Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For all those synchronized riding fans out there. . .

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

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hanna Andersson catalog

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

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

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

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

In which I give Payroll a major headache

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

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

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

Dear [Payroll Specialist],

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much for helping me to sort this out.



Sunday, November 26, 2006


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

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

Frustrated and Thankful

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 24, 2006

Poetry Friday: Antiwar Aging Hippies edition

Living with War
Neil Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

But when the curtain falls,

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

(from the album Living with War)

In The News
Kris Kristofferson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from the album This Old Road)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich Man's War
by Steve Earle

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

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

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

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

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

(from the album The Revolution Starts Now)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

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

Happy Thanksgiving from the Trillwings to you and yours.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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

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

The Fish Bag:

The incredibly pricey porcelain hare:

The porcelain bowl with snail:

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


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

For $12.35, I bought for Lucas:

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2006


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

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

Worst of the worst

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Four things

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2006

Got. the. job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 16, 2006

UCLA police use Taser on student leaving library

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lucas: good little man

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happiness is. . .

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

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

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

. . .new glasses that are really quite cute.

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


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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Poetry Friday, er, Sunday?

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

The Whitsun Weddings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


creepy video of a "purity ball" at Feministing

Be sure to check out the comments. . .


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

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

Wish me luck in not getting a headache. Ick.

Assignment suggestions?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any tips?

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fabulous jack o' lanterns of His Noodly Appendage

. . .can be found here.

I'll spare you the details

"Man found outdoors naked with concealed weapon is arrested"

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

Coming to a realization

a) I really don't enjoy grading papers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From the other side of the fence

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

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Sticky situation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Keep your fingers crossed for me, 'K?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Oh, damn.

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

Am I friggin' crazy? Seriously.

(Lucas, day 1)

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

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

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

Who's in The House?

We are.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Not sure what to make of this

Dude! You're 86% from Massachusetts!

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

How Massachusetts are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

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

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

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


Do my eyes deceive me?


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

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

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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Six words

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

Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

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

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

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

Dinosaurs return. Want their oil back.
- David Brin

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

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

Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.
- Margaret Atwood

Mushrooms and cheese, side of depression

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Because The Queen demands it

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

As you wish, Your Highness:

And a bonus image from later that evening:

Five things you don't know about me

Last seen at Dr. Crazy's.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia and scholars: what do you think?

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

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

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

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