Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why I'm feeling relaxed right now

Moving is stressful, but I find myself curiously relaxed. Why?

Because for the first time in years, I'm not preparing a syllabus or lesson plans. I'm not trying to read huge chunks of books in order to stay ahead of my students. I'm not putting together a course website or answering questions from students before the quarter even begins.

I'm thrilled that I'm relieved of these responsibilities. I feel genuinely happy, and it's all because I decided to quit adjuncting.

Yes, on Tuesday and every day thereafter I have to clock in at 8 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. (I'm going to miss my naps.) But when I come home at 5:15 or so, I will have zero responsibilities beyond those to my family and friends. Woohoo!

I don't have to think about academic publishing. I don't have to think about the miserable academic job market. I am so friggin' happy about this. I had no idea I'd feel such a release.

Consider this a public service message if you're one of the many people on the academic job market, or stuck in any other professional track that is way too stressful and competitive. Don't be afraid to jump ship, because the water's fine.

Resolved: Create and Reconnect

I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions. However, it's become clear to me that I need to get my shit together in oh so many ways.

Since turning in the dissertation and aborting my academic job search, I've been letting things slide a lot. Pretty much everything, in fact. I'm not exactly sure what I've been doing in place of the stuff I should be doing (aside from spending time with Lucas), but my procrastination has become pretty damn bad. So bad that I think Mr. Trillwing is about to stage an intervention. (If you want to learn about my brand of procrastination, listen to Merlin Mann's short podcast The Perfect Apostophe. He nails it.)

So here come the resolutions. Specific resolutions aren't going to cut it because it's clear I'm not going to magically start doing the things I'm supposed to be doing, and they're too many to list anyway.

Instead I'm going to take a page from communicatrix, who has established a theme for her year in lieu of what she calls "gonnas"--you know, as in "I'm gonna vacuum more" or "I'm gonna send two articles to academic journals." Her theme, which I love but won't plagiarize, is "expand and focus."

My theme, I think, will be "Create and reconnect."

On creating: Prior to throwing myself into the dissertation, I was an intensely creative person. I like to paint on canvas as well as customize my little model horsies. I have a sewing machine on which I'd like to become more proficient because I've always been interested in textiles but never really had the time or method for experimenting with them. I want to rekindle my creative energies.

On reconnecting: In addition to being a creative person, I used to be on top of things. I don't mean I had a sparkly clean abode or that all my shit was in order, but I was considerably more organized, particularly as regards our future plans and finances. For example, Mr. Trillwing and I finally drafted our wills this fall, and I need to type them up and get them notarized. In the past, I also set up automatic deductions from our bank account for investments in mutual funds and a few stocks. I did pretty well, but I had to cash out the accounts to pay for medical expenses--Luke's birth, for one--and vet bills. I didn't mind that, because that method of saving, where I can cash out quickly if need be but to which I don't have daily access to funds as I would in a personal savings account at a bank, is a good way for us to save for emergencies as well as for larger purchases, such as the house we'd like someday to own. I also need to be more on top of our debt situation since my student loans come due soon.

By reconnecting, then, I mean reconnecting with the trillwing who was a planner and an organizer. Mr. Trillwing married that trillwing, and she's been on hiatus at least since Luke was born if not earlier than that. He also married a version of trillwing who was considerably more fit and introspective, who took long walks and used them to think through the big things and to inspire herself to further action.

I don't think those two impulses--rekindling creativity and become more organized--are in tension with one another. Rather, I see my theme for 2007 as a way to engage both my right and left brain and, just as importantly, to balance them out. Too much right brain and I forget about the bills. Too much left brain and I burn out, get distracted, and start procrastinating.

What's your theme for 2007?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Posted (almost) without comment

A Christmas Eve Trillwing family photo:

You can blame Jeff and Lisa for Luke's outfit. Mr. Trillwing has no one to blame but himself for the hat, which I swear I had never seen before he produced it for the photo.

Soy products: another weapon in the ho-mo-sex-u-al agenda

Um, yeah. You really must read this article titled "Soy is making kids 'gay.'"

A brief excerpt:
Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That's why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today's rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products.

By this logic, I might as well paint a mural of Judy Garland in Luke's room, strap a pair of chaps on over his diapers, and start constructing our float for the gay pride parade. Oh my god! I fed him soy! Oh noooooo! I've fallen prey to the homosexual agenda! We're all going to HELL!

(See you there, my gay hippie vegan lactose-intolerant friends.)

Is it any wonder that I find the public (mis)understanding of science so fascinating?

(The World Net Daily article on the devil's food was brought to my attention via Pharyngula, who explains why this guy's "science" is so very, very wrong.)

Babysitters rock.

For Christmas, one of our babysitters, an art major, gave us a lovely linoleum block print she made. She also gave us a $20 gift certificate to Cost Plus World Market. So tonight, taking a break from packing (we're moving--more on that later), I ran over to Cost Plus to pick out a frame for the print.

While there, I saw a gorgeous dining room table for sale at 50% off. A steal at $234.50! So I asked about delivery options, and I realized I'd probably have to get a U-Haul and a bunch of people to carry the heavy table because delivery was pretty damn expensive.

But then I saw our *other* sitter at the checkout, and she offered to use her employee discount on my behalf. And voila! With the swipe of her discount card, the table was a mere $160. Which suddenly made the delivery option affordable.

Tomorrow we finish our move. We've moved most of our stuff, but we're using movers to carry our furniture. One of my goals after the move was to make my house look a little less like a composite of Mr. Trillwing's bachelor pad furniture and my hand-me-down grad school furniture. I try not to be materialistic, but I'm wanting a few decent pieces of furniture. And this table is step 1. Step 2: a new couch, but that must wait until March or April, when our financial future should become clearer post-move and with my new job.

Yay for our new table! Yay for moving out of an apartment and into a rental house! Yay for Lucas having his own room!

Wish us luck tomorrow. . .

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The year in review

A meme last seen at The Queen of West Procrastination.

Instructions: Record the first sentence of the first blog post of every month this year.

January: So. . . It's been a while since I've posted. Apologies all around. [an auspicious start to the year]

February: A word cloud generated for this blog:

March: I am giving up sweets. [Bwaaaahaaahahahahahahahahaha!]

April: In our little family, Mr. Trillwing sees himself as a "drain on the ticket."

May: Chapter 4 is fully drafted and I'm thinking it's pretty strong.

June: New meme, anyone?

July: While I tried letting Lucas cry it out a few times, it only ever worked that once, when he crashed in just under half an hour.

August: Mr. Trillwing, our resident agoraphobe, has decided he's outgrowing his need to hole up in his office.

September: "Huh-huh-huh"--spoken in triplet rhythm--was my late grandfather's way of saying "dog crap."

October: How many clothes do you have to take off before you can reveal your breasts?

November: Every month, readers of the H-SCI-MED-TECH list on H-Net receive a request for assistance in improving a particular Wikipedia entry related to the history of science, science studies, or the sociology of science.

December: The intersection of Payroll/Benefits and Trillwing is not a pretty place, as I'm learning in my transition to my new job.

Yeah. . . Sorry about the boring early-month posts. I'll try to fix that.

Monday, December 11, 2006

People in my family age ridiculously well

Exhibit A, my great-uncle (my grandfather's brother), who is 93. And yes, he lives in Hawaii and his birthday is indeed Pearl Harbor Day. His son tells me that Uncle John still takes an occasional overnight fishing trip.

Exhibit B, my aunt. It's because she works out religiously, but still, I'm glad I share her genes.

I also must include my other aunt (academics must check out the photo), who is Mr. Trillwing's age. She's the "fun aunt," the one who takes us out on her electric boat and proceeds to get everyone really, really drunk and then let them take turns "steering" the boat. (I think she would get along well with Dr. Brazen Hussy.)

Have I ever mentioned that at 5'9" and 165 pounds, I'm the short, fat one in the family? Really, I should take better advantage of my DNA so that I, too, can still be the fun mama in my 40s.

Blogger Beta upgrade

I'm in the process of upgrading to Blogger Beta. Please excuse any intermittent ugliness.

I'm learning I'm damn indecisive.

UPDATE: Done for now. Or is light blue + brown too last April?

Apparently, I am a hamster

As seen at B*'s.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dammit, x2

1. Last night Blogger finally gave me a chance to try out Blogger Beta. I decided to try it out today, but now the conversion link is gone. Wah!

