Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Location: United States

Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

There's always a market for (blog) vanity

According to this, my blog is now worth $14,973.02. That would make it the single most expensive commodity I have ever owned. If I could actually go public, I might sell. Seriously: that would pay off most of my student loans!

You can see how your own blog's stock is doing if it's listed--and many of your sites are--or play the market yourself at the BlogShares main page.

I don't even pretend to understand how this site works, and it's got to be an impressively complicated operation to administer. It looks like an intriguing and potentially absorbing game, but I think BlogShares also might go beyond entertainment value to offer some implicit commentary on the value of blogs, not only in the sense of their potential commercial value, but also as vehicles for connecting people, experiences, and ideas.

Aw, hell.

Samuel Alito is joining the Supreme Court.

Not like I haven't seen this coming for months, but still . . . damn, damn, damn. Other feminist bloggers are obviously going to be more eloquent than this, but I'm running very far behind on class prep and can't say more now.

Meanwhile, Zuzu's got some commentary and links up over at Feministe. Apparently, the filibuster we were hoping for didn't happen.

Note to self

When you have more to accomplish than is humanly possible, your mind is collapsing under the weight of simply trying to remember it all, and you're trying to do it with a body saturated by years of sleep-deprivation, lack of exercise, and not-terribly-good food, try to not completely sabotage yourself by exhibiting the initiative of boiled cabbage whenever you actually manage to have a couple of days in which you might possibly be able to achieve something.

'Cause, see, when you do that, you have to drag your sad-sack carcass through near-all-nighters and wear yourself out for four days in a row. And that means all signs point back to Boiled Cabbageville once you manage to survive that 96-hour period.

To put it more succinctly: Try to get your shit together, 'kay?

Thank you. That is all.

Monday, January 30, 2006

New medievalist blog

Hey! Look who's got a new blog! It's Jeffrey Jerome Cohen!

That's so exciting that I have to write lots of sentences ending in exclamation points!

Check it out!

Making Fiends

While I'm in the process of promoting online entertainments, let me recommend to you (courtesy of Boy Roomie) these series of animations, which are almost ridiculously charming. Fans of Edward Gorey should be especially delighted.

The earlier series is at least two years old, so some of you may already be familiar with them.

When I get my paycheck for next month, I am so going to buy a set of Valentine's cards and at least one t-shirt from the online store.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blog cloud!

As seen lots of places, but most recently at Badger's, Professor Bastard's, and Dr. V's.

Created here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

High on something, all right.

Via morganlf via the Manolo via Republic of T, this is one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen. Just try to experience ennui while watching it. Go on, I dare ya.

Honestly, the Hoff's pec deployment in "Spongebob Squarepants: The Movie"* completely rehabilitated him for me. But this does one better: it convinces me that he was a misunderstood genius all along.


*By the way, did you know that, in German, Spongebob becomes "Spongebob Schwammkopf" (Spongebob Swim-head)? The French version of his name doesn't mention his pants either: he's just "Bob l'eponge." (Maybe they're trying to associate him with the sans culottes or something.)

UPDATE: Letty's explained that "Spongebob Schwammkopf" actually means "Spongebob Sponge-head," which is still odd, but not as blissfully surreal as I'd thought. I think I'm marginally more disappointed by the loss of "Swim-head" as a Spongebob descriptor than I am embarrased by how awful my German is.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Even Jessica understands what the Hoff has accomplished here. And, as you know, she is not a woman who gives out fashion cartes blanches lightly.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Nobody need tell me how sad it is that I'm still in the grad lounge at this hour on a Friday night.

And yet, there is some consolation. Because it is on a grad-lounge computer on this lonesome Friday evening that I discovered Geoffrey Chaucer's blog.

Yes, I am going home now. Thanks for asking.

It's almost like being in love*

Hooray! Really Smart Theory Prof (who hadn't met me before today) wants to be on my committee. And I didn't even have to ask him.

I just took him a precis of my prospectus and a portion of my bibliography hoping that he'd help me think about what areas of theory I should be reading. I kinda had the ulterior motive of sussing him out to see whether he'd be interested in just sitting on the exam committee, but I didn't have to. He started saying all sorts of lovely things about how "interesting" and "rich" the project was and then asked whether he could be a member of the dissertation committee because he wanted to see how it would turn out.

"If you wouldn't mind having an extra member, that is," he said. "I'll just let you think about it."

"Really, I don't need to think about it," I said. "I'd be thrilled to have you involved. Thank you."

That kinda made up for feeling dowdy all day because I'd picked a rather unfortunate ensemble in my bleary-eyed, pre-coffee state. The Manolo, he would not be impressed. And I don't even want to think about what Heather and Jessica would say.


