Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Things I'm Not

  1. I am not a secretary who has staplers, tape, paper clips, pens, and/or paper to hand out to people who don't have these things for themselves.
  2. I am not your mother.
  3. I am not your best friend.
  4. I am not your sister.
  5. I am not the information center of this floor, here to give every person who doesn't know where to find something directions.
  6. I am not the keeper of my colleagues, knowing when they have office hours.
  7. I am not the keeper of my colleagues, knowing when or whether they will return to their offices.
  8. I am not the keeper of my colleagues, knowing why they've cancelled class recently.
  9. I am not obligated to deal with anger related to your problem in a class that has nothing to do with me.
  10. I am not obligated to be polite and sweet to you when you direct anger or disrespectful demands at me, even if I'm young (relatively speaking) and female.

If I didn't know how much of a bad idea it would be, I would print this out and put it on my office door, slamming it after I'd done so. Instead, I'll post it on the blog.

Monday, January 30, 2006

In Patting Oneself on the Back News...

Even though "cheating friday" became "cheating Thursday evening through Saturday Morning" this week, I still (unaccountably) lost 4 pounds. I will say, I was very good on the non-cheating days, and I was very good about the working out. Also, the week before I'd only lost one pound, so I'm thinking that perhaps I was on a plateau and ellipticalled my way out of it? Either that or my scale doesn't really work. All I know is that I'm feeling good and I'm not hungry and my clothes are fitting better. Hurrah!

In other news, conferences are going along swimmingly. What makes me sad is that I need to grade so much before conferences tomorrow, which is annoying since I'm also doing a candidate lunch, presentation, interview, and dinner today.

I also came to the realization this weekend that I'm a workaholic. I'm not sure whether that's something to pat myself on the back for, but I do think that it is generally a good way to get ahead in this stupid profession.

The Man-Kitty is awesome, but he has not been cooperating with picture-taking recently. I know you all miss him, though, and I've not shown him on this blog, so I've included a picture from a while ago for your viewing pleasure.

Conferences. Already.

Well, I suppose it is week four. I suppose that it makes sense that I'm doing conferences. I know they are a good thing. They make me catch up with grading, and students like them. But this means that I probably won't have a lot of time for blogging in the coming days. That stinks.

You know what else stinks? Being in my office for hours doing conferences.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Introduction to Literature, Part II

Ok, I'm not sure if anybody's really interested in this - well, a couple of people are, who commented on part I, but I feel like I'm writing this more for myself than for anybody else somehow, which makes me feel like I'm not taking care of my audience. That said, I do know that you tagged me, Clare, and I will do the meme in a bit, and I also have another fun thing that I saw over at Charlie Amra's blog that I think people will enjoy (And yes, Charlie, I plan on responding over there, too, but I'm trying to think up a good "memory"), so even if you're not interested in this post I am not abandoning you. But anyway, back to intro to lit.

When we left off, I had promised that I would continue by talking about how I design my intro to lit course. In comments, Dr. Virago left me some helpful questions that I'll use to guide this part II.

I. Do I build the syllabus around a "theme" or subject matter.
Well, if by theme you mean a unified and clearly concentrated topic, like "monsters" or "memory" or something, then no, I don't. The reason that I don't is that I really like the idea that in intro to lit we're teaching our students to find those themes or organizing ideas on their own. This is not to say, however, that there is no linkage between the texts that I choose.

That, I think, is where the anthologies get it wrong. They focus on quantity rather than relationship between texts, which doesn't really make sense since there's no way to cover that kind of quantity in the course of one semester in any sort of meaningful way. (My dream textbook for an intro-to-lit course would be organized more like a comp/rhet reader, and it would have, say, five sections, each including a set of readings that would work as a potential syllabus for a semester-long course but also that would be able to be used across the units, if that makes sense. Of course, for the kind of works I'd want to pick the permissions would probably be a bitch, but I think that would be a much more usable kind of anthology than the ones that are currently the norm. But I digress.

Instead of organizing the course around a specific and clearly localized theme, I instead organize it around the following questions: "What counts as literature? Who decides what counts as literature? How does reading literary texts allow us greater understanding of our culture or of other texts that we encounter?"

I've just tweaked the course a bit this year to eliminate one of the texts that I used to teach (The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde), so what it looks like now is basically this:

First Unit: What is literature? I have them read some poems, two short stories, and we watched Krapp's Last Tape (which I asked them to glance at ahead of time, but which we didn't go over in any sort of systematic literary critical way - my point was really more the exposure of them to it, that they be "introduced" as it were). In the first three weeks we do a lot of work with figuring out how to analyze texts and with the distinct characteristics of each genre.

Unit II: Literature Capital L. We read two sonnets - one by Sidney and one by Shakespeare - Hamlet and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Reading Hamlet definitely helps students with getting what Joyce does with Stephen Dedalus (I also bring in the Scylla and Charybdis episode of Ulysses and read sections of Stephen's Shakespeare theory). But yes, this is the unit where we really interrogate why certain writers are put above others as more important or more worth reading than others and where we interrogate the relationship between enjoyment or pleasure in reading and literary status.

Unit III: Women Writers. We read a couple of poems, Jane Eyre, and Cloud Nine. It's a really interesting unit because it allows us to think about what sorts of experiences or identities "count" in literature and to ask whether something that we enjoy can/should count as literature. Also, it's a nice little estrogen break after Unit II. Also, I think that Cloud Nine more than any of the plays that I teach really allows them to see why drama is particularly interesting because of the way that the doubling of the roles adds layers of meaning.

Unit IV: Kind of the "not just for the literature classroom" unit - we read Pope's Eloisa to Abelard and then watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A. This means that the students aren't burdened with a lot of reading at the end of the semester. B. It allows us to consider whether film should be included as a literary genre and also the way that more "popular" texts engage the canon.

At any rate, I suppose it would be possible for me to call the course one that centers on memory, or identity, or love, or whatever. What's interesting for me, though, is to see what students come up with as the organizing thematic principles of the course.

II. Does the course range across time periods?
As the above shows, it does. However, you will also notice from the above that it does so in somewhat limited ways. I tend to go out of my time period only for texts that I really love or for texts that are easily accessible and demonstrate something that I think students should know. So, for example, it makes sense for me to use early modern poems to demonstrate what a sonnet is, even though that's not my area of specialty. Similarly, I'm not a Victorianist but I've always loved Jane Eyre and students tend to respond really well to it, and so I teach it. The point for me, I suppose, is that going across time periods is necessary in order for me to challenge the first-day-of-class axiom that somebody always comes out with when I ask them to define literature, which is, as you might guess, that "literature stands the test of time." That said, I don't spend a lot of time on the construction of literary periods in the course because we have a required survey sequence and I think that's what the survey sequence is for.

III. So, My Theory of Intro to Lit in a Nutshell
I guess what I look for in this course is a lot. First, I look to be passionate about the texts that I teach in there. In some ways, intro to lit is a luxury course for me because it allows me to go out of my specific area of specialty without worry that the course doesn't do what it's supposed to do (as I would have to with any other course I teach, pretty much). Second, I look to include some very, very canonical texts (for example, Hamlet) for two reasons: 1) my students tend to respect the canon and to have a strong desire for cultural capital, and so including those sorts of texts allows me indicate that they'll have some cultural capital when they're done; 2) I really do believe in the canon, at the end of the day, and I think that texts like that are the foundation that students need to figure out what comes after it.

I'm not sure if this will require a part III or not, but I suspect I'll be writing about my intro to lit course throughout this semester. It is my only literature course, after all, and so I'm partial to it.

Having Struggled with What to Choose For Poetry Friday...

I decided to go with my favorite Wallace Stevens poem. Thanks to Jo(e) for the idea of Poetry Friday!

"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds,
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer -
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Woohoo! But Also I Might Be Very Stupid

Once upon a time, Dr. Crazy wrote a conference paper on a book that she always loved but had never studied in a classroom setting and on which she had never had the chance to write. This paper then led to another conference paper which then led to an MLA paper which then led to an editor of "the most important scholarly serial" in Dr. Crazy's field, an editor of the serial that "is widely recognized at the journal of record" of that field, to ask Dr. Crazy to allow this Fancy Journal to review the article for publication. This then led to Dr. Crazy writing the full length article and to that article being accepted for publication in that journal, to appear in 2006.

I got an email today asking me for an abstract of my article. Because it really is coming out in the coming months. Yippee!

First of all, I'm very, very excited because I was beginning to think that the article wasn't really accepted and that I'd hallucinated the whole thing, especially because I feel like a fraud in terms of this article a little bit anyway because I did sort of fall into the project without devoting myself to it like my life depended on it (ala my dissertation for which I've received pretty much zero acclaim).

Second of all, I feel like I might be the stupidest person alive because this article, which promises to be very good for my cv and all and of which I really am very proud, has made absolutely no impression on my brain and I don't really remember what it says. I suppose it's normal to forget what one writes, but nevertheless, I'm feeling like a bit of a fool.

So, on this afternoon's agenda are the following:

1. Grading (because I didn't grade at all yesterday).
2. Clean off desk.
3. Eat lunch.
4. Read article so that I can write the abstract.
5. Write the abstract.
6. Review of manuscript for the new edition of the Writing Handbook That Zillions of College Students Are Forced to Buy.
7. Candidate dinner.