2. The big one: Lucas just threw one of his little trucks at my laptop's screen and now there are dings, cracks, and dark and light spots in the display. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I tried to take a screenshot of the damage so I could share it with you, but it didn't show up well.

Perspective, trillwing, perspective! It's good to have First World problems.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Last seen at Cheeky Prof's, where the blog header and template is looking mighty cool, er, hot.

Instructions: Type one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: preoccupied
2. Your spouse: driven
3. Your Hair: misbehaving
4. Your Mother: tense
5. Your Father: laid-back

6. Your Favorite Item: laptop?
7. Your dream last night: forgotten
8. Your Favorite Drink: margarita
9. Your Dream Car: none!
10. The room you are in: doghairy

11. Your Ex: who?
12. Your Fear: money
13. What you want to be in 10 years: stable
14. Who you hung out with last night: Lucas
15. What You're Not: vain

16. Muffins: lemon-poppyseed
17: One of Your Wish List Items: house
18: Time: wasted
19. The Last Thing You Did: e-mail
20. What You're Wearing: silky

21. Your Favorite Weather: windy
22. Your Favorite Book: Handmaid's?
23. The Last Thing You Ate: OJ
24. Your Life: transitions
25. Your Mood: ennui

26. Your best friend(s): thoughtful
27. What you're thinking about right now: Lucas
28. Your car: dirty
29. What you're doing at the moment: blogging
30. Your summer: class-free!

31. Your relationship status: strong
32. What's on TV: nothing
33. The weather: crisp
34. The last time you laughed: today

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In which I flip the Provost's office the bird

I'm so friggin' fed up with the Payroll/Dean's/Provost's offices BS that I've decided, with the full support of Fantastic Adviser, to walk away from the American Studies teaching job in winter quarter.

To my mind, that makes me a bitch because I'll be leaving the department in the lurch, with about a month to find someone to teach a class for which I've already ordered books. But Fantastic Adviser assures me that there will be no diminishment of the warm feelings people in the department have for me. She was so sure of this that as soon as I finished my phone conversation with her, she said she'd call the department chair and speak to him on my behalf. I'm on good terms with him, but she's closer to him. Yay for Fantastic Adviser, and yay for trillwing for deciding not to put up with the university's BS any longer.

If the course gets cancelled, I leave two TAs, both my friends, in a bad position because they may or may not have their jobs next quarter. But I'm already working with one of them to get her another job, and the other friend has a second teaching job elsewhere and had expressed interest in picking up more courses there, so I'm not too worried about him. (Another problem of my job is that I know socially pretty much everyone who was qualified and willing to serve as a TA in my courses. And as much as I like my friends, it's tough to be placed in a position where technically I'm supervising them--and then merely because I finished my dissertation before they finished theirs.)

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty good. I'll miss teaching in American Studies, but I won't miss the indentured servant wages the university offers adjuncts, nor the giant bureaucracy to which people in smaller academic departments apparently can fall prey. My new department not only has its own shuttle, but its own HR person, too. :)

Did I mention I'm also getting a Mac laptop loaded with the full Microsoft Office, Adobe, and Macromedia suites? And that I'll have a PC laptop to work with as well so that I can learn to troubleshoot problems endemic to PCs? I'm so used to using my own personal, aging laptop for teaching that the thought of being provided with TWO fully-loaded notebook computers just boggles my mind.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The intersection of Payroll/Benefits and Trillwing

. . .is not a pretty place, as I'm learning in my transition to my new job.

Exhibit A:

I was told by one of the people who manages payroll stuff for my department's interdisciplinary cluster that since my employment period is less than a year long (Oct. to June), I didn't qualify for benefits.

Ends up my pay period is officially July 1-June 30, so I did qualify for benefits, but my enrollment period was back in October. Meanwhile, I've been paying $600 a month for Lucas and me to be on Mr. Trillwing's health insurance. Boooooo!

Exhibit B:

The whole pay period thing. I didn't get any paychecks for fall until November, when I expected them to begin. Meanwhile, Payroll is saying I was to be paid on August 1, September 1, and October 1 as well. Where's that cash, people? Not in my bank, and not on my earnings statements. . .

Exhibit C:

The whole pay period thing, part deux: Apparently I was to be "prepaid" for fall teaching, and the November paycheck was the beginning of my winter quarter pay (winter quarter begins in January). By my calculations, then, I would be paid for spring quarter during winter quarter. And in spring? Who knows.

But: Since I wasn't paid during the summer (except for my summer teaching, which was a different contract), the university is technically behind on my pay when it's supposed to be ahead.

So: Does the university owe me a whole bunch of money? Appears so. Will they actually pay me that money? Who knows? And if so, will they pay it to me before Christmas, so that Mr. Trillwing and I can, you know, buy gifts and stuff? Or maybe pay some bills? Probably not.

But: The benefits guy was really nice and is going to let me enroll in benefits right away. Yay!

And: for those of you playing along with my payroll-math-is-hard post of last week, the answer is: 50% faculty, 50% staff.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For all those synchronized riding fans out there. . .

I give you this short but pretty freakin' cool video from the London International Horse Show.

And no, your eyes don't deceive you: those police officers are indeed undressing themselves and their horses while riding over jumps. (Sorry, it's G-rated.) Hoops on fire are always a nice touch, too. Especially when set to a song by (I think) Outkast.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hanna Andersson catalog

Anyone else get the Hanna Andersson ultra-Scandinavian clothing catalog?

Why, when I page through it every season, do I feel as if I'm shopping not for clothes, but for perfect little children? Every single one of them is so. damn. cute.

I also believe that if I could look like the red-haired mom on the back page of the holiday catalog, as well as have a kitchen like the one she's standing in, my life would be just about perfect. I would also settle for being the brunette on pages 2-6. I know, I'm shallow.

There's a movie for you: slovenly, dangerously casual academic awakes to find herself in a Hanna Andersson catalog. Actually, while fun for a day, I think that situation might turn out nightmarish pretty damn quickly. One can only live in striped pajamas, "carefree comfort cords," and colorful clogs for so long.

In which I give Payroll a major headache

For your amusement, here's the copy of an e-mail I sent to Payroll today regarding my transition from a faculty to a staff job. So far, no response--imagine that!

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What's really at stake here is that my salaries for the two jobs are HUGELY different, with the new job's being much higher. So of course I'd like to have the majority of my paycheck coming from the new job. At the same time, I don't want to compromise the union's position that teaching one class takes a lot of time. Keep your fingers crossed for me, OK?)

BTW, I came up with the 16.5% figure by dividing 66% (my percentage of full-time employment) by 4 (the number of courses I was to have taught). I'm really lousy at math, so I may have made a fool of myself. . .

Dear [Payroll Specialist],

I left you a rather convoluted phone message a few minutes ago, so I thought I’d follow up with a clearer explanation of my dilemma.

I am a part-time lecturer in American Studies for this academic year. My original contract with American Studies had me working 66% time, with my classes divided as such:

2 classes fall quarter
1 class winter quarter
1 class spring quarter

However, this month I was offered a full-time position with [XXXXX] as the faculty technology liaison. I begin working in December at 34% time (66% American Studies + 34% tech = 100%).

The chair of American Studies has released me from my spring quarter class. Therefore, I have only one class remaining to teach: the one in winter quarter.

My question concerns the distribution of my employment between American Studies and the tech job during winter quarter. If we look at that one class from the perspective of the entire year, then I’ll only be working 16.5% time because it’s my understanding that one class = 16.5% time. If we look at it from the quarter perspective, however, I’ll be working 50% time because two classes per quarter is, if I’m interpreting this correctly, full time.

So, do I divide my American Studies + tech responsibilities 16.5% + 83.5% or 50% + 50%?

Also, there’s the matter of pay over the course of my American Studies contract. So far, I’ve satisfied half of the original contract in terms of course load, yet only been paid for 1/3 of it because my pay was to be distributed equitably over all three quarters at 66% of a full-time salary. However, now that I’ve dropped the spring quarter class, it gets more complicated because that puts me at 50% time for the year instead of 66%.

Would it make the most sense to get rid of the original American Studies year-long contract immediately, then sign a new contract for the coming quarter? In that case, we’d still need to make adjustments to my winter quarter salary, I think. If we go with the winter quarter class representing 50% time, then I need to be paid what I’m due for teaching full-time in fall quarter. If the winter quarter class represents 16.5% time, then we’ll need to reduce my American Studies pay accordingly to reflect the fact that I’m now on a 50%, not a 66%, contract for the year.