*Yeah, I know. I can't believe I just made a "Brigadoon" joke, either.

Overheard at Starbucks: Qualified Medical Opinions

"She has a parasite, but that's not really the problem. It's something else. She diagnosed herself from 'Sex in the City.'

She was eating, like, all organic and stuff. I'm not saying that was the cause, but it probably was."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

If only I could learn to live without sleeping

I'm not going to class at the dojang today because I'm just too under-prepared to teach: I promised my students I'd return a quiz to them, and I have a particularly complicated couple of exercises to set up for them, too. I'd planned to get up especially early this morning, but just couldn't force myself out of the bed quickly enough: I had an exhausting day yesterday and was on campus until after 8pm, thanks to a late student government meeting.

This is the first time I've missed class since I started training, and I hate it passionately. I've been trying very hard to confine all my teaching prep (including reading) to the two days on which I teach, so I can actually get writing done on my prospectus and take care of all the other crap I've taken on, too. But if I can't manage to prep, teach, and go to the dojang all in the same day consistently, I'm going to have to rearrange things. I can't stand how simultaneously guilty and pissed off I feel about missing training today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Zombie philosophy

Thanks to TGB, who says this article changed his life.

Gotta admit, I'm seeing things a bit differently after reading it, too.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

25 Questions

Last seen at Badger's place.

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought? Wow. I look tired.
2. How much cash do you have on you? $10.00
3. What's a word that rhymes with TEST? Pest
4. planet? Forbidden (Okay, so I think I know about 3 people who'd laugh at that joke. But it's still totally worth it.)
5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list? I don't have Caller ID, so I don't know.
6. What is your favorite ring on your phone? "Fugue"
7. What shirt are you wearing? A black cardigan over a black camisole
8. What do you label yourself? Cracker
9. Name the brand of shoes you've recently worn. Cherokee (knockoffs of a style by Born)
10. Bright or Dark Room? Dark
11. What were you doing at midnight last night? Surfing the web in a particularly pointless fashion
12. What did your last text message you received on your cell say? Ah, well, that would have been from Stan: we used to text back and forth every day. So I don't know what it says, but it probably would be a little wrenching, even now.
13. Where is your nearest 7-11? No idea, though I used to live near one I was especially fond of because they played baroque music very loudly over the speakers, even into the parking lot. I think it was meant to calm everybody down, but the effect was usually pretty surreal, especially late at night, when half the people there were drunk.
14. What's a saying that you say a lot? Boy Roomie says it's "I haven't gotten nearly enough done today." He's right. I think I say that more than anything else.
15.Who told you they loved you last? Non-verbally: Mouse. Verbally: Mom
16. Last furry thing you touched? Mouse
17. How many drugs have you done in the past three days? Three: caffeine, sugar, and grain alcohol.
18. How many rolls of film do you need to get developed? None.
19. Favorite age you have been so far? Thirty-two seems like a good number, don't you think?
20. Your worst enemy? Potentially trite, but still true: myself
21. What is your current desktop picture? Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, in honor of my Cousin Wonder Woman
22. What was the last thing you said to someone? "Yeah, Mouse gets really frustrated if you make him run around in circles."
23. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly, which would you choose? A million bucks. True, you could make more in ticket sales, royalties, and syndication rights by being able to fly--not to mention that it'd probably be fun at first--but the kind of attention your ability would get you would be annoying. And keeping it to yourself would be no fun at all.
24. Do you like someone? Yes.
25. The last song you listened to? "Ain't That a Kick in the Head"--Dean Martin

Why I do what I do: a parable

I have had a strange and foggy day. A day during which I did things like forgetting nearly every combination I'd learned at the dojang. And rushing out the door to go to campus and leaving half the lights in the apartment on. And writing up a lesson plan, propping it up in front of me, and still managing to teach elements of the class out of order.

I'm just terrifically distracted and unable to focus. I can't really explain why, though I certainly have plenty to think about (unfinished stacks of grading, funding to allocate for my student government gig, desperate attempts to push the prospectus forward, meetings with committee members, job talks for new departmental hires and of friends who are on the market, cousin Wonder Woman's recent re-entry to the hospital and upcoming surgery, and the funeral of the childhood friend I mentioned a few posts ago, for example). It seems there are just some days when important portions of my brain go on strike and the rest of me has to make do as well as it can.

These sorts of days, even when they don't result in anything especially bad, frustrate the hell out of me.


