grading day (with updates)

Somehow, despite my good intentions and good efforts, today is going to be Super Terrible Grading Day. I have to get through 23 more papers today in order to be able to hand them back tomorrow in class. If I can stick to my Power Grading* schedule, that's 4-5 hours. Which doesn't sound so bad. But I have a hard time focusing on grading for more than 90 minutes at a time. It makes me stupid and cranky. Plus, of course, I have other things to work on today.

*Mel's Power Grading Plan-- aim for only 10 minutes per short paper, exceeding that only for the really good and really terrible ones. Which usually works out to about 12 minutes per paper. Allow more time for the last 10 or so. Use a timer. Ingest caffeine at regular intervals. DO NOT decide you'll get up early in the morning to finish them. The sleep you enjoy having finished them is worth staying up late for.

Grading Log
First, I answered emails and planned some stuff for class. Then sat down to some grading.
Graded 3 essays.
Attitude: reasonably productive. But then the utility guy showed up, and I took a break for laundry, putting oil in my car, and time with the dogs.
11:35-12:10 3 more done. Encountered a new first: an essay with no capitalization at all. I'm cool with that in email, but in a paper? Geez.
Attitude: distracted. Time for a shower and lunch.
[typing this, I realise that I had better get a lot more done in my next session or I'll never make it. Especially now that blogworld is watching me. This is motivating.]
2:30-2:55 At the office, after handling some student problems -- graded 3 more essays. Then I had to switch gears and finish a report due in the Chair's office this afternoon.
Attitude: good. I feel like I'm making progress. But I have all this other stuff to do today as well as the grading.
6:00-6:55 4 more.
11:15-11:40 only 1, because I was falling asleep. I blame my evening yoga class for relaxing me. I decide to go to bed and do the remaining 8 papers in the morning.
So I didn't meet all of my goals, but it actually worked pretty well doing little speed bursts of grading throughout the day.
But now I'm up super early, to grade and then prep my classes. It'll be a long day.


edited post

[first part of this post now deleted for privacy reasons]

My regular readers know that I thoroughly enjoy certain kinds of genre films and comedies. Yes, I'm a super-smart literary critic -- but I see all of Snoop Dogg's films. (That's not an apology, but an explanation to those of you who are only invested in Serious Filmaking.) So we caught the cheap matinee of Man of the House today and laughed ourselves silly. I love any movie with a dance showdown (from Electric Boogaloo to Honey, there's a whole history of contemporary film to be written about the transformation from sheriffs with guns to girls with big booties). The dancing and cheering is only small part of this film, which makes loving nods to a whole range of popular genres. But what really tickled me? First off, a hot female English professor (Anne Archer) who doesn't sound like an idiot when she's talking to her class; and Tommy Lee Jones as a Texas Ranger who at one point gives a rousing anti-plagiarism speech to one of the cheerleaders in his charge. Say this in Jones's thick Texas accent for full effect: "Plagiarism? That's an academic criiiiiime. Punishable by academic deeaaath." Awesome. If it weren't copyright fraud, I'd love a clip of that to put on my course website.


1 down, 2 to go

It's feast or famine with us, as regards socializing. My partner and I can go for many weeks without social commitments with other people -- and then, all at once, we have many obligations. Like this weekend: last night, we had to go to a play directed by a friend's girlfriend. Tonight, we are having dinner with a colleague of mine and her husband -- we have cancelled or changed plans with them far too many times, so it's really important that we see them this week. And then tomorrow we are supposed to drive up to the far north suburbs to attend an Academy Awards party with a friend/colleague of my gf's. Whew. That's a lot, for two introverts who have a lot of work to do.

The play was ok -- though actually it was a musical, one of my least favorite cultural forms. I'd rather watch . . . wrestling? nose flautists? . . . almost anything but musicals. But some of the singers were talented, and they had a lot of energy and excitement about this show. And I understand why it appeals to the 20-something theater types. But it's not my scene.

Today seems to be slipping through my fingers awfully fast...I went to yoga, bought a new pair of running shoes, have done some laundry & chores. Need to do some writing and some grading before we meet them for dinner so that the day isn't a total wash.


gender balance

Today was the first meeting of the Educational Policy committee I'm sitting on. I am the only woman on the 12-person committee. Only 6 of us showed up today. Including one guy who looks like a garden gnome, moves at a slow crawl, and said in his introduction that he had served on the Senate for n years when n approaches infinity. He's easily 80 years old. Or more? I was also the only Humanities prof there. And I was probably younger than the others by at least 10 years.

What did all of this mean? It was a weird meeting. Not unpleasant, exactly. But it's really clear that everything I said got a lot of attention. And all these old guys kept looking to me for my response to their comments, trying to make eye contact with me, etc.