Also, my benefits are going to be confusing. I so far haven’t qualified for health insurance and other benefits because my American Studies contract was for less than a year. Once I meet 50% time in my tech career position, I’ll be able to sign up for benefits immediately because that’s my first true month of eligibility, yes?

Thanks so much for helping me to sort this out.



Sunday, November 26, 2006


How overenrolled is my campus? My lower-division American studies course for next quarter filled to 100 students before I even had a chance to write a course description.

Oy. That means a lot of wheedling from students on the waitlist. Can't wait. . .

Frustrated and Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I've been thinking a lot about a student of mine who confided in me last week. I'm not always comfortable writing about students, but I can't get her out of my mind. Briefly:

- she's going through a custody battle with her ex, which she has been on the losing side of for some time, but in which she may eventually prevail.
- she's married to a guy who just lost his job.
- because of the two circumstances above, she can't afford her books--or her meds.
- she has ADD and a host of similar challenges, but is still keeping up in class.
- and there's a bunch of other nasty stuff going on, too.

I really enjoy working with "older" undergraduates (she's a bit older than I am). They often have terrific perspective and amazing tenacity. But sometimes I need to be reminded just how difficult it can be to be in your 30s (or 40s or 50s) and be an undergrad. I find I'm more lenient about deadlines with these students because of their special challenges. Is that unfair?

I'm thankful that I have students who demonstrate such strength, and I'm thankful that I was privileged enough to attend college from age 18-22 while I still had the energy and focus to do so. I can't imagine being an undergrad who's married and has a kid, let alone the host of other difficulties that have usually delayed college for older students.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Poetry Friday: Antiwar Aging Hippies edition

Living with War
Neil Young

I'm LIVING WITH WAR everyday
I'm LIVING WITH WAR in my heart everyday
I'm LIVING WITH WAR right now.....

And when the dawn breaks I see my fellow man ...
And on the flat-screen we kill and we're killed again...
and when the night falls, I pray for PEACE...
Try to remember PEACE (visualize)...

I join the multitudes...
I raise my hand in PEACE
I never bow to the laws of the thought police

I take a holy vow...
To never to kill again..
To never kill again...

I'm LIVING WITH WAR in my heart
I'm LIVING WITH WAR in my heart and my mind...
I'm LIVING WITH WAR right now...

Don't take no tidal wave...
Dont take no mass grave...
Don't take no smokin' gun....
To show how the west was won....

But when the curtain falls,

I pray for PEACE....
Try to remember PEACE (visualize).......

(from the album Living with War)

In The News
Kris Kristofferson

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

Burning up the atmosphere and cutting down the trees
The billion dollar bombing of a nation on it's knees
Anyone not marching to their tune they call it treason
Everyone says God is on his side

See the lightning, hear the cries
Of the wounded in a world in Holy war
Mortal thunder from the skies
Killing everything they say they're fighting for

Broken babies, broken homes
Broken-hearted people dying everyday
How'd this happen, what went wrong
Don't blame God, I swear to God I heard him say

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Broken dreamers, broken rules
Broken-hearted people just like me and you
We are children of the stars
Don't blame God, I swear to God he's crying too

"Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing, or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore"

Read about the sorry way he done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

(from the album This Old Road)

Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore
John Prine

While digesting Reader's Digest
In the back of a dirty book store,
A plastic flag, with gum on the back,
Fell out on the floor.
Well, I picked it up and I ran outside
Slapped it on my window shield,
And if I could see old Betsy Ross
I'd tell her how good I feel.

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

Well, I went to the bank this morning
And the cashier he said to me,
"If you join the Christmas club
We'll give you ten of them flags for free."
Well, I didn't mess around a bit
I took him up on what he said.
And I stuck them stickers all over my car
And one on my wife's forehead.

But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
They're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.

Well, I got my window shield so filled
With flags I couldn't see.
So, I ran the car upside a curb
And right into a tree.
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead.
And I'll never understand why the man
Standing in the Pearly Gates said...

"But your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more.
We're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for,
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more."

Rich Man's War
by Steve Earle

Jimmy joined the army ‘cause he had no place to go
There ain’t nobody hirin’
‘round here since all the jobs went
down to Mexico
Reckoned that he’d learn himself a trade maybe see the world
Move to the city someday and marry a black haired girl
Somebody somewhere had another plan
Now he’s got a rifle in his hand
Rollin’ into Baghdad wonderin’ how he got this far
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he’s still there
Chasin’ ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

When will we ever learn
When will we ever see
We stand up and take our turn
And keep tellin’ ourselves we’re free

Ali was the second son of a second son
Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come
Ain’t nothin’ else to do around here just a game children play
Somethin’ ‘bout livin’ in fear all your life makes you hard that way

He answered when he got the call
Wrapped himself in death and praised Allah
A fat man in a new Mercedes drove him to the door
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war

(from the album The Revolution Starts Now)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Although today's holiday technically commemorates a mythical supper that presaged much colonial nastiness, I still like to take the opportunity to be thankful, on this day and every day, for my friends, family, and community--this blog's community included.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Trillwings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's a bag! It's a fish!

Here are some of the gifts I'd like to give people this holiday season, if only I were crazy or wealthy:

The Fish Bag:

The incredibly pricey porcelain hare:

The porcelain bowl with snail:

Knitted sushi magnet set
Boog the Bad Ninja
Felt gingerbread man with his head half bitten off
Any of the stupid sock creatures, but especially Christinabelle and Sargg. (Full disclosure: I heart Christinabelle.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


That's how much I spent on this evening's Christmas shopping spree for Lucas.

For $12.35, I bought for Lucas:

- a wooden tool playset
- a wooden percussion instrument set
- a wooden farm animal puzzle
- Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton (hilarious!)
- The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton (also very funny)

And for me, the December issue of Parents magazine, which Rhonda kindly let me know illustrates a fertility article with chicken eggs. Thanks, Rhonda!

Why was so much stuff so inexpensive? Because of my Borders Rewards holiday savings account and my personal shopping day discount. Score!

Also, for those of you requesting photos of the handbag I made last night, I'll post a photo as soon as I figure out how best to attach the straps. And then I'll need your help deciding whether or not to add some fancy-schmancy design elements to it.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Tonight, for the first time in years, I turned myself upside down and convinced myself that the carpet was on the ceiling and that Lucas was defying gravity. It was a refreshing change of perspective. I need to do that more often, only maybe not when I'm sick because I think the snot was backing up into my brain. Mmmmmm: snot-brain.

I also pulled out the sewing machine and made a shoulder bag (kind of conference-bag style) freestyle--no patterns, no real plans, just some wool felt, the machine, and my mind. Aside from a simple bear doll I made from a pattern, it was the first thing I've sewn on a machine. I miss being creative in a crafty way, and I'm looking forward to more evenings of crafting once I move on from teaching to the new job.

Worst of the worst

The thing I like least about cultural studies is its language. It's friggin' ridiculous how obtuse scholars can be. You can imagine my reaction, then, when I received a conference CFP that included this lovely passage:

A principal polemic thrust of postcolonial theory to date has been the centrality of history-time and its mis/use-in the (re)production of both mastering and emancipatory narratives. But if, as John Berger suggests, "it is space not time that hides the consequences from us"** -in other words, space is so naturalized within the historical frame as to be inert if not outright duplicitous-then perhaps we should finally attend to space and spatiality of human being and becoming with the same criticality that has been lavished upon time.

Seriously, people. Let's remember those of us at public universities, at least, work in the public interest. Try not to sound too much like weirdos.

What's your pet peeve in your discipline? And do people in your field also speak a moon language?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Four things

1. Thank you all very much for your congratulations on my new job. Ideally, I'll start working the new job 1.5 days/week in December, be as full-time as possible in January while I teach one last American studies course, and then (if we can work out dropping my spring course with American studies) be full-time in the spring quarter. Yay! I'm so excited.

2. Family curse: I began grading papers at age 11 or 12, when my mom passed me some Chaucer and Shakespeare papers to grade for her high school freshmen and seniors. Lucas, age 14.5 months, attempted to comment on my 1950s research papers tonight: He pulled the capped pen out of my hand, sat on my chest as I reclined on the couch, and feigned writing on an essay. He even traced over the comments I had already written. I'm sorry, son. You're doomed. (But Mama isn't. I'm trying to remember that this is my penultimate stack of papers to grade. Feels good!)