Today, I saw someone on campus I'd thought I'd never see again. This someone was, in particular, a kid I'd taught during my first year with the Nameless Summer Program, a kid who was not only vastly underprepared for college, but who also kept getting sucked back into the gang life he'd been involved with in high school. I spent hours talking to him outside of class, trying to help him catch up. He ended up hanging on by his fingernails to pass the course, and I kept in touch with him, off and on, for about a term.

When I stopped hearing from him, I asked after him at the retention program where he was enrolled, but he'd just vanished. "It happens," my Nameless Summer Program supervisor said. "Some of them just don't make it." I'd gotten into the habit of thinking of him as "the one who got away" and vaguely hoping that things were going well for him.

Well, today, I saw him walking toward me while I was on my way to photocopy things for my class. He looked at me uncertainly, as students will when they're not sure you'd remember them. "Hi!" I said. He smiled in that shy, lopsided way I remembered. "It's really good to see you," I added. "Yeah, it's really good to see you, too," he said. And we both meant it.

That certainly brightened things up a bit.

Graffiti philosophy

Inside a women's bathroom stall:

Graffiti philosopher #1: "Love is weakness"
Graffiti philosopher #2: "Only weak people say that"

Monday, January 23, 2006

Useful information

Echoing posts seen pretty much everywhere, here are:

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Ancrene Wiseass!

  1. In Eastern Africa you can buy beer brewed from Ancrene Wiseass.
  2. During World War II, Americans tried to train Ancrene Wiseass to drop bombs.
  3. The liquid inside Ancrene Wiseass can be used as a substitute for blood plasma.
  4. The International Space Station weighs about 500 tons and is the same size as Ancrene Wiseass.
  5. Ancrene Wiseass can only be destroyed by intense heat, and is impermeable even to acid!
  6. A rhinoceros horn is made from compacted Ancrene Wiseass.
  7. Over half of Americans are officially Ancrene Wiseass!
  8. The pigment Indian Yellow was manufactured from the urine of cows fed only on Ancrene Wiseass.
  9. Humans share about fifty percent of their DNA with Ancrene Wiseass.
  10. Ancrene Wiseass is the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

I am interested in - do tell me about

Sunday, January 22, 2006

How I managed to screw up my weekend

I am so cranky today. I have managed to do very nearly nothing at all this weekend. And that is, I think, because I've managed to get into a funk.

Unfortunately, my funk has not involved George Clinton. No, this particular funk is just about being profoundly frustrated in all sorts of areas all at once and feeling restless and like I want to do goofy, impulsive things. But because I am so incredibly Responsible, Dignified, and Grown-Up, I do not do impulsive things and therefore just think about doing impulsive things and how I am too inhibited to do any of them while attempting to reassure myself that I'm being restrained in the name of Productivity.

And, by a very similar process, I am unable and/or unwilling to admit to myself that I just need a weekend to do nothing productive, and thereby also manage to have less fun than I probably ought to if I'm not going to get any work done. So I end up feeling like an underachiever both at being a responsible grown-up and at having a good time.

I mean, if I didn't get a single paper graded this weekend, my room is a total sty, my inbox is back up to 64 messages, and I'm now having to confront the reality of how hellish next week is going to be because of my failure to do much of anything--well, shouldn't I at least be able to grin at the memory of a thoroughly utopian weekend, during which I joyfully made an utter fool of myself or tried something new or whatnot?

Sitting down in a corner at a party to slowly sip Jack Daniels like I was at a Daughters of the American Revolution tea of a Saturday night just really didn't cut it. I'm not going to get into any "True Hollywood Stories" like that!

Dammit. I needed a bouncy castle or a last-minute road trip or something, and I just utterly failed to achieve anything of the sort.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Following up on the "jumping jacks" post

Thank you to everyone who made suggestions in response to my plea for ideas on Wednesday. Thursday's class was considerably better, in part thanks to your help.

If any of you have other suggestions for livening up class discussion, particularly in a too-small room during what typically counts as the dinner hour, when people's blood sugar and concentration are at a low ebb, please feel free to share them.

Heo, I've already used a variant of the "name your ideal . . . " exercise in class, and it worked very well! Believe me: many of my better in-class exercises have been adapted from stuff I read about what high school--and even, sometimes, elementary school--teachers were doing in the classroom. People who have to teach a full day of classes, five days a week, tend to have some pretty fantastic ideas.

Bardiac, I especially love your suggestion for exchanging writing. I hadn't ever worked out a very good idea for allowing students to stay anonymous before, and I think that will be a wonderful device for peer reviews.

Bellwethr, I wish I'd thought of bulk chocolate while I was at COSTCO last week! Damn. And yes, calling people out by name would be a good thing, too. I need to get more comfortable with that.

