Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Because I wasn't already ambivalent enough about breastfeeding. . .

Lucas cut his first tooth today.

Mr. Trillwing thought that was pretty cool. Maybe he can take over nursing for awhile?

Ends up baby teeth are not only serrated but very sharp.

In other news:

We're in some kind of crazy fast-forward developmental stage. If we blink, we miss a milestone.

Lucas has been working on holding his own bottle. Tonight he picked up a bottle of water and began to feed himself.

Words he says in context: "Hi" and "Mmmmmmmmom." The latter actually appears to mean mama, food, and "I want!"

My three biggest hurdles to dissertation completion

In no particular order:

1. critiques that require major rewrites.
2. the Internet, especially Bloglines.
3. a sixth-month-old baby playing with blocks in a high chair next to my desk. Especially when he starts saying "Mmmmmmmom" and smiling like a little raving maniac. Just too damn cute. Who can write a dissertation in the face of that distraction?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mommyblogging: Big boy

I'm largely out of touch with my parents right now as they're traveling abroad and not phoneable, and I'm not sure they've figured out how to use their webmail. They do, however, occasionally have access to the web. Hence all the mommyblogging. . .

Lucas is getting big. He must be approaching 20 pounds by now, and he's not yet six months old.

While a lot of mamas would probably be proud of such heft, I'm a little freaked out by it. Last week, a kindly, gray-bearded man of the banjo-strumming variety walked up to us and commented on our "little linebacker." And then yesterday we walked into a restaurant and not only did they offer us a children's menu, but the waitress brought a napkin for Lucas's hypothetical drink order and a ceramic plate for him to share our mozarella sticks. What the hey? (For the record, his only solids prior to today have been rice cereal and pureed prunes, and he's only been eating those for about three weeks. I don't think he's quite ready for the kiddie burger at Applebee's.*)

Today Lucas couldn't stop eating. Four big bottles of formula, breastmilk, and three servings of solids--including his first store-bought baby food (organic, of course!), an apple-pear-oatmeal puree that had the highest fiber content of any of the food at the local crunchy co-op. I supplemented this with flaxseed on the advice of Dr. Sears's Baby Book in another desperate attempt to solve The Poop Enigma.

He's also learning cause-and-effect relationships,** thanks in large part to one of those plastic saucer activity center thingies that arrived last week courtesy of Heather of ClizBiz. Thank you, Ms. Cliz. He loves it! It's also helping us to recover from a helluva hissy fit this evening.

He's staying up late tonight, and during his latest diaper change we exchanged the word hi a number of times. He thought that was pretty damn funny. During one of his gummy smiles I noticed a bright white sliver of tooth just below the surface. Time to stock up on Orajel. . . Damn. He was just learning how to sleep 8-9 hours at a stretch, and now teething. Grrrrrr. I'm going to miss the gummy grin.

*Ah, yes, Applebee's. Heather and her friend James came to visit on Sunday, and whenever Heather makes the long drive to our place, Mr. Trillwing likes to further punish her by insisting we do Applebee's for lunch. Yesterday was a comedy of errors--for example, my veggie burger arrived with bacon on it, and the manager had some inexplicable stain on the front of his pants as he haggled with me for a discount on said bacon burger. I was pissed, however, that the wait staff kept knocking into Luke's high chair and paused to hold sizzling fajitas over his head. What the hell?! I told Mr. Trillwing I hoped he was enjoying his last visit to Applebee's. On his way out, he riffed on Goodnight Moon, bidding farewell to all the crappy paraphernalia nailed to the walls. So sad.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: This particular Applebee's was featured some time ago in an alternative weekly newspaper for being the spot where the local white supremacists gather for their meetings. The cover art, as I recall, was a blueberry pie with a swastika cut out of the top crust.

**Here's one for you, Son: Fiber + water = poop. Figure it out!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I like squirrels. I like bunnies.

And thus I love this video posted by Bev of Burning Silo. Text accompanying the video is here.

I just discovered Burning Silo today. It has some really wonderful photos of the tiniest creatures. Check it out!

No bruises

The accident on Friday did not cause as much harm as I had imagined and it appears Lucas has already healed--I thought I saw a bruise forming but it never fully materialized. I'm still pissed at myself for letting it happen, but thrilled that he recovered so quickly.

Here are the latest photos of the forgiving, bruise-free boy:

As you can see, he's given up pacifiers in favor of his left thumb.

It's hard to believe he's almost six months old. . .

Friday poetry blogging, Sunday edition

I'm late. . . Sorry 'bout that. This week's selection is by Robert Penn Warren from his collection Audubon: A Vision. It's also in his New and Selected Poems, 1923-1985, which I heartily recommend.

Was Not the Lost Dauphin

Was not the lost dauphin, though handsome was only
Base-born and not even able
To make a decent living, was only
Himself, Jean Jacques, and his passion--What
Is man but his passion?

Eastward and over the cypress swamp, the dawn,
Redder than meat, break;
And the large bird,
Long neck outthrust, wings crooked to scull air, moved
In a slow calligraphy, crank, flat, and black against
The color of God's blood spilt, as though
Pulled by a string.

It proceed across the inflamed distance.

Moccasins set in hoar frost, eyes fixed on the bird,
Thought: "On that sky it is black."
Thought: "In my mind it is white."
Thinking: "Ardea occidentalis, heron, the great one."

Dawn: his heart shook in the tension of the world.

Dawn: and what is your passion?

October: and the bear,
Daft in the honey-light, yawns.

The bear's tongue, pink as a baby's, out-crisps to the curled tip,
It bleeds the black blood of the blueberry.

The teeth are more importantly white
Than has ever been imagined.

The bear feels his own fat
Sweeten, like a drowse, deep to the bone.

Bemused, above the fume of ruined blueberries,
The last bee hums.

The wings, like mica, glint
In the sunlight.

He leans on his gun. Thinks
How thin is the membrane between himself and the world.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bad, bad mother

So tonight we had an accident. In retrospect it was--now that we know Lucas is OK--nothing big, but it scared the hell out of me and it was my fault. I'd rather not go into details here because I'm ashamed of how stupid I was, especially since I was all of one foot away from him when it happened and thus easily could have prevented it, but suffice it to say that it's the kind of accident that, when you hear about it happening to other babies, you ask, "How could that parent be so stupid?"