And then the next-youngest guy walked out of the building with me and asked how long I'd been at the University. Which is really code for "you look so young. Why are you on this committee?"

But it was actually one of the more productive meetings I've sat in this week, so I don't think I'm going to mind this piece of my service duty.


Scrivener's Meme

Scrivener's Meme: Ten Things I've Never Done That You Probably Have

1. Never gone skiing
2. Never eaten sushi
3. Never went backpacking in Europe
4. Never read any books by Ayn Rand
5. Never saw Ghostbusters
6. Never slept with a member of the opposite sex
7. Never ridden a bicycle without training wheels
8. Never worked as a waitress/waiter
9. Never visited any Disney park
10. Never cheated on an exam

Anybody out there my complete match?

This was hard to do, without copying items from Scrivener or profgrrrl. But fun in an inside-out-way-of-thinking kind of way.

Yeah, I should be prepping a lecture right about now. but noooooo....I'm playing around on the internet. Bad professor. Bad, bad, bad.


Forever Now

It was 1982, my freshman year in high school. I'd been a devoted fan of The Who for several years -- their music really initiated me into rock/pop music, and helped me define my musical tastes, which definitely weren't supported by the radio stations in my Midwestern home town. If you look to see what were the top 100 hits of 1982, there were some great 80s songs I liked -- Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," Human League's "Don't You Want Me" and the Cars'"Shake It Up." But what you could hear on the radio in my home town was mostly all the other stuff on that hit list: Toto, Air Supply, Chicago, Journey, and Asia. (Yes, I have been known in recent months to sing along with Journey on the car radio, but that's under the general guise of ironic nostalgia. When I was 14, I never would listen to them willingly.)

I think it was in a review in Rolling Stone that I first learned about the Psychedelic Furs. The reviewer said something about Richard Butler's raspy voice either really appealing to you or making you want to run out of the room. And I thought, I have got to hear that. Somehow I just knew. So I bought Forever Now, not having heard a single song.

This album really started the 80s for me. It showed me that there were artists doing something radically different (and to my ears, better) than what I could hear around me. Music that had the energy and anger of punk, but with more melody, and more poetry.

it's raining in my head
but no tears come down
and i'm dreaming of you
until sleep comes around

Eventually, I would discover Depeche Mode, the Cure, and New Order. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Psychedelic Furs, and for this album in particular. I can remember just playing it over and over. Coming home on the school bus after another crappy boring day and feeling the relief of the music.

I first got to see the Furs in 1984. I remember that I wore a bunch of rhinestone pins all over my denim jacket that night, and some college kids admired it. Something happened near the front of the auditorium, and people rushed the stage. A guy I knew at school got to touch Richard Butler's hand. But the roar of the speakers, Butler's understated manner: this was something like magic. We knew that we understood something that other people couldn't see.

love is hiding in the city
here in all of you
put the place in cages
but don't label it a zoo
get a girl inside your head
get out of the way
write yourself a postcard
when there's nothing left to say

there's danger
i believe it
wake up
it's a fight
love me
now forever
war's on
it's now or never

I saw the Furs play again three or four years ago, on one of those 80s revival tours. The music was great, but the crowd was mostly there to see the GoGos, so it wasn't really my sort of scene. That's the sort of combination that would never have been believed in 1982. Or 1985. I prefer my memory of that earlier show.

I listened to Forever Now last night and it still has a powerful effect on me. This was my music, my 80s.


99.9% content free

I've been busy all day and yet have very few thoughts in my head worth blogging about. This does not seem like a good sign.

Dealt with a bunch of administrative things today: travel arrangements for a visiting speaker, honor society stuff, plans for an upcoming conference here. So I had the satisfaction of crossing things off my list, but not much in the way of intellectual stimulation.

I start teaching a novel this week that I've never taught before, and had never even read before the winter break. (That's why I put it on the syllabus, to force myself to actually read it, after years of only reading about it.) I now have to start re-reading it and marking passages for my lectures, which I should have done over the weekend, but I was busy grading. I'm looking forward to teaching the book, and just hope that some of my students have done the reading. We're heading into the struggling part of the term, when they realise that my warning at the semester's beginning that "This class requires a LOT of reading" really was serious. Victorian novels are long, there's no way around that. Especially for working students, it can be really hard to put in the hours. But how else can I teach the material? I already teach far fewer novels per semester than most similar courses at More Prestigious Universities cover.

Walking back from the library to my building today, I saw a student from last semester who set aside her cell phone conversation to shout at me "Dr LastName! I miss your class so much, it really sucks!" Awww.