Incidentally, I feel like Krapp's Last Tape was a success. Oh yes, they hated it, but I also think that they hated it for really good reasons, which have to do with exactly the conventions that Beckett is pushing up against. I think as we move into Hamlet, which is up next, that the two texts will intersect in really interesting ways. But enough about this - it belongs in my upcoming second installment about intro to lit.

Finally, I should probably note for the benefit of Scrivener that this post constitutes an attempt to be self-affirming without resorting to hating on myself. I realize there is a little of the hating (I cannot escape it) but I'm hoping that this meets Scrivener's Standards for Self-Affirmation. Or, in the words of Stuart Smalley, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

Introduction to Literature, Part I

I never took an Introduction to Literature class as an undergraduate. I AP'd myself out of such a thing, and from all of the reports that I heard from my friends, I was incredibly lucky to have done so. Intro to lit was the sort of course that was taught by inexperienced grad students (this not meant to diss grad students, as I was one, but rather to give an indication of what the attitude about them was at my undergrad institution) or overworked adjuncts (although of course I and my peers didn't have a great deal of understanding about issues with contingent labor and university hiring practices - we just knew that those instructors tended to be "easier," or at least that was the prevailing notion, based on what I'm not entirely sure), in which one "didn't learn a thing." At my undergrad institution, intro to lit was not required for English literature majors, and it is similarly not required for English literature majors at the university at which I am currently employed. It fulfills a general education requirement, and a lot of second-semester freshman take the course to get that out of the way, but it's kind of a ghettoized course, at least in my department and it's my sense that it's the same at many other departments across the country. Students aren't dying to take it, and instructors aren't dying to teach it. At least as a rule.

So, first things first: what is this "introduction to literature" about which I speak? It takes various forms depending on the university, but at my university it's a very traditional introduction to the genres course. (I think it's interesting that we think majors don't need this, even though they all call everything a "novel" or a "story," but whatever.) It is often taught by adjunct or non-t-t renewable contract faculty, though people who have been around a long time have tended to gravitate away from intro and into a theme-based "ideas in literature" course that has a different number or into just spending time doing the survey courses. In other words, I'm one of a very few t-t faculty members in my department who actually teaches this course. I should also note that because of its traditional focus, this course is most often taught from an anthology, which means that students are unlikely to read a novel (but rather are likely to read all of those short stories that are in every anthology), and that many times the course is structured just as anthologies are structured - 6 weeks on fiction, 6 weeks on poetry, and 3 weeks on drama, with little cross-pollenation between the genres. (Is "pollenation" spelled correctly? I think that's right, but it looks funny....)

So, as you might have gathered, my "intro to lit" looks nothing like what most sections of it at my university look like. If it had to look that way? Yes, I wouldn't teach it. I'd pretty much do anything else. So what is my introduction to literature course like? Well, here is what I thought about as I designed it:

1. I wanted a course that plays to my strengths and my areas of expertise.
2. I wanted a course that would give me the opportunity to teach things that I love that I wouldn't have the opportunity to teach regularly otherwise.
3. I wanted a course that really gave students a sense of all of the different kinds of literature out there - to introduce them to experimental stuff and stuff that challenges their ideas about what "counts" as literature (including film).
4. I wanted a course that teaches students how to read critically and to think about why genre is significant to how we read.
5. I wanted a course that creates conversations between genres rather than isolating them from one another.

My verdict? I could not have this kind of an introduction to literature course with a reader. I had to find my own texts and make my own way.

In the next installment, I'll talk about what I did in terms of designing the course and why I chose the texts that I did and all that jazz.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I See A Pattern Developing

It is Wednesday. I have a short assignment to grade for my writing classes. I do not want to grade it. Not because it's hard, but because I just don't feel like it. I have, when I'm done with this assignment, four more upcoming similar short assignments. I must develop a better attitude and a better technique for stopping myself from procrastinating! I learned over the past year that the way to stop myself from procrastinating on larger papers is to schedule conferences to give them their comments, but that's just not feasible for these small assignments. I did change toward having them submit the assignments electronically, which is a bit of a help, but really it has not solved the problem. Hmm. I think I will eat some lunch and then I'll have to come up with some system for rewarding myself for doing these. Every 5 papers I get to do.... what? Hmmmm.....

Ok, time to go heat up some soup and then eat it and the rest of my lunch. I will allow myself to procrastinate until noon, and then I will get to work. There is no reason why I should be putting this grading off. None whatsoever!

Onion Meme

Or, as Clare called it, the Longest Meme in the World. Please ignore if you just can't be bothered to read such a lengthy thing about moi....

Layer One
: Why Crazy, of course
Birthdate: August 1974
Birthplace: Cleveland
Current location: Midwest, U.S.
Eye colour: Hazel
Righty or lefty: Righty
Sign: Leo
Innie or outie: Innie

Layer Two
Heritage: Irish, Italian, Hungarian, Polish, and culturally Lebanese, though not by blood
Shoes you wore today: Black lace-up boots (no heel) because I couldn't be bothered with cute shoes. I've had these since grad school and I am anxious about the day that will come when I've got to get rid of them.
Your hair: Medium-blonde w/ highlights (that incidentally are not light enough for my taste.... grrrrr....), choppy bob
Your weakness: Gossip, whether about celebrities (tabloids, etc.) or about real people
Your fears: Driving over big bridges, especially those that cross water, and any number of things I can't think of right now.
Your perfect pizza: Chicago-style, but only in Chicago. The toppings vary.

Layer Three
Your most overused phrase: Is "motherfucker" a phrase?
Your first waking thoughts: Stop meowing and snooze. And no kneading my head, even if it is the most cat-like part of me. Ugh.
The first features you notice in opposite sex (or same sex, whatever...): Height.
Your best physical feature: I've got no idea. Probably my eyes, as boring as that is.
Your bedtime: I keep wanting to go to bed at 8:30 because I'm so bored with TV but generally I'm falling asleep around 10:30.
Your greatest accomplishment: Getting my Ph.D.

Layer Four
Pepsi or Coke: Coke. Clare says she prefers Cherry Coke. My weakness (hey - I should have put this above!) is actually Diet Cherry Coke. It might be the best drink ever.
Single or group dates: Dates? I haven't been on an actual date since like 2000. Sad, isn't it? I'm not much of a dater, though of course I've got a resolution to change that in the coming months.
Adidas or Nike: Adidas. Why? a.) My feet do not fit comfortably in Nike running shoes because I have chubby little kid feet. b.) The Run DMC song. c.) Is anybody else of the generation that said that Adidas was an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex? That makes me giggle, as only the seventh-grader inside of me can giggle.
Chocolate or vanilla: Vanilla.
Coffee or cappuccino: It really depends, doesn't it?

Layer Five
Smoke: Ok, so I did have two lapses over the holidays - one cigarette on Dec. 23rd and one cigarette on Dec. 29th. Other than that, no! I have quit! I have broken free from the Nicotine Monkey that had been on my back for years!
Cuss: See my answer for "most overused phrase."
Sing: All the time.
Take a shower everyday: It depends.
Have a crush: Not on any real life people, though, as we all know, Jake Gyllenhall is my boyfriend.
Been in love: Not been in real love for years, though I've tried to persuade myself to think I was in love more recently.
Want to get married: I guess, but only under the appropriate circumstances.
Believe in yourself: Of course I do.
Type with the right fingers on the right keys: You bet your ass. Last time I was timed I typed around 100 words/minute with 98% accuracy. Though I suck at the number keys.
Think you're attractive: Of course I do.
Think you're a health freak: Ok, so I'm trying to be one kind of but I'm totally not.
Get along with your parents: With mom and stepdad yes, with dad and stepmom not at all.
Play an instrument: Well, there was an attempt to learn the guitar when I was in 6th grade from a nun and all I learned was the hymn "Peace Is Flowing Like a River" and "Edelweiss." No, I'm not kidding.

Layer Six
In the past month did you...?
Drink alcohol: Yes.
Smoke: 2 cigarettes.
Do a drug: Nope.
Make out: Sadly, nope.
Go on a date: Again, the answer would have to be nope.
Eat an entire box of oreos: Not in the past month....
Eat sushi: Nope.
Been on stage: Well, all of the world is my stage....
Been dumped: Happily, nope.
Gone skating: No, though I did watch the beginning of Skating with the Celebrities.
Gone skinny dipping: It's fucking January. Are you kidding me?
Made homemade cookies: By "homemade" do we mean anything that is baked in my oven at home?
Fallen in love: Shakes head, begins to think that she shouldn't have done this meme.
Stolen anything: No
Dyed your hair: Do highlights count?

Layer Seven:
Have you ever...?
Played a game that required you to remove an item of clothing: Who hasn't?
Been trashed: Yes.
Been intoxicated: Yes
Been caught doing something: Yes
Been called a tease: Yes, but not since I was 15. Apparently I learned my lesson....
Shoplifted: Yes

Layer Eight
Age you hope to be married: Was this meme designed by a 13 year old? Because I've got to say, I've not answered a question like this one since I was in high school at the latest.
Number and names of kids: Ok, getting into the 13-year-old spirit of this, I will point out that one can't decide on the number and names of kids until one gets married and knows what the husband's last name is. Because this is a totally heteronormative 13-year-old world we're in, yes?
Describe your dream wedding: All that really matters to me is the food. Well, and the music, too.
How do you want to die: I don't know!
What would you like to be when you grow up: Ah, it is a meme for 13 year olds! Well, I would like to be independently wealthy, thus allowing me to pursue my dream of becoming a globe-trotting independent scholar.
What countries would you most like to visit: Wherever, though I've never been too intrigued by "adventure" type places where things like safaris happen or where one climbs mountains and things.

