Monday, December 22, 2008

blast from the past

I got "one of those" e-mails last night. I want to emphasize that although it came from a man, I never slept with him or anything like that. He's just, well, complicated. He was a student, a very good student, but also someone I know that I know I was a life-changing person and pushed him and did good things and that's a kind of strange and heavy piece to carry sometimes.

He's not sentimental, so I don't hear from him often. When I do, I always want to push push push - what are you doing? How are you doing? Married? kids? I know this man and I know that pushing him in that direction is a surefire way to make sure I learn nothing. He may be the only man who has ever gotten me to play by his rules.

We exchanged e-mails last night - I don't think that any of them was longer than 20 words. I know that he is alive and employed. (At a conservative estimate, he makes 100 times more than I make.) I don't think there's any way to make it fully clear to him how much that means to me.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I did not own a purse until I was thirty-(delicate cough)

There are a variety of reasons why - there's no point to having a purse when you're already hefting around a book-bag filled with ungraded student essays, library books, notes from the latest grad student coloq, three different kinds of pain killer, datebook, empty coffee cup attached to the shoulder strap, etc.

Then I slowly crept toward pretending to be an adult and accepted that I probably should own one. Truthfully, I'd rather have accepted the need for a speculum, but you don't bring implements to job interviews. I asked a family member with good taste to get me one for Christmas. Said family member (a man, I would note) came through it spades. My one purse is simple, easy to carry, easy to stow inside the inevitable book bag and so far immune to my destructive powers. Jeanne commented that some books fit into the hand or purse, etc. better than others, and that this affects when and how we read them. To my incredible delight, almost all books fit into my purse - big hardcovers are out, but I can still squeeze in almost everything else.

Waiting in line on Friday I read through 25+ pages of a mystery I tucked in there a week ago - The Cat Who Sniffed Glue if you must know. It passed the time and made me far less annoyed - all hail my reluctant purse.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

desperate, desperate, desperate

Sen. Obama isn't a citizen?

Snopes link

I had no idea that this issue was wending its way through the various courts.

Last night I went looking for a book and remembered that I had fought a long and hard recall war over it many years ago. I had it checked out for a time and it was recalled from me. I turned it in, but put in a hold - when the other person had their two weeks, I really needed it back. Well, the other person (whom I subsequently learned was faculty) put in a hold on me, and so it went. I basked in the myopic notion that as an impoverished graduate student, someone with health insurance could afford to shell out $50 for their own copy. The recall war went on and on and on - but the book has been on my shelf for, well, several years now. Am I just desperate to defeat the full timers? Or did the mysterious faculty member finish the project? Either way, I won.

Sam has been herding me all day. I had planned to catch up on some journal reading in bed this morning with breakfast; no go, it was imperative that I do it at my desk, which is far less comfy. I'd thought of taking a coffee break outside; no go, he wanted me inside. So it has gone all day. People laugh at me for allowing Sam to have such control over my daily life; they have obviously never been at the receiving end of a border collie stare. Even at the back of the skull, it's fierce.

Maybe I've read too any Internet postings, but I suppose I feel an obligation to him - Sam asks very little, truly, of me as his human. What matters most is that I maintain a routine. Heaven knows I probably function better with a routine anyway, which may be why I am such a pushover. Anyway, I am desperate for five minutes in which Sam lets me deviate from the norm!

Monday, December 08, 2008

another meme

Harriet offered this meme and I liked it.

Where is your cell phone? on top of the bread flour container
Your hair color? brown - the highlights have grown out
Your mother? well-intentioned
Your father? well-intentioned, but clueless
Your favorite thing? primary documents from an individual's personal history... (insert recognition of personal geekiness, doubtless requiring professional help)
Your dream last night? hot tub had been installed in my backyard and there was bubble bath and I admired the stars and then kids started playing kickball in the yard next door

Your goal? to have done my best
The room you’re in? my cave
Your hobby? my dog, with reading murder mysteries while curled up with my dog a close second
Your fear? Just one?
Where do you want to be in six years? employed
Where were you last night? grading essays
What you’re not? well-rested
One of your wish-list items? Now that I think about it, a hot tub.
Where you grew up? I was born in a small town/ and I can breathe in a small town/ used to day dream in a small town" which is why I now live in the suburbs

The last thing you did? wash dishes
What are you wearing? warm socks
Your TV? ancient (circa 1995)
Your pet(s)? warm and furry
Your computer? Macintosh - goes by Beatrice
Your mood? lethargic
Missing someone? not at the moment
Your car? named Phil
Something you’re not wearing? a toupee
Favorite store? any place that sells books
Your summer? warm
Love someone? lots
Your favorite color? purple
When is the last time you laughed? yesterday
Last time you cried? this morning
Tagging: anyone

Friday, December 05, 2008


Busy days here at lemming headquarters, trying to keep up with the marathon race that is getting everything done and processed so that the December graduations can go forward. After the pure luxury of sleeping in at Thanksgiving and having nothing more onerous to do than help wash a few dishes, I had grown quite spoiled.

The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is such a funny muddle, isn't it? Constant carols every where, but it's only the first week of Advent and Hanukkah doesn't start for quite a while yet. (Yes, yes, Hanukkah isn't a Jewish Christmas, but it's part of the month.) Everyone seems to be in a holding pattern - we're all waiting for George's W.'s reign to end anyway, but the waiting just goes with the month.

Today is the birthday of Rose Wilder Lane, the "Ghost in the Little House" - did she ghostwrite her mother's books? Help with editing? Collaboration? More mysteries and process of waiting.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

opposible thumbs

Mistress! You are in imminent danger! I must go outside and bark!

Mistress!! You are in imminent danger! I must com inside and stare at you!

Mistress! You are in imminent danger! I must go outside and bark!

All those years of college and graduate school - so that I can open doors for a border collie who is having a bad day.


In all seriousness, this has actually been a nice day - I know that the meds are working because Sam's neurotic tendencies are coming back.

(more laughter)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This is a local plea, but please, if you are local, offer ideas.

I have been given a large check - and I mean a really, really, jaw-dropping size check - to go out to dinner and let a reviewer know what I thought.

Did I mention that it's a really big check?

Anyway, I'm taking suggestions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I was born in a small town

There's a John Mellencamp song called "Small Town" which I firmly believe should be played at least four times every day by NPR and even more often by other radio stations, including whatever network it is that employs Howard Stern.

is it great art? Well... the line "I cannot forget where it is that I come from" - how can you deny that it's perfect?

well, all right, you could, but only if you didn't spend your formative years in the same small town - if you had you would still think that the phrase a bit garbled, but you'd get the sentiment. Wait, that makes it sound like I grew up in Seymour, Indiana. I didn't. I just spent all of my childhood in the same small town.

Anyway, as Mellencamp says, I was born in a small town. A friend was scouting around on Facebook and found one of those "Top 20 Reasons" lists, in this case, ways that you know that you are from my small town. In just a few lines, it brought back so many memories... and then I started thinking about what the writer listed, and realized that he or she must be about ten years younger than I am (ulp) but how funny it is that I can date that based upon the names of stores on Main Street.

Anyway, I raise my cup of orange juice (need to go buy more) to "the place that I come from" - I have no desire to move back there, but it is beautiful and despite everything, I still love it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday!!

This is the birthday of Abigail Smith Adams - call her the first feminist or just a really neat lady, it doesn't matter. She's a cultural ancestor - please to raise a coffee mug, water bottle or wine glass in her honor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

just an observation

My goodness but the Obamas are tall people.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

we made history

I was wrong. Alleluia, I was wrong.

Not only that, but Indiana went blue. Indiana??!! Blue??!! Alleluia.

Cissy, dinner is on me.

I'm reading the Prayers of the People on Sunday - I can't wait to say the name of our president-elect.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008

I would just like to point out that I know more about Sarah Palin than the Republican poll watcher at my district.

Apparently mine is the only district with disinterested voters/ people voting at other times. I had no line and was in and out in under five minutes. (Sorry Joe - I brought a book and an umbrella and snacks and everything, I was prepared!) Every other polling place has lines. This thrills me beyond belief, beyond anything I have words to articulate. Whatever the outcome (and I still think McCain will swing the Electoral College) I am so proud to be an American on this day.

Wishing us all grace as we vote and a return to peace.

Friday, October 31, 2008

come home! All is forgiven!

You don't realize how much you value an appliance until you lose it.