Fortunately, Lucas recovered from the initial shock almost immediately--he's a vigorous and generally mild-mannered kid--but he's going to have a very obvious bruise on his forehead. After we assured ourselves that he had no more serious physical injuries and was still mentally very much himself, we gave him some pain relief medicine and he fell asleep nursing while I gently held an ice pack to his head. I've been taking him from his crib every couple hours to apply the cold pack and it seems to be helping with the swelling around the bruise. At last check, three hours post-accident, the spot was turning purplish-black. It will be a constant reminder--as if I need one--of my mistake.

I'm so lucky this wasn't worse. I love my little guy so much, and it just breaks my heart that I let this happen.

All right--I'm slinking off to beat myself up some more. Tonight trillwing = bad mama.

UPDATE: It's now 6 hours after the incident, and Lucas has decided he needs to get up and play, and because I feel guilty and I want assurance that his brain isn't all swollen and malfunctioning, I'm indulging him. So he's got himself a new toy (how much of an abusive parent does that make me seem, buying his affections?) and he's taught himself how to make his swing oscillate without the motor being on. He seems very proud of himself and is all giggles and smiles. Good for him, good for my mental state. . .and bad for the prospect of me getting to sleep anytime soon. But damn, am I ever crazy about that boy.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mommyblogging for Grandma and Grandpa

My parents are going through Lucas withdrawals and may not be able to check their e-mail, so I'm posting a few images here instead of e-mailing them.

Lucas says hello. (Well, actually he says "keekeemaahmthbttth." He's a smart one, that boy.)

Happy baby:

Lucas enjoys his blue man-bracelet:

Give. . .me. . .the. . .camera, Mommy! Pthhhbbtt!

South Dakota

I went there once. We visited the family farm where my dad, although he was born in CA, spent the first dozen years of his life. The land was still being farmed, but all the structures were collapsing. The barn was an old swaybacked thing.

Anyhoo, after years of watching the antics of our older cousins and their children and grandchildren (yep, we were lapped generationally twice), a more level-headed cousin shook his head and declared the lot of us South Dakota descendants as being from "the no-diving end of the gene pool."

I won't go into details, but let's say he may have a point. With the news of the latest legislation in South Dakota, however, it appears any relatives seeking to find better lives for themselves and their families by controlling family size through terminating pregnancies are SOL. They'll just have to carry on the proud family tradition of losing their children to quasi-Darwinian and carceral processes.

Many of us are angry today. Fortunately, Phantom Scribbler is willing to hold our hands while we read "The Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act." (Which, by the way, appears to have very little to do with protecting women's health. Bastards.) Be sure to read the discussion in the comments thread.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Today was good

1. Wrote like a madwoman until about 11:30 a.m., and printed out 52 pages of TCTRTBC. I hope to write another 15 or so by the end of the weekend. I handed the first 52 pages to Fantastic Adviser at lunch.

2. At lunch we talked briefly about blogging. I told her I had a blog in which I referred to her as Fantastic Adviser. She laughed. (phew)

Lunch was terrific, mostly because we didn't talk too much about the diss, a process that usually makes me feel really inarticulate because, well, I get really inarticulate. Instead we chatted about teaching, her current research, writing books, and a panoply of other professional issues. She told me the department wants to hire me as a lecturer next year to cover a couple of sabbatical leaves if nothing else comes through and assured me I'd find a teaching position someplace once I'm on the market with a Ph.D. in hand because I have lots of experience and my student evals are stellar. It's nice to hear such assurances (even if I don't really believe them) and even better to have a back-up plan for next year.

3. Had an awkward moment pre-lunch. Fantastic Adviser was talking to Really Great Program Director before I showed up at the café. As FA walked away from RGPD, I told RGPD I was nominating FA for a mentoring award, and asked if RGPD would be willing to write a letter in support of FA, since FA mentors many students in RGPD's program. Unfortunately, the restaurant was loud and RGPD thought I was saying I was nominating RGPD. I corrected her (gently, I hope), but awkward conversation followed. I'm still a bit anxious about that, even though I'm sure I made myself clear.

4. Taught two sections of pretty lethargic students. It's that time of the quarter for all of us.

5. Got a revise and resubmit from the first journal to which I've ever submitted an article. First reader didn't seem to have too many problems with the article and gave me some really helpful comments. Second reader wasn't quite so fond of the piece. Oh well. I think I will revise it in a few weeks once I've had another prof look over the chapter from which the article sprung.

6. Came home to happy family, with boy occasionally shrieking from painful poop. Within 20 minutes of my coming home, boy was asleep in my arms.

It's a glamorous life.

But I'm happy.

Dead air! Dead air!

Please excuse my silence. I'm working on the dissertation. In fact, I've already written several pages this evening (yay me!). I've promised myself I'll have a complete draft of The Chapter That Refuses to Be Completed finished by noon tomorrow, even if it means cutting sections from it.

I will finish, dammit!

More soon. . .

UPDATE: Well, I blew the noon deadline, and I'm meeting with my adviser in an hour so I have a bus to catch in a few minutes. I've printed out 52 pages of TCTRTBC. I think it may hit 70 pages, at which point Fantastic Adviser will certainly tell me to divide it into two chapters, each of which will need to be further fleshed out and made to stand on their own. Grrrrr.

Monday, February 20, 2006


If I'm going to accurately chronicle Lucas's first sixth months of life in a scrapbook, there must be a page about poop.

Why haven't I seen poop pages in other parents' scrapbooks? I mean, it's on Mr. Trillwing's and my minds almost all the time: Has our little Man in Black pooped this week? When did he last poop? What was the consistency of said poop? We even have a "Dump Chart" tacked to the kitchen wall. The dump chart is definitely going into the (s)crapbook, maybe with the labels from the suppository jar and the prunes.

Tonight Lucas screamed as he tried to have a BM. He fell asleep mid-poop. Can you imagine falling asleep mid-poop?

Anyway, I'll be sure to share the Poop Page with you when I'm finished, but first, I have some other crap to take care of: midterms to grade.

Best movie review I've read in a long time

It's up at Dean Dad's.

The man is brilliant.

