Sunday, April 30, 2006

Not-so-random solipsistic bullets o' what-have-you (with BONUS video recommendation!)

1. I can just about taste the completion of the full draft of the diss. I'm hoping to continue my marathon weekend o' writing this evening and finish Chapter 4, AKA The Chapter That Must Be Completed Soon Come Hell Or High Water. I think the first two (of four) sections of it are pretty well constructed, and I feel good about that. The section from which I'm taking a break right now concerns a woman about whom I know relatively little--I read a thorough biography of her a few years back, I rifled through a few boxes of her papers, and I have one article about her. Despite all this information, I feel I'm still making things up as I go along and I fear someone--namely the author of the biography--will eventually call me on my bullshit. If I turn this diss into a book, I'll definitely need to plunge back into the archives when I revise this section. For now: no time for that, as the diss is due in 32 days. (!)

2. Chapter 5, my conclusion, will be much easier to write than any other chapter. Yay! I'll begin it this week, between grading my students' midterms and giving three (as yet incompletely written) talks on three consecutive days on three different topics.

3. My chickens of ambition are coming home to roost (quite literally, as my chicken egg talk for which I solicited your input so long ago is finally upon us--I'll provide details once it's over). That's Talk #1. Talk #2 is for a class on American nature and culture and concerns women's relationships with nature. For Talk #3, I'm headed to Monterey on Friday for the Western Association of Women Historians conference. (Teehee--historians let me into their club.) In order to give Mr. Trillwing a break from childrearing (and who are we kidding? from me), I'll be taking Lucas with me to Monterey and depositing him with my parents, who are actually driving up from Long Beach so they can babysit while I attend the conference. How much do they love us? How lucky am I?

4. Post-diss, I have employment (teaching) set up from June through December and from April to June. But: it's doubtful my adjuncting will pay enough for us to maintain our current (relatively hand-to-mouth) living arrangements, since I'll have to buy health insurance. Also: note the gap in employment from January to March. Yuck.

So: I will need to come up with some other way to supplement my income. In my first years here, I freelanced a bit and worked part-time outside of teaching. Piecing together low-paid adjunct positions at local community colleges or getting another second part-time job that takes me out of the home doesn't appeal to me, since I'm really enjoying hanging out with Lucas. Accordingly, I need to find some kind of flexibly scheduled work from home. I have a latent entrepreneurial streak, so I've already taken tentative steps toward my next venture. It's in a field where I have lots of book learning, into which I've put a lot of thought (because it's related to my dissertation), and in which I worked part-time for 2-3 years. So I feel confident of my understanding of certain aspects of the field, but I doubt it will be easy to convince others to value my insight. I have a feeling I'll be doing an unpaid internship or two alongside whatever other work I have to scrape together. *sigh*

Of course, the best scenario, financially speaking, would be for me to find some kind of 8-to-5 administrative work at the university that provided decent pay and health insurance. But then I'd feel guilty about leaving Lucas.

5. Too much obsessing. Must get back to diss!

6. Here's that video I promised: C for Cookie, as seen at virtualpolitik.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Late afternoon walk

A photo essay of today's walk with Woody:

Heading out:

Edge of town:

Bark of dying walnut tree:

Fallen black walnuts:

Something about this image struck me as particularly Christian. (pretentious voice): I shall call it "Relic"!

My companion:

Old black walnut tree, possibly grafted to English walnut:

Another dying tree. I live along a beautiful avenue of walnut trees, but they're aging and have been attacked by mistletoe, which the city doesn't remove nearly often enough. Fortunately, the past two years the mistletoe has been removed, and the city is planting younger trees in anticipation of the death of the canopy.


Self-portrait. Note the "oak apples," or insect galls, on the tree branches.


Lucas is trying out some new facial expressions. Some of them are pretty damn dorky:

He's providing some much-needed comic relief from the dissertation. But in my world, that's what (almost) eight month-olds are for.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Awwwwww. . .

Received this note from a student today following the midterm:

Professor Trillwing,

I just wanted to thank you so much for going to the bookstore and buying everyone candy for the midterm today. (Especially out of your own account). I have never had a Professor who is so concerned for the welfare of their students and the kind of education they receive. I appreciate the fact that you are not "out to get us". I also appreciate that you have chosen material that will be of interest to a majority of people. Anything and everything before the 20th century has always bored me and given me little interest in learning. also, Thank you for providing us with helpful resources and the option to work at our own pace in our own style. Thank you for a great class and again, thank you for the candy!



1. Who the hell else is teaching my students? Apparently those people seem to be out to get them. That's disconcerting.

2. Bonus points for calling me "Professor." Lots of 'em do that, even though I invited them just call me by my first name and have explained that I'm a grad student and only play a prof on TV.

3. Candy is the way to students' hearts, especially during midterm season. I took orders from students as the test began. Favorites: Starburst, Skittles, M&Ms, Twix.

4. This is the class that I thought was sucking. I guess I'm reaching at least one student. . .

Monday, April 24, 2006

Final month o' dissertating

That's right, folks: I hope to turn in the dissertation on May 29, just over a month from now. Eeeeeek!

I've been fairly productive of late, which is bolstering my confidence that I can indeed finish this thing, and Tough Reader's response to my chapters was encouraging even though people warned me she's a really, well, tough reader. I have yet to hear from my other reader, but he's pretty much told me my dissertation is between me and Fantastic Adviser and that he'll rubber-stamp whatever she approves.

Where I'm at: about 1/3 of the way through writing Chapter 4. Since I've finished all research needed for it, the remainder (~25 pages) should be pretty smooth sailing.

Still need to:
- Finish Chapter 4.
- Write a concluding chapter based on e-mail interviews I've undertaken with a few women scientists working in natural history museums today. I need to try to get a few more interviews to flesh out the chapter. Fantastic Adviser is also asking me to be reflective in this chapter on my own experiences working in a hands-on science center. I imagine that section will be fun to write, as I wrote a couple papers on such science centers during my first couple years here, so I have all the research finished.
- Revise chapters already handed in, including dividing Chapter 3 (AKA the Chapter That Refused To Be Completed) into two chapters. This will be the most time-consuming work.
- Polish footnotes and bibliography.

That's a lot of work for one month. Wish me luck, and I apologize in advance for any blogging droughts, unanswered e-mail, and unreturned phone calls. Please bear with me, and thanks for your continuing support!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Alphabet Trillwing

Seen many places, most recently at Lucy's.