Layer Nine
Number of wo/men kissed: Holy crap. That number's got to be near a hundred. I stopped counting number of people I've kissed about 10 years ago.
Number of girl/boyfriends had: Real ones? I'd say... 4 or 5. Not real ones? I'd say somewhere around 10.
Number of drugs taken: Do over-the-counter drugs count? What about things like the Pill and antibiotics?
Number of people I could trust with my life: I don't know... a few.
Number of piercings: 3, if we count each ear as one.
Number of CDs: who the hell knows.
Number of tattoos: zero.
Number of scars: I don't know. I'm not a much-scarred person.
Number of regrets: I don't think any. At least none come quickly to mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And This, My Friends, Is Why I Resist Incorporating Technology in My Classes

And by "technology" I mean newfangled and wacky things like showing a DVD.

While our campus is trying to upgrade the classrooms to "smart classroom" status, we are by no means there. I have never been assigned a smart classroom in my time at this university, and I suspect it will be a long time before I am assigned such. Even the classrooms that are not "smart" don't have things as simple as a DVD player, which is problematic because neither I nor the library purchase VHS tapes anymore. To do so would be a bad investment, no? At any rate, I made the decision that I was going to stop being afraid of technology and plan to show the DVD of Krapp's Last Tape in Intro to Lit. Problematically, the room that I'm in doesn't have a DVD player, and it has a TV from the stone ages that probably wouldn't accept a DVD player if I tried. So I make an IT request to get the equipment I need in my classroom.

"For security reasons, they can't deliver equipment to a classroom."**

No, I'm not kidding.

I would be interested to hear where exactly they can make deliveries.

This also means that they will not set up this equipment for me.

Which means that I need to learn how to install a DVD player/projector myself, which means that I need to go and get schooled in these activities right before I'm teaching and hope (against hope) that nothing goes wrong when I get into my classroom and try to do this myself.

Note to administrators everywhere: It's really difficult to be an innovative teacher and to integrate different kinds of technologies and learning experiences into one's classes when one receives only the most pathetic amount of institutional support. Grrrrrr......

**I understand why they wouldn't be able to make a delivery to an EMPTY classroom, but it is entirely unclear to me why they wouldn't be able to make the delivery to the INSTRUCTOR of the class (I could show my ID or something) in the classroom and to set up the equipment for me. Or, if they insist on delivering the thing to my dept. office (which, apparently, is not a security risk), why can't they let the person who delivers it ACCOMPANY ME TO THE CLASSROOM AND SET THE THING UP. Ok, I need to go boil with resentment some more and stop writing about this.

Library Thing

If you haven't played around with this, you can get to it from my sidebar. Welcome to the most fun procrastination you've had in a long time, my bookloving friends... (says the professor who should be doing any number of things other than adding books to her library online....)

edited to add:
Ok, so now I've got to make a decision about whether to pay to become a member of the Library Thing. Because I've barely scratched the surface of all of the books that I own, and I've hit the limit of 200 that stands for free accounts. God, I've got a LOT of books.

From Teaching to Brokeback Mountain

Yesterday was a special day in two of my three classes. It happens every semester, and I will christen it "Week-All-But-Three-Students-Don't-Do-the-4-Page-Reading-Assignment" Day. Every semester, around week 3 or 4, this happens: 3/4 of the class (if not more) just totally blows off a day's assignment, and then I get to be the Big Bad Professor who has to call them on it. This happened at Fancy Research University where I did my graduate work, too, but the difference in the way that students respond here is different. At FRU, the students seemed to have a sense that they were blowing off their work, and they expected me to call them on it. They were somewhat chastened, but they never apologized, nor did they claim not to have known about the assignment. Conversely, at this university, the students seem 1) entirely surprised that I can tell that they didn't do the work and entirely surprised that I call them on it, 2) entirely surprised that I expect them to know what is assigned by reading the syllabus and that I actually stay on schedule with the syllabus, 3) entirely upset and worried that I will think that they are irresponsible. I kind of think that they are irresponsible, but more than that I think that they are testing to see what they can get away with. It's a normal thing to do, I'd say. But at any rate, that was yesterday. Today, in Intro to Lit we'll be finishing "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" and I'll be transitioning into drama stuff and introducing Krapp's Last Tape, which they'll be watching in its entirety Thursday. I'm really excited to see how they react. This will be the first time that I'm teaching it in Intro, and I know that it will challenge them, but I think that it's important to introduce them to "drama" that is neither a musical nor Shakespeare nor Trifles (which is in every damned anthology) nor a Tenessee Williams play (not that there's anything wrong with Tenessee Williams, but it's often the only drama to which they've been exposed other than Shakespeare and Trifles in a classroom setting). So yes, that's what's up with teaching. We shall see how this all goes.

Brokeback Mountain
I entirely loved the film. Random reflections on my experience watching the movie (which might give a little away but not the ending of the movie, but nevertheless read at your own risk):
  • There was an awkward moment, right after the first scene of fucking, at which I had to tell the old people (who I think thought it was a regular cowboy movie and not a two-male-cowboys-fucking movie when they bought their tickets) to shut up. I have a voice that really carries, even when I whisper, so it was kind of embarassing when I said in irritation "Could you PLEASE be quiet?!" At the same time, though, they'd been chatting it up from the beginning to that point, in spite of the fact that CBF and I turned around and gave them the evil-shut-up-in-the-movies-eye a few times, and I could not have them ruin my experience of the film.
  • I was horrified that a number of the audience laughed at Ennis's story about the cowboy who was murdered when Ennis was a kid.
  • I do think that Heath Ledger's performance was wonderful, but I also think that the reason that people are praising him and pretty much ignoring my boyfriend Jake Gyllenhall is because Jake Gyllenhall actually plays a gay cowboy whereas Heath Ledger plays a straight cowboy who just happens to fall madly in love with a man. Cruising for Anonymous Sex with Men in Tijuana + Cheating on one's One True Man-Love seems to = that people will not be comfortable praising your performance. Or maybe it's just the bad mustache that did him in.

By the way, I realize that this probably should have been two posts, but I started it as one, so there you have it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blogging for Choice (Albeit a Day Late)

On my office wall, I have a sign that is a leftover from before the last presidential election that says "I am Pro-Choice America." I should note that many of my students and colleagues are pro-life, and that perhaps it is unwise for me to leave this sign up and visible, right above my desk. But I leave it there because I think that it's important to put a real human face on this "pro-choice" position.

I have never been pregnant. I have never had an abortion, though I know a number of women who have had them. I have supported close friends through abortions, though I do not claim to know what they went through in making that decision, nor do I claim to know what I would do if I were to experience an unplanned pregnancy. The fact that I have not had an unplanned pregnancy has absolutely nothing to do with me being smarter or more responsible than other women. It has had to do with luck.

I was raised Catholic. My grandmother on my mother's side had ten children. Her mother had died when she was two years old as a result of a botched illegal abortion, leaving her four oldest children to live in orphanages and my grandmother, the youngest, to live with a woman from the church. My great-grandparents didn't have the money to feed another child. My great-grandmother made a choice, an illegal and ultimately deadly one. Ultimately, I think that her daughter's (my grandmother's) choice to have as many children as she did was influenced by growing up motherless as the result of her own mother's choice. Still, my grandmother supported two of her daughters (my aunts) through abortions. She did not disown them. She did not judge them for their choices. My mother was 19 years old and unmarried when she became pregnant with me; Roe v. Wade had passed the year before, and she could have aborted the pregnancy. Because she didn't I am here to write this post. This is not a simple issue for me, and I don't think that it's a simple issue for most women.

I suppose that ultimately the simplicity of the issue or whether abortion is right or wrong according to one's personal beliefs isn't really the point though. I don't know if I believe that it would be right to have an abortion were I to become pregnant right now. I can't know, really. Each of us has to make that decision for herself, given our own circumstances and our own beliefs.

Personal convictions aside, however, on the morality of abortion, I nevertheless believe that access to safe and legal abortion is imperative to the lives of women. And I suppose that's really all that I have to say on the subject.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Having Survived Friday....

Yes, I somehow survived the madness that was yesterday. I won't write more about the search process at the moment, as all that I want to write falls into one of two categories: 1) gossip about the candidate, which really isn't appropriate for a blog, so I'll limit my comments to the fact that we were pleased with the candidate's performance, though we've got two to go so who knows what will happen or 2) bitching about being on a search committee and the annoying aspects of collegiality, which also really isn't appropriate for a blog, so I'll limit my comments to the fact that I survived the day yesterday and went home and talked on the phone and had like 2 1/2 glasses of wine on which I was definitely tipsy as I've not had a drop of alcohol since the new year as I've been doing the whole watching of calories thing and so now I'm a totally cheap date when it comes to the booze.