I have learned that I can live without a microwave. Oh, sure, it's handy, but not essential. On the other hand, a week without a hot water heater seven years ago means that I still breathe a quiet prayer of relief each time my shower is warm.

At the moment, I have no computer. This is the second time in less than two weeks that I have brought it into the shop (I'm at the library)and been told to wait. Oh, sure, blogs are fun and I like the easy access to the BBC, but I hadn't realized just how much I have come to rely upon e-mail. Wow.

Anyway, the library has Internet access, but I appear to be the only person who is typing. I'm waiting to be asked to be more quiet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday morning

The Chicago Tribune endorsed Obama, their first Democratic candidate ever endorsed for the presidency. The Indianapolis Star editorial board split 4-4 and so didn't endorse anyone. I'm pleased, but I still think McCain will prevail.

At least the election hasn't been dull.

Sam continues to thrive on his meds. He and the terrier next door (confusingly enough, he's names Sammie)spent a good ten minutes racing each other along the sides of the fence this morning, with occasional pauses for competitive peeing. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.

It's a stay at home day for me, so I have opted to wear mis-matched socks. Consider it my moment of rebellion against the conformities of the world... such as letter grades. I've noticed that deans take a dim view of writing "student read the book but obviously did so at 3 AM after doing tequila shots" instead of "C."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

a prediction

Prediction: Obama will carry the popular vote. McCain will carry the Electoral College. Violence will follow.

I'm not saying that I like this prediction, just that too many of my friends, even in liberal bastions such as Massachusetts, adore Palin and think Omaba will look out for "his race" before the rest of us.

On a happier note, only two more weeks and then the election will be over and I can comfortably shoe-horn it into my life as a historical event rather than as a day to day situation. So much easier to bury something unpleasant....

The Electoral College was designed to prevent Americans from being swayed by a personality and to ensure that cooler, leveler, more educated, more affluent white men would be the final voice in choosing a president. Somehow I'm not sure that Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin had this in mind at teh time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

saw this coming

Joe the oft-referenced plumber owes back taxes and doesn't, technically, have a valid state license to be a plumber. Please tell me that the election is almost over -

Thursday, October 09, 2008

left or right?

A friend has the impression that McCain and Obama are both left-handed. I had to admit that I don't have any idea. Can anyone out there in the blog world confirm or deny?

Monday, October 06, 2008

banned books

Pulled this from Harriet's blog - I always feel somehow derelict that I haven't read more banned books.

As I will be spending the afternoon working in the library, here is a meme in honor of the end of Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association, this is the list of the 100 most frequently banned and/or challenged books for 1990-2000. The instructions are easy: bold the ones you’ve read (it doesn’t have to be recently – a lot of these are children’s books) and pass the meme along. If you are reading, TAG – you’re it.

Heather has Two Mommies is actually a very beautiful book.

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I think English profs keep assigning this book solely because it is so often banned...

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice(Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Giver by Lois Lowry
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein

Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boyby Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughtersby Lynda Madaras
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Why on earth would this book be banned?

The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sonsby Lynda Madaras
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shortsby Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What?by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Again, another English teacher book...

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford

Again, eh? How is Waldo ban-worthy?

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Here’s the list of the 10 most banned/challenged books for 2007:
And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
TTYL,by Lauren Myracle
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Thursday, October 02, 2008

musings on the debate

9:16 PM Palin is kicking Biden. She has studied her 3'5 index cards, and has nailed the folksy charm. If the debate were a drinking game, and I had to drink every time she said "darn" I'd be deeply intoxicated by now.

Biden knows McCain's record better than Palin. She's still nailing him to the wall.

a quick fantasy

(phone rings)

"Prof lemming! It's PBS - this is an emergency, we need a history teacher! Gwen needs some quick questions to start off the debate tonight and you're the best!"

OK, enough of my fantasies. 10 History Questions I wish would be asked tonight:

1) What rights does the ninth amendment protect?

2) Who served as president before James Buchanen?

3) What were the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War?

4) Was it legal to be a Baptist and live in Virginia in the 1700s?

5) What happened during the Oklahoma Land Rush?

6) Why did Nixon go to China?

7) Who ran the country when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke?

8) Why did the United States boycott the 1980 Olympics?

9) Which happened first, the Boston Massacre or the Boston Tea Party?

10) Why is Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill?

Despite what I think of McCain's choice of Palin, tonight is historic and I honor it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1992 vs 2008

I've been thinking a lot about the 1992 election of late. Probably everyone who knows me has heard this story - that November night (I'd voted via absentee ballot days before) a friend of mine threw a big party. About fifty of us crammed into a dorm room that might have comfortably fit ten. The host (who could afford it) had a keg of Corona in the shower. We watched the election returns in a spirit of immense jubilation that had nothing to do with the beer - we believed that this was right, this was good, and that we were headed into a golden age.

What strikes me now is that while none of us (at least openly) had supported George H.W. Bush, none of us doubted that he would give 110% to running the country, down to the very last moments, regardless of what happened. I'd argue that he did. It's od to be sentimental about the GHWB days -

I do not have the same faith in GWB. I think he's been treading water for a while now, and I firmly believe that the nation, in large part, has let him get away with it.

Not for the first time, I am struck by my next door neighbors. They are good, kind, decent, caring people, and they genuinely believe that GWB is and has been doing a terrific job. Yesterday one of them said he's even better than Reagan. It might be easier to understand them if I still had a bit of that Corona, but I've got to try. To borrow a line from 1776 "Either we all walk together, or together we stay where we are."

Enough of politics.

P.S. I confess to having blown off a paper so that I could attend that party, but I did stay up late and I did get it in, and I did earn an A, and it actually stands up as not too bad to my teacher eyes years later. Was it the Corona? Clinton? Panic? I'll never know.

Friday, September 26, 2008

will you won't you, will you won't you, will you come and join the dance?

I decided a few months back to skip the debates. Four years ago I just about made it through by removing heavy objects from the room so that I would only be tempted to throw pillows and such at the television. (Yes, I did end up throwing a pillow at one point, but that's another saga for another post.) Whether I switched on a rerun of Scrubs or just went to bed early, I really hadn't decided, but I wanted no part of anything having to do with the debates.

McCain has now done the impossible. By adding the "will he/ won't he" element to simply showing up (!!!) I'm now actually interested in the debate tonight.

A good friend treats presidential debates on a points system. In 2004, points were awarded for everything from having the better tie to making a stronger point, and deducted for every time the candidate mentioned their family's sufferings and their personal relationship with you know who. Every candidate, and the moderator, always started off with 50 points for simply having shown up. I am intrigued to see how this year shapes up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

brave warrior (no, not Trig)

While on break yesterday, I stretched out on the sofa. A light breeze blew in through the window (yes, it was open at the time), the sun shone - and then I heard a squirrel make a noise the likes of which I have never heard any squirrel make before - any animal make before, for that matter.

Drawing on my skills as a liberal arts major, I looked out the window. The squirrel in question had tensed every muscle and devoted its whole body to this sound. Seconds later, a second squirrel dashed across the yard, praying that it would make its tree. Hot on the tail of the second squirrel? A hawk.

Sam barreled out the door, full speed, full defense bark, full alert and the hawk decided to go elsewhere for lunch.

Probably Sam had chosen to protect me, but I prefer to think that he charged out to protect his squirrels.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

there's a time and a place for jargon

I've begun to fantasize about forcing Economists and economic experts interviewed to be forced to use words of three syllables or less at all times. By now it should be obvious to them that the American people, in the main, simply do not understand why various areas of the economy have fallen apart and must (or must not) be resurrected by our tax dollars. Listening to a call-in program yesterday, three people asked roughly the same question in the same way, and callers #2 and #3 indicated that they had heard the previous explanation and did not understand it.

This might make the economists feel demeaned or belittled. Tough. Most academics are forced to perform intellectually demeaning tasks on a regular basis. It wouldn't kill the economists to break matters down into short bits. Perhaps, it would encourage them to make better decisions in future.

Then, of course, force the various folks who will make money out of the bail-outs to justify their actions in very small words...

There's a time and a place for jargon. I can confidently use plenty of it, and fake teh use of still more. Graduate School certainly does a good job at teaching us how to pretend we know all sorts of long words - but we use them with each other. I would no more tell a freshman in college that the Twentieth century of American history "represents the declension of the Protestant hegemony" than I would expect them to perform brain surgery on a llama.