For that matter, I need to make sure I've learned all their names. I think I'm going to have to break down and buy some iZone film and get snapshots during next week's classes so I can make flashcards for myself. I am SO awful at learning names.

GSH, I think I'm probably going to use some version of that critical thinking exercise next time, and your other ideas are going to come in handy, too.

And Scrivener, I used a variant of your "basic question" idea during the last class: I gave them what should have been a pretty simple quiz, just establishing basic, reading-comprehension level stuff about what they'd read for that day. And then we went over the answers together after I'd taken it up.

That's something I'd done, to some extent, before, but I made the questions even more basic than usual this time, and I was impressed by how much it helped. Sometimes, I think I overestimate how much of the material will be "obvious" to them, and that exercise helped to clear up some important misperceptions.

The trouble with the jumping jacks isn't, really, that I wouldn't want to make the students do them: it's that my godforsaken room is so ridiculously small that I don't think they could *do* them without harming themselves or others.

After all, I have to ask people on the "chalkboard side" of the room to scoot way into the table so I can write stuff on the board. And there's no way to configure things without somebody having his/her back to me. Stupid room! I hate, hate, hate it! Keep your fingers crossed that I'll get a better one soon.

Mom and Dharma: I'm doing my "folk and fairy tale" class, and we'll be reading a translation of Perrault's "Bluebeard" with Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber," then doing Sandra Cisneros' "Woman Hollering Creek" and Bernard Malamud's "The Magic Barrel"--if that helps at all.

Subject-specific ideas would be great, but I'd also love more general ones that I could use in any class. In fact, I'm thinking that it might not be a bad idea to do a "mega-post" in which I collect some of my old techniques and add in the new suggestions I'm getting with attributions to the folks who made them. If I can get my act together and figure out how to make a permanent internal link to such a sidebar, maybe I'll do that this week.

And Mr. Helmet, darlin', you're very kind to suggest that I might be able to "kick ass and take names," either now or in a month or two. But honestly, I think the process is going to take considerably longer than that. In fact, I've made the tortoise of Tortoise-and-Hare fame my personal totem for martial-arts training, because it's taking me much longer to learn things and get stronger than I want.

However, I will say that my kiyaps (yelling from the diaphragm--no, not that diaphragm, this one) are getting much better. But, while throwing punches at them and hollering out a kiyap or two would be likely to make them more alert, it could be considered, ah, slightly inappropriate. Unfortunately.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A plea to my medievalist readers, in particular

Hi there, folks.

I promise to get back to the responses in that last post (which have been exceptionally helpful already, by the way). And I need to write a quick update on this week, during which some reasonably interesting and/or important things happened. And I've got some essays brewing in my head about things like movement, gender, and martial arts. And I've been re-thinking the blog for months now, planning to overhaul it and write a sort of mission statement.

But that stuff has to wait, for now. Because I have craploads of things to do with the rest of the day: Mondays and Fridays, especially, are my big writing days for the prospectus.

Now, usually, I avoid writing about My Work (TM), because it tends to infringe on the whole anonymity gestalt. But I'm about to go out of my head trying to find something which I (a) really ought to just know anyway and (b) think I have down on paper somewhere, but can't find.

So: here it is. I know that the medieval English Parliamentary Rolls and Statutes of the Realm have been published, but I'll be damned if I can find enough biblographic information on them to actually track down copies. Neither a constellation of library catalog searches or a flurry of Internets-based attempts has uncovered what I need.

Can anybody help me out with this?


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I really can't make them do jumping jacks . . .

. . . and I can't afford to buy 20 shots of espresso twice a week, either.

So how can I liven things up in my composition course this quarter? It meets for two hours in the early evening, and the discussions are painfully slow because most of the students are just plain wore out after a long day.

Honestly, I don't think I can stand another bone-dry, interminable explication exercise like the one we all had to endure last night. And I don't think they can, either.

I've thought about just making sure that we're up and moving around more in the classroom: you know, breaking into groups, rearranging furniture into new configurations, and so on. But I'm in a tiny classroom and my attempts to get reassigned to a bigger venue have failed so far, so there isn't much space for us to do that kind of thing. There's probably enough space for "beanbag discussion," in which the last commenter has to pick who speaks next by throwing a bean bag to another student, but I can only do that so many times before it stops being effective.

So, any ideas ya'll might have on how to get the energy level up a bit and convince my students to talk without so much prodding on my part or so much hesitation on theirs would be very welcome.

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Day and a Death in Iraq

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I'm not the first person (or the first blogger) to point out that we still have a good way to go before we become a nation that "will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"

I wonder what Dr. King would have thought about the America we are today. I think there are reasons to doubt he'd be entirely happy with it.