Accent: Southern Californian. Not so much Valley, but some definite inflection and unnecessary words: "like," "I mean," etc.

Booze: Margaritas made with fresh strawberries!

Chore I Hate: Vacuuming. Blecch.

Dog or Cat: Dog. Kitties are cute, too, but if I had to choose, the dog wins hands-down.

Essential Electronics: Laptop. TV is handy for watching my favorite shows, but really the laptop is far more essential. Also: baby monitor.

Favorite Cologne(s): Allergens ahoy!

Gold or Silver: Depends on context. My wedding and engagement rings are gold, and I like them, though I didn't pick them out.

Hometown: the LBC.

Insomnia: If I'm in a manic dissertating moment, yes. Usually, however, I'm just sleep-deprived, courtesy of the little man.

Job Title: Mother, wife, dissertator, grad student. In roughly that order.

Kids: One, born last Labor Day, sense of humor intact.

Living arrangements: 2-bedroom apartment, shared with Mr. Trillwing, Lucas, and Woody Who Wears The Cone of Perpetual Dumbness. (He has to wear an Elizabethan collar much of the time because he's neurotic--certifiably so!--and licks himself compulsively. He doesn't seem to mind too much.)

Most admirable trait: Sense of humor?

Number of sexual partners: Pass! We don't discuss sex or cultural studies theory on this blog. TMI for too many people.

Overnight hospital stays: Once. One night of labor, two nights of recovery.

Phobias: Walking along sheer cliffs; fire (esp. explosions); discussing my sex life or cultural studies theory in a public forum.

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there.
William Butler Yeats, "The Two Trees"

Religion: None.

Siblings: One younger sister.

Time I wake up: Varies with Lucas's whims. If I'm lucky, Mr. Trillwing takes care of Lucas when he wakes at 5 a.m., and I get to sleep until 7:30 or so.

Unusual talent or skill: Being married to Mr. Trillwing.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: Cauliflower, unless it's totally marinated in some yummy Indian sauce. No brussel sprout has ever passed my lips, so I can'd say whether I like those or not.

Worst habit: Slovenliness o' the office.

X-rays: Teeth, skull, spine. Bonus radiation exposure: My thyroid was irradiated when I was 17 years old.

Yummy foods I make: Pineapple upside-down cake; pear crisp; frosted sugar cookies; spicy eggplant foccacia.

Zodiac sign: Gemini. Folks in the know tell me I'm a classic Gemini, but I have no idea what that means.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Oh dear

I just realized that there's a certain term I toss around in my previous post that's going to draw some interesting traffic to this blog.

Welcome, orgy fans!

Appropriate use of language in 1940s?

Oh, Academic Bloggysphere, I call upon you in my hour of need.

Background: In my current dissertation chapter, I'm writing about Belle Benchley, who for many years served as director of the San Diego Zoo.* I'm looking pretty closely at differences in the rhetoric she used in her autobiography and in letters to another (male) zoo director.

My question: How appropriate would it have been for a woman born in 1882 to use the phrase "buying orgy" in professional (but likely confidential) correspondence? Was "orgy" a term commonly used by American women circa WWII?

I'm not a linguist, so with the exception of the OED, I have no idea where to find such information. Any ideas? I'm happy to follow up on any leads, no matter how far-fetched they may seem to you. :)

Thanks so much!

*Funny (and sad) story: I contacted the zoo to ask about seeing Benchley's papers. Apparently sometime after her death they gave her papers to a bus driver who was a friend of hers. *poof!* So much for quality research. . . Thank goodness the Smithsonian does have quite a few of her letters to the National Zoo director.

In Memoriam: Belated Friday Poetry Blogging

A good friend of the family, the father of a good friend with whom I grew up, passed away this week. It was one of those situations where, because the man had been incapacitated by Parkinson's and a series of strokes more than six years ago, people say of the passing, "What a relief for the family." Regardless, he will be missed, as he was an incredibly funny, talented, thoughtful guy.

When I've thought of him this week, I've remembered him strumming his guitar at a friend's birthday party, singing the following poem.

Boa Constrictor
by Shel Silverstein

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

Here's to you, Don. May your love of music and sense of humor live on in all who knew you.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Go with him twain*

I can't tell you how sick I am of reading posts like this one at The Dilbert Blog and this one at Pharyngula. I'm actually really appreciative of many of the posts on the latter blog, but the blanket anti-religiosity combined with name-calling really, really gets to me. "Dumbassery"? Dumbassery? Give me a break.

When did name-calling become appropriate among educated and supposedly progressive adults?

What follows is not meant, of course, to chastise those of you who already believe in the fundamental humanity of all people, regardless of credo. Rather, it's a gentle reminder and warning not to become too fond of The High Horses of Intellectualism and Righteousness.

For my progressive readers: All evangelicals and fundamentalists are not stupid. Their leaders may try to push through some political reforms that you and I see as idiotic or dangerous, but that doesn't mean that as individuals they're morons.

For anyone stopping by who happens to be against religion in any form: Religion is not merely a form of superstition that a small group of people are trying to foist on your children in their science classes.

I know some very, very bright people who are fundamentalist Christians. In general, I don't understand their ways of seeing the world, but I don't dismiss them as individual human beings because I disagree with them. (That's an honor I reserve for individuals with real power who keep fucking things up or who take advantage of low-income believers: Hello, Mr. President! Greetings, Pat Robertson, TBN televangelists, and Benny Hinn!)

For my more conservative Christian readers: I'm trying to understand where you come from. I wasn't raised the way you were and thus I subscribe, I think, to a different way of processing the world. That said, chances are we share many core beliefs. In my life's journey, I've come to know fairly well a number of evangelicals, and I appreciate your earnestness, your desire to truly help people. However, when you talk about bringing people to Jesus as the highest form of assistance and service, I sense you trying to sell me on the political package that tends to come with your set of beliefs.