3. As those of you in the U.S. know, Tower Records is going out of business. But you may not know that the original Tower stores are in Sacramento, and one of them is a bookstore. I went Christmas shopping there, as the entire store inventory is currently on sale at 40% off. Are you jealous? I may sneak back again this week once I balance my checkbook. The store's inventory has already been heavily depleted, but "my" sections still had some good books available. If you're local and you need some big bookshelves, they're liquidating those as well.

4. I'm shoulder-deep in paper grading. My favorite bloopers so far? References to "Capitan" Kangaroo (and, I'm guessing, Señor de los Jeans Verdes) and the "Loan" Ranger. Also some gaffe about a motorcycle being an extension of a guy's "gentiles." I knew the 50s were kind of batty, but really. . .

Friday, November 17, 2006

Got. the. job.

Well, it's official: I've been offered the faculty technology training job. Yay me!

The new boss called Fantastic Adviser today to talk with her about what kind of salary I'd expect, and she of course turned right around and called me and told me to ask for a figure that is, well, more than I ever thought to ask for. We negotiated a bit down from there, but it sounds as if I will be compensated well. ("In three years, you'll be making more than I will!" Fantastic Adviser enthused.)

I hadn't yet discussed the potential job with Fantastic Adviser. I had planned on having a one-on-one where we discussed whether this was a good career move, since I'd always envisioned myself teaching undergrads. But on the phone this afternoon, she would hear none of that. She was positively bubbly, telling me that this job was the one I had been training for all these years. Plus, she said, no one who graduates from here gets to stay in town and make any kind of money--so I guess I'm pretty damn lucky.

It was weird sitting through two computing workshops today knowing that I'd probably be co-teaching them in two weeks--especially since the workshops were for a Sakai-based course management system that I'd never used. (The new boss offered me the opportunity to fly to Atlanta during the first week of December for the semiannual Sakai tech conference, but I can't make it happen with my teaching schedule.)

Anyway, I really like the new boss. It seems he already has my back. Plus, he revealed that the program just received the go-ahead to hire two people for this position instead of just me, so he may be bringing someone else on board, a guy who's been doing tech training for 15 years. We'd be able to divide up the responsibilities as we saw fit, but the new boss said he envisioned me taking a leadership role in that partnership, in which case I'd get a salary bump, possibly as soon as 6 months to a year.

It's nice to be happy. It's nice to have a job that isn't adjuncting. (Plus dental! vision! and affordable health insurance!) Now if only I didn't have a big stack of papers to grade by Monday. . .

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UCLA police use Taser on student leaving library

Seen this? If not, you should, although it's not for the faint of heart. There's some video of the very disturbing incident.


I think the interview yesterday went really well. It helped that as we were walking back to the conference room, the guy-who-would-be-my-boss said, "I've heard lots of great things about you. This should be fun."

It was the first interview I've ever done where I felt I was really being called upon to talk about ideas rather than defend or explain my skills. Does that mean I'm a grown-up (or an academic) now?

The talking-about-ideas part went a long way toward assuaging any fears I might have about the not-being-a-professor part of this job.

The folks on the panel agreed that me teaching occasionally might actually help me on the job, since the position requires me to help faculty integrate technology into their teaching and course management. I'm not sure how much teaching (or, rather, grading and lecture prep) I'd like to do, but it's nice to leave that door open.

I also really liked all four of the folks on the interview panel. One of them admitted she occasionally sends student spies into large lecture classes to see how successful (or awkward) professors are at integrating technology into their teaching. I thought that was really fun. I imagined myself dressing down like someone in 21 Jump Street in the hopes of seeing some brilliant (or not-so-brilliant) teaching. (Would that make me a narc?)

The guy-who-would-be-my-boss complimented me on many of my answers to their questions, and even told me I was the first person they interviewed who was able to answer a question about pedagogy. As he was walking me out of the building, he asked me what I thought about the job, and I said I was excited about it, and he said, "Well, it seems like a very good match." I'm supposed to hear from them by the end of the month, and possibly as early as Friday.

I'm thrilled, as things seem to be going my way, and the job really does sound interesting, and it's as much or more about pedagogy than it is about technology. When they asked me if I saw myself as a teaching person or a tech person, and I said teaching, they seemed to indicate that was the preferred answer. Yay!

Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lucas: good little man

I know I've mentioned how fastidious Lucas is about picking up stuff and handing it to me after he pulls it out of my desk drawers and drops it on the floor. But he's fastidious in other ways as well.

If he finds a speck on the floor that doesn't belong there, he brings it to me instead of putting it in his mouth. Since the dog has to take, on average, a dozen pills a day (including 10 of the same BB-like kind), there always seems to be one stray pill that the dog has managed to cough up. So once each day, Luke crawls over to me, pulls himself up, and opens his hand to present me one of Woody's pills.

What a good little guy. We're so lucky he hasn't yet discovered that pretty much anything smaller than his fist can be a choking hazard.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happiness is. . .

. . .fitting into size 12 jeans again AND looking good in them. (Thank you, stretch denim.)

. . .fitting into a blouse I haven't been able to wear since before I was pregnant AND finding it's still pretty damn stylish.

. . .having my hair finally be long enough that I can pull it back from my face and into a half-ponytail.

. . .new glasses that are really quite cute.

. . .losing three pounds in a week without trying.


Also happy: Having my TAs lecture twice in the coming weeks so that I don't have to prep for class. Yay!

(For balance, things happiness is not: a huge stack of papers to grade by Wednesday; making a really stupid gaffe while talking on the phone this afternoon to the chair of a department where I applied for a job; preparing a lecture on something I don't know much about, but on which my TAs are experts, and thus worrying about looking like a total fool; giant pile of job ads that need letters in the next 24 hours or so; head cold that seems wedged entirely in my throat and sweat glands. Ick!)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Poetry Friday, er, Sunday?

I haven't participated in Poetry Friday for awhile, so as an apology I offer you this lovely poem by Philip Larkin.

The Whitsun Weddings

That Whitsun, I was late getting away:
Not till about
One-twenty on the sunlit Saturday
Did my three-quarters-empty train pull out,
All windows down, all cushions hot, all sense
Of being in a hurry gone. We ran
Behind the backs of houses, crossed a street
Of blinding windscreens, smelt the fish-dock; thence
The river's level drifting breadth began,
Where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet.

All afternoon, through the tall heat that slept
For miles island,
A slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.
Wide farms went by, short-shadowed cattle, and
Canals with floatings of industrial froth;
A hothouse flashed uniquely: hedges dipped
And rose: and now and then a smell of grass
Displace the reek of buttoned carriage-cloth
Until the next town, new and nondescript,
Approached with acres of dismantled cars.

At first, I didn't notice what a noise
The weddings made
Each station that we stopped at: sun destroys
The interest of what's happening in the shade,
And down the long cool platforms whoops and skirls
I took for porters larking with the mails,
And went on reading. Once we started, though,
We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls
In parodies of fashion, heels and veils,
All posed irresolutely, watching us go,

As if out on the end of an event
Waving goodbye
To something that survived it. Struck, I leant
More promptly out next time, more curiously,
And saw it all again in different terms:
The fathers with broad belts under their suits
And seamy foreheads; mothers loud and fat;
An uncle shouting smut; and then the perms,
The nylon gloves and jewelry-substitutes,
The lemons, mauves, and olive-ochers that

Marked off the girls unreally from the rest.
Yes, from cafés
And banquet-halls up yards, and bunting-dressed
Coach-party annexes, the wedding-days
Were coming to an end. All down the line
Fresh couples climbed abroad: the rest stood round;
The last confetti and advice were thrown,
And, as we moved, each face seemed to define
Just what it saw departing: children frowned
At something dull; fathers had never known

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots. and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
– An Odeon went past, a cooling tower,
And someone running up to bowl – and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.
I thought of London spread out in the sun,
Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat:

There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Traveling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

There's just so much I love about this poem--from its kind of bizarre cruxifion imagery ("The women shared / The secret like a happy funeral; / While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared / At a religious wounding. Free at last. . .") to the easy, lovely iambic pentameter of so many lines: "I thought of London spread out in the sun, / Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat." And the poplars' long shadow always reminds me of the phallic poplar shadow in Tennyson's "Mariana."