Our older dog W, who is a dignified and often grouchy 11 years old, usually spends her time at the dog park chasing balls, playing with me, and admonishing our younger dog if she is roughousing with other dogs too much. W believes she ought to be the referee and boss of everyone else, but doesn't usually pay much attention to other dogs unless they approach her. But there's a young shepherd puppy named EZ who she's really taken a shine to -- she was play bowing, jumping on him, tumbling, and even let him roll her onto her back. Imagine a 70 year old woman flirting with a teenager. Something like that.

Here she is recuperating on her pink bed, feeling like a tired princess:


the Sunday effect

I have a long-standing dislike of Sundays, which I blog about at least every 3rd or 4th one. Which I know is tedious, dear readers, especially when I haven't been blogging about very much else recently. And yet I'm trapped in my own consciousness at the moment. I stayed up too late last night, so I've been sort of dragging around this morning. I've got lots to do, a fair amount of resistance to doing it, and only intermittent flashes of inspiration and energy.

My watch battery stopped on Thursday, and I haven't yet gotten around to replacing it. At home, I have enough clocks, and when I've been out, I have my cell phone. But I much prefer to have my watch. Unfortunately, it's one of those styles that requires the special tool to get the back open to replace the battery. At Target, the jewelry counter staff used to be able to take care of it (after all, I bought the watch there) -- but the last two times I needed a battery, the person who could do it wasn't available. So I've been going to the little specialty watch shop to get replacement batteries. It's pricey, but they can take care of it in about 5 minutes. But how long is a watch battery supposed to last? I feel like I've been burning through these batteries in an awfully short time. Less than a year, for sure. Is this part of the specialty watch shop's racket? Or could it be something about my now-aging watch?

I have to start grading my first set of long papers from my undergrad course today. They've done shorter assignments, but this is the real test of their writing and analysis. I'm procrastinating a bit on the grading, as I always do -- which breaks down into the following reasons: (a) resentment of the task itself; (b) fear of boredom during the task; (c) resentment of what feels like my students invading my weekend (grading is an oddly social experience for me, I usually feel drained afterwards as though I've been conversing with my students for hours -- which, in a sense, I have been); (d) fear of finding out just what my students don't know; (e) fear of not getting anything else done. (Obviously, I'm using "fear" in a very general sense -- Fiore says that most procrastination comes from fear or resentment. Mine surely does.) Actually, it's useful to spell it all out like that to see just how ridiculous my procrastination is. Especially (e) -- after all, if I just get the grading done, then I'll have time to do other things.

Necessary Tasks Today:
  • grade papers (at least two-three hours' worth)
  • read novel for this week's teaching (includes taking notes which slows me down)
  • note-taking for current research project
  • house cleaning & laundry
  • bills, household paperwork, etc
  • phone my mother (which I can hopefully multitask while cleaning)
  • take dogs to park
  • get some "free reading" at public library
  • go to the gym
  • blogs
  • something with pasta for dinner?
Blech. Sunday.


10 years from now...

(this post prompted by the multiple kids in the cafe this morning)

Something I've begun to wonder about is the societal impact of fertility drugs -- not for the mothers, or the economic and health issues, etc etc, that get written about all the time -- but what it's going to be like for teachers, classmates, friends, romantic partners, and relatives of all these twins, triplets, and quads? When I was growing up we had one set of twins in my school, and boy did we think they were exotic. But maybe that won't be the case for the kids growing up now. Social scientists ought to be laying the groundwork for all kinds of studies right about now, I guess...