Sam leaped into the car this morning in a single bound, and became thoroughly excited when we got to the park. As I keep saying, hurrah for drugs!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

mediocre meme

Harriet has tagged me. According to her, this meme is to celebrate five utterly mediocre aspects of yourself. Since Harriet almost certainly has blackmail-worthy material on me stored away somewhere, I dare not disregard her tag.

This actually strikes me as kind of funny - I strongly suspect that my five mediocre aspects would be highly interesting to someone else, and boring to another. Anyway, here goes -

1) As Harriet once observed, very kindly, I cannot read music. I wish that I could.

2) I go out of my way to avoid using pink post-it notes.

3) Without post-it notes, I would never get anything done.

4) I really hate it when people use "it's" thinking that it's the possessive tense. "Its" is possessive and "it's" means "it is."

5) Purple is my favorite color.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

of dogs and lipstick

I want to thank everyone who has expressed concern about Sam - it has meant a lot to me that people understand how much he means to me and what joy I take in his return to "being himself." When my previous dog was hit by a car, a couple of people said, "oh, get over it, he was just a dog." I now know that the meds have really kicked in, because Sam is back to taking up 90% of any surface upon which I try to sleep.

I am slowly reconciling myself to the great likelihood that Sarah Palin will be the factor which pushes McCain over the top and into the White House. Being a liberal in Indiana means a certain amount of steeling yourself every time you enter the voting booth, and I have always known that my Obama vote would not be enough for him to carry this state. I had hoped that the rest of the nation would correct for this.

P.S. There's nothing like losing electricity for 36 hours to make me really grateful for it. Then I think of Galveston and Houston and I feel like a coward.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

if only...

I've been thinking a lot today about the three year girl who was on the first plane to crash into the Twin Towers. She died with her parents, which must have been both agonizing and comforting for the whole family.

Who was she? I mean, almost all three year olds are cute, even the ones with horrible manners who bully their playmates. Did she have Downs' Syndrome? Autism? Did she long to be a ballerina or Disney Princess, or was she a tomboy who wanted nothing more than to climb trees and chase frogs?

I know that the 9/11 hijackers wanted to kill as many Americans as possible, but what went through their minds when they saw a small child, traveling with her parents? Glee? Or did they have a moment in which they needed to steel themselves?

With all of the politicking and contradictions which have surrounded the post-9/11 world, I do think we've lost track of the fact that everyone - the passengers, the fire-fighters, the people at the Pentagon - they were all people.

Speaking of people - Track Palin deploys today along with I cannot imagine how many other sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, wives and husbands. He is a celebrity, but they are all people.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

hurrah for modern meds!

Sam is rolling away in the backyard. This is probably the only undignified activity he is capable of performing. He's rolling around, paws waving in the air - then he stops, rests for a moment on his stomach, gazing about, soaking up the sun, then flings himself back onto his back and abandoning himself to another good long wriggle.

It's been a long, long time since he has gone for a long roll in the sun.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Mistress - mistress, I do not like this place. We will now leave the room, get back in the car and go home.
Good dog, Sam, good dog.
Mistress, you're not paying attention. We will now leave the room, get in the car and go home.
Good dog, Sam, good dog.

Mistress, you do not seem to understand who that lady is. We will now leave this room, get in the car and go home.
I think Sam may have arthritis - could you give him an exam and see if we can help him?
Mistress, do you see what she's doing? Ouch! Ouch! Hey, don't touch me there! Mistress! Do something!
You'd like me to leave the room while you draw some blood? OK.
Mistress! Take me with you! We can get in the car and -

Official diagnosis of arthritis - and the very kind vet assured me that everything else looks good, so pain meds may be all that Sam needs to continue herding squirrels and protecting me from the vicious cat next door. I started Sam on his pills last night and as soon as his bloodwork comes back, the vet will send me a three month supply. Thus far he's taking the pills without problems: fingers crossed. Now to see if they help.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Favorite line thus far of the Republican National Convention:

In discussing the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter, a delegate observed, "of course, abstinence-only sex education is the only kind that should be offered, but, kids will be kids!

I enjoy waking up with a belly laugh.

Monday, September 01, 2008

just a casual little dinner

Unless one dines exclusively at little bistros, or only at places where the staff know you by name, everyone occasionally goes through the wonderful process of trying to find the person whom you've arranged to meet for a meal.

This dinner meeting lends new meaning to the idea of meeting for drinks and a quick bite - and it's a lovely story.

Sam stopped halfway through his breakfast on Friday and employed his "stare of death" out the window. I opened the door and he went barreling out across the yard, all the way to the far corner of the fence at top speed. The threat merited only one bark, but required a good ten minutes of solid staring before he came back in to finish breakfast. Terrific to see him barrel again - it's been a while.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

ouch, ouch, ouch

A friend is in training to be some sort of massage therapist. He needs people upon whom to practice and my back was a bit sore, so I volunteered.

The technique was a new one to me, but not unpleasant - it has something to so with muscle layers and activating muscles which aren't doing their job. Most of it was fine and actually quite interesting - until we got to my ribs. Something about moving the muscles in the ribs made my knees feel terrific and I could feel my lower back relaxing... and then he got to rib #9. OUCH!

I often go months without thinking about my ribs - but two days later, rib #9 aches and aches and aches. If ever I volunteer again, rib #9 is strictly off limits. On the other hand, my back and knees still feel terrific.

I did finally knuckle under and make the phone call to the vet. The technician with whom I spoke asked all sorts of questions about why I thought Sam might have arthritis (good) and about his daily activities. I've been keeping a casual log of his activities and limitations, which helped. At the end, the tech warned me that X-Rays and blood-work would be required, and was I prepared for the additional expense? Damn straight I am; this is Sam we're talking about.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Sam update

It's been a long, hot summer, so Sam hasn't taken many trips in the car. Like most dogs, he loves the movement and scenery. Sam has never been one to hang his head out the window, but he does love to watch the world go by. Add to that Sam's obligation to supervise the mistress at all times, and my car's interior is generally covered with a protective layer of fur.

He was excited about taking a short ride to the bank - but I had to boost him in and out of the car; he simply couldn't handle the leap. I think the time has come to talk to the vet about an appointment and some pain management. His quality of life is still high; I am safe from the backyard squirrels and Sam is still more than capable of casting a disdainful glance at the terrier next door.

Friday, August 15, 2008

wise words

In the spirit of "what I wish I'd written" - Harriet has written a terrific post about why college and encouraging a "life of the mind" matters. The whole post is terrific, but I've stolen (sorry, H!) the bit that I thought most wonderful.

This morning, I came across an editorial Charles Murray wrote a couple of days ago in the Wall Street Journal about how college is a waste of most people’s time. In terms of quickly moving people into the work force, Murray is probably right. But it seems to me that he has missed the point of college altogether. Maybe the humanities do not train you for specific job skills, but the study of arts and culture and history have other effects on both the way we think and problem-solve and also on the way we view the world and others in it. And then there are the intangibles of the experience of being a college student, being away from home and finding your way in the world in a sort of halfway-house for adulthood. I had a sheaf of report cards with stellar grades and loads of A papers that I could have saved. But those are nowhere to be found. Instead there are pictures of the people and activities that meant most to me, the detritus of my existence then, all serving to conjure up the parts of me that stem from that time and place. A poet friend of mine used the phrase “this carrying life” to describe the way our lives are encoded in the smallest fiber of our being. These are the paper remains of my carrying life, reminders of that which I carry with me everywhere. And sometimes it takes an old friend to remind you of how you came to be.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

more on Sam

Sam is still moving stiffly, but now that the weather has (thankfully!) cooled off, he's a bit more spry. A couple of friends have recommended some pain killers, so I'll need to start looking for them. The challenge will be getting pain killers into Sam.

The heartworm pill is easy, as it looks and (apparently, I haven't tried this personally) tastes like kibble. Getting other meds into Sam has always been a challenge. He's never been one for having pills coaxed down his throat, and when mixed with peanut butter, he simply licks up the peanut butter. (NO fool, my dog.) The only approach that seems to work is to grind up the pill and mix it with applesauce. Given that I am generally only about 25% awake when I give Sam his breakfast, this could pose certain difficulties for me.

Meanwhile - I'm cynical about Edwards and his affair, addicted to late-night Olympics and highly amused by the student who complained to the dean about me. I'm "unreasonable" because I deducted points from her essay because she didn't proof-read. The dean was much amused too, and told her so.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

beloved dog

Alison once observed that some people blog about specific topics, while others of us simply blog about whatever is on our minds. I'm afraid that I fall very much into the second category; blogging gives me a chance to write down whatever is most on my mind.