After all, more than a thousand people--many of them poor and black--died in the Gulf Coast fewer than five months ago. Many of the poorest survivors may well lose any hope of rebuilding their homes and neighborhoods. Some experts say no one should move back to New Orleans, which was for centuries one of our most vital and vibrant cities. Its officials aren't receiving the support they need to safely rebuild--possibly, in part, because we're caught up in a stunningly expensive war.

Between 1967 and his death a year later, Dr. King repeatedly criticized U.S. involvement in a war which he--and many others--thought was an act of imperialism in which poor people suffered disproportionately. And he was labeled a coward and a traitor for saying so.

Sound familiar?

1,058 days. Possible costs of up to $2 trillion. An estimated minimum of 28,065 dead civilians. 2,220 coalition troops killed and 16,420 wounded.

On Friday, a childhood friend of mine died in Iraq. Unlike me, he thought this war was a just one. I'm glad he at least died as part of something he believed in.

But I sure do hope we can find a way to end it soon. And I hope we can learn to better fulfill Dr. King's dream while we're at it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It's official . . .

I got my uniform today! So, in the next class, I'll be wearing my dobok with the school seal on the sleeve.

And I also started learning my first form.

I'm far more excited than I probably have any right to be, given how weak I still am and how much I screwed up in class today, but I'll get stronger and better.

The instructors started showing disappointment and speaking sharply to me today, but even that doesn't bother me very much. It means I'm not just a guest anymore: I'm their student now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Recommended Reading

There's this blog called Heo Cwaeth. More people should read it. Here's one reason why.

Comments are cheerfully given and received here at Chez Wiseass!

Nothing very exciting to report today--just lots of administrative crap getting done and lots of feeling painfully tender pretty much everywhere as a result of yesterday's drubbing.

However, I did finally get around to catching up on the comment threads for about the past week. So, if you posted a response to any of my more recent entries, you might find that I've left you a message in the comments.

I've also seen, pretty much everywhere, that it's National Delurking Week. I've already offered one delurking post and don't want to look too attention-starved, but I also don't want to miss out on all the fun. So I'll just admit that I am attention-starved and invite any readers who've been operating in Stealth Mode to introduce themselves. Say hi, y'all!

(Graphic via Paper Napkin, via Dr. V.)

UPDATE: Although it's been declared "National Delurking Week" by the Unseen Powers who declared it, I am re-declaring it "International Delurking Week" in honor of Australian Gillian Polack and any other lurkers from beyond the States (and no, I really didn't mean for that final phrase to sound like the title of a Lovecraft story--it just happened that way).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

First classes

So. Very. Sore.

The people at the dojang are definitely kicking my ass. But they are kicking it into a more aesthetically pleasing shape. And, more importantly, they're going to make me a hell of a lot stronger. And able to hit things convincingly!

I didn't manage to do nearly everything I was supposed to, because I couldn't keep up. In fact, I made a complete and utter ass of myself and everyone had to wait for me to finish my combinations. I am also a total wimp who can't do decent push-ups. But I don't care that it was embarrassing. I loved it, anyway. And I will get better.

My favorite moment today came when I was learning a block-and-punch combination from two other students, one being a white belt (like me) and the other being an orange belt. After working with me for a bit and helping me improve a little, the guy with the white belt smiled, said "make her better" to the one with the orange belt, and stepped aside. And it wasn't the least bit condescending. He really wanted me to get better and thought the other guy could help me more. And he was right, which meant that I figured it out. Which was excellent.

Unfortunately, my own class wasn't quite as thrilling. Nothing in particular went wrong; it was just kinda dead a lot of the time. There were lots of Ennio Morricone moments. You know, those moments when you expect the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" to cue up and a tumbleweed or two to blow through. I had them read and analyze "Little Red Riding Shorts" from Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and I only got a few giggles here and there. Seriously! How do you not laugh at that? I think they started to loosen up a little at the end, but that was a tough crowd, I tell ya.

I'm hoping I can chalk it up to 1) first-day wariness, 2) Oh-dear-God-the-break's-over weariness, and 3) an evening class time. I may have to do more "kinetic learning" with this class than usual, and I'm thinking that the cracker-box room might not be doing us any favors. So I guess I'll be looking into changing that tomorrow.

Meanwhile, after feeling weirdly elated for most of the day, I'm starting to feel rather droopy and deflated. I'm thinking it's mostly just the result of being worn out.

One symptom of my new, more melancholic state is that I'm wondering, just a little, whether I'm insane. Because, after all, I am going to get hurt while sparring at some point. Pretty soon, I'm going to have lots of bruises. I'd say it's fairly likely I'm in for a few bloody noses down the road. And if I keep forgetting not to point my toes or if I throw a bad punch at the wrong time, stuff could even get sprained or broken, despite protective padding.