Inspiration for trillwing

All right--I can't remember (and my searches won't turn up) which wonderful academic blogger mentioned she had created a flyer to motivate herself to work, but I loved the idea. So I decided to steal an image (from the California Academy of Sciences website) of my favorite scientist and dissertation subject, Alice Eastwood, to create this:
Many thanks to the blogger from whom I'm stealing this idea (anyone remember who it is so that I can give credit?) and to Ms. Eastwood herself. She was a dear.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

First Thoughts: Scrapbooking and Feminism

I'm supposed to be a scholar, so I thought I'd behave like one from time to time in my role as chief curator of The Clutter Museum. Accordingly, I'm starting a new series here called "First Thoughts." In it, I'll share my first, largely unedited ramblings thoughts and very preliminary research on topics of interest to me. These pieces will likely raise more questions than they answer.

Today's First Thoughts piece was inspired by my recent run-in with scrapbooking.

Stumbling into scrapbooking
Last weekend, through almost no fault of my own, I acquired a Creative Memories consultant. A friend invited me to a scrapbooking party she was having at her home. Since she's a new mom and hangs out with a lot of new moms, and because Lucas and Mr. Trillwing were included on the invitation, I assumed it would be a kind of mommy-n-me deal, light on the scrapbooking. How wrong I was! Aside from the hostess, I was the only one of the all-mommy party who had a child in tow, and I may have been the only one there who had not previously been exposed to scrapbooking.

The afternoon began with a presentation by a Creative Memories consultant, a young mother who was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the company's product line and a savvy marketer who made recommendations at the party and later followed up on my order with more recommendations and event announcements by phone and e-mail. Each of the participants selected a couple of photos and our consultant led us through the creation of complimentary "Short Story" cards, folded pieces of cardstock that came packaged with a few stickers and a couple scraps of decorative paper. Steps 1-4: crop, mount, journal, and enhance. According to the dominant Creative Memories aesthetic, it's clear my "Hands Off, Mommy! It's Great-Grandma's Turn" card pushed the boundaries of the acceptable. I didn't use the appropriate tools, so my cuts were crooked, and my lettering was not in Happy Schoolteacher Print. Oh well. . . Maybe I'm not cut out for this stuff.

We then moved on to the sales/"workshop" portion of the presentation, where the consultant educated us about Creative Memories products and provided us with catalogs and order forms. She had some supplies with her so we could purchase the essentials (blank album pages, adhesives, decorative paper, etc.) and complete a page or two on the spot. As luck would have it, the usually mild-mannered Lucas used this event to demonstrate his Fussy Boy repertoire, so I didn't get much done, but the consultant was kind enough to check on my progress periodically anyway. We all took breaks to look over one another's shoulders and watch as the pages came together. When people glanced at the page I was sweating over, however, their reactions, I think, were considerably less enthusiastic than their reactions to other folks' scrapbooking. Again, I wasn't buying into, er, didn't grasp the Creative Memories aesthetic. Shall we illustrate?

Here's the Creative Memories ideal, as illustrated on their website:

With my mind on the kind of scrapbook Mr. Trillwing and a future Lucas might enjoy, and motivated by a desire to go at this scrapbooking thing freehand instead of using all the templates and cutting tools, I created this:

A detail:

Yeah, it's not pretty.

Anyway, I like to be liked, especially by people I'm meeting for the first time, and particularly by new moms who might want to invite Lucas and me into their playgroups, so I was then, and remain now, conflicted: Should I have shown that I could adopt the aesthetic and use the tools (literal, metaphorical, and symbolic) of the other scrapbooking moms? Would it have been more polite and acceptable to use (and then purchase) the tools created for and used by the other scrapbookers? Or was it better for me to forge ahead with my own vision, Creative Memories ideals be damned? If I were experimenting with scrapbooking in my own home, these questions never would have occurred to me, as I'd see the whole project as a creative, quasi-artistic outlet. Out would come the acrylic paints, the cartoonists' inks, the watercolors, pastels and fixatives, scissors and X-acto knives, and whatever else felt appropriate at the moment. But if I wanted to be accepted into this particular group of women (and as a new mom seeking emotional support and potential childcare swaps, I very much desired acceptance), I needed to prove myself a member of the club and validate their visions of what their albums should contain.

In which I get all intellectual on scrapbooking's ass
Some time ago, Fantastic Adviser taught a course on corporate cultures, and she had a Creative Memories consultant come to her class as an illustration of how direct selling organizations work. In planning for this event, Adviser shared with me her desire to at some point write up her thoughts on scrapbooking, and as I sat at the scrapbooking party, Fantastic Adviser's brainstormings came rushing back: that because scrapbooking calls on women to crop, place, and embellish family photos, the whole exercise is really about giving women a sense of control over their families. Through this process of photo mounting and journaling, they can frame their families in any way they wish, and highlight--or even fabricate--those roles they feel they themselves should be playing as mother, sister, daughter, or aunt.

My questions, then, are these: In what ways does scrapbooking empower women as members of their families and of a larger community of women who scrapbook? And in what ways does it reinforce traditional women's roles or circumscribe opportunities for more creative expression? What is the role of the consultant? Is her influence a limiting or liberating one? And what does being a consultant for Creative Memories mean to the women who sign up? (Of course, as an academic, I'm tempted to sign on to get a sense of the experience, but the dissertation must come first.)

Scrapbooking has a long history for women and girls. Drawing on Rodris Roth's chapter on scrapbook houses in The American Home: Material Culture, Domestic Space, and Family Life (ed. Eleanor McD. Thompson, Winterthur, DE: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum; Hanover: UP of New England, 1998), Mary Flanagan writes,
Playing house in miniature was a popular American pastime in the late Nineteenth century and was featured in home magazines of the 1890s to early 20th century. Children used old ledgers or albums to create a paste-up graphic room per leger page set. These early visual miniature representations of upper middle class houses provide a specific idea of house as imagined by a particular class at a particular time and geography. Rodris Roth notes in "Scrapbook Houses" that such scrapbook houses "were an ideal medium to introduce girls to their future roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers" and that the "house in a scrapbook, just as much as an actual one, had to be run and maintained properly" (308). The house was implicitly known to be a gendered space. That female children were being trained to imitate their parent's tastes and shop for desirable goods from mail order catalogs and samples suggests the intertwining of play, gender, and consumption over a century ago.