However, that having been said, I strongly suspect that a certain topic is going to come to dominate my posts over the next chunk of time.

I live with a dog. I don't know, and probably never will, if Sam picked me out at the animal shelter or if I picked him. There are times when he drives me bonkers. There are times when he finds me frustrating. I am probably closer to him than most of the human beings I know - he is my friend, my pal, my hot water bottle, my alarm clock, the source of most of what needs to be vacuumed up each week...

In the last few months I've been confronted with the reality that Sam is not only no longer young (maybe 12?) but that his arthritis is starting to slow him down and to restrict his activities. He still feels entitles to his spot on the sofa, but I need to help him up and down. He still protects me from the squirrels in the yard, but he needs to go outside late at night or else we both regret it...

Sam may yet have years of defending me from wildlife - but it's hard to accept that my companion is slowing down. Anyway, I'll probably be blogging more about this as time goes by.

Friday, July 25, 2008

food, food, food

I grew up with The New Yorker in every bathroom. Like many kids, I started by skipping the articles and just looking at the cartoons. Eventually I discovered the articles and fell in love with Anthony Lane.

My favorite bit though, hands down, are the restaurant reviews. "Tables For Two" looks at places I will never visit, and not just because i hate New York City, and is always witty. Furthermore, the critics mention food I've never heard of, prepared in ways I cannot imagine - it's such a wonderful flight of fancy. "Vacherin with coconut, mango marmalade and passion fruit emulsion" - I have no idea what this might be, but it does sound interesting, no?

Monday, July 21, 2008

a monday ramble

Busy weekend on the Internet - lots of student questions, problems, concerns. One of my college professors referred to her job as being "in loco parentis" which (I think) is Latin for "I'm away from my parents and you're a stand-in, so please help me by listening to what's going on and be a kind ear."

I keep a cheat sheet on this - OK, check with A to see how the broken leg is doing, has S's father gotten out of the hospital, don't mention boyfriends to N, did D lose his house, etc. I don't know if I help at all, but we all need a good vent now and then.

I'm struck by how quickly the "sandwich generation" has passed down the age line. I assumed that one started grappling with children and aging parents maybe in the late forties or fifties, but what with my aging students, the economy, and job loss, more and more of them are writing essays about American history as they try to feed children and not strangle the parent who is now living in their basement.

The Great Depression brought out the worst in many people, but the best in others. People learned frugality, mutual responsibility and not to be too proud. Can Americans do this again? Can we set aside our SUVs and plasma tvs to sav our credit card balances?

Enough profundity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

point of view?

I woke up in the middle of the night and simply couldn't get back to sleep. After a while I gave up and turned on the radio. Indianapolis NPR plays BBC World Service at night and it's generally 1) interesting (oh, that Colin Firth interview!) and #2 eventually soothes me back to my pillow's charms.

I came in halfway through the piece, so I have only a hazy understanding of what precipitated the narration, but the story involved two scientists and the reporter roaming around on an island, studying various kinds of amphibians to see how many of them had become infected by a fungus. All animals collected were swabbed in a variety of, er, personal areas as well as the stomach, and then released. At one point they found a certain kind of newt (salamander? are they the same?) and in my drowsy state, I started to wonder how it felt in that moment.

"OK, here I am, minding my own business, looking for a meal - oops, I've been picked up by a large creature, all right, better prepare to be someone else's meal - wait, what's going on? What on earth - ew! Hey! If I'm not going to be your next lunch, don't touch me there! Oo! Oo! That tickles!"

Friday, July 11, 2008

As The Wrench Does Not Turn

One of my cherished childhood books (still one I regard with great affection) is a copy of Babar and His Castle. Did I mention that it's entirely in French? When it comes to foreign languages in general, not just French, I do reasonably well with learning nouns and adjectives and the verb bases, but I fall to pieces when matters get more complicated. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I never learned to diagram sentences, but no matter.

I have read and reread this book I don't know how many times. I know enough French that I get the jist of the story (the pictures help) but as to specifics I'm a bit vague. I just look through it, enjoy the ambiance and smile.

This is how I feel about the NPR show Car Talk. (Sorry, no link, I'm lazy.) I know just enough about cars to get a general notion of what's going on, I enjoy the banter and silliness and when I don't understand a term, I can just blip on by. I'm a fairly faithful listener, even when the topic under discussion is hopelessly over my head... kind of like the plu-perfect tense.

Thus I was very excited about watching the first episode of the PBS series "As the Wrench Turns", a cartoon supposedly about the wacky adventures of the Car Talk hosts. I ended a truly wonderfully funny phone chat so that I could watch it. I poured myself a glass of perfectly good wine, called the dog over, and prepared....

My time would have been better spent digging out my old verb flashcards from grad school.

The concept of spoofing PBS fund drives was sound enough, and the guys' voices as as amusing as ever... but the execution was dull, the supporting cast extraneous and in my humble opinion, the show is a dismal failure. There wasn't even enough promise to it that I would be willing to give it a second chance. (sigh) This is too bad.

Now I must return to the moral qualms about whether or not I can watch the new episodes of "Dog the Bounty Hunter" in good conscience.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

a double requium

I'm sorry, Thea. I blame myself.

We spent so much time together - years, really. Even when I didn't understand you, you never let me down. During the marathon sessions of trying to write a dissertation, you stood by me. Together we struggled through many an adversity. I spent more time with you that I have with many people.

If I hadn't tried to install a new operating system, your hard drive never would have melted and we'd still be together. Bill Gates had to go and come out with a new version of Word, so I needed the new system... curse you, retired Mr. Gates, for forcing my over-worked computer to collapse.

I do feel like I have lost a family member - and, yes, I did name my computer.

On a more serious note, I have just learned of the death of a human. I never knew "Jane" well, she was just one of those people who was always there when I was growing up, in this case, at church. Jane lived to be in her nineties (she left the choir after sixty years) and truly was the quintessential little old lady. Plug in every stereotype and Jane fulfilled it, and she was lovely - could quite possibly have been a Miss Marple on the side.

She outlived everyone - her obituary lists cousins only; I don't know if she was an only child or just outlived all of them and no one had any children.

What I loved about her obit is that in addition to the usual details, it lists her best friend. Now, I know that many folks will look at this and make assumptions about her sexuality. She wasn't. I love it that the friend made it in anyway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

dog follow-up

All right, so $80, 000 a year to house the dog, leaving $110, 000 for other expenses.

Let's say $10, 000 for physical needs such as shots, dog food, cable television (Animal Planet, of cousrse!) and various garments. This means someone is being paid $100, 000 a year to take care of a dog. Where do I apply?

Dave Barry wrote a column years ago about coming down with what he called "Martian Death Flu." He described one symptom as being able to feel the individual air molecules bump against you. I don't have the 'flu, but I do have a cold that has given me the same symptom. Still, were I making $100, 000 a year to walk, pet and otherwise tend a dog, I'd get over it.

I miss Dave Barry's weekly pieces. Oh I know, he has a blog, but most of it is links to other Internet sites.

Monday, June 16, 2008

$190, 000 a year??!!

Leona Helmsley's dog's keepers estimate that $190, 000 is more than enough to keep the dog fed, clothed, housed and in good medical health per year.

Now, I am enough of a capitalist to believe that the late Mrs. Helmsley should be allowed to spend her money in any fashion she desired so long as it is legal. This is certainly legal. It also costs more than a Harvard degree, would pay off many mortgages and be a nice drop in the bucket for many charities. Much as I love and value Sam, board him at a slightly more expensive facility and buy him top of the line dog food, treats, shampoo for those smelly moments... $190, 000?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

a secret revealed

My mailman is a very nice fellow named Rusty. Our conversations are generally limited to exciting topics such as the weather and the amount of mail I recieve in a given day. I am confident that I am the only person on his route who reads People Magazine and The Journal of American History. For five years we have maintained a nice, if very distant, relationship.

Yes, I see and speak to my mailman at least once a week.

This morning, however, was different. As Rusty handed over the usual pile I said something like, "poor Shania Twain" as her marital problems have been on the cover of People for weeks. To say that Rusty is upset about Twain's personal life is like saying that the Pacific Ocean has a few fish. Rusty is appalled at what has happened, thinks that the "other woman" is not only evil and awful but "really ugly, how could you leave a woman like Shania for her? What is he thinking?" Rusty expressed these views and several others on the subject with a passion truly beyond my descriptive abilities.