Yeah, I was an English major. Does it show?


creepy video of a "purity ball" at Feministing

Be sure to check out the comments. . .


New glasses: Why must there always be that brief period of adjustment? You know, the one where all the angles look wrong, as if the walls are tilting inward or outward, or where 3D things seem a bit flatter and 2D things seem a bit more 3D? And this pair has the exact same prescription as the last pair, but I guess the frames require the glass to curve slightly differently or something. Weird.

Usually I get over this disorientation within a day. Let's hope it's just disorientation and not effed up glasses. . .

Wish me luck in not getting a headache. Ick.

Assignment suggestions?

In my intro class in American studies, we're moving into a unit about food and culture. I've decided to give my TAs a break and have the students work in small groups, which means, of course, fewer essays to grade.

However, I think I've scared the shit out of my TAs by declaring that the students will write their essays on wikis, find the subject matter for their assignments online, and be required to include images with their wiki-essays.


UPDATED to add: Why a wiki? Because then the TAs and I can track how much each student contributed to the writing and editing of the essay. Making the division of work transparent has always been a problem of mine, as I find the students don't self-report particularly well, even when asked to report on their group members' contributions to a project.

Anyhow, here's the draft of assignment's core:

Perform a cultural analysis of one of the following:
  • a series of food commercials or print advertisements from the same corporation/organization (e.g. Carl’s Jr. or the Dairy Board), from the same time period and on a similar theme (e.g. 1980s coffee ads), or advertising the same kind of product (e.g. fast-food chicken). You should cover three or four commercials or advertisements.
  • a series of advertisements (print, web, and TV, for example) for a single non-food product (e.g. SUVs or pharmaceutical products) that incorporates food literally or as a metaphor. Again, you should use three or four ads or commercials.
Where can you find commercials? On corporate web sites, on TV (tape or digitally record them yourself), on YouTube, and elsewhere. For example, here are a couple I found on YouTube. They’re both from Carl’s Jr., are recent, feature celebrities, and raise similar issues:

If you go the YouTube route, be sure you are using real commercials, not parodies or remixes.

Here's the tricky part, oh bloggy academicians: We won't be reading any articles that deal with analyzing ads, and the students did a pretty lousy job of analyzing that damn movie in their first paper. I could require them to do a traditional, albeit lightweight, research paper based on some of the course readings on food-n-culture, but I'm afraid that's asking for trouble, too--and it might mean a LOT more work for the TAs, as of these 100 students, I'm guessing maybe 7-10 have any facility in the library (and that's being generous).

So: What would you do to help the students make the bridge between food-n-culture readings that discuss race, ethnicity, class, and gender (and more) and advertisements that may use race, class, and gender (and a bunch of other things) to sell food or other products?

I'll perform a sample analysis for them, but in the past I've found that students stick a little too closely to the template I provide--that is, if I talk about the way an ad uses sex appeal or Americans' desires for higher class status, they'll all write about sex and status.

Any tips?

As always, many thanks for all your fabulous help. Your advice to me on the TA situation has helped me better think through it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fabulous jack o' lanterns of His Noodly Appendage

. . .can be found here.

I'll spare you the details

"Man found outdoors naked with concealed weapon is arrested"

Yes, stop and think about that for two seconds. (Your probable conclusion is, alas, correct.)

That's the headline from an article Mr. Trillwing just pulled for me from the AP wire. Wouldn't it be fun if he could actually run these things in his community newspapers?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Coming to a realization

a) I really don't enjoy grading papers.

b) When I grade papers, I usually do it on the weekends.

c) When I don't have to grade papers, there's always some other work I *should* be doing on the weekend, even though I'm only getting paid peanuts. Plus there's unpaid work I do in the hopes of getting a job: research, writing, job applications. (Note: I enjoy research and writing, and I don't have nearly enough time to do it all justice.)

d) I'm not thrilled about preparing lectures, either.

e) The job I have an interview for on Wednesday pays far more than peanuts.

f) The job I have an interview for doesn't appear to require weekend work.

g) The job I have an interview for will never, EVER require me to grade student papers or prepare a typical lecture.

a + b + c + d + e + f + g = It may be time to change careers.

Oh, also. . . The job is in Office A, which works closely with Office B. A friend in Office B said she heard people talking about me as an applicant for the position, that they had already called my references and everyone said good things. My friend chimed in with more of the same.

I'm seriously salivating. . . Getting to play with new technology, promoting blogging in education, decent pay ($3,900 to $6,650 a month - public info, so I might as well share it), regular working hours, regular vacation and sick leave, health/dental/vision insurance (including very affordable health plans for the whole family--like $50-150 a month instead of the $600/month we're paying through Mr. Trillwing's work), full access privileges to the university library and its databases, no tenure struggle, working with bright people who care about education, living in this town I've come to love. . . What's not to like?!


From the other side of the fence

I'm worried about my TA, but Breena Ronan, who cracks me up on a regular basis, is having trouble with the professor for whom she's a TA:
Maybe I'm just a big softy, but I don't expect freshman to automatically know what modernism and postmodernism are or what geomorphology means. Should freshman already know those things? Because I sure didn't when I was a freshman. I guess I should take a positive outlook on this class, because the lectures are completely post modern: it's a collage, a montage, or some sort of performance art.

God, I hope my lectures don't come across like that. . .

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Sticky situation:

My TAs were assigned to my intro course before I was signed up to teach it. As luck would have it, they're both friends of mine from my grad program.

But there's a problem: One of my TAs is very experienced, but is new to American studies and is having some difficulty in her discussion sections. (She's perfectly capable of doing American studies research, but I don't think she's quite as comfortable introducing students to the discipline.)

She said she is used to teaching in disciplines where most of the people look like her (women's studies or ethnic studies courses), and she's not having a good go of it with her current crop of students.* She decided to do midterm evaluations in her sections, and they came back, she said, looking very ugly. She believes her students hate her. She hinted that some of their disrespect may be because of her gender and her ethnicity, and I don't think she's being oversensitive--racism and sexism may indeed be in play, based on the kind of comments she said she received in the evaluations.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to deal with racism directed against me (I'm white--no, really!) and I've been lucky on the sexism front, too. So I'm kind of at a loss as to how to deal with this. Do I ask to see the evaluations, and if there is overt racism, sexism, or another kind of disrespect, do I go talk to the sections? Would that just make things worse?

It's clear many of the students don't understand the role of a TA in the humanities. She has a lot of science students who expect TAs to help them find "the right answer." In American studies, that's not how we roll. Maybe students need to be reminded (again?!) that we're not here to spoon-feed knowledge to them.

In addition, things were made worse by the fact that most students (in all sections, not just hers) received Cs and Ds on their first paper, which they received back from us last week. Students may perceive that she somehow failed to impart to them the knowledge they needed to get an A on the paper. (Of course, I instructed my TAs not to give students the answers, and rather to guide them in thinking critically in response to the essay prompt.)

Anyway, I want to help her, and she's come to me to talk things through, so I know she wants my help in some fashion. But when I asked her what I could do to help, she said she didn't know of anything I could do. I offered to come observe section, but she declined the offer. Since she is my friend, I don't want to coerce her into accepting some kind of solution where I go in and (try to) "fix things." I don't want to turn this into a supervisor-subordinate relationship unless it really has to become one.

Any ideas as to what I can do to help her out and to get the students to play along, even if her discussion sections might not be meeting what they perceive to be their needs? She's got a lot of other stuff going on in her life right now, and I hate to see her suffering through the rest of the quarter with a lousy teaching experience on top of it all.

*I have mixed feelings about people teaching only to people who look like them. Solidarity is good, yes. It's good for students of color (or women in science, or anyone else underrepresented in a university environment) to see someone who looks like them leading the class. But at the same time, we all need to stretch our wings, don't we? There have been a few times where I've been the only, or one of 2-3, white people in the classroom, or the only straight person at a LGBT retreat, etc. And these were frequently challenging, but in the end very important, learning experiences.


This afternoon I received an invitation to interview for a position teaching faculty how to use instructional technology. Best of all, it's at my current institution.

(Of course, the interview has been scheduled for next Wednesday in the middle of my 1950s class, and the time can't be changed. *sigh*)

Keep your fingers crossed for me, 'K?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh, damn.