Modern day instructions for making a scrapbook house, as well as a photo of a scrapbook house from 1879, may be found here. Another example is here.

The Creative Memories literature proclaims a more liberating motive for scrapbooking today:
Every moment you capture in a photo, every time you ask, “Guess what happened?” … you are telling your story as only you can. We’d like to help you take the next step by preserving your story in a safe and meaningful keepsake scrapbook album.

It’s so simple:

• Live life
• Take pictures
• Call your Consultant
• Tell your stories in albums
In other words, instead of serving as a training ground for a future life as manager of a household, today's scrapbooks are a way to preserve the past, to celebrate achievements as a wife, mother, etc. Or so say the Creative Memories PR mavens.

But when we scrapbook, we're not just "telling stories" as a journalist, or even a photojournalist, might. Instead, we're imposing narratives, and therefore fairly explicit meanings, onto our lives. We omit many details and bring others into sharp relief. Most of us put the best possible face we can on our family life. And isn't that our job as wives and mothers? (Single women certainly have some of the same impulses, which may be centered more on self-presentation, forging a sense of extended family, or the role of daughter.)

We pose and then crop photos. We frame them in paper of particular patterns. We stencil. We write brief journal entries. We apply stickers with pre-printed words And the results are, well. . . here, here, and all over here. (In this sense, perhaps scrapbooking is kin to blogging, where most of us use templates created by others but fill them with our own photos and journal entries, but do so often by basing our posts on what we've seen on others' blogs (through memes, responses to posts, etc.).

In light of these first thoughts, could scrapbooking be considered feminist? Could a self-described feminist participate in scrapbooking without feeling too much angst? If the prescribed, cookie-cutter Creative Memories brand of scrapbooking makes us uncomfortable, how far from it do we need to go before we're back in emancipatory territory? What does a feminist scrapbook look like? Does it use new or recycled materials? What does it chronicle? Does it attempt a linear, chronological narrative?

Oy. I think I need to do some freewriting and a lot of further research. In addition to interviews with scrapbooking women and further participant observation, I'm thinking of revisiting Janice Radway's books on romance readers and the Book-of-the-Month Club, as well as maybe Levine's book Highbrow/Lowbrow. (Wheee! That will let me revisit some good American Studies stuff.)

Postscript: While writing this post over a couple of days, I put together another few pages in the hopes of better understanding the process of scrapbooking. And I'm still struggling with what it all means (or might come to mean) to me and to others. I think having a full album of varied pages would give me a very different perspective from having completed just a page or two. That said, I'll close with my latest pages. (They're too big for our scanner, so please excuse the indoor-digital-photo nature of these images.) The print, which may be too small to read, includes passages from poets Emily Dickinson, Sarah Lindsay, and W.B. Yeats.

And one inspired by the cover of Goodnight Moon:

Further resources (which I have yet to read but discovered in my preliminary web search):
Gordon, Beverly. "Scrapbook Houses for Paper Dolls: Creative Expression, Aesthetic Elaboration and Bonding in the Female World," in Susan Tucker and Patricia Buckler, eds., Layered History: Essays on the Commonplace Book, the Scrapbook, and the Album (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003).

Free shoes

Well, my little shopping expedition last Monday has paid off in spades. . . I entered a raffle at the Aerosoles store, and today I learned I won three free pairs of shoes.

Maybe my luck will continue and my big pile of exams will grade itself? The university should have a weekly raffle offering a free pass from grading. . .

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Linky goodness

I've come across some great stuff in the past few days, so I thought I'd share it here.

The endangered Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus needs our attention. (h/t to kermitthefrog)

My favorite Chronicle of Higher Education columnist, the pseudonymous Thomas Benton, writes that "there is more than one way to skin a dissertation."

Flower-shaped urinals. Nuff said. (h/t to she falters to rise)

P.S. Does anyone else obsess about whether punctuation belongs inside or outside HTML link tags? Yep, I thought it was just me.

Friday Poetry Blogging

Another one by trillwing. . .


Usually the row of Gothic brick buildings
amplified the train’s horn as rock valleys do,
but that night we didn’t hear the horn, only the clacking
of grain cars with their giant funnels, the tanks
of corn syrup and ethanol. There was no sign
of the kernel-yellow engines, and no hint of an end—
only bells at the intersection, the rhythmic thuds and screeches
of wheels and track compromising,
the track sinking into earth, the train passing on
but not passing us. In the spaces between cars
we saw the figures of people waiting,
like us, to cross. Their silhouettes were unfinished,
framed by distant lights of varying brilliance.
We could almost see through them.

We knew the track ended at the southern edge of town,
behind Wal-Mart, by the grain elevators.
There had been times when a long train
sliced the town in two. I’d walked
more than a mile around it to visit friends.
But that evening, not knowing its ends, we waited
for the long corn train, the sidewalk rumbling
hungrily beneath our shifting weight.
Above us, the bare cottonwoods
rationed the sky into graspable pieces.

The crowd grew with the minutes until one woman,
hoarse-voiced, her hundred braids and two active hands
swaddled in the first scarf and gloves of the season,
spoke above the train. She said, What if your double
were on the other side and was dying, crumpling there,
and no medics could come—you could only watch?
From there the tale grew among us: the Town
of the Perpetual Train, the families never meeting,
half the citizens without fire trucks, half without mail.
People might dig tunnels, build bridges, learn not to hear
the trains, just as, caught up in our own stories,
we don’t hear the roaring stars and the winds of hurtling Earth,
even on clear nights, when—because we have places to be—
we’re forced to consider our crossing.

Sacrilegious (in this household)

. . .but funny: Dick Cheney sings Johnny Cash.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A little bit of good news

1. I don't have to fill out a FAFSA this year. Because I. am. almost. done. with. my. degree.

My, that feels good to say. Now I just need to remove "almost" from that sentence.

2. I found out today that I'm being nominated for a university-wide award for graduate student teaching. Fantastic Adviser sent a message out to the department's undergrad listserv asking if any students wanted to share any thoughts about my courses, and she said the response was overwhelming. I heart American Studies students and faculty; I wish I could have earned my degree in that department, but alas! alack! they have no grad program (hence my opportunity to teach for them).