Nice to see someone who is always so professional (and I mean that, truly) reveal just a crack of what makes him tick.

Monday, June 09, 2008

a cubit, I used to know what a cubit was...

Remember my last post about tidal waves? It turns out I wasn't too far off. Large portions of Central and Southern Indiana are now underwater. The pictures on the news are quite graphic. NPR even included the story in their "top of the hour" news round-up, complete with a report from the Bloomington affiliate - the reporter interviewed someone in Owen County, when's the last time that happened on NPR?

It's odd to think of interstates closed due to water when the sun is shining so brightly. I can only imagine what a mess rebuilding will become - everyone's financial resources are already strained, but infrastructure is essential.

I would be remiss in not noting Clinton's suspension of her campaign. I do not envy Obama as he tries to select a running mate. There are a great many reasons why he might choose HRC, and great many reasons not to choose HRC. I spoke with someone this weekend who is confident that whether the president is McCain or Obama, both are destined to die in office, so the VP candidate matters more this year than ever before. I'm not sure about that, but teh choices certainly will be interesting.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

weather forecast

The sun is shining, there are a few puffy white clouds in the sky, the dog has successfully treed four squirrels and there's a wonderful smell on the breeze.

Based upon these words, I conclude that this afternoon Indiana will be hit by its first tidal wave in centuries.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

One of my favorite historical photos comes from a 1973 issue of Life Magazine. I first saw it in my AP US History textbook and couldn't stop looking at it. The picture is of a POW finally returning home. We can't see the soldier's face - he could be anyone. What we can see are his four chilren and his wife, running, running, running toward him, arms outstretched, clearly delighted, thrilled, overjoyed.

It's not often that I advocate a position held by George Bush, but today I make an exception. He suggests that all Americans take a moment at 3:00 PM local time to pause, reflect and ponder (or words to that effect) upon those who have served, those who have died, those who bear physical and emotional scars.

Put down the home improvement project, let the coals on the grill burn for a moment and stop sending me all of those e-mails about honoring service, patriotism, support our troops, amazing battles - I've heard 'em all and taught many more - and just pause. Think movies, think of family or friends, just think generally, but take that moment.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

misery loves company

It's been a rough few weeks at lemming headquarters - nothing to blog about, just one of those times when everything builds up and gets nasty. (Evil student is not going to like their final grade, but I can prove that it's the grade earned.)

Then I learned that a neighbor is the latest victim of foreclosure and has experienced several other personal set-backs that make my life look downright tranquil and calm. Perspective is good. I have much for which to be grateful.

Poetry month got me trying to remember all of the bits of verse which I was either required to memorize or memorized along the way for other reasons. "The world is too much with us, late and soon" was for 12th grade British lit. I've managed to reconstruct it. Now I'm working on a piece by Edna St Vincent Millay which I memorized because I was in a play, one which had nothing to do with poetry. I had to spend 20 minutes on stage, reading a book, while all sorts of other activities happened around me. "All right, let's be practical with this time and learn a poem," thought I and so I did. I think I have about 2/3 of it and more comes back every morning in the shower.

I have a mind which remembers poetry. I have a body that can walk and reach and move. I had a reasonably nutricious dinner. I have a dog who was prepared to defend me from an earthquake. Life could be a whole lot worse.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

few things are better

Driving to work on Tuesday - sun shining, a light breeze, the flowers smell terrific, the road construction is done, I'm not running late and Aretha Franklin comes on the radio.

This is a second day of cold and rain and I'm still smiling.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

all but the shouting

Well, that's that. No more phone calls, no more mailings and the CNN camper is no longer parked downtown - Indiana has gone back to being a backwater. I got to cast a presidential vote that actually counted for something, but now it is back to the mundane dross of life; I will vote in November, but it won't matter. I do wonder how many of the votes for HRC came from crossovers who think that #1 she will be easier to defeat in November or #2 that she'll get elected, mess matters up and then a "real" Republican will get the nomination in 2012. I probably shouldn't say this too loudly.

I get to cover all sorts of wonderfully depressing topics today in my classes so, naturally, it is grey and wet. As a recovering English major, I will occasionally get random fragments of poetry stuck in my head, at which point I am then obligated, as per the terms of my student loan contracts, to determine the full text. For years, I struggled to find the poem with the phrase "when it is cold November in my soul" only to learn, eventually, that it is actually from a novel I thoroughly loathe: Moby Dick. Well, at least that's one brownie point for Melville. (For the reacord, I've read lots of Melville, all of it under duress.)

It's not a "cold November in my soul" but it feels that way outside. Sam has absolutely refused to set the smallest fraction of his being past the door.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

my little bit of history making

I woke up at 5:45. Bed was deliciously warm and comfortable.

"Hmmm..." thought I, sleepily. "The polls open in 15 minutes. I'll go back to sleep now and vote this afternoon." Then I remembered Joe's experience in the Great Gambier Voting Line of 2004 and jumped out of bed. No shower, just sweatshirt and jeans and off -

My polling place comprises several precincts. There's never a line. Never. I have voted at all hours of the day (though never 6:05 AM) and there's never a line. The place was full . Naturally part of this was due to Joe - admit it, Joe, you had something to do with this - as each precinct had only one functioning voter machine out of four.

There was an elderly man who could barely walk, a little confused by the technology, but determined. The woman ahead of me in line knew she would be late to work, but felt that voting should come first. Unusually for my polling place, I wasn't the youngest voter in the room. Most of us under-forties were clad in the same general attire, but enthusiastic.

Only took 45 minutes.

I'm sure that many of the people in the room were Republicans. I'm going to pretend that most of us were voting Democrat. This is Hoosier History that has nothing to do with basketball or fried brain sandwiches. This is awesome.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

scorecard update


Obama: 2 more
Clinton: 1 - the first one yet

Phone Calls:

Obama: 1
Clinton: 1

Can you tell I'm psyched? Does it show? At all? Nah, probably not. I'm a very quiet and subtle person when it comes to anything involving history, and this is historic damnit!!!

Indiana will go back to being an unnoticed backwater when this primary election ends, our citizens laughed at as hicks and denigrated as in-bred fools, but for a few precious days, even the BBC has sent reporters here. There's been a CNN camper parked downtown for days with reporters constantly standing outside and taping whatever it is that they tape in those segments.

Now then, what do I wear to the polling place...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

a scorecard

As of 10:30 Saturday Morning:

Phone Calls:

Clinton: 1 - very nice older lady, we had a great chat
Obama: 3 - they have an organizational edge in my book because they made sure that I knew when the polls opened and closed and where my polling place was located


Clinton: 0
Obama: 12

Visits by Jehovah's Witnesses: 1

I cannot even begin to tell you all how psyched I am for Tuesday. Indiana hasn't mattered since 1968. (For the moment, I am choosing to forget about RFK and just be excited.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

six and six

At this point I have been tagged by so many people that I cannot list all of them here, but I do promise to follow the rules and leave a comment on all of your sites.

1) I am terrified of heights to the extent of being unable to move. I've had to be carried off ladders and led off of catwalks.

2) I once played the role of the princess in "The Princess and the Pea." This involved spending 40 minutes in total on a bed ten feet tall without any railing. (I still have a piece of it.) How did I manage this? I had a friend on the unseen side of the bed who spent the entire time I was up there smiling, giving me a thumbs up, waving, and generally being supportive. Wouldn't have gotten by without him - thanks Gio, wherever you are.

3) I have a terrible weakness for soy sauce, even on odd foods, such as mashed potatoes.

4) For a month the arrow keys on my keyboard have not functioned. My tab key has not worked for two years. My caps lock key died about 18 months ago. Needless to say, I have a new keyboard, but it is still sitting un-opened in the box.

5) John Bellairs is one of my favorite authors. He's deliciously creepy and throws in all sorts of little historical references - and you need to know your history to get them. Hannah Dustin doesn't get a lot of attention in history class.

6) If given thousands of dollars toward a plane ticket and other travel expenses, I would head straight to Wales.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

for the record

#1 - I got mail today from the Obama campaign. I got a phone call from the Clinton campaign. My vote matters! It's not principle,it's not just - to hell with just, candidates actually want my vote!!!!