Lucas has hit a particularly cute and manageable stage of his pseudotoddlerhood. And I'm beginning to notice teeny-tiny-cutesy-wutesy-leetle babies again. And longing.

Am I friggin' crazy? Seriously.

(Lucas, day 1)

We can't afford another one now. But my hormones are saying: baaaaaaaby. . . must have baaaaaaaaby!

Yeah, on my adjunct's take-home of about $15,000/academic year*? I don't think that's going to happen.

*I recently figured out that I'm only bringing home about $250 more/month than I did as a TA. And I'm paying for health insurance now, which I didn't before, to the tune of $350/month. So yeah, I'm making less than I made as a TA and am teaching twice as many classes this quarter with 3x as much work. Yay me.

Who's in The House?

We are.


I don't normally discuss politics at The Clutter Museum. It's not that I'm apolitical--I'm just usually kind of inarticulate when it comes to political issues, and I don't want to hurt "my" causes. But today I make an exception. Here's my rundown on the California and local propositions and elections:

I am sad that a local measure to dump Pacific Gas & Electric in favor of the local municipal utility district didn't pass. I guess the folks with the most money win the election. *sigh*

But we are getting a Target in town, with 51.5% in favor. Again, the folks with the most money prevailed. I, however, turned against my hippie roots and voted for this one. I shop in my city's downtown and support its independent businesses. But I also drive elsewhere to go to Target--and so does everyone else I know. The Target will be near the edge of town, will be built of "green" materials, and will have a natural buffer zone around it. Plus the city should rake in $750,000 to $1 million a year in tax revenue. What's not to love? (Of course, I would never, ever vote to have a Wal-Mart in town. I heart Target, but loathe loathe LOATHE Wal-Mart, those bastards. And yes, I know some people see such as stance as hypocritical. I call it nuanced.) :)

I'm also glad that the parental notification requirement for teens seeking abortions was shot down. Whew.

I'm pissed the cigarette tax initiative didn't pass. It would have added a tax of something like $2.60 to each pack of cigarettes in order to fund smoking cessation programs, health care for poor kids, etc. But again, the people with the most money won. Bastards.

I'm actually not happy the sex offender residence restriction proposition passed. I mean, yeah, those people really effed up and are not people I'd want Lucas living near. That said, the restrictions in this particular bill are going to drive sex offenders into rural towns, and just as I don't think it's fair to build sewage plants only in minority neighborhoods, I don't think it's fair for urbanites to vote to export sex offenders to rural areas. We need to find a better solution. For the record, Mr. Trillwing and I disagree on this one, big time.

Richard Pombo is gone. Yay! John Doolittle hangs on. Boo! Hisssssss!

I don't think we're going to take the Senate, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed on those last two races. :)

For those of you in the U.S., how are you feeling about the election? Canadians and others, feel free to weigh in with glee at our progressive turn in the House. :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Not sure what to make of this

Dude! You're 86% from Massachusetts!

Dude! Me and Sully and Fitzie and Sean are gonna hit Landsdowne tonight after the game, hang out at the Beerworks. I'll pick you up at the Coop at 6.

How Massachusetts are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Um, yeah. . . Considering I've spent all of 4-5 days of my life in Massachusetts, this is a bit odd. Now is there a quiz like this for California? Because dammit, I'm hella* California girl.

*I hate this word, possibly even more than I loathe "LOL." My students from Northern California really, really like it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

You may work in a giant bureaucracy that fears litigation if. . .

. . .you're required to attend a 2-hour workshop called "Sexual Harrassment Prevention for Academics."

And yes, this is the same institution that awarded me a designated emphasis in feminist theory. I guess the administration just doesn't see the connection there. Good to know the work is understood and valued.


Do my eyes deceive me?


THE JUILLIARD SCHOOL, New York, New York, Department of Liberal Arts invites applications for two positions at the Assistant or Junior Associate level, for 3/3 load, small seminar style courses, beginning September 2007, as part of its expansion in the range of its electives.

Position #1 - Historical or Cultural Studies. Specializations in American History, Classics, Western Religions, or Non-Western Cultures especially welcome.

Yeah, I know, there's little hope because, well, it's Juilliard. But it's nice to see a call for applications in my field. :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Six words

Wired asked some sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers to write six-word stories modelled on Hemingway's famous "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
- Joss Whedon

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
- David Brin

Cryonics: Disney thawed. Mickey gnawed. Omigawd.
- Eileen Gunn

Leia: "Baby's yours." Luke: "Bad news…"
- Steven Meretzky

Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.
- Margaret Atwood

Mushrooms and cheese, side of depression

Aside from creeps looking for photos of the Clutter family murders (something I'd never heard of when I started this blog, BTW), the top three searches that lead netizens to this blog may be "depression academia," "poems about cheese" and "mushrooms growing in carpet."

If you're here looking for depressed academics, cheesy poems, or mushroomy carpets, I'm happy to help.

Many apologies, however, to the person searching for "playing French horn while pregnant." I'm afraid I can't help much there.

Ditto for the person looking for "analyze chapter 4 of the shipping news by annie proulx." Do your own work, dammit.

And then there are my parents, who can never remember the URL of The Clutter Museum, nor can they apparently figure out how to bookmark something, so they always do a search for "clutter museum blog." I'm glad to know that after 11 years of being online, they finally know how to use the Google. (I know it's them because they live in a neighborhood that is identified by internet and phone service providers with a name that doesn't exist on any conventional map. C'est bizarre!)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Because The Queen demands it

The Queen of West Procrastination has ordered me to "Dress your child up as Manfred von Richthofen! Take pictures of it! I demand this!"

As you wish, Your Highness:

And a bonus image from later that evening:

Five things you don't know about me

Last seen at Dr. Crazy's.

I'm calling my version "five things you (probably) don't know about me" because I can never remember what I've shared on here and what I haven't, and I have a lot of pre-blog friends who visit The Clutter Museum, so they probably already know some of this stuff.

1. Near the end of my eight years of orthodontics, I liked to try to intimidate new clients' parents. My orthodontist had two chairs per room, and thus patients could see each other. He'd even do consultations with new patients and their parents in a shared room. Each chair had a large tray/drawer in front of it, and on the tray there was a slot where he could slide a patient's folder so that it rested vertically. Only my folder was too thick--much too thick--because my treatment had been so long. So I'd look quizzically at the other patient's upright folder, then at my horizontal one, and I'd pick mine up and thump it against the folder slot, trying to force it into the slot. Then I'd sigh and slump back in my chair, pull out the contents of my folder, and open up the treatment chart. The charts were kind of like manila folders in terms of weight and size, only mine had so many charts stapled to it that it opened like a road map. And so there I was, in 1992, when I had my braces taken off, and I would look back at the date of my first visit and mumble-sigh, "Nineteen eighty-threeeeeee." Early passive agression from trillwing. Good times, good times.

2. Before I had the ultrasound that revealed Lucas's sex, Pete and I had both been hoping for a girl, though not desperately or anything. I just had always imagined myself having a girl, and Pete thought it would be an interesting experience to raise a girl. We're now thrilled to have a son, of course. But had Luke been a girl, his name would have been Katharine, and we would have called him Kate. It was much easier for us to agree on a girl's name than a boy's name.

3. I have an M.A. in poetry writing, also from the institution where I earned my Ph.D. Most of my peers and even my mentors don't know this. It's not exactly a secret shame, but I don't broadcast it either. Tip: If you're going to get a master's in creative writing, be sure it's a terminal degree (MFA).

4. In college, I won a Phi Beta Kappa Scholar's Award--even though I wasn't PBK--for an essay I wrote about my family's predilection for settling along major geological faults. The other winner was recognized for some kind of brillance in chemistry, I think. I like that my family's disastrous sense of seismic probability turned into a line on my CV. At least we got something out of it.

5. I am practically innumerate. There were a couple of semesters in high school where my report card listed seven As and an F (in math) or seven As and a D (in physics). When I applied for college, those grades kept me out of my back-up school.

6. (Bonus!) When I was growing up, I didn't know that there were such things as "businesspeople," the kind who wear suits and work in offices. I knew there were teachers (just about everyone in my family was one), realtors (we received notepads with their faces on them), dentists, radio broadcasters (WKRP in Cincinnati, baby!) supermarket checkers, police, firefighters, train conductors, veterinarians, doctors, librarians, and others that a kid might run into in the course of her day. But even in high school and college I was fuzzy on the whole concept of corporate life because I'd never been exposed to it.