To clarify, here's what I believe about the religious figure whose followers I find most challenging to my worldview: Jesus, be he an actual historical figure or a character in the Bible, is admirable because he was (and pardon my flippancy here, but I mean it with a good deal of affection) the first hippie--wandering around in gown and sandals, encouraging people to drop out of the system and hang with him, spreading words of peace and love and generally challenging The Man. Yay for that Jesus. I don't believe that today's most popular American forms of evangelical and fundamental Christianity are in keeping with that Jesus's core teachings. (And please don't cite that "Love the sinner, hate the sin" line. By calling me a sinner, you're already judging me, deviating from that whole gospel of love and acceptance.) In short, I believe Jesus was a good man, but I don't think he was the literal son of God and a virgin Mary.

In addition, I distrust anyone who asks me not to think critically. I'm a lifelong student and an educator of many years, and I'm unlikely to subscribe to any faith system whose studies of its holy book sound more like lessons in diagramming a sentence than in a real engagement with issues that, for reasons having to do with our human nature, were problems for ancient desert nomads and remain problems for a post-industrial nation of 300 million people. (I speak from my experience of attending a Baptist Bible study on Capitol Hill. It was at once illuminating and frightening, how much emphasis the pastor placed on defining nouns and verbs, on making the assembled believers repeat prepositional phrases. And how blind everyone there appeared to be to the fact that they were still performing an interpretation of the text, rather than absorbing some fundamental truth. But I digress.)

I'm not being very articulate, but here's what I think, in a nutshell: We would all benefit from less criticism of others and more critical reconsideration of our own positions. Even more importantly, we would all benefit from a genuine engagement with others' faith traditions. Find the one denomination that most challenges your own beliefs and seek out its followers on their own turf. If you believe you hold a hardness in your heart against a particular group, you owe it to them to listen to them before making any further judgements based on what your own pastor, favorite media outlet, or peer group says. (And for the love of all that is holy, go with an open mind; shed your defensiveness and your tendency to try to refute everything that's said as it's spoken. Hold off on proselytizing if you're from an evangelical denomination.)

For example, as a feminist who believes strongly in the gay civil rights movement and as one raised in the tradition of a "welcoming" United Church of Christ, I found myself completely lost as to how Baptists could believe as they do, so I sought out that Baptist Bible study. I still disagree with much of what I heard, but now I can use their vocabulary in an attempt to find some common ground; by demonstrating that I have taken care to listen, my Baptist friends are more likely to listen to me. As a progressive of an atheistic/humanistic bent, I agree with (Friends General Conference) Quakers' stance on so many political, civil rights, and humanitarian issues, but their belief in God puzzled me. So I attended three months' worth of meetings--not much, I know, but at least it was something. (And I hope, once my life settles down a bit more, to return to those meetings to learn more.)

Here's a quick and incredibly incomplete list of sometimes polarizing or widely misunderstood faiths (and, in the last case, an anti-faith group) you might check out, either on a series of weekly holy days or through their own study groups. If you're in the U.S., many of the links below will allow you to search for a church, meeting house, temple, mosque, synagogue, etc. in your area.

Southern Baptists.
Society of Friends (Quakers)
Conservative Jews
Atheist groups

Please, talk with one another instead of hurling around terms like "infidel," "heathen," "damned," and "dumbass" or by implying that those who think differently from you lack intelligence. Then, and only then, can we begin to reach some common ground and resolve issues that concern us all.

*"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (Matthew 5:41)

Happy birthday, Mr. Trillwing

You say you're fahlling apaht. I think we all know that's BS.

Happy #44, Sweetie!


Your Sweet Young Thing

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

100 years ago today. . .

The San Andreas Fault slipped in a big way.

This photo by Grove Karl Gilbert of the USGS illustrates the extent of the displacement caused by the 1906 quake. Pictured is a fence near point Reyes displaced 8.5 feet. In some places the earth moved up to 29 feet. Typical creep along the fault is about 12 mm/year. See a photo of a modern-day fence warped by the fault here.

I had family in "The City" (as folks from my area so snobbishly call it) at the time, but as far as I know only fragments of an oral tradition remain, so I must hunt alongside the rest of you for quality information on the big one of 1906.

A woman--most likely Alice Eastwood, curator of botany at the California Academy of Sciences--examines a rupture in the earth caused by the 1906 quake. Photo by Grove Karl Gilbert, U.S. Geological Survey. (In a sad twist, Eastwood was engaged to Gilbert when he died 12 years later.)

My favorite story following the quake concerns Alice Eastwood, who has a big presence in my dissertation on women museum scientists. She was an amazing woman with voluminous botanical knowledge and a sharp mind who frequently could identify plants from the tinest scrap of leaf. Although the 47-year-old Eastwood was already gaining the respect of the national and international botanical community based on her talents as a botanist, her reputation was helped considerably by her actions immediately following the big quake. In short: in the long skirts of the time, she scaled the iron railing of the crumbling California Academy of Sciences staircase in order to reach the sixth floor and save the type specimens of the Academy's collections. She spent the next few days shuttling the collections from place to place, always staying in front of the fire, which consumed the Academy building itself shortly after Eastwood escaped with the type specimens. Matthew Bettelheim of Bay Nature retells the story here.

Through the wonders of the Internet, you can watch film footage of the aftermath of the quake here, here, and here.

NPR has some terrific information on the quake, including photos from today of quake sites, here, and oral histories of quake survivors. accompany a story on children's experiences of the temblor. Here's a rundown of the NPR coverage.

Also, did you know that, since the quake sent rats fleeing from buildings, the plague had a resurgence in San Francisco? Way to kick people while they're down, Mother Nature. (The plague had flared up in the city a few years previously. For an interesting account, read Marilyn Chase's The Barbary Plague.)

Here's your reward for sticking with this post until the end: Elizabeth Hickok has rendered the city of San Francisco in Jell-O. Be sure to watch the minute-long video clip of the trembling city.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How does trillwing spell "happy"?



Of course, it's only because I made so little money last year and, oh yeah, birthed a deduction. Here's hoping I find decent employment this year, even if it means a smaller refund next year.

Must. . .not. . .go. . .to. . .online bookstores.

P.S. I heart my tax preparer!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Intellectual whiplash

Today's readings:

The Gilded Age: A History in Documents (for my undergrad course on the 1890s)

Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Problem of the West," 1896 (ditto)

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

A kajillion blogs, most recently History Carnival

The Other Dog by Madeleine L'Engle

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

"The School Days of an Indian Girl," Zitkala-Sa, 1900 (also for my 1890s course)

some readings in landscape architecture theory

profile of Pete Seeger in The New Yorker

some creepy Anne Geddes fansites (for my rhetorical/material culture research on chicken eggs and human fertility), including this creepy image:

I also found this on a fertility clinic's site.