#2 - This poetry thing is getting far bigger than I ever imagined.

if everything happens that can't be done
e.e. cummings

if everything happens that can't be done
(and anything's righter
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there's nothing as something as one

one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we come who)
one's everyanything so

so world is a leaf so a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shuter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there's somebody calling who's we

we're anything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
than books
might mean)
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one

Friday, April 18, 2008

two earthquakes

#1 - the human mind is goofy. I woke up to the bed, walls, ceiling moving - and Sam, on all four paws and ready for anythng needed in defense of his mistress. He fell off the bed, but continued to survey the surroundings and general vicinity for the source of the danger. "oh, Sam, it's only an earthquake," I said, and went back to sleep.

90 minutes later, on the other hand, I actually woke up.... "OMG Sam, it was a ^*&(*&%$#%^*&()(*&%^*& earthquake?!!!"

5.2 on the Richter Scale.

#2 - an e-mail came today, out of the clear clue sky. "Prof lemming, you have forgotten me " like hell I have, you have no idea, "but you changed my life in ways gjlkjjlkrty."

I what?!!

To hell with that, you nomiated me for my first teaching award. All I did was offer you advice on a few papers. OK, I did talk to you after class, but all good teachers do that, right?

You wrote to my chair. I didn't do anything special, nothing unusual, but you thought it was special. I can recite parts of that letter from memory. You think that I have forgotten you? Not even an earthquake would make me forget you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

confessions of a history geek

Not even of a history major, just a history geek...

I had a class today which I could have done 95% of the top of my head when I was 17. Oh yes, there are nuances, facts, figures which I'm sure (I hope) were refined during the 10, 000 years I spent in graduate school. At the same time, I did 28 minutes straight without once looking at my notes. It's nice to be competant occasionally.

The latest poetry wasn't chestnuts - it was just awful. Why do people have the idea that all poems have to rhyme?

At my undergraduate institution, you had to complete a senior comprehensive exercise in your major to prove that you had actually learned something in four years. My exact memory of what happened after I passed is a tad vague. I do however vividly remember standing with a group of other English majors and shouting this at the moon.


we're anything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
than books might mean)
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one.

-ee cummings, "If Everything Happens that Can't be Done"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

confessions of a recovering English major

With one painfully boring exception, I loved my English classes in college. I majored in History because I knew I could do it well; I majored in English because it meant I got credits for reading novels and poetry. Hey, it seemed a good idea at the time, even if it meant that I wrote about five bazillion papers in four years. For this I am still making student loan payments.

It also means that when I listened to "Prairie Home Companion" spoof English majors on Sunday, I instinctively started to think about post-structuralism and its relationship to gender identity and deconstructionism.

Anyway, this is apparently National Poetry Month or some such because people keep sending me poems. These are normal, rational-seeming folks, and it is nice to see what gets sent my way... certainly a break from the usual dross of life.

I'm noticing something, though - almost all of the poems (upwards of 20) are old chestnuts. There's nothing wrong with "Two roads diverged in yellow wood/ and sorry I could not travel both" it's just that even as a freshman in college I was sick of it. Wordsworth's poem about daffodils is terrfic, but again, it's so over-used and repeated.

Now. I'm not arguing that we should all memorize "The Man From Snowy River" (up the Australians!) or that "Dulce et Decorum Est" doesn't make me cry (it does) but Frost and Owen and Dickinson and their kin did write other pieces.

P.S. There's a bumper sticker that says, "If You can read this thank a music teacher." (Then there's a few bars of Beethoven.) Official thanks to the teacher who first walked me through Paradise Lost.

Friday, April 11, 2008

advice to tech support

The phrase "oh yeah, this happens all the time" is not reassuring.

Nor is "we have no idea why this happens."

Lie to me. Tell me that it has to do with the orbits of the moons of Jupiter if you must, but please pretend that you understand why my computer is behaving in a strange way for the umpteenth time.

Oh, and P.S. do not take it as a compliment that everyone on my floor has your extension on speed dial.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

more politics

Thanks to all for the feedback about my HRC/ BO comparison. I had no idea my random musings would generate such passion.

I don't want my vote to be cast "just" about the war. I knew (and know) far too many poeple who based their vote four years ago solely on 9/11 and a conviction that only GWB had protected us from it happening again. Do not underestimate the conservativeness of Indiana. John Kerry carried Marion County (aka Indianapolis) in 2004, but he and Gore are still the subject of scorn and derision here in the land of the Hoosiers. Being a left-leaning liberal sort of carbon based life form in Indiana is not an easy matter and we tend to be quiet about it. While the pre-varicating drives me up the wall, it does force me to really think through, think through carefully, what I believe, what I support and how to live it. Bear in mind that I live and work alongside people who wish that GWB could serve a third term.

Plus I teach history, so I'm probably waaaay too caught up in the historicity of the moment. Call it an occupational hazzard.

I did do some serious reading this morning about the candidates - their positions on issues other than Iraq, long-term hopes and allegiances, etc. I'm heartened that both BO and HRC have prioritized health care, though after living through the early 1990s, I'm not sanguine. Obama can be as independent as he likes, the insurance companies have scuttled health care reform before and will do it again.

On a happier note, a quote for the day:

She refused to bebored because she was not boring.
-Zelda Fitzgerald

Thursday, April 03, 2008

decisions, decisions, ah, pay me a lawyer's salary please

All right, I'm working on this decision process.


Pro - Bill Clinton's voice is pleasant.
Chelsea has no visble drinking problem.
A woman president, how cool would that be?!

Con - she voted for the war.


Pro: Michelle seems very smart and savvy.
Kids seem reasonably normal, as far as Hyde Park kids go (the U of Chicago is a very bizarre place.)
An African American pesident, how cool would that be?

He did not vote for the war.

Is this it? Is this all that my vote decision process will come down to at the end of the voting booth curtain? Not that the war isn't significant, but there must be more... I'll keep looking.

Just a passing thought - Bill Clinton campaigned for HRC in Bedford. When was the last time, if ever, that a former president visited Bedford? Benjamin Harrison, maybe? Wow. We're actually having a primary, what a great and wonderful concept.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

the ballot box

Last night, it struck me - quite forcefully: I have to actually decide which candidate will get my vote in May.

I've been following the election, obviously, but it's been largely with the slightly detached and disinterested eye of someone who will have to teach it one of these days. Oh, I would go to the polls in May and squint at the silly electronic screens, but I would do it simply because I can rather than because it would have any meaning in the long term vis a vis the selection of a candidate. Surely by May the race would be down to one person for each ticket...

Apparently Indiana is going to be a big battleground state for Obama and Clinton. Indiana? Who would have thought it??! I am stunned. Chelsea Clinton did a big university speaking tour here and Bill has been spotted all over the place. Meanwhile I saw the first ad I think I have EVER seen in all of my years living in Indiana for a presidential candidate during primary season (Obama.)

In all honesty, I am not wild about either of my options - Obama and Clinton both bring odd bits of baggage and their own myopic views and weaknesses. Both seem to be quite passionate about public service and to truly believe that change is actually possible. Whichever way I vote, it will be a historic vote as cast by moi. I am only one citizen but damnit, that's the point.

(No, McCain isn't an option. His embrace of GWB creates serious problems in my mind, not to mention that we disagree on some issues that are of vital importance to me as a voter. I might have voted for him in 2000, but not in 2008.)

So anyway, I am slowly shifting from detached cynicism to trying to make a decision. I'm trying to weed out the "I landed upder sniper fire" and "he's a Muslim" stories and actually pare down to their ideas, their ability to connect with others and their overall enthusiasm.

If nothing else, "Hillary" "Barack" and "John" all pass my "Prayers of the People" test.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

update and hodge-podge

Eighty-nine students understood the last assignment. Guess who continues to insist that it is, "so hard and it makes no sense." Ah well, enough of that.

We're in that funny mix that is Indiana spring - some warm days, some cold days, and some bizarre storms. Yesterday's classes were accentuated by thunder, buffeted by winds and the windows attacked by rain that sounded like machine gun fire. Naturally, by the time I walked to my car, the sun peeped out from behind the clouds. Were I the sun, I think I'd have just taken the whole day off.

Getting back to my earlier meme, I wanted to put in a plug for the Judy Garland/ Gene Kelly classic film For Me and My Gal. It was Kelly's first film and Garland's first starring role in which her name went above the credits. To answer your next question, yes, she's healthy and looks happy.