But, honestly? Part of me is looking forward to getting hit for the first time. Not because I'm masochistic: I don't really want to get hurt, and I'm going to do my best to learn how not to. But I do want to know how I'll handle it. I'm want to prove to myself that I can react with physical and moral courage when that first kick or punch gets through.

Other parts of me are thinking that showing up to teach class three hours after getting the stuffing kicked out of me at the dojang could be, well, difficult. (Also potentially disconcerting for my students, if the bruises are visible enough.)

But honestly, I don't care. I just need to know. I need to know if I can do it.

Anyway, I'm knackered. I have emails to send and blog comments to respond to and all kinds of other things I ought to do. But, with apologies to the world in general, I just have to go to bed.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stuff I learned today

Things I learned in my first lesson with the master:

1) I don't know how to make a fist (although at least I don't put my thumb on the inside) and I can't punch worth a crap--yet.
2) I kick well, but I've got to stop pointing my toe, or it's going to get broken (too many years of ballet class coming into play there, I think).
3) My flexibility is still pretty decent.
4) My coordination isn't quite as bad as I thought.
5) My reflexes are awful--for now.
6) My perfectionism is literally physical: I don't breathe while I'm trying to learn combinations. The master says I'd better relax, or I'm going to pass out.
7) Once I get over my inhibitions about yelling while hitting things, I like doing it a whole lot.
8) If I stop watching myself to make sure I'm doing it right and trust my body do its thing, I tend to do much better.
9) I felt better walking out than I did going in.

First group lesson is tomorrow: I expect to stick out like a sore thumb, even though I'll be all the way in the back, but what the hell? I've got to start somewhere, right?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Future of the Academic Faculty: Some Questions

The latest edition of MLA's Profession appeared in my mailbox this week, and I've been browsing. In an article by Annette Kolodny on "How English Departments (and Their Chairs) Can Survive into the Twenty-First Century," I came across the following paragraph:

. . . The definition of what constitutes the faculty is itself undergoing radical transformation. "Nearly half of all faculty members work part time, and more than half of new full-time positions are off the tenure track." As Martin Finkelstein, a professor of education at Seton Hall University, put it, "college teaching is moving toward a contingent work force" . . . . Little wonder, then, that several department chairs cited as their biggest challenge the need to find some way to keep non-tenure-track faculty members happy, productive, and nonsuicidal. Additionally, as chair after chair explained, the status of non-tenure-track faculty members affects not only their morale but the morale of the entire department. Tenure-track faculty members who already feel overworked and underpaid are angered by the notion that they are somehow exploiting the non-tenure-track adjuncts and part-timers by shifting onto them those courses that the tenure-track faculty members supposedly can't or won't teach. And in their heart of hearts, the tenure-track faculty members know full well that those without tenure-track positions are often as smart, talented, and meritorious as they are. Of course, the non-tenure-track faculty know this as well. To say the least, the situation is a breeding ground for guilt, resentment, and jealousy--not collegiality (156).
This is an alarming portrait, and it raises a number of questions for me:

1) Is it now at all possible to be anything other than irresponsible or inaccurate in speaking of or treating contingent faculty members as "the academic fringe" in any way (if, indeed, it ever was)?

2) Is the end of the tenure system as we know it the logical, inevitable, or perhaps even preferable outcome of the situation Kolodny describes?

3) Is it at all reasonable, under these circumstances, for graduate students to expect to get tenure-track jobs? If it isn't, whose responsibility is it to explain that to them, and at what stage?

4) Does the experience of people reading this blog bear out what Kolodny's saying, in particular about the dynamic between tenured and contingent faculty members?

5) What is this scenario most likely to mean for the quality of training undergraduates receive at American colleges and universities--and, by extension, for the overall education of the nation's adults?

I'm eager to hear any responses you may have--or any questions I haven't thought of.

I'm it!

Dr. V. tagged me for the Fours Meme, so--at the risk of making my blog into Meme Central--here goes. I've tried to avoid duplicating things I've said in other entries, so perhaps this won't be too terrifically dull for my more faithful readers.

Four Jobs You’ve Had
1) Salesperson in a folk art gallery/museum
2) Administrative position (and some PR work) for a public television network
3) Marketer for a dotcom company just before the bubble burst
4) Temp (And you know I have some stories about that: particularly since the agencies often liked to send me to "difficult clients" who made other temps leave in tears after half a day. Whee.)