What the hell kind of advertising is that?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Underpaid professions I'd like to try if I ever finish the damn dissertation

In no particular order:

1. Children's book illustrator
Little known fact about me: I really, really, really like to draw, paint, and experiment with new media. And I'm really into the cool illustrations in many of Lucas's books.

2. Historical museum curator or exhibits consultant

3. Publisher of a weekly community newspaper
with Mr. Trillwing--we met at once such newspaper, and I'd love to see Mr. Trillwing, brilliant newspaperman that he is, direct a small, bustling office of newspaper folks. Alternative medium: monthly or bimonthly magazine.

3. Cartoonist
I was a cartoonist for a year in college, and I really enjoyed it. Plus, to my great surprise, I received tons of good feedback from diverse quarters. Perhaps post-dissertation I'll post some doodles here.

4. Public historian
Of course, this is related to #2. I'd like to find creative, fun, innovative ways to bring history, and especially local and regional history, to the lay public. The fact that I'm not technically a historian? I don't see that as a problem. ;)

5. Portrait photographer
of the eccentric, not elementary school, variety. The big problem: I know nothing about cameras. But I'm absolutely tickled when I capture offbeat pictures of people and pets. My next goal: taking a decent self-portrait.

6. Freelance features writer or columnist
with a modest but extremely loyal cult following, in high-profile magazines.

7. Novelist
Does everyone want this on some level?

What about you? If you were to throw in the towel on your current career, what careers--underpaid or well remunerated--would you choose to pursue?

Poetry Friday: San Francisco, 1906

I've always been fascinated by the San Francisco quake of April 18, 1906. I had family survive it--my great-grandmother, who was disabled, was a child at the time, and the inspiration for one line of this poem.

Since the 100th anniversary of the quake is this week, I'm planning to post some stuff about it over the next few days, and I thought I'd share this poem, which I wrote circa 1995. It's in need of some revision, but I'm going to go ahead and post it as-is because I have, like, this other little project I'm working on this month. ;)

photo credit: Library of Congress digital archive: DN-0053575, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society.

What Remains
San Francisco, as seen in The Overland Monthly, May 1906

The squeal of horses buckling beneath a rubble rain:
the first smell of burn; the hiss of tugs
pumping Pacific spray to waterfront buildings.
Except for this last, it looks like Richmond
forty years before: the charcoal ruins of wooden buildings,
stone gutted like thought; the bowed steel of tracks;
the officers point or poising, hands
planted on their hips, in small groups.

They destroyed the grand boulevards with dynamite
to chasten fire and pay homage
to fault-riddled earthen gods
Pacific in location only—to appease the saints
Francisco and Andreas.

Where the photos are vague,
someone has penned suggestions: an outline
of a fallen horse, a woman’s skirt,
the haphazard angles of buildings,
the bulge and twist of streetcar rails.

Yet all sources remark a cheeriness in the faces,
a generosity, attempts to continue without houses,
water, transportation: the camps built for those who fought
pneumonia on the first unsheltered nights;
the women building stoves from rubble and brick;
the family at white-clothed table,
on fine chairs, dining in a wasteland.

The fire shepherded the people to Golden Gate Park,
the Presidio, the ferries. Black figures scampered
like rats from house to house, gathering
what they could: tables, dressers, chairs,
the crippled children. Dead horses littered
the narrow, gray, smoke-shrouded streets.
One statue, like the city, balanced on its head.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hardass time--with bonus newsflash!

Every quarter I warn my students that while I seem to be pretty laissez-faire and relaxed about the course, I'm actually a hardass when it comes to grading. I inform them that the average grade on writing assignments is usually a B- or C. I tell them there are no rewrites. I do give them opportunities to come to me for help.

Usually I don't get to see the train wrecks of their writing assignments until midway through the quarter. However, here we are, week 2, and I'm already getting to see the loveliness.

Their assignment: Write a blog entry on a topic of their choosing related to the 1890s (I provided a list of recommended topics). Take an American Studies approach. Doesn't need to be an essay or have an argument, just interesting and informative.

I provided a sample blog entry. I told them (in writing) how many sources to use. I told them (in writing) their sources must be reliable. I specifically forbade them (in writing) from using Wikipedia. I told them (in writing) that if they weren't sure what an American Studies approach is, they either need to drop the class and take a lower-division American Studies course or come to my office hours to chat. I told them (in writing) that they needed to turn in their blog entries 24 hours in advance of class.

You can see where this is going.

So far, about 80% of the students have cited Wikipedia. Others cite Thinkquest or Geocities pages that themselves have no documentation of sources. Many are turned in late. They're riddled with misspellings. They're little history reports, drawn from encyclopedias. There's little interdisciplinarity in them. If I ask you to write a blog entry, for example, on X city at the turn of the century, and I ask for an American Studies approach, and I ask you to narrow the topic using your discretion, I don't want to hear about its chief industries and its population count. This isn't a friggin economics course! (I must admit I have received a couple of pretty good entries, including one on vibrators and sexual anxiety in the 1890s, but the majority are disappointing in one way or another.)

So today I get to kick butt and take names. I don't like to do this, but better now than later. In fairness to those whose blog entries are due later in the quarter, I will give those who already turned in their entries a chance to add new sources and an American Studies flair.

I'm thinking of disallowing online sources entirely (except for maybe a select list that includes the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress) for their essay assignment. And I'm going to make that assignment much stricter than I usually do.

Why, WHY do students think it's OK to sign up for an upper-division American Studies course without taking any American Studies prerequisites? They wouldn't do this in physics because they know they'd get their asses handed to them.

I used to be one of those highly accommodating instructors, scheduling copious additional office hours, reading entire student paper drafts (even when I wasn't teaching composition or lit), answering e-mail at all hours of the day and night. Once, when I was a TA for a particularly clueless professor, I held THIRTY additional office hours to help students make sense of a garbled essay prompt based on poorly presented course material.

But no more. I'm happy to go out of the way for students who are clearly engaged, have done all the course reading, and are appreciative of my assistance. But I just can't deal with the sense of entitlement anymore, the assumption that anyone can waltz into my class and expect to do well because the topic concerns everyday life.