What i'm most pleased about, though, is that I got up today, fed the Man-Kitty, and immediately returned to my bed, where I slept until 1 PM. Yep, that's right: I got approximately 13 hours of sleep last night. It was AWESOME. And then I woke up, I went to Starbucks (hey! I knew I knew that guy who was in line in front of me from someplace! It was the Man-Kitty's Man-Vet! I kept trying to place him and I couldn't.... and now I realize it's the man who neutered my little companion! How did I not know who he was? I am so oblivious sometimes.... I bet he thought I was rude....) and got a ventinonfatchaitealatte, and then I headed off to the Big Public Library, where I got a bunch of books, including Beth Luey's Handbook for Academic Authors, Naomi Black's Virginia Woolf as Feminist, John Fowles's journals, and some garbage chick lit. Oh, and I also got Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus because I was an idiot and never bought it in grad school (though I do have about 20 pgs of handwritten notes that are very compulsive and organized) and so now I need to consult it again and so needed to get it from the library again, and yes I know that I should just buy the fucking book but now I've got so much invested in my ridiculous notes about the book that I feel like it would be too much trouble to buy the book and to transfer those notes into it so why bother?

After that awesome trip, I went into my office and finished the grading that I should have finished yesterday and had some lunch, and now I need to go to the gym and then I think I'm going to give myself over to reading my library books. Brokeback Mountain has finally come to my local cineplex (yes, it takes a long time for the movies about gay cowboys to find their way to this part of the world) and so I'm finally going to see it tomorrow with my Colleague-Best-Friend and then I suspect we'll go to dinner, which makes the gym even more imperative, since yesterday on what I like to call "Cheating Friday" I really did overindulge, and so I've got to make sure that I burn off those calories so that I can eat out again tomorrow. My plan, however, is to persuade CBF to go to the turkish place that's by the movies at which I can eat something that's not entirely horrible for my eating healthy aims.

At any rate, I thought I should check in, if only to let you all know that I survived yesterday and went on to a very productive today.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Aren't Fridays Supposed to be Easy Days?

Well, here's my schedule today:

Alarm rings: 6AM
[hit snooze]
Man-Kitty meows, purrs, sticks butt in my face; kneads my head (with claws): 6:04AM.
[apparently there is no snoozing for Man-Kitties]
Jump in shower, having made the decision not to drink coffee at home but rather to treat myself with Starbucks. Oh, and did I mention that I woke up with a headache? I think it either is some weird sort of seasonal-allergy headache a few months early because of the unseasonably warm weather or a caffeine withdrawl headache. I'm not sure. At any rate, that puts us at: 6:25AM or so.
Try on approximately 4 outfits: 6:40AM
Who the fuck knows what else I did, but I'm finally out of the door at: 7AM
Arrive at Starbucks: 7:05AM
Leave Starbucks and realize that I have to make a U-Turn and to return home because I forgot my watch, which is important since today I am scheduled within an inch of my life: 7:15AM
After the drive to work, arrive at office: 7:30AM
Assign peer review groups, make a grading sheet for group presentations (ah, group presentations! The best idea I ever had for using the textbook in my writing class!); make copies of said materials: 7:30-8:05AM
Look at blogs: 8:05-8:25AM.
Grade like 2 papers: 8:25-8:45AM (I'm slow in the morning with the grading, apparently).
Get interrupted by one of my Favorite Students Ever for a chat: 8:45-8:55 AM
Head to class, but get sidetracked by job candidate standing in the hall with colleague. Must say hello: 8:55-8:58 AM
Teach: 9:00AM-10:50AM (with a 15 minute break in which I needed to run from the end of my first section back to my office in order to make copies for my second section, because apparently I cannot do the mathematics to make the right number of copies in the morning, either.)
The present time, in which I should be grading but instead I'm writing this blogpost because I don't feel like grading as even after the morning's latte I still have a headache, which must be due to allergies, I'm thinking, or perhaps a brain tumor: 11-11:30AM
Pick up job candidate from interview with dean and entertain her for a half hour: 11:30AM-12NOON.
Lunch with candidate, in chair's office, catered by university food services, which promises to include some really disgusting chicken and/or vegetarian (and yet totally oily) pasta: 12NOON-1:30PM
Entertain candidate (with juggling? magic tricks? who the fuck knows.): 1:30PM-3PM
Job talk delivered by candidate: 3PM-4PM
Whole search committee interviews candidate: 4PM-5PM
Search committee talks about candidate behind candidate's back (I think - not sure, as my search committee chair didn't give us a full itinerary): 5PM-5:30PM
Candidate's dinner: 5:45PM-?

What is my point in posting all of this? Well, it occurs to me that I've figured out why it sucks to be on a search committee. It's because one has the jam-packed schedule of a candidate, but one has it three times, and one has to have that schedule while still performing one's everyday job duties. The one thing that makes me happy is that Friday is the cheating day on the "I eat well and make good and healthy food choices" diet, and we're going to dinner at delicious Brio, which while a chain does have some delicious offerings. (And yes, I recognize that I'm completely reverting to my midwestern roots in enjoying eating at this upscale Olive Garden and thinking of it as a real place to go eat, but what's a girl to do? I've got to work with what I've got.)

Ok, I've officially wasted all of the time that I had for grading in the day. I think this will mean that I have to come into the office tomorrow. My life is pain. WHY do I assign so much writing? I know they are writing classes, but jeez.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Peeking out from beneath the Virtual Stack of Papers

The assignments that I'm grading right now are a descriptive writing assignment that I give in all of my writing classes. It's really a simple assignment - find somebody you don't know and observe the person for fifteen minutes and write a description that makes me "see" your person that you observed. Students tend to enjoy the assignment, and I tend to enjoy reading them. It's nice responding to them electronically (only the second time that I've done that) because I basically tell everyone to work on one or two things that are specific to what they turned in, but the rest of the comments are a copied form letter. In other words, I think I'm borrowing the institutional procedures of my administration when they respond to my reappointment, promotion, and tenure materials. Still, it's nice to get personal feedback, and because I do these tiny assignments, it means that the students in my writing classes get that feedback very early in the semester, which I think is a good thing.

I don't really have it in me to do the post that Scrivener asked for in an extended way, but here are the reasons that I can't do the self-affirming posts without apologizing for them or beating myself up for them:

1. I've been told by strangers that I seem "stuck up" since childhood. This is because of something about me, but so I'm sensitive that people will think that I'm arrogant or something or (horror of horrors for one who is raised by my mother) a braggart. I don't want to be one of those. Or a hot dog, which is almost as bad. (When was the last time you called somebody a hot dog? 7th grade? Takes you back, doesn't it?)

2. I think there's definitely a class thing at work in my not wanting to brag or boast or whatever, related to growing up hearing people being defamed because they "think their shit don't stink." Wouldn't want to be one of those people either.

3. I went to graduate school at a place where the culture demanded that you talk yourself down, and I totally internalized this.

4. Oh, did I mention that I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools for the first 9 years of my education? You know that whole guilt thing that Catholics have? Yeah, I've got that. Thus, I tend to feel bad whenever anything good is going on.

5. I'm superstitious, and I think that if I am happy with what I'm doing and express that happiness that it will offend the Gods in charge of my Academic Success, thus making them punish me and sending me into a downward spiral of stupidity from which I (and my career) will never recover.

And finally, I hate reading things that are about how great people's lives are. It makes me want to punch them in the face. Thus, when I write things about how great my life is, I want to punch myself in the face. That's no good. No good at all.

Hmmm.... What else? I REALLY don't want to finish these papers this afternoon. I am a lazy, lazy girl.

Why Is It That "Short Weeks" Always Seem to Take Forever?

Can you believe it's only THURSDAY? I've got to teach in 20 minutes. I'm all prepped and ready to go. I suppose I could do something revolutionary and assign groups for their group work or something, but as that will take but five minutes, I'm writing a blog post.

I've been doing a lot more planned group work so far this semester. It has something to do with wanting to make sure that they are doing more of the talking in my classes - something I knew I'd want to do before I read those stinkin' evaluations from last semester - and it seems to be having the desired effect. Also, I really think that only having three classes to teach and two preps has really enhanced my teaching. The reality is this: I feel like I have the time to be a good teacher this semester, and normally, well, not only do I not feel like I have the time I literally don't have the time. My job would be absolutely perfect if I had a 3/3 load with two preps per semester but if - and only if - extra bullshit requirements were not thrown in on top of that teaching load. See, that's the problem with thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere: the teaching load grass may be greener, but the research requirements and/or service requirements always seem infinitely more horrible than what I've got going in my current position.

In other news (which isn't news) I forgot to eat breakfast this morning and I'm starving. That really sucks.

Hmmm... what else. Yes, I don't feel like teaching this morning. I want the week to be over. And tomorrow is going to be a long and stupid day because we've got a candidate coming to be interviewed. Why on Friday? WHY? (And another one is coming next Friday. Which is supposed to be a day when I leave this place by 11 AM. Grrrr.)

Ok, only 10 minutes before I've got to gather myself together for the teaching. Today we're doing Raymond Carver's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." I love this story, and I've not taught it in years. I'm interested to see what they do with it. (Incidentally, a few of the girls in this class confessed that they don't like stories that are "depressing" - this after doing Atwood's "Happy Endings" last class, which I think is funny, albeit in a dark kind of way. This reminds me again that I tend to teach things that are depressing or just weird. Why would anybody want to read things that were just shiny and happy? I don't get it. Which I suppose is something that I'll explore further in the why I can't do the self-affirming posts without apologizing for them post that will be upcoming when I procrastinate later about grading.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

And So the Grading (and the Procrastination) Begins

Ironically, I am grading (or, rather, commenting on) assignments that are "ungraded." Because I'm a martyr.

