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 Through happenstance, Iris meets with a literary agent who says that if Iris can find her deceased mother's unpublished final novel and write a book about the process, the agent can get it published.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