson Svenson Kleinsdorf - and said editor keeps visiting the Internet and citing other authors. Today I complained to the editor's boss. I'll probably lose my next contract, but maybe I've made my point. Use books!!

(insert very adult sounding-tone) Ah, Mizz lemming... I see that you have multiple teaching awards (modest blush) and a reputation for enthusiasm when tackling unfamiliar classes. (further modest blush) So all seems to be well on that front. Unless I turn into Giorgi the Shepherd before my interview, I should at least be able to make enough money this fall to cover my student loan payments.

Now please excuse me - I am 80 pages away from the end of the most amazing novel I've read in years. I'll say more tomorrow.

Friday, May 26, 2006

one brick at a time

Sorry to have vannished again. The enormity of what happened finally hit me in a big way, and I've spent a lot of time just staring out the window or watching ancient re-runs of Unsolved Mysteries. The "things left undone" are starting to mount up - nothing I can't cope with in a timely fashion, but looking at a pile of projects which need completion probably didn't help my mood.

Then came last night's phone call. I'd applied for an adjunct gig this fall, teaching a class I've done so many times that I genuinely could do it with one hand tied behind my back if awakened at 3 AM even if I'd consumed a large amount of sake the night before. My fingers were crossed, but the flickering hopes were set to splutter. Without getting into specifics, I'll say that it's very clear that the chair liked my C.V., liked what the grapevine had to say about my experience and teaching ability, and that I'm almost certainly going to like my interview next week.

The liklihood of having a structure, at least until the end of 2006, is acting as a buoy. The job isn't yet mine and I'm still sluggish, but the flickers are now flames.

On a different topic, I've blogged before about my truly wonderful and kind neighbor who, mysteriously to me, is part of that 31% of Americans who still approve of the president's job performance. Every now, and again, I try to discuss this with her, not in an attempt to change her views, but out of a desire to understand them.

We had another such conversation this week. Every now and again I think I've caught a glimmer; this time it boiled down to her perception that GWB is a good man, good father and good son. (I didn't point out that this is what the Nixon girls have always maintained about their father.) She couldn't give me any particular reason for this belief, other than the infamous story of Laura Bush insisting that her husband become sober or file for divorce. Basd upon this event and GWB's spiritual embrace, her instinct says that his decisions are right and his judgement sound.

Monday, May 22, 2006

wherever your destination might take you

I spent much of the weekend in transit. As most of this travel occured via airplane, this means that I spent most of the weekend in airport waiting rooms, waiting on the ground and pondering the "drive" between landing in Mooresville and then driving via airplane to the Indianapolis Airport terminals. A few thoughts:

Dear Steward: I realize that it was the end of a long day for you as well as for us. However, it is your job to be pleasant and cheerful, even if your feet hurt and you're sick of people who try to cram bags the size of Montana into the overhead luggage compartment. There's a reason why much of the plane laughed at your remark about destinations.

By the by, when did people get the idea that such luggage qualified as "carry-on?"

Airports are an increasingly curious place in which to spend time. Nearly all of the waiting areas I passed were crammed to the brim, even at 6 AM. On the other hand, there's also more to do outside of the gate. I watched several interesting DVDs being broadcast in gift shops. The staff seemed reconciled to having a small crowd of bored travelers, unable to find a seat, all clustered at the back of the shop. I guessed the watchers to be Americans, based on the large number of sweatshirts we wore and the occasional shot glass purchase. In contrast, lots of well-dressed foreign travelers (I could tell by the passports they clutched) snapped up bears embroidered with the face of George W. Bush and caps depicting Air Force One.

By the by, I purchased none of these items.

I really wanted to do a crossword puzzle yesterday evening on one of the flights, but all of the magazines around me had already been used for this purpose. Will Shortz needs to get in touch with the airlines about including more puzzles and fewer articles about "Where to Eat in the Bahamas." Yes, the food looked lovely, but the illustrations still leave me quite bit short of the plane fare.