friday report

Errfff. What a week this was. Not bad, exactly, though it had its moments -- just long and filled with a lot of meetings and stuff that I don't usually have to deal with. If the last two Fridays are at all representative, though, I'm going to have to make Friday my day off from working out as well as my day off from work, because I'm just so damn tired. Today was the 2nd Friday in a row that I just about melted down around 4 o'clock because I needed a nap. From the beginning, today didn't quite go as planned.
  • got up after only 6 hours of sleep (more than I've gotten the past couple of nights), leaving partner and both dogs fast asleep. Neither dog even wanted to get up. Of course they'd gotten me up earlier, around 5:00, to go do their business. But still, c'mon. Nothing harder to leave than a pile of sleeping family.
  • breakfast, throwing stuff in bag for a day of productive relaxation, dealing with work emails
  • take car in to shop for oil change and routine maintenance
  • walk to yoga, conveniently located a few blocks away from my auto place. Get there and realise that although I have my mat, towels, shampoo, etc, I do not have my yoga clothes. AAGGH.
  • now have to find some other way to fill 2 1/2 hours before I can pick up my car (because they were already doing me a favor to work me into the schedule, and I'd told them I wouldn't be back til noon, after class). Am really pissed off at my stupid tired brain. Luckily I have a book in my bag, so I walk to cafe, schlepping all my yoga stuff.
  • sit at cafe and read, semi-distracted by (a) my irritation at not being at yoga; (b) people speaking French, which causes my brain to try to understand them but my spoken French isn't really good enough, so I just hear every 6th word, something like "well..always...never..of course..here..we...thank you"; (c) women with armloads of children.
  • feeling really grungy, I walk over to the branch of my gym that is in the area and wash up, feeling like a cheater since I didn't actually work out. But hey, I had the towel and shampoo.
  • walk to pick up my car. At my car place now when you pick it up, they give you a bottle of water. It's some new marketing thing, I guess -- they put their name on the label. And in my mind, it totally works. I love mymechanic anyway -- but when the receptionist hands me a bottle of water I just feel so touched and grateful. (Even more so when I've just worked out, but I was still happy to get the water today.) It seems really sweet and human, somehow. Caring. (I am one of those people who drinks 1-2 gallons a day, so water is really important.)
  • go grab quick lunch at the natural foods store
  • meet gf and friend at the early matinee of Constantine. I enjoyed it -- I know people love to slam Keanu but he's perfect for this role. Visually the film is wonderful -- esp Tilda Swinton as an androgynous angel Gabriel. The angels and demons are of course way more visually interesting than the humans. My gf and her friend complained that there wasn't enough action -- but I didn't see it that way. After all, spiritual conflict has to take a different form than plain ol' physical battles. And there are some spectacular special effects. I'm not Catholic, and you don't have to be to enjoy the film, but it probably heightens the flavor a bit. But I've been really interested in the popularity of exorcism/miracle/apocrypha movies over the past few years. This is a good one.
  • went home, melted down, took a nap
  • dogs to the park
  • dinner with gf
  • stopped by the video store, now we're home noodling on the computers. If I can stay awake we'll watch a movie.
A nice day off, but I was too tired to fully enjoy some of it. And I never made it to yoga.

On the list for tomorrow: grading, grading, grading. Ugh.


in my mailbox

I've been in many, many meetings yesterday and today -- to the point that my brain is feeling really tired even though it hasn't really done anything. . . and now, not only do I have a ton of work that I need to do, I'm way behind on reading blogs (amazing how much piles up in two days!) .

I didn't come into the office on Monday, since I knew the rest of the week would be full of office crap. So I read and wrote at home and enjoyed the nice weather. So yesterday (Tues) when I checked my mailbox at the office, I was surprised to find a card. I opened the envelope. It was a Valentine from an older female colleague. WTF??? Not since 3rd grade have I been in a situation where it was customary to exchange Valentines with people you were not currently romantically involved with.

Now, this colleague (I'll call her Older Princess) and I have a long and complex history. As one of the department's few female faculty for many years, OP was used to being the darling. OP is fairly glamourous (not hard in an English dept) and capitalizes on her style to win favor with male adminstrators etc. She plays by the rules of the old school, and she's succeeded. But she's threatened by younger female colleagues. Her status as the darling Princess has slipped, particularly as younger generations of female scholars have come in who vastly outpublish her (even though she has Full faculty rank). OP hated me for two years because she saw me as part of a conspiracy against her -- because I was on a search committee that recommended not to hire a candidate she wanted. (Who did get hired and has been a huge pain the in the collective ass of the department ever since.) When OP hates you, she makes it very clear, and organizes her clique to vote against you on any and all issues.

Then maybe two years ago we achieved some kind of truce after working together on another search committee (nothing like being stuck in a hotel room doing interviews at the convention to create an illusion of intimacy). So we've been cordial ever since. I think I'm on her good side, and I do what I can to maintain that, without compromising my values in any way.

But a valentine? I can only guess that she's (subconsciously?) wooing me for something, some kind of political agenda within the department. But I don't know what it is. And this seems like an odd way to go about it.


freedom to marry

It's National Freedom to Marry Week.

I didn't grow up with much idealizing of the ceremony of marriage. My parents were married overseas, in a civil ceremony, so we didn't have any photos of the event, no white gown packed in the attic, no talk of "when you get married you'll be a princess." Yet my parents stayed married until my father's death, and would no doubt still be married today if he had lived. They believed in marriage. They were too old to be baby-boomers, too old to be divorcing when younger friends were. So I grew up with a model of commitment and compromise that is pretty powerful. Even though my parents' marriage and the family they created was by no means free of dysfunctions, addictions, and issues.