Wikipedia and scholars: what do you think?

Every month, readers of the H-SCI-MED-TECH list on H-Net receive a request for assistance in improving a particular Wikipedia entry related to the history of science, science studies, or the sociology of science. Today the request mentioned the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the quality of Wikipedia entries. The writer says,

In the main article, a few articles are graded, and not surprisingly the humanities articles do worse than the science articles. Given the scope of potential coverage and the number of potential knowledgeable contributors, the number of humanist scholars involved in Wikipedia is far too small. With the exception of studying for orals, I can think of no more productive use for a scholar's time than improving the Wikipedia coverage of his/her area of expertise.

Aside from the (I'm hoping) flippancy of "with the exception of studying for orals," I get the feeling this writer is sincere about scholars contributing to Wikipedia.

What do you you think? Is Wikipedia editing a worthwhile use of a scholar's time?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Another jack o' lantern from Dave

This one needs no introduction:

(And BTW, I think I may actually be voting for this guy. Am I crazy?)


Ends up one of our family friends has a wicked talent for pumpkin carving. As he is a state Republican operative, though, even his jack o' lanterns lean to the right. I wanted to share the latest:

This photo arrived in my inbox with this message from Dave Kline, the pumpkin's illustrious creator:

For those who aren't political junkies, the subject this year is Tom McClintock, who is running for lieutenant governor. (I strongly urge you to vote for him, but if you need more convincing -- or if you just want to see if I came close to making his face look right -- go to and read up on why you should support him on Nov. 7.)

Happy Halloween!

Thanks, Dave, but I'm still not voting for McClintock. :)

Another mini rant

I also like it when universities advertise for a "tenure track position in American history" but then require the candidate to have "demonstrated expertise" in, and the ability to teach, non-western history.

Seriously, do they think we've been in grad school for 20 years? I'm not going to develop expertise in both American and non-western history in the time it takes me to get a Ph.D. Remember, there's that little dissertation thingy I was busy writing, so I didn't have time to learn the entire history of the world.

Kudos to those of you who did.

Seriously, people.

[BEGIN bitterness]

Is there some kind of job ad template that gets distributed to all women's studies departments? Because apparently they're ALL hiring people with the exact same specialty. I swear, every ad has been eerily similar to this one (I've gone ahead and highlighted the buzzwords for those of you playing along):

[Your university name here] invites applications for a full-time, permanent, tenure-track Assistant Professor position, beginning Fall 2007. Required qualifications: Ph.D. in relevant field in hand by August 16, 2007; demonstrated ability to teach core courses in Women's Studies (or closely related fields); an intersectional and interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research on gender, race, class, and sexuality; and evidence of a strong research program. Desired qualifications: Research specialty in one or more of the following or related fields: LGBTQ Studies (particularly concentrating on Queers of Color and/or transnational sexualities), transnational labor, social justice movements; demonstrated ability to teach graduate courses in Women's Studies or related field; demonstrated ability to link university and grassroots initiatives; and cultural competencies in communities of color.

Seriously, people. Can't we get some new vocabulary (and specialties!) circulating in the Chronicle of Higher Ed ads this year? Those of us who jumped on the popular women-in-science bandwagon of a few years ago would appreciate it.

Also, to that one university's women studies department that is hiring a specialist in pre-19th century Africa: Thank you, but good luck finding person with a women's studies Ph.D. who researches that period in Africa. I know they must out there, but I haven't met any. Wanna know why? It's because they're all busy working on contemporary QLGBTI transnational grassroots social competency studies in communities of color. Your discipline has made its bed--now lie in it.

And good luck 6-10 years from now, when all those grad students will be exiting their programs with shiny new dissertations on transnationalism. . . and oh, look, there are no jobs because you've already filled all your transnational positions with their dissertation advisers.

[END bitterness]

FWIW, I really do think QLGBTI transnational grassroots social competency studies in communities of color are worthy pursuits. (Throw "pop culture" into that mix and that's largely what my own Ph.D. discipline is supposed to do.) I just don't think everyone should be channeled into this field because hey, there are lots of other worthy specialties out there that--judging by course offerings in many of the departments advertising for these positions--seem to be getting overlooked.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Trillwing Social Report

- A couple weeks back, Mr. Trillwing and I went to see John Prine in concert. Much recommended, as is his latest CD. My favorite composition of the evening? "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You into Heaven Anymore."

- My parents are in high dither to see their grandson, so Luke and I are flying down to Long Beach this weekend. I'm looking forward to the break.

- Last night we went to a potluck for families with babies and toddlers. The group began shortly after Lucas arrived on the scene and was originally intended for babies born in August or September 2005, but it has expanded considerably from there. By the time we left (6 p.m., Mr. Trillwing's bedtime), there were maybe 25 parents and 15 or 16 babies and toddlers, with most of the kids wearing Halloween costumes. (The tiny bald one-year-old in a teeny Raiderettes outfit and matching Raiders jacket? Very cute.)

Luke was the only one his age not walking. In fact, there were younger babies toddling around. Still, although he is once again behind the curve on gross motor skills, he remains adorable. Ever seen a giant 14-year-old crawl really fast, tiny butt wagging enthusiastically?

Luke also took about an hour to warm up to the other kids, which is understandable considering the toddlers were busy bulldozing one another. He would rather play with adults. I'm thinking we need to get him out of the house and socializing more frequently. It kind of sucks that all the local playgroups meet when I'm teaching. Perhaps I need to get a weekend playgroup going.

- Just when I think Lucas can't get any cuter, he does. And considering he's still a lousy sleeper, that's a very, very good thing.

A little morning pick-me-up

Here's a screen test of a young actor auditioning for Stanley Kubrick when Kubrick was casting for Full Metal Jacket. It's truly a sight to behold.

(As seen at Panopticist, and brought to my attention by Fang)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's about time for a meme

As seen at Seeking Solace's place.

Explain what ended your last relationship?
Um. . . Mr. Trillwing was my first boyfriend. He's more embarrassed by this fact than I am, but I don't usually advertise it. I was a late bloomer. :)

When was the last time you shaved?
Last night.

What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.?
Wishing I could nap. I had already been to the grocery store and washed the car.

What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Being a slave to Bloglines.

Are you any good at math?
I do not know this "math" you speak of.

Your prom night, what do you remember about it?
I didn't go to prom. Just not my thing. (See response to first question.) I seem to remember hanging out with a couple of friends and doing dorky crafts or something. But that may be a completely inaccurate account of the evening.

Do you have any famous ancestors?
Locally famous, yes. Anyone you'd know, nope.

Have you had to take a loan out for school?
Who hasn't? I've got a LOT of student loan debt.

Do you know the words to the song on your MySpace profile?
MyWhat? ;)

Last thing received in the mail?
The Chronicle of Higher Education

How many different beverages have you had today?
Five. Orange juice, apple cider, water, Pepsi, soy milk. That's an unusually high number--as well as an insane number of calories to be taking in through liquids. Oops.

Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine?
Yes. And I am officially declaring this an asinine question.

Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
Can't remember because I don't care. It also depends on how you define "concert."

Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?

What's the most painful dental procedure you've had?
Ohhh. . . I don't know. Eight years of braces? Or the two oral surgeries, each of which removed four molars? Probably the braces, since I had anesthetic for the surgeries.

But seriously, Mr. Trillwing beats us all in this category.

What is out your back door?
I don't have a back door because I live in an apartment. What kind of classist question is that? ;)

Any plans for Friday night?
I'll be visiting my parents.

Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
Salt-encrusted tresses? Not so much.

Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
Yes. I prefer the caramelized variety.

Have you ever been to a planetarium?
Yes, as a child.

Do you re-use towels after you shower?.
Yes. A little trick I've learned from all those California droughts.

Some things you are excited about?
Moving on to the next stage of my professional life, whatever it may be.

What is your favorite flavor of JELL-O?
I don't eat Jell-O. I'm vegetarian.

Describe your keychain(s)?
Nothing but a couple of rings with too many keys. I used to have a pewter Tyrannosaurus Sue, but it fell off.

Where do you keep your change?
My wallet.

When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
When was the last time I spoke in front of a group of people that wasn't large? I teach at a research university, for goodness' sake. In many ways, some of our departments are like accredited diploma mills. (Oops. Did I just say that aloud?)