On another flight, the man sitting behind me turned out to be freshly home from his second tour in Iraq. He responded very politely to his seatmates queries on everything from food to heat. (Hey, without a puzzle to occupy my thoughts, of course I eavesdropped.) She was oddly reticent at one point until he finally came out and said, "if you mean was I shot at then the answer is yes, and more than once."

All of the post 9/11 security now seems normal - the long lines, shoe removal and family farewell at checkpoints rather than gateways - but talking in a personal way with a returned soldier still proves more difficult.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

maybe I'm amazed

As an avid reader of People magazine, I like to think that I am reasonably informed about celebrity gossip, even if I am not entirely sure about the actual context for the famous person in question. For example, I first heard the Ricky Martin version of "She Bangs" about two weeks ago, but I did know all about the American Idol pop sensation created... even if I hadn't heard that version, either.

When it comes to the Beatles, I am much more of a "George Girl" and that only under duress. Lennon is over-rated and McCartney should have done more (or maybe less) LSD. ("Live and Let Die" anyone??!)

That having been said, I am saddened by the latest divorce news. It cannot be easy to be married to an ex-Beatle, let alone to be an ex-Beatle, and despite my cynicism, I did truly wish them the very best four years ago. (Really!) They seemed like a nice match and ai Love the name Beatrice. I am not surprised to learn that the McCartney marriage has fallen apart. Heather Mills McCartney must have known what a huge mantle she assumed with this marriage. Paul M. knew what he was in for in a pop culture sense. I can only imagine their pain. Unlike Brittney and J. Lo, I can truly wish them the best.

Makes a challenged dissertation seem a small problem. Then again, I could live with (and on) a 1% share of $1 billion.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

savaged by a rogue pheasant

Out of the clear blue surprised sky, I had a lovely long chat with an acquaintance today at the grocery store. Most of it revolved around granola bars (you had to be there) but we eventuallyly moved on to the placement of various items.

We were both intrigued to notice that the frozen pie section of the store in question is almost as large or perhaps even larger than the milk section. This puzzled us. Do people really eat that many or more fruit pies in between visits? The placement of Cool Whip (tm) next to the pies made sense to us, but do people really need even more of it than of, say, cheese? At least with cheese, room needs to be made to fit in all of the different brands, varieties, etc. but there are only so many Cool Whip options out there. Yet the bank of Cool Whip is far larger than the cheese area.

By the time we'd moved on to comparing the size of the bread section to the size of the Hostess snack section (yes, John, I did mention your traditional breakfast) we concluded that we really needed to either #1 get out more or #2 go back to graduate school and get the MBA degree. Both of us opted for the former!

On a more somber note, the "oh my GOD what am I going to do with the rest of my life and is this windmill really worth tilting?" dilemma still hangs over my head. Most of the time I percolate and weigh my options, but every now and again it truly makes me want to scream. Lousy teachers get to work as profs because they wrote a good dissertation, but I, a good teacher with a less than perfect dissertation, am supposed to - do what?

Friday, May 12, 2006


I've said before that one of the things I like about Indiana is the climate. Oh, we have our really hot, really cold & really snowy days, but not to many. WInters are reasonably mild and spring is long.

On the other hand, by now you'd think that I would remember to check the weather forecast or check to make sure that all of the windows are closed when the overnight temperature is going to be 40 degrees.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

naval gazing

Marvin had his downsides, but he was great as a supervisor and I appriciated his williness to back his grad students, no mater how stupid our actions. (He'd tell us we'd been stupid, but would stand behind us.)

I'm sure that my ruminations on Marvin owe something to my current miseries. I knew him only as a boss, but I do suspect that had he been my advisor, this would not have happened. Yet I still revere, admire and honor my advisor (may he live forever) and I keep thinking that all of this must somehow be all my fault.

You've all been so kind and if I could distill one thesis from your comments and e-mails it is that this isn't all my fault. Certainly I carry some blame, but I should remember that some also falls on the people who let me think that I was going to graduate.