In my own relationships I've been a serial monogamist. I stayed too long in one messed-up relationship, because I believed in commitment and because I couldn't see my way out of it. Got my heart broken the next time around, though the break was cleaner and happened much more quickly. Then I went through my dating phase, which I found awkward, since I'm really more of a commitment and fidelity type of gal.

And then eventually I met my partner. And we made our commitment to each other, to sharing our lives and our hearts. Relationships aren't easy -- we've been to therapy, we work on our communication skills, and we're always still learning new things about each other. But I've found someone who shares my values, who inspires me, who comforts me.

The society we live in won't allow us the same basic rights that so many heterosexuals take for granted. My gf can't be on my health insurance plan. We can't get a family rate at my gym, or on our car insurance. We have to create legal work-arounds that will hopefully hold strong in case of a medical emergency, since our relationship isn't recognized by any institution. Yet I know I'm fortunate to live in a time and place where I can live with my partner, where I can be out to my employer and my family and not suffer harrassment or persecution. Many people today don't have it so easy.

I've been thinking a lot about the language of marriage -- analysts think that much of the anti-gay feeling that comes through in polls on the marriage issue has to do with the actual word "marriage" and all its connotations. That's why the Right has been pushing definitional legislation.

For those of us excluded from legal marriage, the word is powerful too. No matter how creative you try to be with synonyms and euphemisms ("girlfriend" sounds so teenaged, and "partner" so lawyerly) , no matter how much you know yourselves to be in love, and living out a committed relationship -- it's still not the same as being able to say that you are married. Because of the culture we live in, when you use other words, it's sort of like you're hedging a bit. Or when you take over the dominant words, sometimes people are confused. In casual conversation, I tend to refer to my gf's father as my father-in-law -- it's just easier somehow. But a colleague of mine stopped me recently, when she heard me say this in a casual setting to people I didn't know very well, and questioned me about it. She thought I was being deceitful somehow. (I should point out that I think it's pretty obvious to most people I deal with that I'm a lesbian, so it's not at all like I'm trying to pass.)

Speech act theory reminds us that the language of the marriage ceremony is of a special class of language (illocutionary statements), language that acts rather than just representing something. Of course that power of action is granted in part by a large network of social/institutional authority and power -- it's not just anybody who can say "I now pronounce you..." and have it be "real" or meaningful. By the same token, you can't just say that you're married unless someone has performed that ceremony for you.

All over the United States, people were performing acts of civil disobedience and celebrating gay and lesbian unions this past weekend. My partner and I were among them. We got married, in a group ceremony with other same-sex couples. It doesn't give us the legal protections or the financial benefits. But it still means something to us. And until it does give us the same basic rights that most of you can easily obtain, we'll be talking and campaigning and voting and protesting.


some thoughts about money

Money, or the lack thereof, has been on my mind lately. Like almost everyone else I know, I'm paying off debts from years of education, several moves, car repairs, etc. I plan to be debt-free in three to four years, assuming that nothing catastrophic happens to me or my partner.

I'm employed by a state-funded institution, which means that we don't get cost of living raises. The only raises we get are distributed according to merit scores -- so if you happen to publish an article in a year that we have a raise pool from the state legislature, you get a small raise that year. But if you publish something in an off year, you get zilch. Salary compression is a significant problem in our department, as in most -- when my most junior colleague was hired two years ago, her salary was more than mine at the time, even though I had significantly more publications and experience. That differential will probably never be rectified.

Our rent is going up $200 March 1st. To be fair, they hadn't raised our rent since we moved in three years ago, so it's probably not out of line. But it's kind of a steep jump all at once. My tenure raise, which is the biggest raise I'll ever see unless I get promoted to full someday, doesn't cover this rise in our rent.

Yes, we rent our house. I can't afford to buy a house in a neighborhood we'd want to live in. The only things I would get approved for would either be in gang-run neighborhoods or the far suburbs, neither of which are really viable lifestyles for us. The neighborhood we currently live in is an older inner-city area that developers have been buying up recently. It's entirely possible that within three years we will no longer even be able to afford to rent here.

At the bookstore recently I skimmed through a couple of books on reducing debt load, managing your finances, etc etc -- most of which tell you the same things I already know and am doing. But it is really irritating to me, these recommendations for ways to cut expenses. I don't know anyone who drinks a latte every day and could thus save $15-20 a week by cutting that out. I don't know anyone who buys lunch every day. I don't know anyone who spends $200 on hair cuts. The people I know who are trying to manage their money and curb expenses are already living pretty carefully. I'm not saying that my partner and I can't tighten our belts somewhere -- in fact we've been working on that recently. You can always cut out something. But when you're already bringing a thermos of homemade coffee with you to the office and packing your lunch, it's really irritating to hear how you could shave off $100 a week for your debt if you were already spending your money that way.