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over
1) Blade Runner
2) Alien
3) Margaret Cho: I'm the One that I Want
4) The Big Lebowski

Four Places You’ve Lived
Like Dr. V, I'm going with buildings, rather than cities, so as to maintain my top-secret identity.
1) A row-house that used to be part of a bacon factory
2) An apartment with a view of a 1970s-era, Disneyesque castle on a hill out back
3) Half of a large duplex, which I shared with The General, her husband, a lovely dog, and the three birds I had at the time
4) The Family Manse, which has an honest-to-God yard and which abuts on a partially wooded lot (this kind of thing seems amazing to me, now that I live in Big City)

Four TV Shows You Love to Watch
I think this is only supposed to include current shows, but I don't have cable and my reception is awful, so I hardly watch anything now. Which means I have to cheat a little and will therefore start the list with my-very-favorite-ever-but-now-defunct show.
1) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2) Battlestar Galactica
3) E! True Hollywood Story
4) VH1 Behind the Music

Four Places You’ve Been on Vacation
Hmm. I had to work hard to avoid geographical identity giveaways and duplicating places on the list three categories down.
1) New York City
2) Washington, D.C.
3) Charleston, South Carolina
4) Paris

Four Blogs You Visit Daily
I visit daily--and love--far too many blogs to pick four without feeling horrifically guilty.

Four of Your Favorite Foods
1) Rare filet mignon
2) Miso soup
3) Sag paneer
4) Buttermilk-fried chicken

Four Places You’d Rather Be
1) Inishmore, Ireland
2) Edinburgh, Scotland
3) Olympic National Park, Washington State
4) Luxor, Egypt (This is the only place on the list that I haven't visited before, but I've wanted to go there since I was at least five.)

Four Albums You Can’t Live Without
1) Johnny Cash--At Folsom Prison
2) Ella Fitzgerald--The Best of the Song Books
3) Whiskeytown--Stranger's Almanac
4) Jean Ritchie--Ballads from Her Appalachian Family Tradition

Four Vehicles You’ve Owned
Like Dr. V, I haven't owned four vehicles. Unlike Dr. V, I can't add favorite running shoes to the list, either. So I'll, uh, add the two computers that got me onto the "internet superhighway." (And no, you don't even need to bother to tell me how goofy that is.)
1) A late-80s vintage, white Volvo sedan
2) A black, 1992 Ford Ranger pickup truck
3) Fujitsu N-series LifeBook
4) Sony Vaio notebook

Four Taggees
2) Grad Student Hack
4) New Kid


Thanks to my little vacation in Puko-Barfo Land, it's become abundantly clear that there is absolutely no way I can accomplish what I'd set out to do by coming back to Big City a week before the new term was set to begin. But I figured I could try to salvage some self-respect today by doing things I'd been contemplating for a long time and somehow never quite managed to do.

So, in addition to spending an obscene amount of money at Kinko's while putting my course reader together and doing a little drug-store shopping, I:
1) got extra keys made
2) had three of my watches repaired
3) finally followed up on the advice of Dr. B., Dr. V., and others by getting an honest-to-God bra fitting (And let me tell you, I was shocked by how very, very wrong the measurements I'd been using for the past decade were. I am going to add my voice to the evangelizing chorus on this one: Friends of the breast-having persuasion, get thee to a Nordstrom's!)
4) signed myself up for martial arts classes at a dojang near my apartment.

Now, though items 1-3 are pretty significant, item 4 is terrifying. I've wanted to do this for well over ten years, but both the expense of good training and the very strong probablility that I'd look like a total fool in front of other people have held me back.

I don't think there's any chance of avoiding the latter of those two scenarios, since I fully expect my doughy ass to be hitting the floor in any number of humiliating ways for some time to come. But the Master who runs the dojang has agreed to let me train there at half price if I'll help out around the place for about three hours each week. So I'm in--at least, provided that I pass the private "audition" lesson on Monday.

Friday, January 06, 2006

irony, n.

Not being able to work for the better part of two days because you can do little other than sleep, and then having to get up and work the following night because you can't get to sleep. Because you weren't working the previous two days.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A brief exchange: On being single

Friend: My relatives seem to have a real problem with my being single. Every time I talk to them, it's, "Sooo, how's that dating thing going?"
Me: Oh, why do families have to do that shit to people? Either you're not happy being single, in which case they're only rubbing salt in the wound, or you're happy being single and they're telling you that's not acceptable to them.
Friend: Yeah. I really want to say, "I'm happy being single, so quit bothering me about it," but I can't.
Me: Well, you could just say that.
Friend: [Significant look, eyebrow raised]
Me: Yeah, I know.