Oi but this post has become depressingf. I'll end on a positive note. When Marvin retired, the university threw about 10, 000 parties to honor him. I'll never know why, but I was one of a very small handful of students that Marvin made sure was invited to each of them. As I've said, the man was not perfect, but just having me there made him so happy and that just blew me away. Oh, sure, we make our parents happy, ya ya ya, but my showing up and schmoozing made him happy. Wow.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

let us now praise

Part of being a grad student slave (not that the faculty could care) (excuse the personalized bitterness) is that you end up working for a wide variety of professionals. Some you come to loathe. Some you might not want to invite 'round for tea, but they have aspects you admire nontheless. Some you like very much.

I've been thinking about Marvin. (As always, fake names, etc. on the off chance that I am still employable.) Marvin has his downsides, but he was a great mentor and took teaching us how to be teachers very seriously. Naturally this emphasis meant that the university paid him far less than the researchers - after all, any idiot can teach. Uh-huh.

Anyway, while Marvin was and is not perfect, I've thought a lot abou him lately. He always said that I would be a great PhD...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

thunder and the moon

I have the Gang of Four's overall assesement.

Some of it makes sense. Some of it seems to be written in gibberish.

I have comments from #2, upon whom may light perpetual shine and endow with a great tan. They are critical, but also offer praise and positive comments.

Now I wait for the rest.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Lately I've become obsessed with obscure bits of Medieval geneology. While rearranging books on my office, I found a huge family tree of monarchs (etc.) of Great Britain and their affiliates. Spread out on the floor, (how better to study a family tree?) I pore over it, looking for the connection between Edmund of Langley and Bonnie Price Charlie.

Yes, I am a sick and twisted person. This kind of work and research pleases and excites me. Were this enough to qualify me for a PhD in history you would not have to read this entry. Alas and alack.

(Not that you're forced to read anything, you understand.)

I'm interested to see which kings merited princesses and which married illegitimate princesses - Llywelyn for example.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I'm very fond of Precocious Neighborhood Child, though I don't blog much about her. Sam is a few chromosomes short of being in love with her, as she's happy to scratch his ears endlessly whenever they meet. PNC is quite bright, very funny and all of that, but such a strong individual in her own right that I truly admire her. I never know if a conversation about the Constitution ("My mother said you'd know the answer") will stay on topic, or move on to something erudite but odd.

For example, PNC has an extra-large cage in her room for her pet rats. When the rats died, her parents (good people) wanted to replace them. Naturally they turned to the Internet. This, to cut a long story short, meant that the replacement rats came from Ohio. Weekly updated photos got sent via e-mail and then one Saturday they took a family road trip to pick up the new rats. If you knew PNC and her parents this would not come as a surprise.

PNC is bright - alarmingly so sometimes. She knows which teachers will challenge and which will tow the line. She's pleased that her least favorite sub is filling in for the month at another class "it means I'm safe." She's highly annoyed at how "boring" school is (she's in the gifted program) and looks forward to Middle School, because it will have study hall. "Then I can really get to be good at checkers."

I'm always secretly pleased when PNC is outside as Sam and I walk by. Our conversations are unpredictable, but always enjoyable. For some reason she has decided that, while an adult (aka yucky) I am still worth the conversation time and it's always wonderful. I think it might be my interest in her rats. I like mammals in cages, what can I say...

PNC spends most of the summer scheduled and away from the neighborhood. Much as I am happy that summer is a'coming in, I shall miss her.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

calling all residents of Indiana

I don't care if you are a Hoosier or a transient registered voter.

Today is election day. I voted. As of 9:35, I was the fifth person in my district.

go vote!!!

Monday, May 01, 2006

draft post

The miracle has happened. I made it through an entire George W. Bush speech without cringing, making snide asides or throwing something at the television or radio.