How to Celebrate Mud Festival

(by G and W, guest bloggers)

This is the time of year when we celebrate Mud Festival. We are especially happy this year because our big golden retriever friend L is also staying with our pack for a week. Mud Festival is better with friends!

First, you have to check and make sure if your yard has enough good-quality mud. Our yard produces excellent mud, as you'll see in the picture.

Here are some tips on how to enjoy it:
  • if you jump into a big puddle of water, it will make a great splash! Puddles dry up first, so get in there early!
  • we like to play "chase the puppy" through the mud, because slipping and sliding is fun!
  • if your toys are covered in mud, pick them up and shake them -- you'll get a nice spattering of mud everywhere!
  • mud wrestling was invented by dogs before people went and commercialized it-- reclaim your heritage!
  • if you can sneak back into the house without Mama hearing you, you can get mud on the floor and couch, too!
The only downside to mud festival is that Mama is always rubbing our feet with the towel and running the darn washing machine all the time. We think that maybe Mama doesn't love Mud Festival as much as we do, but we have caught her smiling sometimes.



I've been thinking a lot today about the little blog tempest stirred up over at Geeky Mom, Cul de Sac, and JMP. Various persons made comments that have been analysed, regretted, apologised for. I myself made a comment that a few hours later I wished I could edit.

All of this reminds me of a roundtable discussion at a conference that was supposed to be focusing on work/life issues for female academics. Very shortly it turned into a kind of perverse competition, pitting the mothers against the childfree and the singletons against the partnered in a race to prove that each had it the worst. Really, people, it's not a zero-sum game. My time can't become yours. Some relevant numbers: every one of us has 1440 minutes in the day. Every one of us has 168 hours in the week. And I don't know a single person who would say she or he has enough time to do everything that she or he would like to do/feels necessary to do/is required to do. And yet it's really hard not to feel those comparisons sneaking around the edges...is it silly of me to write about my own stuff when other people have it worse?

Most human beings need emotional connections, physical sources of well being (food, shelter, hygiene), intellectual satisfaction, relaxation, work/task satisfaction (sense of completion, accomplishment, etc), and monetary compensation. How you rank those different needs in your own hierarchy, and how you achieve those needs is going to be different according to your circumstances. When I lived alone, for instance, I had much more control over my physical well-being -- but I had to really work to get enough emotional connection in my life. Now that I'm partnered and live with the dogs, I have emotional connection but have to work to fit in some of the other things on the list. Your needs change over time, and according to context, too.

Now, there are societal expectations and institutional structures that support some of these needs for some kinds of people and not for others. In my own department, for instance, people with children have a free pass to get out of all meetings. I know that's not the case everywhere. Some days I read blogs by people with children and wonder how any of them are coherent enough to type anything at all. But the same is true of people everywhere: someone you know is struggling with kids, with illness, with insomnia, with a demanding and unrewarding job, with older parents, with anxiety, with loss, with uncertainty. And reading blogs offers little moments of possible connection and understanding, with even the most unlikely people.

So: it's my blog. And if you read it long enough you're likely to learn about my own struggles to get enough done, my own struggles with efficiency and depression. And I think I have as much a right to feel overwhelmed as anyone else does. At least here in my own blog. The same right I extend to everyone else.


honorary testosterone

I just got my committee assignment for faculty senate (each senator serves on one of the standing committees). I got my first choice (according to my interests): educational policy. So I glanced at the roster. Of 11 committee members, I am the only one without a Y chromosome. I can hardly wait to experience what those meetings will be like. Especially since at least one of these guys is older than dirt.

customer service

My gf's phone was stolen today, so I was on the phone with customer service for awhile because the automated tree for "report lost/stolen phone" glitched on me. The rep I was talking to was well-spoken, nice, and helpful. BUT...
  • she said "I'm sorry" at least fifty times. I know this is how they train customer service folks, but it was really excessive. "I'm sorry, the system is slow, I'm sorry, just a minute, I'm sorry." I finally said "look, I know they teach you to say that, but really, it's OK."
  • she kept calling me "Mrs." Which I am so not.


messages from the heart

(Make your own. Via Cheeky)

Sunday night

Well, in my mind it's still Sunday night, even if the clock did just squeeze past midnight into Monday morning if you want to be all technical and stuff.

As my long-time readers know, I dislike Sundays. Sunday is always a day of battles between my slacker self, who wants to play and have a day off, and my whip-cracking puritanical self, who is appalled at how little I've accomplished over the weekend.