I've spent the better part of the past 48 hours wretchedly ill and am still pretty weak. Science will probably never know whether it was some transient stomach virus or a case of food poisoning. Whatever it was, it sure as hell was successful in rendering me almost instantaneously and thoroughly helpless, thanks to a twelve-hour bout of violent nausea, a fever, and a headache that probably could have inspired divine visions were I a better person.

I am not good at that kind of thing at all. I ended up lying on my couch, staring at the five trash bags and other accumulated debris from my nearly-completed unpacking job, hyper-aware of how threadbare said couch was, worrying about the stuff I'd left in the laundry-room machines, and noticing, to boot, that from a certain angle, the fringe on one particular piece of folk art was very unsatisfactorily entangled. None of which I could do a damn thing about, because I could not move.

Not to mention the approximately 7,654 things that needed to get done during the last 48 hours of precious before-the-beginning-of-the-term time, which kept parading themselves through my feverish brain as if to mock me.

Also not to mention how I had plenty of time to think that I probably could find the strength to walk across the room again if only I had somebody nearby who could get me some Gatorade and some painkillers. But nearly all the pals are still out of town for the holidays--at least, those close enough not to have to endure hour-long trips by car or bus to get to me in Big City traffic--and Boy Roomie was at work.

Alas. All I could do was make feeble phone calls to people who I thought might be --but were not--in the area, to my Mom because I'd promised to call (she, blessings upon her, called twice yesterday to check back in with me), to Dr. Ms. to cancel an appointment, and to Boy Roomie to petition him to bring me some Gatorade on his way home from work.

Eventually, Boy Roomie came home, and regular infusions of Gatorade, together with his putting "The Importance of Being Earnest" into the DVD player, made me hardy enough to manage a trip to my medicine cabinet for some Excedrin, which seemed, after about an hour, to make me more capable of something approaching basic operations.

Today, I'm trying to work through that weirdly technicolor feeling of gratitude, cleansing, and disorientation one has after being intensely ill and to resist the urge to push myself really hard to make up for lost time. I'm also thinking--as I often was yesterday--about how absolutely unbearable it would be to be sick like that for really long stretches of time. And about how Wonder Woman almost certainly will be.

Her first round of chemo treatments starts tonight. It will last for five days.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Heading back to Big City

While I've been here, I have:

  1. Spent a fair amount of time with Mom and Dad--and without arguing with Dad about politics once (so far, anyway--knock on wood!).
  2. Visited with a dear little parrot.
  3. Spent some time with Brother and with Sister-in-Law
  4. Bonded with Niece and Nephew Cat, as well as the brand-new Niece Puppy.
  5. Met one of my little cousins for the first time.
  6. Seen many members of my extended family.
  7. Visited twice with Wonder Woman, her mom (my aunt), her husband, and her little ones. She has a spinal tap coming up soon; chemo will follow. She seems remarkably strong and sassy, but I wish I could be around to support her when the chemo starts.
  8. Shopped with Mom and Grandma.
  9. Gotten some lovely presents.
  10. Heard lots of stories about roving bears, wild turkeys, and bobcats starting to encroach on people's backyards and trash cans because of diminishing habitats.
  11. Spent an afternoon with my dearest friend from high school.
  12. Had lunch with two friends, former work-mates, and fellow cat-appreciators who also happen to be sisters.
  13. Eaten dinner with the beloved "extra aunt" who also was my first-grade teacher along with her husband and Mom and Dad.
  14. Over-eaten (without doing anything in the kitchen other than helping to clean up).
  15. Gotten my hair done.
  16. Visited my favorite Home Sod bookstore.
  17. Eaten some of the best pizza in the world.
  18. Tried (and spectacularly failed, in general) to explain what I'm doing with my life several dozen times.
  19. Fielded two uncomfortable, public questions about former significant others.
  20. Had my laundry done for me.
  21. Read a tiny bit for the thesis.
  22. Read a fair amount for my next class.
  23. Planned most (though by no means all) of my new syllabus.
  24. Commented on and mailed off a few papers.
  25. Answered a raft of emails.
  26. Written some blog posts.
  27. Saw Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong.
  28. Discussed it online over at Acephalous (short version: I'm not exactly crazy about it).
  29. Eaten barbecue.
  30. Read a novel.
It has been good.

But it's also time to head back: I have spent three mostly insomniac nights worrying about my prospectus, and about a life that sometimes seems a little stunted when I see so many people around me moving into new roles, experiences, and relationships while I feel as though I've stalled out. It's time to head back and find a way to get on with it so I can sleep a little more soundly at night, both during next year's holidays and between now and then.

And Boy Roomie reports that Mouse was wandering around my bedroom crying for me today. I've missed him terribly, too, and I can't wait to see him.