All right, so it was his speech to the White House Press dinner and not anything on policy. I did appriciate GWB's willingness to laugh at his problems with pronunciation and ability to joke about Cheney. If you happen to find it on the web (I think CNN has clips) or catch it on C-SPAN, it's very good. I like Colbert's piece too, though watching it you remember that he's trained in drama, rather than as a stand-up. It's thanks to Colbert and Jon Stewart that I have any idea what's going on in the world. (All right, I do exagerate a tad, but it's partially true.)

I'm slowly resuming all of the quasi-normal activities that I dropped in the interests of "graduating" this May. Sam and I go for long walks. I've read a lot of fiction, much of it books I remember loving when I was younger (The Borrowers series, for example) and found that I still love them. I spent much of one morning just watchng fun DVDs, couldn't tell you when I last did that. I've even gone back to eating regular meals and cut back on my caffeine.

In short, by starting to get back to myself, I've started to feel far happier, less stressed, and I've even lost five and a half pounds.

Words Written: free-lance work
Lessons Graded: thirty-nine

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Hello world! Hope you're all well.

On occasion I do free-lance work to supplement the "lemming foundation of research into dead people" budget. My editor is a PITA but we get on well and have a comfortable relationship. I wouldn't want this editor at my bedside were I dying, but we get on well. I can respect the sense of history and context that my editor has and he/she seems to respect my experience.

Said editor had planned to attend my graduation. I've learned that a group from church had made similiar plans. (sighs)

Meanwhile it's the end of the semester, so I am grading quickly and wishing everyone the best. I do believe in my students, but the proccess of writing letters of rec are enough to make anyone a cynic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


1000 more days to GWB's time in office.

This is how many days JFK spent as president.

(tries to compare Bay of Pigs and Iraq...)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Yorkshire Terrier revisited

Thank-you to everyone who has commented, called and e-mailed with your support over the last few days. Quite simply, I do not have words sufficient to thank all of you for your on-going support.

I've decided not to blog about the next stages of the bureaucracy. I do have options and strings left, and I intend to thoroughly investigate all of them. If any of them are of particular interest, please drop me an e-mail.

Today is the feast day of Gabriel the Arch-Angel. I'm not quite sure how an angel can be a saint, but no matter. Not surprisingly, he is the pratron of anyone involved in communication and, by extension, of stamp collectors. I had no idea that stamp collectors even had a patron saint.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

an anvil on the hang-glider

I got a call from my advisor (may he live forever) last night. It seems that the Gang of Four (tm) wants another 12-18 months' worth of research, writing and revision from me. So much for graduating next month.

I promise to be cheerier tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

teacher stuff

I've been writing exams today and pondering my syllabus for this summer. I try to be professional in my course outlines and goals, but something about exams brings out the goofy in me. A little humor seems to actually help students relax during an exam, but it's best limited to the extra credit questions, rather than the essays. The round of questions I wrote before lunch (I need to write several versions of the same exam)contained far too many in-jokes and references that no one but me will understand.

I take that back "none of my students." The joke about being "nailed to a perch" will have to go, as will all of the As Time Goes By references, though I might keep a few of the names. The lemming joke should probably be dispensed with as well, alas.

I hate making multiple choice exams almost as much as I hate grading them. The one perk is that they do allow you to express the sillier random pop culture aspects of your personality. Alas, I am not all that funny, nor am I being paid to do so.

Over teh years I've written quite a few letters of rec for former students, and so far I have a 100% acceptance rate. I've just heard from one of them. He seems a nice guy and was a fair student, but not great. I tried to highlight what he'd learned about writing from me and stressed the improvement in his grades, but feared it might not be enough. Whew! He got in.

Monday, April 17, 2006

what dreams may come

Last night I dreamed that a very attractive man invited me to have a nightcap in his (very nice but not ostentatious) apartment. We were drinking martinis (which I loathe) when his cats came into the room. Being a polite person, even when asleep, I asked my companion to introduce me.

I never did seem to know how many cats he had, but I do remember that he'd named each of them after a letter of a Greek alphabet, in order. Other than Alpha and Omega, I haven't thought about the Greek alphabet since college (what can I say, I knew a lot of fraternity guys) but somehow in my dream I knew that this man had named his cats in alphabetical order. Some had died, so the cats weren't in order, at which point he began to tell me about each of the various feline demises in his life.