So here's how the balance sheet stands.

  • I did not finish all the reading for my classes this week, as I had challenged myself to do. I have not even finished all the reading for Tuesday's classes. But there is still time left before I sleep. (and Monday, of course, but the whole idea was to leave Monday clear for other things)
  • I did not work on my article, not even 30 minutes.
  • My home office is still in a horrible state.
  • I finally spent some time with my now-healthy gf -- we saw three movies this weekend to make up for the past couple weeks of no-movies.
  • I talked on the phone to four long-distance friends, one of whom is dealing with a terrible family crisis. I was glad she felt she could call me. I'm glad I could help her, as much as anyone could under the circumstances.
  • I cleaned up the common areas of the house.
  • I started on the reading for my classes.
  • I cooked a big pot of spaghetti sauce which will cover us for a couple of days.
  • I did lots of laundry.
  • I did some household errands.
  • I reviewed a project for my gf which I'd been promising to help with.
  • I consulted with a colleague via phone about some initiatives in the department.
  • I did some planning for an upcoming project.
  • I read some things for fun.
  • I got some extra sleep.
So, in other words, I was a decent partner, a good friend, and a lousy scholar.

Although the positive list looks longer, I value some of its items a lot less than those that didn't get done.

Well, there's always Monday:
  • finish the reading for Tuesday's classes
  • pay bills and deal with financial crap
  • nurse my still-hurting ankle so I can get back to yoga on Tuesday.
I'd better get a jump on Monday now, before I sleep, I think...


Bad Education

run, don't walk, to the theatre for this one. One of PA's best I think. In my top 5 Almodovar list.

Smart, dark, beautiful. (The whole movie, not just Gabriel Garcia Bernal.)

more to say at some later moment.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

It was with great anticipation that I picked up this novel from the public library a few weeks ago (back when it was still my holiday break). I'd read so many good notices of it. And when I started reading it, I was really enjoying it.

But I'm now only about half way through and I've kind of lost steam. I've been reading other "fun" books along the way (JS & Mr N being far too weighty to take with me to the gym, for instance, or for other portable reading occasions). I dug into a few chapters the other night sort of out of a sense of duty.

Anyone out there who's read the whole thing: is it worth my continuing? (of course I may have to return it before I finish, since I've used up my renewals -- but I could try to check it out again.)



Somehow today I managed to injure my "good" (or at least non-"bad") ankle -- feels like a mild sprain, something I'm familiar with from the afore-mentioned "bad" one. So I'm on the couch trying to keep it elevated and iced so that I can return to normal routine in a day or so. But my blog addiction needed feeding, so I borrowed my gf's old laptop...despite the slow wireless connection and its weird Mac keyboard. I only have a desk machine right now. Ergonomically it just works better for me, and most of what I do works better on a large monitor anyway. But this lazy couch thing does have some appeal.

I have a longish thoughtful post in the works based on an article I read on Thursday. But for now there's just the slush in my head.

Last night we double-dipped at the multiplex: a "boy" movie (horror/thriller: Hide and Seek) and a "girl" movie (romantic comedy: Wedding Date). In that order, thankfully. I am not a big horror fan, though I'd agreed to see this one largely because of Dakota Fanning who is wonderfully creepy. And psychological thrillers appeal to me much more than, say, serial killer movies. This one was good up until the last 30 minutes or so. De Niro was sort of wasted on this role, I think. But it was OK for what it was. (though it gave me horrible dreams last night--this is why I don't see such movies very often)

Now, if you are an aficionado of romantic comedies (a genre I realise not everyone appreciates the way I do -- I've only ever had one friend who liked them as much as I did) Wedding Date is quite satisfying. It's sort of a reverse Pretty Woman: Dermott Mulroney as the male escort who turns out to be a good guy after all. Debra Messing looked way better on big screen (with film-quality lighting etc) than she does on the TV, and I actually didn't spend the movie thinking I was watching Grace, so that seemed successful. Anyway, it's sweet and fun if you like that sort of thing. The theatre was packed -- about one-third couples on dates, and the rest groups of women aged 13-80. My gf kept snorting, but it was fun to see it in a room full of women who sigh or laugh appropriately in the right places. (in case it wasn't obvious, I'm the "girl" in our household, at least as regards popular entertainment)