It's set during the days before WW I and, surprise surprise, features two hoofers who want to make it to the heights of Vaudeville. OK, so far it's a formula, right? Here's the catch - unlike most musical leads of the time, Kelly is a bit of a cad. He's not above some cocksure yet cunning duplicity to get to Garland. Garland's brother willingly serves in the war, while Kelly is, shall we say, a tad reluctant.

When the film aired in previews, several bits had to be added to make Kelly's charecter more acceptable to audiences - I'd have liked and comprehended him and his motives anyway, but as this was aired during WW II, I can understand this need to support patriotism. Anyway, how many 1940s musicals have war sequences?

"And sometime we're gonne build a little home for two or three or four or more in loveland for Me and My Gal."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

thanks for the cold noses

I was running, running, running - wanted to scream, but couldn't - running, running, running...

I awoke to a cold nose in my hand. Sam does this sometimes. The cold nose is then followed by his patented "border collie stare" one hard wired into his DNA to intimidate the sheep. He may be the same size as your average sheep, but Sam's stare could get a ram to recite Shakespeare.

It's 3 AM, so I assumed that Sam was informing me that he really should go outside right now or we'd both regret it. I stumbled out of bed, prepared to go downstairs in my state of semi-nombulance.

Instead, with the herding stare firmly in place, he blocked the door. Feeling a bit like I had time-warped into an episode of Lassie I said something like, "what is it, boy?" Sam nudged me down ont the floor and then put his head into my lap after licking my hand.

Understand that Sam is not a dog who licks. I maybe get one if I've been away for the weekend. I am convinced that my dog knew I'd been in the midst of a nightmare and wanted to comfort me. He kept his head on my lap until my heart had stopped pounding.

I'd like to thank all who have commented, called, e-mailed and otherwise offered support in the on-going soap opera. Ei, I am in love with the CD. I hate to make a blog into a thoroughly narcissistic statement, but I suppose this is one of the useful functions it can serve in our day to day lives.

In other words, thanks for all of the cold noses.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

a quiet rant

I thought I was tough.


I've been called every name in the book, plus a few that even a porn publisher wouldn't include, let alone Harlequin.. In 15 years, I've gotten reasonably accustomed to the occasional problem student. I'm pretty good at dealing with them too. In all modesty, I pride myself upon being the kind of teacher that gets people to say, "you know, I hate history, but I love your class."

I work at it. Very hard. Very hard. Probably much more than any of them ever guess. I care, a lot. I am poorly paid and all of that, but what I do matters and I love it and that's the point. I don't want to make millions, I want to make people as excited about history as it makes me. I want them to use it to improve matters, be informed, create change. Don't build amusement parks on Civil War battlefields -

I had a show-down today with a student. This was the worst show-down I have ever had with anyone in my entire life and I do mean with ANYONE. Pick your worst playground bully, your worst ex-boyfriend's mother, whatever. This was hideous. At the end of it I was, literally, sick to my stomach.

I hope that this means an end to the soap opera I have mentioned in the past. I am not optimistic. I have learned that I am not the only one to have problems wioth this person... I'm just the first to confront the student directly. Lucky me.

I'm sorry; I had planned to write a long and funny post about the one film that no one guessed from my meme (For Me and my Gal, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly) but this is all I can handle right now. Tomorrow I promise to go back to being light-hearted.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

movie meme

I've been seeing a lot of bloggers experiment with this one - it's been fun to see the variety of choices, even when when I haven't seen any of the films in question.

1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.

2. Go to IMDB and find a quote from each movie.

3. Post them here for everyone to guess.

4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.

5. GUESSERS: NO GOOGLING/using IMDb search functions.

1) "Oh Abigail, Abigail, I have such a desire to knock heads together!"
-1776 guessed by Harriet

2) "That wasn't the prettiest corner I've ever seen Mr. Liddel, but certainly the bravest." -Chariots of Fire guessed by Jim and yes, you're exactly right, it should be "quarter" not "corner"

3) "I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We both know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. We're a knowlegable family."
-The Lion in Winter Joe, bonus for knowing extra lines!

4) "Did you know she has flowers in her panties?"
-The Gods Must be Crazy guessed by Jeanne (I can't believe that she didn't know #7!)

5) "a little home for two or three or four or more in loveland"

6) "Perhaps Margaret is right. Perhaps piracy is our only option. What exactly is swabbing?"
-Sense and Sensibility Brain Girl - I didn't know you read my blog! I am honored.

7) "I'm a damsel - I'm in distress - I can handle it. Have a nice day!"
- Hercules guessed by Foxy - Drew, we saw this together!!!!

8) "Games? I've seen better organized riots."
-Chariots of Fire also by Jim. OK, I admit it, I couldn't decide which line I liked better so I used them both. Hey, it's my blog and it's a brilliant movie.

9) "Green - no, blue - aaaah!"
Monty Python and the Holy Grail guess by Harriet, some of smartest silly humor ever

10) "one sister has gone with a brother before, but two sisters makes the entire family look ridiculous."
Meet Me in St Louis Harriet, how did you get this one??!

Friday, February 29, 2008

and I thought I had a bad week...

I had a very raw week this week, lots of students who are slowly learning about what it means to be responsible, take care of what matters, etc. Monday was particualerly overwhelming, just listening to the morass of doom and despair. I speak of this casually, but these were all kids with real problems, the kind that put my annoying student to shame. Sure, you hate my class, but you don't have a dying family member, a child in intensive care, or a recent diagnosis of bi-polarism. (Is that a verb? Person diagnosed as bi-polar.)

Anyway, here's another "bummer desk" story. I at least am able to work in my chosen field. I could wish for better pay, more respectful students, a corner office... but I am able to do it. Now, I know, Prince Harry has all sorts of advantages and options comletely unavailable to us mere mortals. It's still got to be rough to carry the DNA of the Diana legacy. By all accounts he desperately wanted to be sent to the war, to do what he has been trained to do, serve as a citizen, and prove his mettle. Instead, an American new source has outed him (that will be on the cover of People next week, I'm sure) and he's back to playing polo or whatever it is that he can do... Makes my life look easy, so I'll stop complaining, at least for now.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

soap opera update

OK, now this is getting out of hand. Student mentioned in the previous posts e-mailed me last night at 10:45. AsI am an old person (tm) I was asleep. The question was perfectly valid, but I do not have any sort of alert system for e-mails hooked up. damnit, I've acrued enough debt to qualify for this job (jobs) that I deserve at least seven hours each night.

Said student then e-mailed at 7:00 AM to complain that I had not yet amswered the message from last night. At 7:00 AM, as best I recall, I was indulging in a healthy breakfast of leftovers, and e-mail was not the first (or even fourth) thing on my mind at that moment. "Am I really awake?" definitely took up the first fifteen or sixteen priority slots. "Why aren't you answering me? This is your job!"

A good friend of mine left grad school, despite having a GPA off the charts and all sorts of innovative ideas, because dealing with such situations really did not appeal. Wise choice.

(except that I love my job most of the time... addiction?)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

a follow-up

Mariah raised an excellent point in her comments to me, and I wanted to respond.

I am all in favor of students who speak up. I get a huge kick out of the folks who raise the unusual points, or who leap in with a wild guess when no one else is speaking. That makes class more interesting, I hope, for everyone. Hey, I'm human, sometimes I'll have a topic that I've carefully planned out, but the definition and accompanying questions just don't work. Hey, if someone doesn't tell me, I won't know.

It's when a student has obviously not cracked open the textbook in, oh, say, six weeks, not bothered to get the notes for the classes they missed, and expects to be able to jump in... well, then I get annoyed. When the rest of the class gets annoyed with another student, I take that as proof that I'm not truly evil.

Meanwhile, I would just like to report that I have exercised great self-restraint and not eaten all of my Tag-Alongs... yet.

Friday, February 15, 2008

teaching thought

I have a student who really really doesn't like me. Everything in every class is to be questioned and found less than adequate. At bottom, the student is uncomfortable with my approach and the questions I raise. I have a sneaky suspicion that this student wold be uncomfortable with any thing different, be it me, be it William Faulkner, be it DNA evidence.

What's fascinating is that this student hasn't yet grasped that their questioning is really starting to annoy the rest of the class. I could care less (really, I mean it) but I do care about the impact the questions have upon the tone of the discussion. At the same time, I love it that the class can debate.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

seasonal musings

So a couple years ago I was thumbing through the Encyclopaedia Britannica because I wanted to know the origins of this Cupid chap who is supposed to be flying around this week. He's Roman, in case you didn't know (I didn't at the time, which is why I was looking him up in the first place). He apparently enjoys archery and he's a menace to our society. Britannica says that his "wounds inspired love or passion in his every victim."