Usually I try to analyze my dreams for what my subsconcious might be trying to tell me. In this case, and with all respect to Sam, I think I'll refrain.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

books I think I've read

I read a novel today. I have many shortcomings as a person, let alone as an academic, but I do read quickly. It truly was a luxury to sit down with a book and read it, cover to cover, without constant breaks for additional chapter revisions, etc.

Not that it was a very enjoyable novel - I hate it when men try to imagine what women think about sex because they almost always get it wrong - but I read all of it.

Still no word from my advisor (may he live forever) which I take as a good omen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

oh what a beautiful day

It's a glorious day today - the thunderstorms disappeared and teh sun came out. I spent more time outside with a novel before sitting down again to the joyful task of making out a syllabus.

Sam treed a cat today, despite the fence between them. Even neutered dogs have their [pride.

Words Written: zero (ha! ha!)
Lessons Graded: fifty-six

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

he would have an airplane

Slowly settling into the waiting process, I've realized that I don't have a thing suitable for wearing to my defense. Tempting though it is to shsow up in my favorite history-geek t-shirt, baggy jeans and silly sweatshirt, the wool socks would probably not make an appropriate fashion statement.

I still think it's preposterous that we share atime zone with Maine, but I am grateful for teh extra hour of daylight in the evening. Sam and I can take longer walks and I worry less about rushing him past the hydrants so that we can get home before twilight. Soon it will be too hot to walk in the evenings, and I want to enjoy the time that we have left.

I haven't yet gotten around to putting away any of the books. I've been trying to decide if I should adopt another organizational idea or continue with the old one. The clutter, needledd to say, is enormous. There's a narrow path for me and poor Sam picks his way carefully about, or else settles for a flying leap.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I am alone with my sheep

Words Written: zero (ye-haw!)
Lessons Graded: zero (The natives are beyond restless)
Books on Floor: One hundred and eighty-eight
Books on Desk: seven
coffee cups on desk: three
soda cans on desk: four (yes it's SODA and not pop)
Pleasant conversations with my advisor (may he live forever): one

Now I get to bite my nails until I defend, later on in the month. About half of th3 time, faith has kept me going. I am a damned good teacher, if I say so myself, and God is going to make possible what I have failed to do.

The other half of the time I want to hide in bed with the covers pulled up to my chin. I don't know of anyone who failed their orals, but it must happen.

On a more cheerful note, I've spent the past week reading novels and watching TV, two activities in short supply during the last days of the diss. Oh, and did I mention that I have a job teaching summer session? Spending July in a classroom is not my idea of a great time, but it's going to be VERY GOOD for my C.V.

OK, I'm officially back - look out!

Monday, April 03, 2006

good times and bum times, I've seen 'em all and my dear

Yes, I am alive. I am utterly worn out, but I'm still here. I'll put up a post with details, such as words written and books on floor sometime soon.

The diss is a lot shorter than I would have liked, but I devoutly hope that the quality will outweigh the quantity.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I have until 3:30 tomorrow.

Now to cram 30 hours' worth of writing into 24. Gosh-a-mighty but I do hate proper footnote format.

Monday, March 27, 2006

omens, portents and signs

My horroscope on Friday was a horrorscrope - it announced that I didn't have the time or resources to complete a major project and I should put in the towel. (This probably contributed to my exasperation this weekend.)

Then on Sunday George Mason (a little school) beat UCONN (which even I know is a big school powerhouse) in overtime. This is good.

This morning #2 (upon whom may the sun shine) sent me the absolutely most kind, supportive, helpful and constructive e-mail I've ever recieved and it was all of two sentences long.

When I nipped out to run a quick errand, I passed two very good looking young men, which always brightens my day. Then I noticed that they were #1 wearing backpacks and #2 had chained their bicycles and helmets to a stop sign at the entrance to my neighborhood. I'm a tenured grad student in history, you can't fool me: Mormon missionaries. Ordinarily I'd be happy to talk with them, but today was just not a good day. By the time I got back, the pair were leaving my neighbor's house and missed my car pulling in.