More good news on that front: Whereas I usually struggle to fill my summer courses because there just aren't enough students around to really warrant holding them, I already have 25 signed up for this spring's offering on life in the 1890s. Yay!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Johari window

All the popular kids (Profgrrrrl, Scrivener, Phantom Scribbler) have them, and so must I.

Please go here and click on the characteristics you believe me to possess. It does a nifty trait-triangulation thingy once you submit your choices. I'm especially interested to see what traits my offline friends see vs. those who know me only in cyberspace. (Too bad "geeky" isn't one of the choices in the Johari window.)

Thanks for participating.

Damn you, community college bureaucracies

Why, why must community colleges have such damn complicated application forms? I can't remember how many units I took for each of my degrees (and I hate having to look up this information), nor do I know my supervisors' phone numbers for the past 10 years, nor do I remember all the grad seminars I took that remotely have to do with the field in which I'm applying. And yet all this information is required, and it must be typed into PDF forms that, once filled out, can't be saved but must be printed and mailed. (And you get all of, oh, 200 characters to describe each teaching experience.) But I do love the teaching of eager young working-class minds, so apply I will. An additional incentive: I looked at the salary schedule for one of the colleges, and tenure-track Ph.D.s with teaching experience bring home absolutely yummy paychecks. Really, I was shocked.

Other random thoughts:

1. I went shopping today and bought my first nice (i.e., not Target-brand) clothes since fall 2004 (pre-pregnancy). Of course, the way the clothes fit isn't at all what I'm used to--I'm in a not-so-fun size right now, that netherworld between maternity clothes with elastic belly bands and did-I-really-used-to-be-a-size-10? I know the weight will come off eventually (but oh, how aggravatingly slowly!), so it pains me to shop at nice department stores knowing that the clothes won't last me more than a season or two. But I had Macy's gift cards from two Christmases (last year's didn't get spent because my local Macy's didn't have maternity sections), so the eight pieces I bought today cost me nothing at all, and I have some gift card $$$ left over. Yay!

And bonus: I bought not one, not two, but THREE pairs of shoes on sale at Aerosoles. Trillwing's feet are going to be very, very happy starting tomorrow.

2. My "little" sister is a fabulous writer. When I asked her how she's doing this week, she sent me a copy of an e-mail in which she vented her righteous indignation over a lousy, expensive seminar she was required to attend for continued certification in her field. She's always been articulate, but the terrific, biting prose is new to me. She told me she writes best when she's angry. Funny--that's when I'm most articulate, too--when I'm filled with indignation about something.

I first noticed this phenomenon my junior year of high school, when my physics teacher tossed our midterms at us (literally, into the air over our lab tables) and yelled at us for failing to perform well on them. He told us we'd all be sleeping on park benches one day and then promptly locked himself in the little office/storage room behind his classroom. That evening, I reported this behavior to my schoolteacher parents. Dad called and left a message for Mr. BadTeacher. The next day, in an obvious attempt to embarrass me and thus head off any parent-teacher headbutting that might result in disciplinary action for him, Mr. BadTeacher waited for the crowded classroom to quiet down and then asked, "Trillwing, what did your dad want to talk to me about?" All students' eyes turned to where I was sitting in the back of the class. This, of course, was the ideal position from which to project my voice so that everyone could hear what I was about to say. Since I hadn't uttered a word to Mr. BT during the entire semester (I suck at math and so wasn't an eager student), you can imagine his surprise when I announced that my father had concerns about his pedagogy, that we didn't think flinging exams at students was either professional or fruitful, that we believed this was just the latest in a series of such incidents, and that Dad would like to discuss the situation--as well as my (lack of) progress in the class--with Mr. BadTeacher. Had Mr. BT considered even for a moment, I asked, that if every student in the class scored a C- or lower on an objective test, he might not have prepared us adequately to answer the questions? (Many smirks from my fellow students.)

Mr. BadTeacher called my father that very afternoon, explaining to my dad that he found me "surprisingly articulate." He also mentioned that I was lucky to be in sixth-period physics because the students in seventh period were "braindead." (Um, yeah. . . High school students who take a physics elective are positively comatose. And, I must add, Mr. BT said this to my father, who taught kids with real learning disabilities.) I recently learned that Mr. BadTeacher, who moved on to teaching elsewhere shortly after my stint in his classroom, lost his credential over untoward affairs with underage female students. (Is it wrong for me, as a feminist, to gain some satisfaction from these events? Trillwing, who is otherwise endlessly forgiving, has a tiny vengeful streak.)

Anyway, I wonder where Sis and I get this sudden, er, facility of expression when we're pissed off. Certainly not from Mom and Dad, who don't joust verbally (except with one another).

3. A little bit of mommy/photoblogging:

New toy exploration by the little guy. Note the classic pincer grasp, which the American Academy of Pediatrics manual tells me is a milestone for 8- to 12-month-olds, and Lucas is but a wee five-month-old. (I'm such a proud mommy).

Lucas, who has on the whole been a pretty happy-go-lucky baby, has learned to show his anger and frustration with, well, just about everything. Here he decides he's had enough of (a) his new highchair and (b) those plastic stacking doughnut thingies:

Awwwwww. . .

The Lion, Lucas, and Mr. Trillwing on Monochromatic Clothing Day:

4. I hope you all enjoy your Valentine's Day. . . As a friend of mine penned on her Valentine's Day cards for her classmates at the all-female Immaculate Conception Academy, "Happy VD!"

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A few numbered thoughts from a messy mind

1. As seen at New Kid's, a personality quiz. I'm not listing the details of my results, which underscores my apparent (according to the test) paranoia. But I will share my "trait snapshot":
messy, outgoing, open, self revealing, ambivalent about chaos, unpredictable, not good at saving money, social, likes large parties, likes to stand out, risk taker, quick to make friends, does not like to be alone, rash, fame seeking, sarcastic, craves attention, social chameleon, low self control, food lover, not rule conscious, weird, assertive, not a perfectionist, anti-authority, thrill seeker, vain, likes to fit in, reckless, emotionally sensitive, leisurely, trusting
Ambivalent about chaos? I guess so, if that means "General apathy about dissertating."

Likes large parties? Then why did Mr. Trillwing and I call the police on the raging kegger in the neighboring apartment complex last night? I tell you why: because, in Mr. Trillwing's words, we're old and boring. (By this standard, I turned old and boring at 22.)