I have streamlined this process over the years, and it goes relatively quickly after I do the first few assignments. Problematically, however, I'm grading the first of these assignments, and this always takes a bit of time. The first one works kind of like a diagnostic, and so I tend to give global feedback about things I'd like to see them work on throughout the semester. It takes about 5 minutes per paper. It's an assignment I tend to enjoy reading, at least a little. The problem? I'm not ready to be grading again yet. And so, I am procrastinating as much as I'm grading.

My procrastination activities:
1. New workout playlist. It's one hour long. Want to know what's on it? I know you do.
  • 2 kool 2 Be 4-gotten - Lucinda Williams
  • A Song for You - Gram Parsons
  • Afraid Not Scared - Ryan Adams
  • Superman - REM
  • Nineteen - Old 97s
  • Debaser - Pixies
  • Man-Size - PJ Harvey
  • When You Were Mine - Prince
  • Fire on Babylon - Sinead O'Connor
  • Girlfriend in a Coma - The Smiths
  • Hit - Sugarcubes
  • Tupelo Honey - Van Morrison
  • Sleeping Where I Want - Veruca Salt
  • Bring It on Home - Sam Cooke
  • You Can't Always Get What You Want - Rolling Stones

We'll see how it goes when I work out this afternoon.

2. Reading blogs. Why aren't more of you posting things?

3. Writing this blog post.

Papers graded: 7

Papers I'm forcing myself to grade before I go to the gym: 15

That will put me at halfway through.


Better get back to it, though, if I hope to work out today. How crazy that working out has become a reward for me!

Oh, and per Scrivener's request, sooner or later I'll post about why I can't write the self-affirming posts, but I think it might take actual introspection, which means it can't be fodder for a procrastination post. Also, I'm thinking about doing the 100 things about me in 100 days thing that all the cool kids are doing, but I'm not sure I've got 100 things that would be new to everybody. Nor am I sure I can commit to a 100 days of anything. Hmmm.

What's Going On, Dr. Crazy?

I started this post as one in which I was planning to vent my spleen, but then I realized that I wasn't really feeling like doing that. The semester, all in all, is getting off to a pretty spleen-free start. I mean, yes, I was irritated by an advisee looking for me to be bad cop and to take responsibility for her getting her work done with whom I met yesterday, and I had to be a heavy and tell her that I would not be her babysitter, and yes, I would like to set the university bookstore on fire for their incompetent book-ordering policies, but ultimately I'm feeling pretty even, even about those things. I'm beginning to think that I should have started the whole eat healthy and work out four times a week thing a long time ago.

So yes, the new year's resolutions are in full effect and I continue to make progress. Since Jan. 1 I've lost about five pounds, and I've been really good about getting my ass to the gym. Somebody requested that I post about how I'm getting motivated before, and I wish I had some secret, but the truth is this: there's no big secret, other than that I feel better on the days that I work out. Also, I go on my way home from campus, and I keep my crap in the trunk of my car so that I do not have to go home first. Once I'm home, I will not go back out. But if I'm on my way home, well, you get the picture. Also, I lie to myself and say that I only have to work out for 10 minutes and if I don't want to be there still I can go home. Once I've started, I tend to be able to keep going (much like with writing, actually). As far as the eating well thing? Well, that's simple. I only have good stuff to eat in the house. That, and I'm allowing myself to cheat on Fridays. A girl can't live life without treats. Oh, and that reminds me. For those of you looking for a low-calorie and delicious dessert, try the following Kiwi Parfaits:

2 pkgs. sugar-free pudding
3 cups skim milk
1 cup lite cool whip
6 kiwis, peeled and sliced
almond slices

  1. Mix milk with pudding until smooth.
  2. Fold in whipped topping until blended.
  3. Layer pudding and kiwi in individual serving-sized cups, like reusable gladware-like plastic containers.
  4. Top with almond slices for some crunch.

Serves six, and each serving has around 180 calories. I found the recipe in "Your Diet" magazine, along with some soup recipes that I'm working on trying.

Ok, so the diet/exercise things are going well, teaching is going well, and I'm slowly but surely getting on with the research agenda stuff. So yes, I remain Crazy - but now in the sense of being Crazy-Productive and fairly mellow. It's a really nice change, though I wonder how long this sense of well-being can possibly last.

(Man, I hate this post. I promise I'll come up with something less self-congratulatory to post about in the next day or two. I figure, though, that it's ok that I've posted this sort of a post given all of the moaning and self-loathing of last week. It's all about finding the right balance.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reasons That I'd Like to Be an A-List Celebrity

(In no particular order).

1. "Exhaustion" counts as an actual illness. That requires hospitalization. It's not just a condition of being that one has to suck up. For real. Unbelievable, isn't it?
2. Every year I would get to attend a string of events at which I would be nominated for awards and cheered by friend, foe, and stranger alike. Just for doing my job.
3. Free clothes.
4. Free food and drink.
5. If I were a super movie actor, I would only have to work like 3 months out of the year and I'd be a millionaire.

In a related thought, my favorite part of the Golden Globes last night was when Geena Davis said the thing about the little girl in her first party dress coming up to her and saying that her role on Commander in Chief has made the little girl want to grow up to be president, the camera flipped to a glowy and pregnant, angelic Gwyneth Paltrow with a saintly earth-mother smile of appreciation at the sweet story being told, and then Geena Davis revealed that she made it up. Mwahahaha!

(And yes, I realize that it's wrong of me to revel in any incident that makes a fool of Gwyneth Paltrow, but her very existence makes me feel like a total loser, and so thus, the schadenfreude.)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Four Things I've Not Been Tagged To Write About

Or maybe I have been and just missed it? I think a lot of the tagging for this meme happened while I was away from blogging in the transition into this blog. At any rate, I want to do this meme, and so I'm doing it. I've got to get all of the whinging about evaluations off the top of the blog. It's just too depressing. And so.....

Four Jobs You've Had

1. Frozen Yogurt Slinger at the Mall. Remember when frozen yogurt places were all the rage? Back in the good old early 90s when we all believed that by eliminating fat in food we would eliminate fat on our bodies? Wow. Those were the days.
2. Telephone operator at a Very Large Building named after a Non-U.S. Oil Company situated on a Great Lake. This was a fantastic job. I worked there for approximately two months, getting the job through a temp agency after arguing with my stepdad and quitting working for the family business (see #3). Why was this job fantastic? 1) The ONLY thing we had to do was answer the phone. It was just five of us locked in a little room. We were encouraged to do whatever we wanted when the phone wasn't ringing, which meant that I a) polished my nails; b) read almost all of Margaret Drabble's novels for the first time; c) did LOADS of research about graduate school. 2) The building is located across from the main branch of the big public library. Guess where I spent most lunch hours?
3. Vegetable Salesperson at Cleveland's West Side Market. The market? Awesome. Not so awesome? Being told how much "fun" it must be to a) lift heavy crates of vegetables; b) sort through the vegetables throwing out the rotten ones; c) being allergic to eggplant stems, which poke at you, and getting a horrible lesion on your "selling arm" from repeated eggplant attacks on you; d) customers who try to cheat you. But it was alright while it lasted, and I'll never forget the experience of having done it for two summers.
4. Transcription Typist of Psychological Evaluations on Juvenile Delinquents and People who've had their children taken away by the state and who are seeking to go on disability. This is another one of those jobs that I got via temping. Might I just say that I think temping is an experience that everybody should have? Some of my most interesting jobs were from temping.... These two that made the list are just the most unusual of them.

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

1. Any John Hughes/Molly Ringwald collaboration. This only gets one number, for obvious reasons, I think. But yes, I could and have watched these movies over and over and over....
2. Bull Durham. I kind of hate Kevin Costner, and I really - in spite of efforts to change my attitude - hate Tim Robbins, but baseball + a community college teacher who quotes Walt Whitman = a good time.
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In part because I teach it, and so I've got to watch it at least once a year. But I really like the movie. And I felt like I needed something a little less.... low-brow than my first two selections and what I'm sure will be a final low-brow selection. I'm not much of an afficionado when it comes to movies.
4. Mona Lisa Smile. I can't articulate why this movie captivates me, but nevertheless any time I see the opportunity to watch it on cable, I watch the thing. It's kind of fucked up, actually.

Four Places You've Lived

1. City on a Lake with the distinction of being home to a totally non-politically-correct Chief Wahoo.
2. City on a Lake with the distinction of being home to two baseball teams.
3. City on an ocean with the distinction of being home to the Boston Fucking Red Socks. (Die, Johnny Damon, Die)
4. City on a river with the distinction of being home to The Big Red Machine.

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch

1. America's Next Top Model
2. House
3. Buffy (in syndication)
4. Ummm..... Well, I find myself watching Austin City Limits a lot on PBS (It's on like 15 times a week here)

Four Places You've Been on Vacation

Ok, this one doesn't work for me. I've only been on like one vacation since I turned 18 (i.e., a trip that did not involve a) visiting family or friends or b) giving a conference paper). How pathetic is that? Want to feel even sorrier for me? That "vacation" when I was 18 was to Hilton Head, and I was with like 8 other people, and it consisted of getting shit-faced every night and laying out every day. And by the end of it we all hated each other. I talk to no one that went on that vacation. Vacations are for losers.

Four Blogs I Read All the Time
1. Bitch PhD
2. Confessions of a Community College Dean
3. Playing School, Irreverently
4. New Kid on the Hallway.

I am far too lazy to do the links to everybody. Go to the blogroll, why don't you, people!