I estimate that I have about 36 hours worth of work left to do, by the time you (or should I say I) figure in correcting the footnotes and updating the appendix. As ever, thanks for all of your support. I look forward to becoming a human being again when this is over.

Words Written: 6000+
Lessons Graded: zero

P.S. Happy Birthday to Andrew.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

choppy weather in the Channel

This is officially not fun any more. I'm sore, I'm tired and I'm scared. The conflicting voices of my advisor (may he live forever) and #4 are looping through my head and I don't ike what either of them is telling me to do.

On a happier note, #2 (on whom may the sun shine) has been wonderfully supportive and kind. #2 even sent an e-mail out of the blue to say "hang in there, you can do this.'"

I think I can I think I can I think can...
Words Written: a lot
Lessons Graded: zero

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Still plugging away. Progress is being made, but not as much as I'd like. I suspect that I'm tired.

A defense date and time have been selected.

Sinister secret of snail's escape

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

how's the weather in the Channel?

Having consumed my last box (sigh) of tag-a-longs, I've moved on to thin mints.

Once again, I was fast asleep at 6:00 PM and wide awake (and thus working) at 3 AM.

I've come to the conclusion that while the examples are great and the research outstanding, I'm just never going to understand the general premise of a book I've read and reread off and on since 1996. Ah well - at least the book has large print.

I've buried Green Book so well under other books that now I can't find it.

I realize that this is a fascinating post - sorry!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

quick check-in

This is the final push week, ulp.

Words Written: a little over 1000
Lessons Graded: zero
Books on Floor: thirty-one
Books on Desk: four
Open Boxes of Girl Scout Cookies: one
Empty soda cans: three

Thursday, March 16, 2006

cat herding

I've finally heard from #3. The two dates that my advisor (may he live forever) and #2 (upon whom may light shine) have in common also happen to be dates that #3 has mostly free!

Just wait, with my luck those two dates will be when #4 plans to be in Glasgow by way of Bolivia and has no chance of being on campus or near a phone. This may be the time for lighting a virtual candle to St. Jude.

Back to work!

Update: hurrah for St Jude! #4 actually has time available on both of those days. Amazing! Now to actually pick a time and date. Eeeek - must look into the appropriate Saints' Days, Good Karma Days, birthdays of ex-boyfriends, etc.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

a sweet little morsel

I quite literally ran into #2 (upon whom may light shine) this morning. After having a good laugh about it and brushing ourselves off, #2 asked if I had a moment. We chatted a bit about the diss and #2 seems quite enthusiastic about getting to read it and willing to be charitable when I have my defense. (Hurrah!)

#2 then said, "Lemming, Ijust wanted to remind you about something." (ulp! This chat seemed to be going so well!) "I'm a tenured professor. I had to write a diss and I've written books. Right now, however, I am on my way to the library to pick out some books. I will be reading them for fun and without any sense of guilt that I should be reading the latest scholarly journal or work in my field. Someday this will happen to you, too."

Sounds good.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Misery! Narwhal!

Indiana weather is still anything but, well, reliable. It was 72 degrees this morning, and I watched the storm clouds rolling in. According to the radio station folks, we even had a tornado warning or watch or some such. Following the briefest of showers the sun came out for a while and all was beautiful. Now I can see more clouds rolling in and the trees swaying in the wind.

Though the dissertation is still a constant part of my dreams these days, my subconcious is digging up an odd cast. Two nights ago I dreamed that I was in the car, taking my completed (!) diss to campus. The car was drven by a friend from high school, the front seat passenger was a friend from college and I sat in the back, next to Professor McGonnagall. Last night I dreamed that my family planned a picnic to celebrate (!!) my graduation. For some reason John Wayne counted as family and he made the drinks.