Today the student newspaper reports that my university is specifically targeting "underrepresented students, including high-achiveing, transfer, educationally disadvantaged or low-income students." Ha! I love the idea that high-achieving students are underrepresented here. And this is at a university that only accepts the top 11-12% of high school students from the state. What the hell is going on in high schools these days?!?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Locomotion, and a few words from Lucas

Well, it's official: Lucas is now doing some kind of squirmy crawling that no longer involves sticking his butt in the air and planting his forehead on the ground to drag himself forward. He's best at pivoting and travelling backward.

Looks like I'll be vacuuming a lot more. Great. I really wish he had waited until at least the next chapter is finished. (You know, like next week. 'Cause the last one only took me 9.5 months. So this one will be a breeze, because I deserve it to be so, right?)

Lucas weighs in on the phenomenon:

vccdnmr ,mdddses33as vde x

Yes, that's right--he managed to paste an entire URL. The boy's a genius.
-8 9juj zxc cas n k

'.;;k ; huuybjm
=-l]io;,[[ j
c c c..?
h∆ยต ≥X ZX ASASzzm //l,km mn fv b v ,. opk ∫˙ xxASXC CV VS ;. MDDF FVB DSS V
n jm v c c v v ?

P.S.-- anyone know how to replace a Mac iBook key that's been pried off by little hands? >:P

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Blogging for Books: "Fly on the wall"

It's once again time for Blogging for Books. Head on over to Faster Than Kudzu to learn more and participate. This week's theme is "fly on the wall."

I was, for a brief period, a staff writer for a local community newspaper. The office was arranged so that the advertising and graphics folks worked downstairs on the main floor, while the lowly editorial staff (all four of us) shared a dark space upstairs with a single, low window. It was supposed to be a storage space, and there were wires hanging everywhere and bars on the window. In other words, it was a fire trap.

It made me a bit nervous, this space, although it also played into my tendency toward shyness, so even when everyone else was downstairs, I frequently found myself alone upstairs. Since my workload was minimal, I had a lot of thumb-twiddling time, and I would often sit unseen in the shadows at the top of the narrow stairs, listening and watching the people in the well-lit spaces below.

Many of the employees had worked in the office for more than a decade, and to say that inhibitions were low would be an understatement. Just one example: I once caught the art director, Pete, flossing his teeth and flinging tartar at his assistant while his assistant brushed flakes of sunburnt skin back at Pete. And this with the executive editor and publisher in the room.

Despite persistent flashbacks to junior high, between writing hard-hitting articles on grunion runs and Jiffy Lube openings, I remained a fly on the wall, watching and listening. Increasingly, I focused on Pete, the floss guy. This surprised me, as when I was being introduced around the office on my first day of work, Pete made some quip about the outfit I was wearing--an ensemble I had obsessed over and remained nervous about, as I had no idea how a community reporter was supposed to dress--and I remember thinking to myself, "Stay away from that guy."

Still, in spite of my reservations about him, I kept my eye on Pete. I discovered he was an expert multitasker, laying out the newspaper and dealing with ad reps while screening the phone messages for the singles ads. See, in addition to being the art director, Pete was the paper's telepimp, meaning he had to listen to the phone messages left by people who had taken out singles ads. In order for the newspaper to make money off the ads--the ads' readers called to listen to the messages at an exorbitant per-minute rate--the singles weren't allowed to leave any kind of contact information that would circumvent the singles ad system.

Of course, Pete being Pete, he screened these ads on speakerphone. As a card-carrying Good Girl, it would never have occurred to me to meet someone through a newspaper, but I took some voyeuristic delight in listening to the recordings:

Voice of a white woman in her late 30s or early 40s. Her nervousness is apparent: We are a very clean couple looking for someone for. . .some. . .fun. . .

Deep voice of a man: First off, you should know that I am an older gentleman and have a very hairy chest. Gray hair. Lots of it. Some ladies aren't into that. . .

And so on. Nothing too obscene or explicit, but the range of voices was fascinating and funny and sad. Pete didn't seem to notice as he plugged along on the fictitious business name statements that followed the singles ads.

Pete, it turned out, was a 37-year-old guy with barely a high-school education. He volunteered the fact that he'd been sober for almost a year and that, when his best friend offered him a handful of mysterious pills on his birthday, he turned them down. This was a source of pride for Pete, though I suspect there were days that he returned from lunch a wee bit stoned. I'd never worked with a guy who admitted so easily to being a stoner, and I certainly never pictured sheltered, newly Master's-degreed, 23-year-old me working alongside an addict whose roots stretched to a trailer park in Tucson.

But Pete was brilliant. He told me he had applied for a writing job at the paper 11 years previously. Since his background was in design, the publisher asked Pete if he'd be interested in helping with that aspect of the paper instead. Unfortunately, Pete had zero computer experience, and the job required him to use an early Macintosh and page layout software. Pete volunteered to work for a week without pay as an extended interview for the position. At the end of that week, Pete had not only taught himself to use a mouse and the Mac OS, but he had produced a newspaper.

Meanwhile, I was having trouble getting my cub reporter feet under me. As the lowest writer on the newspaper's totem pole, I was stuck translating press releases into calendar items. Was it date first, then time, or time then date? Argh. I had to write it on a sticky note.

Honestly, I was distracted. While upstairs was a safe haven, downstairs was much more lively and attractive and fresh (literally--I worked in an unventilated space with a chain smoker who, although he took his smoke breaks outside, was, as far as I was concerned, a walking asthma attack because of the stench of his clothes).

Compared to the calendar and the filler pieces I wrote,
next to to the innumerable articles I had to write talking up Long Beach's annual craptastic pollute-a-thon,
in the light of city council news that, in the four generations my family had lived in the city, never got any less stupid,
downstairs, where everyday life took place, events that no one had to market or lobby for, was suddenly where I, professional wallflower, wanted to be.

But I was shy. So I eavesdropped, crept lower and lower on the stairs, let my feet dangle into the light of downstairs so that someone would notice and call me to account.

That person was Pete. Soon--perhaps due to his behind-the-scenes wrangling--I was assigned to show up early twice a week to serve as paste-up monkey (yes, in a digital age, we still did paste-up). We chatted a lot about all kinds of stuff before everyone else showed up for work. Slowly, carefully, Pete transformed me from fly on the wall into Funny Girl Who Worked Upstairs and Graced Us with Her Presence Quite a Bit.