A couple of nights ago I watched a much more complicated movie on DVD that's probably shelved in the romantic comedy category, but it doesn't quite fit the usual mold: Seeing Other People. Which features one of my new favorite actresses, Julianne Nicholson. She's great in this. And as someone who's always been partial to freckles, it's a rare treat to see an actress who doesn't try to cover them up. Anyway, the movie follows a couple who are engaged to be married when the woman says she thinks they should have sex with other people before marrying each other. Although there are some things in the movie that are perhaps conventionally represented (i.e., she winds up in two quasi relationships, whereas her fiance "just" sleeps with a bunch of women), I thought it dealt much more frankly with questions about opening a relationship than most films do. The secondary characters are bittersweet, and the movie as a whole seemed like a thoughtful look at the difficult complexity of relationships in general, for men and women.

ergh, my wrists are already bothering me from just a few minutes on the laptop. Time to read blogs for a while.


little fluffy clouds

Whooooo! Just came out of class and am floating on a little teaching cloud. Made all the better by the fact that I was really underenthused this morning about having to get up early to finish the reading. There's really no reason on earth to procrastinate about doing the reading. I'm teaching NOVELS this term, after all. Hardly painful. (Though they are long.)

The challenge I'm setting myself for this weekend: to do all of the novel-reading for the week by Sunday night. That way my class prep during the week can be more creative lecture-planning, criticism-reading, idea-generating. No more of this get up at 7 a.m. to read the assigned chapters. I can do it, right? (I have never yet in all my years of teaching done the reading that much ahead of time, but I think it would make me happier the morning of class.)

But back to the fluffy mood I'm in. I'm pumped that class went well, that I'm done teaching for the week, that the sun is supposed to appear this weekend, that my gf is finally over her evil virus.

Plus, I've received 5 compliments in the last two days on my new haircut. Which is really my Old Hair -- it's basically how I used to cut it back in 1988 or so. I'm reclaiming my past. But for my colleagues (the source of 2 of the comments) to even notice my hair is kind of surprising. So maybe it's more of a change than I realised. In any case, I'm enough of a girl to like getting compliments. (Though I did have a slightly weird moment when Colleague H effused over my hair and I remembered another colleague, who is friends with him, telling me apropos of some other random hair conversation, "Colleague H likes girls with short hair." Why she knows this I don't know and didn't want to ask.)

A couple hours of setting up my gradebook spreadsheet & clearing junk off my desk, then I'm off to yoga and it's the weekend! During which I will read the novel I'm teaching next week and, more importantly, work on my article. All play and no work makes Mel a dull mind. Right?


how did I get here? (non-existential version)

Thanks to all for the supportive comments yesterday -- after writing out my negative thoughts about the conference proposal, I actually had a breakthrough to what I thought was a strong justification for my proposed paper. So I scribbled down some ideas and when I returned to them after teaching, lo and behold I still thought they were viable. So I wrote up a proposal and sent it off by the end of the day, in time for the deadline. And I feel better for having given it a try at least.

Guess what? if you google "tenure track depression" my blog comes up 3rd. Who knew? I discovered this because I got a lovely email from a new reader who'd stumbled upon the whole world of academic blogs via this search. It got me wondering about other people's stories about how you came to blogworld. I knew what blogs were several years ago, had looked at a couple randomly but was not particularly interested. Then last spring the Chronicle had an article which linked to Barely Tenured -- and once I was there and started following other links, one thing just led to another. Though I spent many hours trawling through Crooked Timber before eventually discovering more of the quirky, personal folks I like to read. And then about 2 weeks later I started my blog. I was amazed when I got my first comment. More amazed as the list of people I read and commented to grew. And I'm still amazed now ten months later.

so that's how I got here. you?


conference angst

I'm working on a conference proposal this week, and am being assailed by the demons of Doubt and Insecurity. Relevant thought attacks include the following:
  • I used to get accepted to conferences fairly frequently while I was still a graduate student, but less often in recent years. There are at least two possible explanations for this: I used to be smarter and/or my work was more interesting; I used to have the letterhead of Prestigious Unversity and now I write from Large Urban which is about 122 places below PU in the imaginary rank ladder everyone carries around in their head.
  • during the last year or two up to tenure I didn't really try to circulate much, since I was focusing on publishing. But now I am woefully out of practice.
  • the less you circulate, the less people know your name, and then the fewer conferences you get accepted to.
  • I am now firmly located on the margin of my field in terms of geography and prestige, and possibly also in terms of what I find interesting. The margin doesn't run conferences.
  • this conference is run by muckity-mucks who mostly invite their friends and I have no earthly chance of getting in. (But I've looked at programs from years past and see people who I know aren't so Brilliant or Fascinating.)
  • I should have written this proposal two months ago. Except I didn't have any brilliant ideas then, either.
  • I'm sick of writing about old stuff, but my new projects aren't far enough long to do much with yet either.
  • Getting into such a conference would be inspiring and energizing, but I feel like the gates are pretty much shut against me. Which is even more draining.