Four of Your Favorite Foods
1. Icecream
2. Chicken Paprikash
3. Any Incarnation of the Potato
4. Malfoof (lebanese stuffed cabbage)

Four Places You'd Rather Be
1. Italy
2. Ireland
3. Lebanon (I've not yet been, but the family is after me to go)
4. Hungary (This summer, baby! Hungary, here I come!)

Four Albums You Can't Live Without
1. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison
2. Rid of Me by PJ Harvey
3. Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair
4. 69 Love Songs by Magnetic Fields (which is kind of cheating, as it's 3 CDs, which is why I put it on here. But if I had to pick a traditional "album" I suppose I would go with... Hell, I don't know. I'm sticking with the cheating choice.)

4 Vehicles You've Owned
1. 1980 Chevette Hatchback that cost $300.
2. 1984 Toyota Corolla.
3. 198? Audi that was bought for under a grand at a police auction that I was given by my step-dad when the 1984 corolla's doors rusted shut and you had to get in and out via the windows. It had something massively wrong with its exhaust system and sounded like a spaceship when you drove it and it smelled funny, too.
4. 1998 Toyota Corolla.

And, since everybody in the free world but me has already done this, I tag no one. Let me pronounce this meme officially dead (unless of course, you'd like to be late to the four things party, too, and then, of course, by all means....)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Accepting Reality

The reality is that I'm not accomplishing anything but that, rather, I am foolishly sitting in front of the computer because it feels like work. Reading the course evaluations from the fall kind of did a number on me. They were overwhelmingly good, but somehow it's the negative comments that stick in one's brain. One might argue that I'd be better off not reading them. The problem is that in order to put together the Evil Notebook of Tenure and Promotion, I have to include positive evaluations, and that means that I have to read all of them. I don't know. I've got to learn to take them more in stride. I've got to learn to pay attention to the good as well as to the bad. And I've GOT to learn not to feel assaulted by the negative comments that have nothing to do with my teaching per se but to the way that students react to me personally.

Toward that end, I'm going to go to the gym and sweat out all of the negativity. At least that's the plan.

Ok, One Last Thing About Evaluations

I just remembered one reason why the percentage of the grade in most of my classes tends to be higher at the end than at the beginning. It was a direct response to students who complained about assignments being weighted heavily earlier in the semester because they thought there should be more of an opportunity to get used to my expectations on things like papers and exams. Where did they complain about this? ON THEIR EVALUATIONS.

I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't. I think it's about time I accepted that fact.

Answer Me This

Ok, so I just went to check what was up over at my listing on Rate My Professor. I realize that this is probably something that I shouldn't do mental-health-wise, but I also think that it's dangerous not to be aware what is being said over there about one, particularly for a junior faculty member. At any rate, somebody posted a comment about the upper-division class that I taught last semester. The student didn't like the class, and that's fine. There are some things that I will change about the class the next time that I teach it, actually - since this was the first time that I taught the course, there definitely were some kinks that I'll need to work out when I teach it again. Fair enough. Nevertheless, I am perplexed by the comment that the student left for a couple of reasons.

1. The student claims that the class was all lecture. I know that I devolved into talking more than I'd like at the end of the semester - a problem, I admit. BUT. For the first eight weeks of the semester we had student presentations every single day. They directed the course of the discussion. And I DON'T do formal lecturing in upper-division classes except for on the first day of class. PERIOD. I run them like seminars. Student participation is KEY, though I'll admit I could probably do some more organized activities or something (though this is difficult in a class of only 13 students and in a class where they're reading very difficult material, and also I suppose I resist doing that sort of thing in upper-division classes because it feels really juvenile to me, though maybe I'm wrong about that). But I digress. The point here is that somehow this student translated everything as me lecturing. I'm not sure how to address this the next time that I teach the course, as it's not true in the first place.

2. The student complained that 50% of the course grade was decided at the very end of the semester. Ok, I understand why that might be something a student wouldn't like. But I also don't know what I'm supposed to do about it. One problem is that I'm committed to having students do a major research project in upper-division courses. If one wants to give them the opportunity to do this project on texts that we study after the midterm point in the semester, I've got to have it due at the end of the semester. A project of that magnitude (10-pg research paper of their own design) should be weighted according to its magnitude, right? So saying that it's worth 20% of the grade is appropriate, right? But then there's another problem. My university requires that we give a final in all classes. Now, if it were up to me I would not give a final. I would probably distribute the percentage of the grade that I alot for the final around to other parts of the course and be done with it. But the reality is that my employer requires that we give a final. And if I'm going to give a final, I really do feel as if it should be, well, a final. That it should allow them to demonstrate mastery of the material of the course. And if it allows them to do that, then it should be weighted accordingly. And so, there we have it: 50% of the grade at the end of the semester. I feel like to do something different (i.e., less rigorous) would damage the integrity of the course as an advanced literature course, but at the same time I feel like the student's concerns do make sense. The problem is that I'm hemmed in by an institutional structure that demands certain things from me and from them, and I'm not sure how to negotiate it.

The icing on the cake is that the Scheduling Gods have me down to teach this exact same class next fall (I learned this week). I've requested that the Gods rethink this decision, as I fear that to have it in such close succession to its first outing will guarantee a) that it doesn't make its enrollment quota and b) that I am forced into teaching yet another service course in its place, after being denied my upper-division course this semester because it was in danger of not making.

But at any rate, answer me this, my faithful readers: how would you address this stuff if you were me? Would you make the final and research project worth less to the overall grade? Would you do more organized activities to make sure that students realize that you're not lecturing? Would you ignore the comment and just go along as usual?

[Edited to Add: 1) Thank you for all of the sane and helpful comments in response to this post. Posts like this are one of the reasons I changed blogs - so that I could actually get feedback on real things related to my work. It's really a luxury, and I'm thankful to have such a wonderful community of readers (mushy though that sounds). 2) I just looked at my evaluations from the course and I now understand the RMP rating: one student hated my guts. Like REALLY hated me. I didn't realize this during the course of the semester because there were a few who never said a word. Other than that the evaluations were pretty much what I'd expected them to be, and so now I'm feeling much better about the whole thing. The only comment that shocked me was that somebody said I seemed to favor some students over others. Huh. I need to think about that. I don't think I show favoritism in a negative sense, but I do reward people who are engaged and who are clearly keeping up with the reading, etc. Does that count as favoritism? Ok, enough of this ridiculous evaluation-anxiety.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nobody Said This Job Was Easy

As we opened our discussion of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in my celebrity-themed writing class today, I asked for students' general responses to the novel. At one point, somebody piped up that he hated reading. There were nods of understanding around the room. I then (because I am a masochist) asked for a show of hands for how many students hate reading. Approximately 80% of the class responded that they hate the reading. Not just that reading isn't really their thing but that they actively hate it. I then (because I'm really a danger to myself) asked for reasons why they hate reading. The reasons included the following:
  • It's boring.
  • It takes a long time.
  • It makes them fall asleep.
  • It's hard.

Remember: they were assigned the first four chapters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a children's book, which is actually pretty engaging, if I do say so myself.

I then took a few minutes to talk about why reading is essential to becoming a good writer, to explain that I am not stupid enough to think that I can make them love reading to the extent that they stay awake reading War and Peace into the wee hours but that I do hope that they will approach reading with an open mind, and I then suggested that every time they think of the word "read," which they view as meaning the passive consumption of a boring text, that they supplant it with either "interpret" or "investigate."

So yes. This is today's view from the trenches. I'm certainly hoping that things improve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

National De-Lurking Week

There are some folks (and I KNOW you're out there) who read my blog and yet are usually to shy to comment. Come on! Leave a comment! De-lurk! I'd love to hear from you!

Note to Self on Syllabus Creation

When putting together the syllabus for your introduction to literature class, remember to glance at the book order that you made in October. If you don't, you will LEAVE AN ENTIRE NOVEL OFF OF THE SYLLABUS.

I've decided that this was divine intervention on behalf of my students and so I'm just going to leave it off and allow them to read it for extra credit. If the semester seems to lag, though, I'll revamp the syllabus to include it for next time I teach the course. God, I'm an idiot.

Blogging for Choice Month!

For more information, you can go here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

And Now for a Meme (Lisa-Made Books Meme)

Having been tagged by Clare, I thought that I'd take a little time out for this meme now that I've crossed a couple of things off of the afternoon's to-do list. You'll notice that I am not following the schedule that I outlined for Mondays last week. This is because that schedule does not go into effect until this first week of classes is over. It is imperative to have some flexibility in these things or one would have to give up entirely :)

Ok, so on to the meme!

Name five books that left you totally flat even though your friends / critics raved about them. Ok, this is harder than it seems to answer because I don't generally read things that leave me flat (or get beyond the first or second page) regardless of critics' and/or friends' recommendations. Nevertheless, I shall soldier on and attempt to answer.

  1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I know. Only a total jerk would admit to this, but I guess that makes me total jerk. I suppose the circumstances under which I read it could have influenced my response (in a grad seminar in the first semester of my PhD program) but really, I think I just don't like the book.
  2. All Books by Jennifer Weiner. Ok, so she was recommended to me by a non-academic friend, so I shouldn't have expected much, but nevertheless, I think her novels are just kind of lame. Yes, I've read them, and yes, they're slightly better than much chick lit out there, but no, they are not a scintillating read.
  3. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper. It was my beloved grandmother's favorite book, and I really wanted to like it, but I found the whole experience dead boring.
  4. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde. I loved The Eyre Affair. I thought Lost in a Good Book was ok. By the time we reached The Well of Lost Plots, I was pretty much bored. I do think Something Rotten does much to redeem the Thursday Next series, but I almost wish that it hadn't been a series and that The Eyre Affair was just allowed to stand alone on its own merit.
  5. Emma, by Jane Austen. I'd rather watch the movie Clueless any day of the week.