What could I do? A few years, two grad programs, and a handful of short-term jobs later I married the guy with the floss. And I've noticed that he, too, can be tempted to linger in the margins, to be a fly on the wall, and so sometimes, when I'm very lucky, it's my turn to pull him into the light.

The sounds of. . . well, not silence.

Mr. Trillwing and Lucas are both tucked snugly in their beds, so I finally have some quiet time to catch up on those books I promised myself I'd skim or review before diving into the next chapter.

Of course, as soon as I settled on the couch, some astonishingly awful karaoke began to permeate our apartment complex. Sung in Chinese. At Lucas-level wailing. Makes it hard to focus on the ol' Haraway Reader, y'know?

Now it's totally understandable that the neighbors would want to pay us back for Luke's early morning mania. However, karaoke is a low blow indeed.

Dr. Doolittle

Well, it's 3:10 a.m., and the Porpoise Whisperer is at it again, only this time he's summoning barn owls. At least those live on our block, so he's not needing to project his voice quite as much. Plus, this morning there's a nifty muffling effect from the big plastic donut stacking thingies he's shoving in his mouth.

So now I'm wondering. . . Should I be proofing TCTRTBC at 3:16 a.m. with my little raptor screeching at my side? Probably not.

Instead I shall share with you some of the recent searches that brought folks to The Clutter Museum. It's nice to know what my blog is really about. My favorites are in boldface:

caleb mcdaniel's man boobs
how does a chicken conceive an egg
trojan sousaphones
feminist emily dickinson
greasy scalp dandruff
i didn't like being a creative memories consultant
groups of male and female cheerleaders
june carter fall in love cash
dress for a jrotc ball
playboy bunny
i believe powerpoint
there must be something
baby monitors my neighbor can't hear
the role of the french horn in the orchestra
endometriosis and the military
high school cheerleaders
prune juice
interdisciplinarity sucks (2x)
leslie train horn
cheney sings johnny cash
digital scrapbooking
creative memories consultant
"depression in academia"
being pregnant and orajel
establishing routines
"cheese penguin" lindsay
clutter family
give me a museum and i'll fit it
scrapbooking intertwining lives
tiny sex hi
skills ahoy
"i like squirrels" (repeatedly)

Personally, I'd like to see "hulkbuster" and "bunnies" in the same search. That would make me happy.

Bonus exclamation, 2 minutes ago:

Barn owls don't try to give their mamas hickeys!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

Getting back on track here after a hiatus from poetry.

Today's selection is by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Unless my memory fails me as a former English major, I believe Hopkins was a Jesuit priest with a distaste for Latinate words. Um, yeah.

Thanks to this quirk, he wrote, IMHO, some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language. The following poem is one of my favorites of his, even though I'm not a religious person. The imagery and sound are just so wonderful.

God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

The Chapter That Refuses To Be Completed

Good news: I just realized that The Chapter That Refuses to Be Completed shall today become the Chapter That RefuseD To Be Completed. There's so little left to do on it, as far as I'm concerned, that it's inevitable that a full draft will get done today.

I've been working on it since last July. JULY!

Update: It's finally fully drafted. I have a feeling it still has some gaps that Fabulous Adviser and Tough Reader will want me to fill, but I'm happy enough turning it in after I proofread its 60+ pages tomorrow morning.

Women writers meme

Last seen at the fabulous Phantom Scribbler's.

Instructions: Bold the ones you've read. Italicize the ones you've been wanting/might like to read. ??Place question marks by any titles/authors you've never heard of?? Put an asterisk if you've read something else by the same author.

Allcott, Louisa May–Little Women
*Allende, Isabel–The House of Spirits
*Angelou, Maya–I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
*Atwood, Margaret–Cat's Eye (I think I've read just about everything else by her.)
*Austen, Jane–Emma
Bambara, Toni Cade–Salt Eaters
Barnes, Djuna–Nightwood
de Beauvoir, Simone–The Second Sex (should read it, but probably won't)
*Blume, Judy–Are You There God? It's Me Margaret
Burnett, Frances–The Secret Garden
Bronte, Charlotte–Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily–Wuthering Heights
Buck, Pearl S.–The Good Earth
*Byatt, A.S.–Possession
*Cather, Willa–My Antonia
Chopin, Kate–The Awakening
*Christie, Agatha–Murder on the Orient Express
Cisneros, Sandra–The House on Mango Street
Clinton, Hillary Rodham–Living History
??Cooper, Anna Julia–A Voice From the South
??Danticat, Edwidge–Breath, Eyes, Memory
Davis, Angela–Women, Culture, and Politics (another "should, but probably won't")
Desai, Anita–Clear Light of Day
Dickinson, Emily–Collected Poems Oh, wait--I read The Complete Poems. I really like Dickinson, but it's hard to read her poems without hearing the Gilligan's Island theme song.
Duncan, Lois–I Know What You Did Last Summer
DuMaurier, Daphne–Rebecca
Eliot, George–Middlemarch
??Emecheta, Buchi–Second Class Citizen
*Erdrich, Louise–Tracks
Esquivel, Laura–Like Water for Chocolate
Flagg, Fannie–Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (think I saw the movie...)
Friedan, Betty–The Feminine Mystique
Frank, Anne–Diary of a Young Girl
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins–The Yellow Wallpaper
Gordimer, Nadine–July's People (shoulda)
Grafton, Sue–S is for Silence
Hamilton, Edith–Mythology
*Highsmith, Patricia–The Talented Mr. Ripley
*hooks, bell–Bone Black
*Hurston, Zora Neale–Dust Tracks on the Road
Jacobs, Harriet–Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Jackson, Helen Hunt–Ramona
??Jackson, Shirley–The Haunting of Hill House
Jong, Erica–Fear of Flying
Keene, Carolyn–The Nancy Drew Mysteries (any of them) gag
Kidd, Sue Monk–The Secret Life of Bees
*Kincaid, Jamaica–Lucy
*Kingsolver, Barbara–The Poisonwood Bible
*Kingston, Maxine Hong–The Woman Warrior
Larsen, Nella–Passing
L'Engle, Madeleine–A Wrinkle in Time
Le Guin, Ursula K.–The Left Hand of Darkness
Lee, Harper–To Kill a Mockingbird
Lessing, Doris–The Golden Notebook
??Lively, Penelope–Moon Tiger
*Lorde, Audre–The Cancer Journals
Martin, Ann M.–The Babysitters Club Series (any of them) ick!
McCullers, Carson–The Member of the Wedding
McMillan, Terry–Disappearing Acts
Markandaya, Kamala–Nectar in a Sieve
??Marshall, Paule–Brown Girl, Brownstones
Mitchell, Margaret–Gone with the Wind
Montgomery, Lucy–Anne of Green Gables
??Morgan, Joan–When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost
*Morrison, Toni–Song of Solomon
Murasaki, Lady Shikibu–The Tale of Genji
Munro, Alice–Lives of Girls and Women
Murdoch, Iris–Severed Head
Naylor, Gloria–Mama Day
Niffenegger, Audrey–The Time Traveller's Wife
*Oates, Joyce Carol–We Were the Mulvaneys
O'Connor, Flannery–A Good Man is Hard to Find
Piercy, Marge–Woman on the Edge of Time
Picoult, Jodi–My Sister's Keeper
*Plath, Sylvia–The Bell Jar
Porter, Katharine Anne–Ship of Fools
Proulx, E. Annie–The Shipping News
Rand, Ayn–The Fountainhead
??Ray, Rachel–365: No Repeats
Rhys, Jean–Wide Sargasso Sea (I can't believe I haven't yet read this)
Robinson, Marilynne–Housekeeping
??Rocha, Sharon–For Laci
Sebold, Alice–The Lovely Bones (over-hyped, IMHO)
*Shelley, Mary–Frankenstein
Smith, Betty–A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Smith, Zadie–White Teeth
??Spark, Muriel–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Spyri, Johanna–Heidi
??Strout, Elizabeth–Amy and Isabelle
Steel, Danielle–The House
*Tan, Amy–The Joy Luck Club
*Tannen, Deborah–You're Wearing That
Ulrich, Laurel–A Midwife's Tale
??Urquhart, Jane–Away
*Walker, Alice–The Temple of My Familiar
*Welty, Eudora–One Writer's Beginnings
*Wharton, Edith–Age of Innocence
*Wilder, Laura Ingalls–Little House in the Big Woods
Wollstonecraft, Mary–A Vindication of the Rights of Women
*Woolf, Virginia–A Room of One's Own