Weird and assertive: a magical combination, I assure you!

I do, however, take issue with vain. That's just BS, and I *know* it's because I said I'm mildly into myself. *sigh*

2. As of this afternoon, I have a Creative Memories consultant. Does that make me a bad intellectual? Can I call it American studies participant-observation research? I'm not particularly enamored of the actual scrapbooking, but I'm fascinated by the aesthetic and culture of the whole affair. Lots of thoughts on this to come, I'm sure.

3. I've been unconsciously clenching my jaw for the past two weeks. Ouch.

4. I'm not really that fond of Babies R Us.

5. All of a sudden, my old freelance writing clients are coming out of the woodwork or are referring their friends to me. Normally I'd welcome the extra income, but why now?

6. Mr. Trillwing has been asked by his employer to add a sixth weekly newspaper to his already-full plate of five weeklies and two weekly news websites he designs (and by "designs," I mean "does just about everything but sell ads and run the presses"). She asked him how much he'd charge for this service, and he underbid. By an astonishing amount. I was sitting right there when he said the number into the phone's receiver, and I just about fainted. The number in my head was about 3x to 4x the amount he quoted her. He must really, really like his employer. He also admitted to me this afternoon that, when he owned a business fifteen years ago, he charged EIGHT TIMES what he quoted her for that kind of job. Fifteen years ago!

Mr. Trillwing is too nice. I'm not angry or upset, just amazed that he'd undersell himself like that, especially when he's already working at least six days a week.

7. I just printed out the 65 pages of TCTRTBC. I think I need to see them all to impose order on them. A faculty member holding a dissertation workshop once recommended taping all the pages of a chapter together into a long scroll or laying them all out on the floor and eyeballing them in order to discover. . .I don't know what. I'll let you know. (Don't worry--my scanning won't involve tape.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Argh. Argh argh. (Dissertation blues)

This is sooooo hard. I'm definitely firmly wedged between steps 6 and 7 of Professor Me's stages of dissertation hell—between, that is, "This project really sucks!" and "Am I ever going to be done with this stupid thing?" (Except I call it the "f**king thing" at this point.)

Damn this work is isolating. My cohort members, who constituted a pretty close-knit group while we were all still taking classes, are all also dissertating, but they each have their own personal challenges (much worse than mine) to deal with, so we're not communicating much with one another. A sampling: one is faced with having to return to his native country for at least two years, despite having found a life partner in the States, to fulfill the terms of a fellowship; another buried her father a little over a year ago and is now providing in-home hospice care to her mother; and yet another friend, a year ahead of me, just turned in a diss that nearly killed her long marriage and whose stress worsened a chronic condition so much that it's rendered her considerably less ambulatory.

I think about these challenges and realize it's really petty of me to complain about my own dissertating when I have such a fabulous situation in which to accomplish it (childcare shared with Mr. Trillwing, a 50% TAship that takes considerably fewer than 20 hours/week, Mr. Trillwing's income to purchase such luxuries as DSL and Netflix).

I'd join a dissertation reading group but in the past I've found I put a lot more into such groups than I take away, and I'm not ready to dedicate that kind of effort without getting considerable in return. Selfish? Yes. Practical? Also yes.

My fantastic adviser, who has always been a terrific sounding board for all things academic and personal, has become swamped with responsibilities (other students discovered her, the bastards, and now I must share her) and has also begun commuting this year, so she's less available than she has been in the past. I do give her credit for helping me to completely revamp the chapter's organization in ways that are proving fruitful. And her comments, while sometimes discouraging, do mark my progress. For example, among more constructive criticisms, her frustrated comments on an earlier draft of the first part of The Chapter that Refuses to be Completed (TCTRTBC) included such gems as "yuck" and "Oh, trillwing, don't do this," but the latest round features such encouragement as "At this rate, you'll get a contract with Duke!" (Duke University Press, are you listening? I give you linky goodness, you give me a book contract, 'K?)

Mr. Trillwing is a dear and a constant emotional support, but we don't really discuss the diss because I'm afraid when I bring it up I sound to him like the adult voices in Peanuts TV specials: Mwah-mwah-MWAH-mwah. And besides, I haven't been the best spouse, procrastinating as I have on reading his sexy, action-packed, 900-page screenplay-opus on the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, as fascinating as it is. (Honey? I promise to finish reading it shortly after I turn in the diss. It's just too damn good and I get discouraged. Seriously. I mean, you're brilliant with your high school diploma and autodidactism, and here I am with an almost-Ph.D. and years of experience as a writer and editor, yet I can't write a paragraph without evoking an occasional "yuck" from Fantastic Adviser and a zillion fyucks from Inner Critic.)

I find the academic blogosphere cheering on most days, but it's also a too-tempting source of procrastination for trillwing, who has occasionally taken to referring to herself in the third person when she's feeling ashamed of her recent lack of progress. Seriously, the expert Queen of West Procrastination has nothing on me, despite her claim to the heavyweight title.

For TCTRTBC, I blame in large part my archival sources, all 125+ of them congregated so far in the footnotes. They're handwritten. They're too numerous. They're bad photocopies. They're oblique and too open to poor interpretation and trillwing's flights of feminist fancy. They cover too much time (1880s-1950s) for there ever to be one nice, clean argument that can be made about them. (Yes, I'm tackling too much at once.)

Aside from the fact that I'm sick of bringing in a teeny tiny "salary" as a TA, I have little extrinsic motivation to finish grad school, since this year's academic job search has been, shall we say, considerably less than successful. By which I mean not. a. single. nibble. It's hard to continue work that no one else seems to find meaningful.

Thank goodness for antidepressants, eh? (Five years and counting! Yay me.)

Don't worry, bloggy friends. Soon we'll return to your regularly scheduled cheery trillwing. Until then, this is defeated trillwing, signing off. . .

I <3 Lost

Did anyone else notice Locke flipping through The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? I remember reading that in seventh grade. I wonder if it's a red herring or if it has something to do with the warping of time to which Hurley alluded at the end of this week's episode.

Anyway. . . I guess I'm this dude:

You scored as Locke. You're Locke! People underestimate you, but you know you can do anything you want to. You hate limits being put on your life - you don't like it when people don't believe in you.