Utterly true story: during qualifying exams, aka two weeks of utter living hell, I kept dreaming that Mamie Eisenhower and I were having Manhattans together. I loathe Manhattans.

I'm still trying to nail down dates with the Gang of Four. My advisor (may he live forever) and #2 (upon whom also may light shine) very kindly gave me some possible days, on both of which they're almost entirely free. With my luck, #3 and #4 will be impossibly busy on both of those days. I tried to talk the graduate secretary into letting me schedule an evening defense, to be held at a local bar and grill known for its large drinks. She was not impressed.

Utterly true story: I know four people who had their defense for the MA in this same bar & grill. I guess the PhD process is supposed to be more dignified. Sheesh - what am I going to wear??!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Your Whole Master-Plan Depends Upon a Yorkshire Terrier

Dear Tech "Support" People,

You know why you have a job? Because of people like me. If everyone were as computer savvy as you, the position wouldn't be necessary. Getting mad at the people who ask you for assistance (have you looked at your job description lately?) but do not understand a word of jargon is far from helpful, let alone supportive.


The worst of it is that this happened not once but three times this morning, once to me and twice to a student and cced to me. Sheesh. Obviously someone forgot to pass out the drams this morning.

Words Written: (whimpers)
Lessons Graded: five

Monday, March 06, 2006


Having established, thanks to my very kind readers, that 30 drams = two shots, I confess that I was still a tad baffled. The historian made it clear that the increase in the liquor ration demonstrated terrible judgement on the part of the leader. Perhaps it's the ivory tower sherry drinking academic in me, but two shots a day, while not necessarily healthy, didn't sound like all that much.

Then I reread the passage in question. The men were given 30 drams at every meal. Now all is clear.

Words Written: big writing day today
Lessons Graded: fifteen (one more to go)

Friday, March 03, 2006

units of measurement

All right, word-smiths, how much is a dram? My dictionary, very unhelpfully, has as the first definition "1/8th of an ounce" and as the second "1/16th of an ounce."

I've been reading about a leader who increased the liquor ration from 3 drams to 30 drams. Obviously this is a large increase, but I'm curious to know just how much.

Spent a lot of the morning wrestling with bureaucracy. Most of it redefined the word tedious, but it was pretty cool to mail in my paperwork for graduation. I'm reasonably tickled to think of all of the bored families who will page through their graduation programs and at least skim my name and dissertation title.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

a little help from my friends

Fellow academic sibling Roger just mailed me two incredibly cool and very useful articles. Some academic writing is professional with moments of fascination and moments of dullness. Both of these pieces are professional while still thoroughly entertaining; I'd read either one in the bathtub and feel quite relaxed...

Except that I'm very excited about their usefulness, so much so that I'd probably drop them in the bubbles, which might make the articles difficult to reread for citation purposes.

Words Written: six hundred or so
Lessons Graded: twenty

(What can I say, it's been a good day today.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

some people believe in yetis

After consulting with my advisor (may he live forever) I have a due date. It's very, very, very soon. Now I must contact #2, #3 and #4 about scheduling my defense date. I'm not sure which of these prospects is the more alarming, really, the completion or trying to get four academics to agree on a date and time.

Friday, February 24, 2006

history and memory

Probably a tribute to my chosen academic field, I can remember where I was when I first heard about several historic (tm) moments. What strikes me about most of them - 9/11, the assasination attempt on Reagan, the Challenger explosion, the death of Princess Diana - is the sheer ordinariness of what I was doing at that moment. 9/11 was a very ordinary morning; in an odd way, I'm grateful, as 9/10 was one of the lovliest ordinary days of my life.

I was doing something unusual (no, I won't tell you what)(no it wasn't naughty) when I learned that the first bombs had fallen in Iraq. I can still, very vividly, see the shadow of the (very tall) man who told the group I was with. I remember the deep shock that struck all of us. There followed a long, very long, moment of silence, as we all struggled to wrap our brains around the actuality of war.