"WOUNDS???" "VICTIM???" He's hunting human prey, for crying out loud! Clearly this guy is a terrorist and needs to be stopped at all costs! We need to ship his wing-ed little ass off to Guantanamo and find out what his real agenda is!

As you may have guessed (if you didn't already know), I find Valentine's Day a disgusting and crass holiday. Even in the days when I had a girlfriend, I still wasn't that fond of it (although I will admit that it was a lot more fun). I don't understand the concept of it, personally. Some poor schlub gets his head lobbed off and I'm supposed to be romantic about it?

"Y'know, honey, we can go out to dinner and a movie anytime. Tonight, why don't we watch someone get martyred?" I don't know about the rest of you, but I certainly get hot just thinking about someone's decapitation. Valentine's Day -- Bah! Humbug!

Which brings me to love itself. Can there be anything as screwed up as this emotion? I find it thoroughly fascinating that while love is the antithesis of hate, it can be just as destructive -- just ask Helen of Troy. Or Shakespeare. Or Leonard Cohen...

The only good thing to come out of it (aside from the continuation of the species, I suppose--which is a diatribe for another time) is what it does to us creatively. Just ask Shakespeare. Or Leonard Cohen...

Our species has created plays, paintings, movies, stories, and, yes, literally thousands of songs according to Rob Fleming (or Rob Gordon if you're a fan of the movie), devoted to love. One could make the argument that the entire entertainment industry was built upon the ideas of love and romance. Hugh Grant alone owes his entire career to it!

This was written by my friend Hagrid - Hagrid is the honorary little brother whom I wish I saw far more often but whom I know I could call at 3 AM for a place to sleep or for bail money. We've been chatting about the holiday season of late and I (with permission) now blatantly post his words, as I thought them most apt to the motivations behind the festivities.

I think that one of the areas where we fall down most readily is in the simple act of telling people whom we love that we love them. Purchasing a box of chocolates or a dozen roses or a three foot long snake with sewn on "be mine" heart (available at my local Kroger) once a year is just not the same.

Apparently teachers get more Valentines each year than spouses get from each other. What does this say about the commercialization of romance?

I hereby call for this to be a week of simply saying,"I love you" - be it to spouses, SOs, siblings, parents, children, pets or even laser printers and coffeepots. Skip the profits and just say it. Then say it again when this week is over.

Friday, February 08, 2008

dietary query

Whta is it about Fridays in Lent that makes me so crave red meat? I'm a Protestant, for pete's sake.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

post-mortem on Super Tuesday

I am fascinated by all of the conservative talking heads who have announced that if John McCain is the nominee that they will work for Hillary's election. Aren't these the same folks who villified her ten years ago? Accused her of theft, murder, avarice, deceit, cover-up, conspiracy and any number of other foul acts?

This to me smacks of the same tone adopted four years ago by another end of the spectrum - "ohmigod, if Bush wins this election I am moving to Canada." Yeah, and all of you did just that.

Right now I'm just holding my breath for an actual honest to goodness primary election among the Democrats. It would be terrific if my primary vote, cast in May, carried more than symbolic value.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

edge of memory

Just for historical documentation:

a sudden memory - I was blackmailed into helping out with my high school yearbook (yes, it was blackmail and he's now in the Marines in Iraq, OK?) - one day we got a call from a man whose father was an alum at our school. For whatever reason, he knew nothing of his father as a person, so what we could tell him, based solely upon his father's yearbook entries, was deeply meaningful.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

40 + 20 -20 = 40

We are fast approaching add/drop deadlines. I have 40 students in one of my classes. I do not flatter myself that it is full because they love me - the class is required and the time is right. The room seats 40, maybe 42 in a tight pinch. I refuse to go above 42... but I am still getting requests from people who drop the name of their adviser in hopes that it will help them get in.

#1 - I don't know your adviser, don't care about your adviser and if your adviser was any good, they would have been in touch two months ago like the other advisers who talked me into admitting their kids.

#2 - no.

#3 - you want in my class? Get me a raise.

On a happier note - Ginger! That's the one I couldn't remember. Whatever happened to her, anyway?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

a short quiz

In thirty seconds or less, name all of the Spice Girls. Bonus points for knowing their real names.

I can't.

Monday, January 21, 2008

living space vs. real estate

Most bathrooms are larger than my office. Many closets are larger than my office. I share my office with another prof. There's room for desks, coats and a chair and then maybe a tight turn around.

Naturally, when another prof demanded a different office space, our was the first one the powers that be came up with as a suitable alternative. Said power of being has an office easily four times the size of mine, and single occupancy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

what's in a name?

Because the 2008 primaries started, as best I can tell, back in 1988, I have started to fixate on odd details. I live in Indiana, so my primary vote won't count (though I will be voting, on principle if nothing else.) Nonetheless, I feel that I should pay some sort of attention.

The religious angle does not interest me (and I probably know more bout the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints than many journalists who pretend otherwise), I don't worry about divorce, and I long ago left the wars in Iraq and Afganistan in God's hands. Thus what is left for me to obsess about?


More specifically, the candidate eventually elected will be prayed for every Sunday for the next four years. I often read the Prayers of the People at church, and I have noticed that some names ring "more dignified" than others. "Frank, our governor, Mitch, our governor" - I wish them well and wise, but they lack dignity somehow. I never did like praying for "Bill, our president" always preferred "William." George is dignified, but I tend to prefer name of two syllables.

So, where does this leave me, the burned-out voter?

Michael = dignified
Barack = unusual, but passed the two syllable test
John = one syllable, but dignified
Hillary = two syllables
Rudy = two syllables, kind of odd, but can we handle Rudolph?

Not sure how I feel about Mitt.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

more technology, advanced and otherwise

Well, it's been a busy week here at lemming headquarters. As I am a particularly cruel and vindictive person at times, I was delighted to hear that the tech person about whom I last blogged as "resigned to spend more time with their family." Don't let the door hit you on the way out or I will.

Tech's replacement proved to be funny, helpful, understood me when I said "well, I click on the yellow bit and then the red button doesn't come up" and I am prepared to bear his children.

Continuing the stream of happiness, not one but three former students e-mailed me pictures from their vacations. "Oh my gosh, prof lemming, I read about location x in your class and here I am in front of it!" That was cool.

I've started thinking about the syllabus for one of my classes for the spring - I still have a few weeks. I've done the class before, but in a different format. I think I', going to pitch the old bits and start from scratch. This will make for more work (ick) but will be more interesting for me and hopefully for them.

I recently mentioned to one of my favorite college profs that I did occasionally doodle in their class - it had actually helped me follow what was being said. Said prof was horrified. "You did? Really?" This makes me feel better about the students I saw doodle in my class at the end of last semester!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy 2008!

which will mark a return to blogging.

Long time no write, I know. I spent most of the last six weeks of 2007 in a nasty battle with the tech support powers that be. Let's just say that I resent doing tech support's job for them, on my own time, and that it really ate up a lot of my Christmas Spirit, the dulcet tones of Mariah Carey notwithstanding.

Then I opened Christmas Cards, physical and virtual, and was reminded by former students that I really did teach them something along the way. All right, all right, the cockles of my heart are warmed and I will carry on. Maybe I can shame tech support into being useful for a change.

I caught most of a segment on 60 Minutes the other night which proved, tongue in cheek but still definitive proof, that the geeks now do run much of the world. One of the interviewees was the founder of Geek Squad. Said founder commented that he very intentionally puts his workers in the black clip-on ties for two reasons. the first is to remind his troops that they are professionals. The second is to keep them humble. The biggest complaints he hears about tech support people is that they speak a foreign language and that they are arrogant jerks.

The techno-babble doesn't bother me. 99 times out of 100, I find that tech support people are more than happy to explain a term to you - indeed, and pleased to be asked. It's the arrogance that drives me up the proverbial wall.


lemming: I need help with this.
Tech: This is the link.
lemming: I clicked on that link and I got an error message.
Tech: Click on this link.
lemming: I just did. I told you, I got an error message.
Tech: Cut and paste this link into your browser.
lemming: I just did, for the third time, and I keep getting an error message which says that this site does not exist.
Tech: Well, that's the right link.
lemming: Have you actually tried this link?
Tech: well, not as such, but that's the right link.

The year can only get better!