Locke 63%
Hurley 56%
Michael 56%
Jack 56%
Shannon 38%
Sun 38%
Claire 31%
Charlie 25%
Sawyer 25%
Jin 19%
Kate 19%
Boone 6%
Sayid 0%

The best of all? Sayid is my favorite character. Opposites attract, right? ;)

Who is your Lost alter ego? (As seen at Cheeky Prof.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reading meme

Because everyone else is doing it. Seen most recently at Aspiring Academic.

Instructions: Bold the books you have read. Italicise the books you might read. Cross out the books you probably won't read. Underline the books you have on your shelf to read or have started reading. Pass it on.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (yuck!)
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J. K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel (highly recommended!)
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien (though I might read it to Lucas someday)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell (shameful, I know!)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut (I like the other Vonnegut I've read, and I have his A Man without a Country on my shelf right now.)
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë (tried it awhile ago, and couldn't get into it; I should revisit it)
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C. S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (a longtime favorite, and a terrific book to teach)
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert

Bonus recommendations:
My Year of Meats - Ruth Ozeki (highly recommended!)
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren (lovely prose from a poet)
Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse - Louise Erdrich (a terrific novel!)
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf (one of her best)
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow (especially neat if you know anything about the Progressive era in the US)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal - Christopher Moore (a very fun read)

Friday Poetry Blogging

Here's the first poem I wrote as a creative writing grad student way back in 1997. The assignment was to craft a poem that concerned names or naming.

on Carl von Linné


A bird turns in a man’s pale hands.
It is ruffled from handling, its feathers
still clotted with dust and blood.
Candlelight. The glint of ink,
scritch of nib against paper.

Carolus Linnaeus knows the mind of God;
he writes a vast unspoken Latin mass.
Kingdom, class, order, genus, species:
bits of life mounted, labelled,
preserved like Bibles under glass.


In the Museum of Natural History,
species rattle through the sunlit halls:
Tyrannosaurus, Eohippus,
Canis dirus, Corpus christi.

Bones mingle with brown plaster casts.

Linnaeus stoops before a plaque,
squints: Barosaurus.
Lines like a basilica’s draw his eyes
up a neck improbably long;
the lizard rears like the old man’s mind.

He watches the believing world pass by—
fathers expounding heretic theories,
mispronouncing the names
to attentive waist-high daughters.
He sighs. Contented their gazes yet rise,

he notes that, faced with old bones
and all their fleshless spaces,
we resort to his language of praise,
those Latinate names grasping
(pterodactylus—a wing, a finger)
at what little we know.

Fun with Lucas

(Warning: Mommyblogging about cute infant milestones ahead. Read at risk of rolling your eyes.)

All he wants to do these days is eat, eat, eat. Last night we moved him up to the bigger bottles, which increases by 50% the amount of formula he gets each day, and he's been nursing more enthusiastically, too. We started him on "solid" food this week (organic rice cereal), and at his first feeding he grabbed the spoon and tried to shovel the stuff into his mouth. After five feedings, we're at the point where almost all of the pablum goes down the gullet, and he's leaning forward and grunting for more, more, more!

So we're using this renewed interest in food to our advantage to solve the poop problem (Lucas is, er, anal retentive). We've tried again and again to get him to drink diluted prune juice, but he'll only swallow a few milliliters. However, he's become quite keen on holding his own bottle. So. . . tonight I gave him a bottle that contained 4 oz. of watered-down prune juice and watched with delight as he fought between his desire to feed himself from the bottle and his extreme displeasure with the taste of the juice. And he. drank. the. entire. bottle. W00t! (I can't believe the things that bring me joy these days. . .)

That was course two of a four-part meal; in a single hour, he consumed rice cereal, breast milk, prune juice, and formula. Can you say "growth spurt"?

Last night while I was crafting my posts for BlogHer, Lucas was sitting next to me in his aquarium bouncer (best baby distraction ever). Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed he was squirming a bit, but until I turned to check on him, I had no idea he had done this:

Well, there's another pillar of our childrearing technique that's jumped the shark--following the playgym that recently became The Pitch Pit.

Lucas is also into grabbing at our faces. Today he tried to rake out my eyes. Yesterday Mr. Trillwing was treated to some baby love:

Finally, Mr. Trillwing had a tough time getting work done today because Lucas has returned to his advocacy of attachment parenting and high-touch babyrearing. When I returned home from teaching, I encountered this scene. It says "Daddy's had a rough day" all over it:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More Doodling by Mr. Trillwing

In homage to his original intention for this piece, Mr. Trillwing titled it "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Mother Teresa":

Midnight Poetry Blogging

In a former life, I was a poet. Someday I hope to be one again, but the dissertation has sucked all poetry out of me.

I thought I'd share a few of my old poems here, since it doesn't appear they're going to be published anywhere else. :)

This one is circa 1998. I was missing Iowa and my college friends. A lot. (I still do.)

Caution: Nostalgia
for Jeff and Lisa Mather

We were both from the coast,
so Jeff, who had always lived in the middle,
took us to the combine dealers’ lots
and climbed over the machines,
pointing out his favorite hazard stickers.
At every mechanized joint,
a yellow and black rectangle showed
silhouetted figures losing their heads
or mangling their arms.

You’d think the fields would be littered
with dismembered Iowans. But no:
nothing but order to the horizon.
Still, we walked carefully at the town’s edge,
aware of the machinery that could come
roaring suddenly from the corn
like memory, as it does now,
cutting me in places no one warned me I’d bleed.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Afire (translation: AAAACCCCKKKK!)

So. . . I looked it up online tonight. "It" being the deadline for turning in my dissertation. Ends up it's my 31st birthday.

Which is less than four months away.

Oh. My. God.

So that's lit a real fire under me. I cleared off my desk, located folders that have been AWOL since the move, and I'm ready to write. (So of course here I am, blogging away.) Truth is, I've been dawdling a bit of late and blaming it on family responsibilities or the mountains of papers we all grade. And blogging (by which I mean both reading and writing) has been a terrific way to procrastinate, although a relatively productive one, emotionally and psychologically speaking.