When I started Kindergarten, part of the "welcome to school" drill included telling us the location of the fall-out shelters. I couldn't have found the USSR on a map, but I knew that they might drop bombs on us at any moment. When the Berlin Wall fell, I truly hoped and prayed that this meant a generation would grow up without the underlying issues that so framed my childhood. (Admittedly, I was a rather neurotic child, but still.)

I see no end in sight. Whether we leave Iraq tomorrow or when I am an old woman, there will be a civil war. Indeed, I'm not sure that a civil war hasn't already begun. I grew up with nuclear warheads and Iranian hostages; somehow I wonder if that might have been simpler than growing up under the cloud of an undeclared war.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

another milestone

On this day in 1991, President George H.W. Bush informed Iraq that they must pull out of Kuwait within twenty-four hours, or the United States would invade.

Monday, February 20, 2006

did you know that I'm writing a diss?

Another dissertation post, I'm afraid - I'm rapidly dashing toward the date when I must get everything into the hands of #1 (may he live forever), #2, #3 and #4, so the diss occupies more and more of my thoughts and time.

I did quite a bit of writing this morning, then managed to delete it. Ha ha! I have learned a thing or two along the way, and had a back-up for most of it.

Guess what I managed to do having rewritten the parts not backed-up? Of course.

I've discovered that there are some quite good bits of discarded chapters that I can also cannibalize for present use. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

On a non-academic note, I did have a lovely bubble bath (by myself, thank you!)during which I read a thoroughly trashy romance novel and sipped a glass of good white wine. If getting the diss done and becoming gainfully employed means that I can do this more often, t'will... well, almost be worth it! (laughter)

Words Written: 10 pages forward, eight pages back
Lessons Graded: twelve

Friday, February 17, 2006

anyone and anything at all

There's a plumber fixing my leaky bathtub at the moment. Although this will probably be expensive, the experience is not without its perks.

#1 - He's cute

#2 - he smells good

#3 - he seems to actually enjoy explaining the intricacies of the repair job to me

#4 - when he's done (this is the third hour of his labors, mind you) I will be able to take a bubble bath

Words Written: zero - but that's next
Lessons Graded: twenty-six

Thursday, February 16, 2006

morning and evening, daytime and night time too!

My advisor (may he live forever) is happy with my latest work. I repeat my advisor (may he and his progeny know nothing but bliss) is pleased with my latest work.

(dance of joy)

(massive sangria inspired dance of joy)

To hell with news, current events, Quayle hunts, politics and Jessica Simpson. I DID GOOD!!

(blows kisses to Mr. Spoon)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

hidden in plain sight

For the first several years of graduate school, I was a relatively high profile person. I attended job talks, professional discussions, and social gatherings, held elected office in various departmental organizations, etc. After a few years pretty much all of the faculty could connect my face to my name and even people not in my field would ask me in the elevator what I'd thought of the latest faculty search possibilities. This was all terribly flattering as well sa professionally educational.

Then I cut off most of my hair and sequestered myself with my books and computer, visiting campus only when essential. Today was one of those days. Its very amusing high points:

1) while checking my e-mail in the graduate student lounge whisper to each other "who do you suppose she is? She looks too old to be a graduate student, but she's not dressed like a prof. Is she even in our department?"

2) hearing two other graduate students discuss #3 in the elevator

3) unintentionally eavesdropping on two history faculty members discussing the relative merits of a third

4) again, very unintentionally listening to two other faculty members discuss which graduate students they felt should be expelled from the program. (Fortunately my name was not among them.)

Now, the first two stories were amusing but not surprising. At my stage of the game I have next to no contact with first years and while they might possibly have heard my name, they've no reason to know what I look like.

The latter two instances left me puzzled as to an appropriate reaction, other than walking away, which I couldn't. (Long story) None of these faculty are in my field, and I'm reasonably sure that I've never exchanged more than a "good morning" with one of them. The other three surprised me - not only that they would have such discussions in a public place, but that none of them recognized me as a grad student, even if they'd forgotten my name.

Any suggestions?