Early morning diversion

Well, the WonderInfant has decided that the 1 a.m. hour is a good time to, oh, try to communicate verbally with dolphins. Unfortunately, that's not a good frequency to use in an apartment complex at this time of the night, and since the nearest dolphins are probably about 100 miles away, he's amped up the volume quite a bit. To borrow from Spinal Tap, this child goes to 11.

So, to pass the time before the neighbors come knocking on the door asking about my propensity for torturing our little marine biologist at ungodly hours, I offer you this meme, which I most recently saw at BrightStar's.

1) Who is the last person you high-fived? Mr. Trillwing. I'm sure it was over some Lucas-related triumph.
2) If you were drafted into a war, would you survive? No.
3) Do you sleep with the TV on? No.
4) Have you ever drunk milk straight out of the carton? Ewww. But I live with someone who does (he has a dedicated carton).
5) Have you ever won a spelling bee? Yes, in seventh grade.
6) Have you ever been stung by a bee? First time: a yellow jacket/paper wasp. Second and third times: honeybees, once on each ankle, through my socks, when I was--to make a long story short--the one technically responsible for causing and resolving a swarm inside a building at the California State Fair. The good news? I was the only person stung. Yay me.
7) How fast can you type? I took a test about 10 years ago, and I think it was 93 wpm, 1% error, or something like that.
8) Are you afraid of the dark? Depends on where I am.
9) What color are your eyes? Blue-gray.
10) Have you ever made out at a drive-in? I've never been to a drive-in.
11) When is the last time you chose a bath over a shower? When I was first recovering from childbirth.
12) Do you knock on wood? Yes. Fortunately, my dog's name is Woody and he's pretty dense sometimes, so if there's no real wood around, I can just gently rap on his little braincase. :)
13) Do you floss daily? Usually.
14) What happened to question #14? Huh?
15) Can you hula hoop? Never have been able to do this, and probably never well.
16) Are you good at keeping secrets? My own? No. Others'? Depends on context. Usually, yes.
17) What do you want for Christmas? A full night's sleep. (But earlier than that would be nice, oh Porpoise Whisperer.)
18) Do you know the Muffin Man? Any man with muffins (especially lemon poppyseed) is a friend of mine!
19) Do you talk in your sleep? All the time.
20) Who wrote the book of love? I don't know, but apparently it's edited by Diane Ackerman.
21) Have you ever flown a kite? Yes. I can't wait to show Lucas how to do this.
22) Do you wish on your fallen lashes? Haven't for awhile, no.
23) Do you consider yourself successful? At some things. I'm turning out to be a decent mommy, I think. I'm also a successful procrastinator.
24) How many people are on your contact list of your cell? Maybe 15-20.
25) Have you ever asked for a pony? All the time.
26) Plans for tomorrow? Write, write, write that The Dissertation That Will Not Let Me Put A Stake Through Its Heart. Entertain Dolphin Boy. Go to a birthday dinner for a family friend my husband calls The Last Boy Scout because of his affable manner and inexplicably conservative politics.
27) Can you juggle? Up to three of the same object.
28) Missing someone now? Yes, the sandman.
29) When was the last time you told someone I Love You? A few hours ago.
30) And truly meant it? Totally.
31) How often do you drink? Not frequently enough!
32) How are you feeling today? Sleeeeepy.
33) What do you say too much? In everyday conversation: "I mean. . ." To students: "Does that make sense?"
34) Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school? No. I was (am?) a card-carrying Good Girl.
35) What are you looking forward to? Finishing TDTWNLMPASTIH (see #26).
36) Have you ever crawled through a window? Yes, as a child, to get into a locked house. Also to hang out on the loggia roof of my college dorm.
37) Have you ever eaten dog food? I seem to remember chomping down on a piece of dog kibble as a toddler. I also sampled fish food flakes. Pretty gross, I know...
38) Can you handle the truth? Usually.
39) Do you like green eggs and ham? Green eggs: perhaps. Ham of any color: no thanks.
40) Any cool scars? Emotional or physical?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Catching up and falling behind (Rambling ahoy!)