The biggest group of people in front of whom I've spoken was several thousand, a capacity crowd at my high school graduation at a municipal football stadium. And no, for those of you keeping track, I wasn't a valedictorian. (See "math" question above.)

What kind of winter coat do you own?
The one I actually wear? It's a black wool peacoat. In storage are my heavy-duty Midwestern parkas.

What was the weather like on your graduation day?
Gorgeous every time.

Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
Open, unless I'm napping.


If you are procrastinating by cleaning your keyboard, do not--I repeat, NOT--by any means snap off the enter/return key on your iBook.

You will regret this accident, as even once you find detailed directions on how to reattach the key, you will spend at least an hour conducting sweaty surgery with tweezers under a blazingly hot halogen desk lamp. You also will probably end up bending the key's plastic or metal parts, and therefore there will always be a chance that your return key will once again pop off unexpectedly.

Heed my warning, oh readers. Do not fuck with the return key!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

School violence: what's your solution?

(cross-posted at BlogHer)

Using textbooks as shields. Teachers packing heat. Making students defend their own classrooms.

These are just a few of the ideas being floated in the wake of the murder of Amish girls at a Pennsylvania schoolhouse.

As a mother, teacher, and longtime student, I'm a major stakeholder in these proposals.

I think they're all asinine.

Lest you think I'm merely some suburban-educated, middle-class white girl who doesn't understand the reality of violence in our schools, allow me to flash some street cred. Snoop Dogg graduated from my high school--you can now imagine the urban environment, perhaps? The school closed down during the Los Angeles riots because buildings in the neighborhood were burning. On Wednesday nights, I'd hear gunshots during orchestra practice. My senior year, I was responsible for the obituary page in the yearbook. Students at my school--members of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (Army JROTC)--were tried for murder. (And ours wasn't the only school in the district with such trials: mostly students murdering other youth, but also a teacher murdering a student.) There were bullet holes in bungalow classroom windows. Razor wire topped the fences, and there was a heavy, rolling iron gate that clanged shut at the beginning of each school day under an arch bearing the school's motto--"Home of scholars and champions." The year after I left, they instituted locker and backpack checks, brought in search dogs, and by now I'm sure they have metal detectors.

We were told this security was not so much to keep us securely inside the school as to keep the bad elements securely out.

Living in the United States, whether you're a student in a school with a gang problem or a television viewer watching the war in Iraq, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that violence begets violence. Yet many Americans want to up the violence ante in our schools. When some right-wing white men from the rural or suburban U.S. declare that what my urban high school needs is more guns, I clench my jaw and try to breathe deeply, reminding myself that I am indeed a pacifist, and that putting my fist through the TV or computer screen won't help anyone.

Let's step back for a moment and consider the facts:

Who commits the school shootings we see in the news? White boys and white men.

Who are the ones proposing more guns in the schools? White men. Who are proposing that we teach our students to run toward gun-wielding attackers? White men.

Who are the victims? In disproportionate numbers, girls.

Who might actually be able to see this problem most clearly? And who's out of touch here? I think you know my answers.

We need a longer-term solution than the quick fixes--such as kevlar-coated textbooks--proposed by pundits and crazies. We need to teach our boys and young men to respect girls, women, and others who are unlike them because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, class, or disability.

Part of the problem, as women and feminist bloggers have pointed out in writing about violence against girls, is that we're looking at the means and ends of school violence and not its causes. By focusing on gun crimes, we're looking too narrowly at school violence.

Cathy Davidson writes that by focusing on threats to our children by violent or predatory adults, we're doing our students a disservice:
Well, we are leaving about 30% of our children behind ( That is the current high school drop out rate, making the U.S. #17 in the world. We know level of education correlates with future employment, poverty, crime, violence, incarceration ( If we are concerned about internet predators because of the irreparable harm they do our children, then let’s look at the far more vast harm that comes to children right now in America because of disaffection from our schools.

I agree. We need to be less concerned with teaching our children how to fend off attackers and more focused on improving the quality of education in many of our schools. The immediate violence of a school shooting is indeed tragic, but the damage caused by a failure to graduate from high school can reverberate throughout a community and a nation.

This improved education must include peace and justice studies so that students can understand challenges in their lives and make wise decisions about how to address them. We need fewer JROTC cadets who are skilled at taking orders and primed for military service and more students who can think critically and thoughtfully for themselves.

Can we all be pacifists? No, we're too far gone as a nation to pursue that course. Would a large dose of pacifism help? Certainly. Would it hurt? Unlikely.

What's your solution to the various kinds of school violence?

(Photo by Cindy Seigle, used under a Creative Commons license)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Life coaching?

Anyone here ever used a life coach? If so, did you think it was worth the cost? I can't quite afford a coach at this moment, but I'm thinking one might be beneficial in the near future.

Here's my deal: I know life coaches like to differentiate themselves from therapists. But my health plan does have a very affordable short-term (I think 7 visits) therapy option, and I'm wondering if working with a therapist skilled in career issues would be hugely different from consulting with a typical life coach.

If you've considered career issues with both a therapist and a life coach, I'm especially eager to hear from you. And if you're a fan of life coaches and can make a recommendation, please e-mail me at trillwing -at- gmail -dot- com or leave the coach's name and website in the comments.

Many thanks!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reports of his toddlerhood greatly exaggerated

A little over a week ago, I reported that Lucas had taken his first two steps.

We're still there, folks. Tonight we met the two-step threshold again, but three steps in a row are apparently just too difficult for him. He and I are flying down to see my parents in a week, and they're expecting him to be walking by then. It would indeed be kind of nice if he was walking at least part of the time because they have wood floors through most of the house now, and last time he came back with bruised knees from crawling.

So yes, I still have a big baby. He does think it's hilarious when I trick him into walking a step or two on his own, but then he falls into the floor, giggling in a big baby heap.

Have I mentioned he's fastidious as all hell? He'll take things from my desk drawers and either (a) replace them on his own after playing with them or (b) drop them on the floor while sitting on my lap, then climb down from my lap and hand them up to me, piece by piece, by category--pens first, then pencils, erasers, rulers, etc. It's the damndest thing.

And tonight he tore up a piece of wheat bread into tiny pieces and placed all of them in the cupholder on his highchair tray. There wasn't even the tiniest crumb on the rest of the tray.

Is this child really related to me? Clearly he has some of the uber-organized (if not always sparkling clean) Mr. Trillwing in him.

The babysitter comes tomorrow and I'm trying to figure out what to do with my time: work on my journal article or this book proposal. I'm guessing it will be the latter since the proposal is due in a few days. I also promised an editor at the American Studies Association conference that I'd send her a book proposal for my dissertation.

Look at me, pretending to be a writer and all. Good thing I quit my job several years ago to go back to school and get that shiny Ph.D., eh? Now, what was that job, again? Oh yes, I was a writer.

P.S. I'm sad. Twitter isn't letting me log in.

"The Dog Who Loved to Suck on Toads"

A fabulous story from NPR.

Plugging Mr. Trillwing and friends

Mr. Trillwing has carved himself out a little corner of YouTube and is currently featuring his musician friends. Just FYI.

I'm sure he'll start posting video of himself and our family soon enough. Mr. T, he's into the digital media.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Because I don't already have enough of my life on the Web, I've joined Twitter. It's hard to explain exactly what it is, but I'm finding it's a simple way to keep myself honest and focused on work in the evenings. It's a quick method of reporting on what I'm doing instead of blogging ev-er-y-thing.

If you decide to join me, send an invitation to trillwing -at- gmail -dot- com. If I recognize you from our little bloggy community, I'll add you as a friend and we can be focused together.

FYI, I use my real name on Twitter, so that's what will be showing up in your friends list if you join. You'll recognize me from my avatar. :)

Procrastinators unite!


I missed The Clutter Museum's anniversary on the 22nd. What shall I do to make up for that oversight?

My teeny tiny little life

Is it sad that I get excited over things like this?

Monday, October 23, 2006

If I see one more job posting. . .

. . .that includes the word "transnational," I'm going to scream.

Seriously. Especially after the pretty dreadful sessions of the transnationally-themed American Studies Association conference this year.

I'm also beginning to regret not focusing on "comparative ethnic studies." Apparently that's hot, too. Or is it just another way of saying "transnationalism"?