Name five books that you read and loved that your friends / critics panned, ignored, or hated, or that were just undeservingly uncelebrated.

  1. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. It changed my life (cliche though that sounds) when I read it in college; it changed my professional life when I finally did some scholarly work related to it. I know a lot of people find it dry or irritating, but I really think that it is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.
  2. The Passion and Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson. This choice is in response to some who in a comment thread to this meme were saying that they didn't get this phase in Winterson's work. It's funny: this is the Winterson I love most. I could never look at Written on the Body or Oranges are Not the Only Fruit again and I wouldn't care at all.
  3. All books by Carol Goodman. Thoroughly enjoyable mystery/suspense type novels that always seem to involve things like latin, mythology, etc. Love them. I suppose these get a lot of play in the book club circuit, but I have a feeling that readers of "real" literature would say that they are garbage. Nevertheless, I love them.
  4. Ulysses. I know this made the "left me flat" list on at least one person's (Bastard's) list. What I have to say is that yes, it's a book that requires a lot, no, one will not necessarily feel good after the first time through it, but yes, it is worth it and in the right reading community I think it can be an awesome experience reading it. And how one can be left flat after Molly's conclusion to the novel, I really have no idea. Hate the book or love it, but if you're just not into it, well, I think you need to take a second look at it.
  5. Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding. This book is truly not appreciated as literature - which I really think that it is. I have a whole theory about how the narrative elides the subject, but I will not post it here, as someday I plan to write the Great American Journal Article in which I fully elucidate it and thus gain Great Scholarly Acclaim.

I think everybody's done this who wants to, but if you want to do it and haven't, tag - you're it!

Lunchtime Post, in Lieu of Work

Ok, so I'm eating a delicious lunch (leftovers: mashed turnips, spinach, tilapia with almonds and parmegiano reggiano; I brought celery with peanutbutter and celery with cream cheese for snacking) and I thought I'd post again, on a variety of topics:

Teaching: A graduating senior listed me as the professor who has had the greatest impact on his/her academic and personal development, or so says the letter that I just received from the VP for student affairs. See? For all of my bitching, I really am a good teacher! (And it's nice to have that confirmed, because sometimes I wonder whether I get through to them, or whether they just think I'm a crazy bitch.)

Research: When in doubt, always submit that conference proposal a few days late. Of course they'll still accept it! Yay! (This whole, "spend a month in Europe" thing may just happen! Hurrah!)

Also, something I started thinking about after reading comments to Bitch Ph.D.'s and my posts about writing. I noticed a fair number of responses that said that they tend to do all major writing work during breaks from teaching. You know, I think that I imagined that such would be the case for me when I was offered this job, but now I realize that I kind of need the summer to recuperate from the academic year and that I'd rather do research throughout the year than to put it off until the breaks. I realize that isn't the best option for everybody, but I suppose I feel like it's worth saying that not only is it possible to have a research agenda while teaching a 4/4 but also I think the only way for me to have a research agenda is to do the two simultaneously. Now, we should note that I've not got kids or family obligations of any kind (unless we count fulfilling every whimsical desire of the Man-Kitty), so perhaps this will not be the case should I ever acquire those. But I don't know. I suppose the way that this works for me is that I have to find a way for my research and teaching to connect in order to do things the way that I am doing them, and this means that my teaching IS scholarly work and my scholarly work IS teaching work, too. In other words, I think I'm good at finding the links between the two and exploiting them, which I couldn't do if I relegated research to my "off time."

Also, I think it's important that I say that I do not view research as some sort of vacation from the grind of my job. Research for me, while immensely satisfying, is its own grind. It, as much as teaching is, is work, albeit a different kind of work. And so I think it's important that I recognize it as such and thus allow myself to take a break from it, too. I don't know. I suppose that I think it can be dangerous to fill all "off time" up with research work. There has got to be time for lying on beaches and drinking whiskey, too, you know?

On that note, I think that I will go and make some book order requests using the incredibly cumbersome library online form that makes me want to die.

Back in the Saddle

Today is the first day of Spring Semester here, and I've got to say that I really could have used another week off. Why we only get three weeks at Christmas, I will never understand. Sigh.

At any rate, this week I began reading Germano's From Dissertation to Book in earnest, in an effort to energize myself for turning the Diss into a Book. I was one of those whose adviser told me that I should think of the diss AS a book, and I think that to some extent I did achieve something closer to a book than some dissertations I've read. That said, it's NOT a book right now. It probably still needs another chapter (a) and it needs some substantial revision in order to eliminate some of the garbage grad student prose that found its way in (b) and I need to update the bibliography (c). I find it hard to believe that it's been almost three years since I finished the thing. Sometimes I think that I should just drop the whole thing - the newer things that I've worked on have gotten a much more enthusiastic response from the outside world - but I really do want it to be a book. I really do think that it's worth being a book. The whole process of making it into that is so mystifying and daunting, though, that I hardly know where to begin, and thus reading the Germano book has been helpful.

In teaching news, as I mentioned, I'm teaching a writing class (well, two sections of the same writing class) with the theme of celebrity. I'm very excited by this, but after introducing the course to the two sections this morning, I'm not sure that they are. I know that they aren't ready to be back either, but I really had thought that they would show at least a little bit of enthusiasm. Well, we'll see how things go on Wednesday when we have a "real" class that isn't related to course policies and syllabus minutiae.

In other news, I got a positive response back (and so quickly!) about Awesome Conference in BUDAPEST!!!!! that I'll be attending in June. Over the week of June 16th in fact. The question is this: will it be possible for me to turn this conference into a month in Europe? The next question is whether my parents will agree to house the Man-Kitty for such a long duration. The final question is whether I will have anything left in me for teaching the summer course that I agreed to teach that begins in July if I do manage to do this. (I know, I shouldn't have volunteered to teach in the summer, but the money for teaching just one course is like 9% of my annual salary, so the money tempted me.)

In service news, I've got a search committee meeting this afternoon that I must prepare for. As well as a bunch of other stuff to accomplish between now and then. As always, I'm aiming to cross off 60% of the things on my list. I'm a huge fan of the 60% is enough to accomplish rule.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Professorial Balancing Act - Some Thoughts on Self-Scheduling

Dr. B just posted about her (as yet not going that great) attempt to fulfill her New Year's Resolution to write something (other than a blog post) every day, and rather than hog her comments, I decided to post over here in response. I also thought I might do this to get those in on the conversation who might not visit Dr. B, or who might not comment over there, or whatever. So, before I begin, I want to encourage others to post in response to the following: What is the shape of your day usually like? How or when do you fit in writing time that is not blog-related? Do you tend to write in big blocks of time or in smaller intervals? What role does blogging play in your productivity as a writer? How do you balance writing/research with other obligations?

Ok, so here it goes. First of all, I've been out of the groove with (non-blogging, non-syllabus, non-assignments-for-students) writing lately - and by "writing" I suppose I mean the expanded definition, which is researching and writing. In part, this is because I was pretty much fried and I needed a break. What was I fried from? Well, I finished my dissertation in 2003 (defending it in August) and started my job here in August 2003. Yes, this means that I was revising my dissertation while I was on the market. Then, I started this job and fell into another research project on non-diss-related stuff, that resulted in three conference papers and an article that will come out this year. After all of that? Well, I decided to take some time off to rejuvenate. Which means that I haven't really been in a solid writing groove since May 2005. But now it's time to get back in the saddle.

As Dr. B. mentioned in her post, we all have heard the "write first" motto. Guess what? I have never in the history of time been able to do that. I am no good in the morning. I can't do sophisticated, deep thinking in the morning, and that's what academic writing requires for me. Can I teach in the morning? Sure. Can I grade in the morning? Depending on the assignment, yes. But no, I cannot write in the morning. And so I don't.

During the academic year, the shape of my days has been pretty much the following:

6-7 AM - wake up, futz around, feed Man-Kitty, drink coffee, etc.

9AM-12 Noon - teach/office hours/etc.

12 Noon- 5 PM - futz around, waste time, blog, deal with email, go to a meeting if I've got one, think about all of the crap I'm not doing, grade, nap, etc.

You will notice that there is no time built in for writing in that regimen. This is the thing that I'm trying to rectify this semester. I have always been most successful at getting research/writing done when I have a plan. If I've got tiny goals to achieve, and if I schedule time in which to achieve them, I get what I need to get done done. Also, I need to have a regular schedule. One of the things that I think is hardest about this profession is the level of self-motivation that it requires. On the one hand it's difficult to prioritize, but the other piece of the puzzle is that after one has chosen one's priorities one actually has to do everything to get those things achieved without (any) guidance or support. Thus, I've got to be a slave-driver to myself in order to be a productive academic.