Yay! For the first time in months, the crappy "computer" (an ancient Dell running Windows 95) in my "office"--a whitewashed, echoing room with two tables, three very unergonomic blue vinyl-upholstered chairs, and a student desk on a floor recently vacated by a couple of other departments--is letting me access the internet. Previously I had to drag in my laptop if I wanted to do work online during office hours.

Anyhoo, my postings have been sporadic of late, and I really, really, really need to get a new post up at BlogHer. I'm feeling very academically AWOL, to borrow Academic Coach's term from her Inside Higher Ed article. It's not so much that I want to ignore blogging as that I'm crazy busy with the dissertation. I want to have an entire draft done in a month. Eeeeek! I'm making some progress on The Chapter That STILL Refuses To Be Completed, and upon reviewing my earlier chapters, I realized two still have sections to be written. Plus one more chapter plus the conclusion. I've already missed my first of the cannot-blow-these deadlines, but it's not for lack of trying, I assure you.

Time management wouldn't be a problem if I hadn't taken on a new class this quarter, an upper-division course on the 1890s in American Studies. It has 35 students enrolled, though last class maybe 25 showed up--on the second day of class. That doesn't bode well, so I'll have to chastise them today. My problem as an instructor is that I come off as very laissez-faire and easygoing, and then bam! the students get grades back on their first assignments, and suddenly I'm a hardass in their view. So: added to my chastising today will be a warning not to misread my laid-back nature as me not caring about the class.

Quite the opposite is true: I've spent more time prepping for this class than for any course in a long, long time. It's mostly because--and I know this is silly, since I could have picked ANY decade as the focus of this course--I know very little about the 1890s when it comes down to it. Culture, yes. History, no. But it's very hard to teach students about everyday life without tossing in a bit of the ol' history. This week I've taken them on a whirlwind tour of business, labor, and industry. I knew quite a bit about corporate life, tenement sweat shops, and women's work going in, but just about nothing about industrial labor issues.

So I've been reading about mining. Ugh. There's a depressing livelihood. When President Dumbleyou says we need immigrants to do jobs that American citizens won't do, I wonder what those jobs might be. I mean, Americans MINE COAL. There can't be many jobs much worse than that, right? (Obviously I'm being a bit flippant. I've had migrant worker students who picked onions and strawberries next to their parents, and I know that's back-breaking work with very little remuneration. I imagine slaughterhouse work can't be very fun, either.)

I'm also torn about the way I'm managing this course. It's an upper-division course, something I have previously only taught during summers, during which terms classes tend to be small and intimate. But suddenly I have to convey a depth of content to as many as 40 students. Worse, we're in a class with the desks affixed to the ground, so students can't effectively work in small groups without someone wrenching her back. And I dislike lecturing; I can be an engaging lecturer, but writing my notes and finding images and music takes soooo much prep time and energy that I should be investing in my dissertation, and I'm not sure it always pays off in terms of student learning.

So I'm thinking about lecturing on Mondays for 45 minutes or so, following up with an hour of small group work (a fun activity--this past Monday it was analyzing the material culture of offices in the 1890s: chairs, desks, dictaphones, and typewriters based on photos and old advertisements) based on lecture and the reading for that day. And then on Wednesdays I'll have students do exclusively small-group work based on all the reading and lecturing done to date. Wednesday small-group work may include an activity like the one described above, but mostly will focus on a series of questions I'll hand out. That should help them prep for their midterm and final, and maybe get the gears turning for their research papers and blog entries.

OK, this has been rambling, and I suppose mostly a way for me to think through my current craziness. Once I get a bit more of the dissertation out of the way, I should be able to write some quality posts.

BONUS TRIVIA: Anyone know where the term "bureaucratic red tape" comes from? I discovered one answer to this in my research for the 1890s course this week. I found it interesting because it explained one inefficient archival method I ran across during my research at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Share your thoughts in the comments, and I'll come back to tell you what I found. Hint: manila folders made this method of archiving papers obsolete.

I'm such a nerd.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mr. Trillwing

In our little family, Mr. Trillwing sees himself as a "drain on the ticket." On the one hand, he feels a good deal of shame about this possibility, but on the other, he's willing to share this conclusion with just about anyone who inquires about our family. Such conversations usually play out in such a way that Mr. Trillwing gets to point out that I'm the smart one in the relationship and that he's just along for the ride.

Uh huh. Whatever. We do joke that someday we'll have stationery printed up that says "Trillwing, Ph.D., and Mr. Trillwing, G.E.D." But ees joke. Beeeeeg joke. After all, he has his high school diploma. ;)

Things you should know:

Mr. Trillwing is far, FAR more intelligent than I am. He's friggin' brilliant. His IQ, to borrow from a bumper sticker, could beat up my honors student IQ. I wish my mind were so nimble.

Mr. Trillwing is many orders of magnitude more productive than I am. As a writer, he's ahead of me by hundreds of pages--probably closer to a thousand by now. That's just in the time we've been together, and it doesn't count all the visual work he does on top of his writing.

Mr. Trillwing is the primary breadwinner for this family, earning several times what sad little grad student me earns each year. All his hard work and talent keep us afloat.

Mr. Trillwing is a damn fine dad.

Mr. Trillwing is an excellent life partner. I couldn't ask for anyone better.

The thing is, I have a damn hard time convincing him of these facts. Which is funny: he managed to convince me that I'm no longer the sad little excuse for an adolescent girl that I was in the eyes of my K-12 peers--a caricature of myself that I bought into for much of my life. Yet I can't convince him that he's no longer the guy he was 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

See, because of events in his childhood, Mr. Trillwing has developed a lot of buttons that shouldn't be pushed, lest I want to deal with the consequences for several days. I avoid pushing them, but bringing a baby into our lives, with the attendant sleep deprivation and constant distraction, has meant some of those buttons get pressed anyway. Mr. Trillwing sees his reactions--depression, frustration, a bit of anger--to this stress as his fault. When he feels these emotions, he believes they define him, as they might have done when he was younger. He mistakenly believes, I think, that if he was a "real" man he would be better able to control his emotions--that is, not express them.

If I had wanted to marry the Marlboro Man, I would have married the Marlboro Man. Instead, I chose Mr. Trillwing, and I'm thrilled--THRILLED--that such a sensitive, empathetic, talented, lovely man chose me. I only wish that my dissertation were done so that I wouldn't be such a big drain on the ticket.