I've been photo blogging quite a bit this past week because I've been working instead on my posts for BlogHer. In case you haven't checked out "my" section, Research & Academia, please do stop by. Also let me know if you'd like to be added to the blogroll. I'm a bit behind on it, so you may already be on my list, but a nudge won't hurt a bit. :)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cupcakey Goodness

At my favorite grocery store, one of the Nugget Markets, I found these:

Cupcakes > the Superbowl

Note to self: Stop eating like you're nine months pregnant.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Car seat angst

I'm having car seat angst. Seriously, this is occupying a major portion of my brain, so I thought I'd dump it here so that I can move on to the dissertation that refuses to write itself.

Lucas is now, at just under five months old, too big for his infant car seat. The infant/toddler car seat we bought before he was born (before we realized we wanted a car seat that we could carry him in) is too big to face backward in our generous sedan and still recline at the correct angle. But state law requires him to ride facing backward until he's at least one year old.

Here's the offending monster:

Any tips on car seat installation from those who have been there?

We'll probably have the new seat installed by the same county health folks who installed the first one. Hopefully they'll have more luck than we've had. But my god is this frustrating. . .

A little bit o' photoblogging

Sometimes, Lucas is pretty damn hard to awaken:

My parents came up to visit earlier this week. About 1/4 of the photos I took involved them trying to figure out a digital camera that they've had for quite some time now but have yet to master. I call the entire set "The Befuddlement Series." Here are two samples.

Befuddlement in the restaurant:

Lucas has had enough befuddlement:

Lucas and his grandmother:

More Friday Poetry Blogging

This one is from Amy Clampitt's book Westward (1990), another favorite of mine. Clampitt, who died in 1994, is an interesting poet in part because, as I recollect, she didn't start publishing until she was in her 60s. She also happens to be an alumna of my alma mater, and we're all about giving shout-outs to fellow Grinnellians.

Portola Valley

A dense ravine, no inch
of which was level until
some architect niched in this
shimmer of partition, fishpond
and flowerbed, these fording-
stones' unwalled steep staircase
down to where (speak softly) you
take off your shoes, step onto
guest-house tatami matting,
learn to be Japanese.

There will be red wine,
artichokes, and California
politics for dinner; a mocking-
bird may whisper, a frog rasp
and go kerplunk, the shifting
inlay of goldfish in the court-
yard floor add to your vertigo;
and deer look in, the velvet
thrust of pansy faces and vast
violet-petal ears, inquiring,
stun you without a blow.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Should I be angry?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not a real feminist.

I hop around the feminist blogosphere all the time, and I agree with much of what people are writing, but I'm afraid I don't share their anger. Their righteous indignation, yes. Anger, no.

Yesterday I dropped the wonderful Ms. Cliz a line about this phenomenon of angry feminist bloggers. Since her profile says she's suffering from "anger fatigue," I figured she would have something to say on the topic. She does--go read it.

Her post was a major comfort to me, not only because she gives me a nice shout-out, but because it was great to get some validation that one can indeed be a real feminist without constantly ranting about injustice. Don't get me wrong--I'm glad there are women out there who are willing and able to keep up The Good Rant, but it's just not my way of doing things, either off- or online.

Surely there are those who would criticize me for my failure to attempt to use this little blog as a tiny platform for rallying for social justice. Maybe I don't do so because I've read too much feminist theory. I suspect everything that could be said on these subjects has been said far more eloquently or intelligently elsewhere.

Honestly, I prefer reading feminist blogs from people I would normally make the mistake of assuming aren't feminists, or whose views don't jibe 100%, or even 50%, with the radical (or even liberal) feminist doctrine I've heard preached in women's studies departments.

To give but one example: This evening I stumbled across the blog Bad Feminist. In "What Exactly is a Bad Feminist?," she writes,
I have unfortunately been in environments, in which so-called feminists have not been tolerant and even 10% divergence from doctrine has been viewed as a mark of "bad" feminism. I do have some beliefs-- such as my embrace of free markets, conservative judicial philosophies, and free trade-- that don't endear me to certain feminists. I myself have always identified as a feminist and am glad to be embraced by the community (or even a small corner of it).
She writes about other "bad feminists" here. (Of these, as someone who studies women in science, I found especially noteworthy this post. I disagree with this blogger on some points, but it's worth reading.)

At unexpected moments in my life I've sought out people who are unlike myself. For example, in fall 2004, when I was living in DC, I attended a weekly Bible study at a very conservative Baptist church on Capitol Hill. (To be fair, I also sought out others who are more spiritual than I am, but whose politics are more in line with my own: namely the Quakers.) I don't seek out such people because I like to argue. Rather, I want to walk a mile in their shoes, to try to understand whence they speak and act.

What's interesting to me is that many of these women with whom I disagree on many issues don't blog in a way that's overtly angry. I like these blogs a lot. Maybe it's the lack of anger, maybe it's the way they don't cite feminist theory chapter and verse, repeating the same true but tired arguments. I suspect it's both.

When I meet someone (male or female) offline who's ranting about something I've heard hashed and rehashed a zillion times--especially if I agree with them--I'm disinclined to join the conversation. I feel the same way online.

My research has turned up some self-identifying feminist bloggers who seem genuinely happy with their lives while still acknowledging that as women, they and others suffer from injustice on many levels.

And that makes me happy. I want such balance, and I think I'm coming close to it.

P.S. Just wanted to share a few women's blogs I've run across for the first time in my browsing over the past week. Instead of commenting on them, I'll let them speak for themselves:

P.P.S.: OK, so some things still do make me angry. Must. . .not. . .rant. (Must also resist attempt to parody. . .)

Cloudy with a chance of clutter

A word cloud generated for this blog:

As seen at Bright Star Reignited and pretty much everywhere else in the academic blogosphere. Make your own here. And yes, you can order them on t-shirts. . .

Grade distribution

. . .for the latest paper assignment in our material culture course:

A: 15
B: 28
C: 26
D: 20
F: 2

Our students think we're hard-asses. I think I gave out too many As, as 11 of those puppies were awarded to my students. Still, 9 of the Ds were mine, too.

This is the third time I've TA'd for this course under this professor, so we pretty much have an understanding about grades, and the TA who has joined us this quarter is happy to join the Fair Grading Club.

The professor pointed out that no one blinks an eye if 40% of students just plain don't understand an assignment in physics or math, but everyone gets up in arms if just as many students fail to comprehend a humanities concept. I think she has a point.