It's so easy to let research/writing fall by the wayside because 1) unlike with teaching, where students will bitch if you don't fulfill your end of the bargain, nobody really cares whether you research/write or not; 2) unlike with service, the machinery of the university or department or whatever doesn't immediately fall apart if you don't research/write; 3) unlike with blogging, you have no (immediate) audience to please by researching/writing. [Aside: #3 had a lot to do with why I moved blogs - I really want to write about the research/writing I'm doing outside of the blog in my blogspace, something I wasn't comfortable doing before. And so, in that vein, let me just say that I got one of those conference proposals that I was talking about in my first post done this afternoon! Yippee! It might be a piece of crap, but I am interested in pursuing the topic, and I'd argue that it's better done than simmering - and how much can a girl really say in approximately 200 words anyway? God, I hope I'm not rejected....]

The times when I've been most productive with researching/writing I've blocked off time each day to work on things related to the writing. I've not finalized my schedule for this semester yet, but I suspect the shape of my days is going to look something like the following:


7 - wake up

9-11 - teach

11 - lunch

12-2 - time for reading/research

2-3 - notes on plans for reading/research accomplished

3-5 - go to the gym (not for two hours, but in that two hour window. I may be on a health kick, but I'm not insane)

Tuesday and Wednesday: (Primarily teaching days/meeting days, so I won't do research/writing, though I will make notes in my research journal should I have ideas and I will think about what I'll do with my time on Thursday and Friday)


7 - wake up

10:30-12 - teach

12 - lunch

1-3 - outline, related to work done on Mondays, read necessary material to fill in gaps of Monday's work, make plans for Friday, which is the big writing day

3-5 - gym


7 - wake up

9-11 - teach

12-5 - WRITE (but not just willy-nilly; in relation to the plans that I've made throughout the rest of the week. And if I finish those plans before 5, then I'm allowed to stop or I can use the time to write in my research journal about plans for the coming week.)

And you'll notice I've mentioned my research journal a couple of times. Yes, I keep one. Yes, I rarely actually go back to the research journal once I've written anything in it, but at the same time it's been a good technique for me to use writing-as-thinking and to start writing when I feel like I don't have anything to say. I would never blog what I write in the research journal because it's very fragmentary and often takes the form of crude drawings (and I'm no artist) to try to sketch out the shape of my ideas and argument. I cannot recommend the research journal idea enough to those of you who've not tried it.

So yes. This is what I'm hoping my schedule will look like this semester. If I can stick to it even 60% of the time, I'll be entirely happy (and probably the most productive I've been since writing the dissertation).

Time, Space, and Living a Professorial Life

I'd like to continue to think a bit more about this notion of "reassigned" time. First of all (as I suppose you might intuit from my choice of title for the blog) I greatly prefer this term to the terms "course reduction," "course release," "course relief," etc. As I've become acclimated to my particular institution, those other terms, which were the only one's I heard at my Fancy Graduate School, seem incredibly mystifying and, well, not to recognize teaching as a scholarly activity.

To talk about "course reduction" seems to indicate "reduction in workload," which of course is not ever going to be the case, not even at a Fancy Research Institution. It also perpetuates the idea that one's research is one's "own work" and thus preferable to teaching which is not one's "own work" but rather the price one has to pay in order to be allowed to do one's "own work," from which, of course, one would never want a break.

To talk about "course release" reminds me of release from prison or something.... kind of like being let out on "work release." (Wait a minute! Maybe this is an appropriate term! Only if one thinks of the classroom as a prison, though, which I choose not to do.)

"Course relief" has a similar tone to "course release," though it reminds me of "disaster relief" or "hurricane relief," so I suppose if we are to use this terminology the classroom is not a prison but it is a place where there is great loss of human life and/or massive destruction from which it will take years to recover. Again, this doesn't seem like a very positive view of what we do in the classroom.

So yes, reassigned time seems a much more apt term, to my mind, for what this semester-long reduction in my course load will actually mean. But before I continue on this meditative track, let me give a fuller explanation of "reassigned time" for those not in the know. (Note: this will be specific to my institution and department, and so there I'm sure are variations across other institutions.)
  • In a nutshell, "reassigned time" at my institution can be awarded to compensate one for administrative work (chair, asst. chair duties, for example), curricular development (though I've never seen it awarded for this), a specific research project (i.e., not just "I'd like to spend more time on my research" but rather "I am going to die under the weight of all of my commitments which are, specifically, the following"), or a major service project. Also, new tenure-track faculty are generally allowed one semester of reassigned time in their first year on the tenure-track. We try to do this for everybody, as I learned after I "negotiated" for it; there is no possibility of "negotiating" for more than that as part of one's hiring package.
  • If one is awarded reassigned time for an administrative position (like chair) this is figured into his/her compensation package for doing the job and so one does not need to apply for it; if one wants it for anything else, one must apply for it each and every semester. In other words, one cannot ask for reassigned time over the course of an academic year with one application; one must request it on a per semester basis.
  • In order to be awarded reassigned time you need three things: a specific and detailed agenda about what you will do with the massive amounts of time that you'll have if only you don't have to teach one course, the recommendation of your chair, and the approval of the dean. If one needs more reassigned time than one course, I believe the provost is also involved in the decision. And no, whether one has a grant from outside makes little-to-no difference in these determinations, as far as I can tell and from what I've heard around the water-cooler.
  • One can also be awarded reassigned time if one has accumulated 24-hours of independent study instruction. Yes, that means a minimum of 8 independent studies, for which there is no monetary compensation. I expect to receive reassigned time for this in 2027.
  • Finally, one has little control over what course is "reassigned" for the semester in which one is awarded reassigned time. While one can request one course or the other, what ultimately makes this decision are enrollment figures. Thus, if you imagine that one will have the productive interplay between your upper-division course and your research during that semester, don't count on it, because ultimately the bottom line is what will drive whether that course goes or not, regardless of the impact on the faculty member.

Lest you all get the wrong idea, though, I'm behind this idea of reassigned time. First, I think that it gives a reward to those who maintain an active research agenda in an institutional setting that can inspire one to let one's research agenda collapse. Second, I think that it offers a good way of thinking about how we organize our time as faculty members - it acknowledges that there are only so many hours in the day, and so we need to set goals and priorities for how we use those hours.

As I conceived my New Year's resolutions and as I looked back on 2005 after MLA, I realized that I need to reassign a lot of my time - not just those hours that I would have spent teaching and prepping for that one class.

First, as I sat at an MLA panel on the first night that was put together by colleagues of mine from grad school (all of whom were on the market, two of the three having been on the market for at least three years), I realized that I have fallen out of the habit of thinking in sophisticated and theoretical ways. Not that I don't use theory in my work, but I tend to pay attention only to that theory that's jammed in front of me at the moment, and I've lost a lot of the theory that I acquired in grad school. As I sat there listening to their highly theoretical papers (and cursing myself for the teaching paper that I would give in two days' time) I made a promise to myself that I would get back into the theoretical swing of things with the next conference paper that I propose, and that I would "reassign" some time for reading theoretical stuff every week this semester.

Second, I decided that it's important for me to "reassign" some time for working out. This one's easy, in that if one adds up all of the time that I used to spend smoking, I'm sure that it would add up to at least 30 minutes. Also, since I'm reassigning the smoking funds for a gym membership, I do believe that I can make time to work out most days. So far, so good: I've been to the gym twice, and though I was planning to take today off I'm kind of itching to go.... Hmmmm...

Third, I need to reassign time for cooking, in large part because it really does relax me. Also, I love to eat delicious things, and I often feel that my food is more delicious than the garbage I would otherwise eat. Here's an example. Last night, dying for starchy pasta but knowing that it is against my dieting agenda, I invented the following awesome dish. It's compatible with Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet and probably any other diet as well, as it's basically just healthy. It doesn't have a name, so I will call it....

"Yummy Thing That Stopped Me From Eating a Pound of Pasta"
  1. Ingredients: 2 tbsp olive oil, 4 slices turkey bacon, 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, 1 head cauliflower, 1 bag pre-washed baby spinach, 2 cloves garlic, grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese to taste, salt and pepper to taste.
  2. prep cauliflower to steam or boil, and get it on the stove.
  3. get big pot of water on the stove for boiling spinach.
  4. put olive oil in skillet and start heating the pan.
  5. Slice garlic (or chop it or whatever you prefer, but I tend to slice garlic because it's easy and then non-garlic people can choose not to eat it if they wish); cut bacon and spinach into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Dump items from 5 into skillet. Throw in a pinch of salt and a few grates of fresh pepper.
  7. Dumdedum.... food's cooking.... hmmm.... perhaps I'll grate the parm.... oh, better flip the chicken over.... is the cauliflower done? nah... it can go for a couple more minutes.... ooh! the spinach water is boiling!
  8. Salt the water in the spinach pot; dump the spinach into the pot; let cook for one minute.
  9. Strain spinach. (It holds a lot of water, so be sure to do a good job with the straining. I kind of forgot about this, and so last night's feast, while delicious, was a little more liquidy than I'd have liked.)
  10. Oh look! The cauliflower is done! And so is the chicken/garlic/turkey-bacon concoction! Let's throw all of the veggies in with that and stir it around and then add some parm/reg and salt and pepper to taste at the last minute! (I liked it all mixed together because it made it more pasta-like for me and also because then the bacon/chicken/garlic flavor got to hang out with the veggies, though I suppose one could make all of this separately, too, but I don't think it would be the same.)
  11. Voila! Dinner is served! Serves four, depending on the size of the ingredients involved, of course.
Ok, apparently I reassigned the time that I was going to spend blogging about reassigned time toward blogging about food. Maybe this will become a food blog? Nah. I need to be broader in my scope. What I do know for sure is this. I'm done with this post. How can I follow the invented recipe with anything else?