If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Meme For The Old year

As seen everywhere:

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before.

Sent my son to college.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

This year I tried a New Year's theme, but honestly that didn't seem to work too well. I have a few goals brewing and may post them later.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

b's friend from junior high had his first child, but they are neither physically nor emotionally close to me. One of my grad students had a little girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My sensei and I miss him.

5. What countries did you visit?

None. I barely did any traveling this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Tenure. I'll put my packet in this year but probably won't have the official answer until 2010.


7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I'm actually horrible with remembering dates but August 20th will stay. That was the day we took Angel to college.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting through it.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I don't do failure.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A touch of the crud early in the year and my normal migraines but no real illness. As for injury, I've had tendinitis in my shoulder for several months now.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Angel's education.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

b. He couldn't have been better.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The Mormon Church

14. Where did most of your money go?

Angel's tuition

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Obama's election
Angel finishing the semester with a 3.4 GPA

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Walk Away - Ben Harper

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

a) sadder
b) fatter
c) poorer

doesn't sound like a great year, does it?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

exercising, camping/hiking

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

eating, spending money, missing Angel

20. How will you be spending Christmas?

b and I spent it alone, at home, eating, drinking and enjoying each other's company

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

I fall deeper in love everyday

22. How many one-night stands?

Thankfully none

23. What was your favorite TV program?

I'm so bad with favorites. This year I've really enjoyed Battle Star Galactica, Grey's Anatomy, and downloading the first season of NYPD Blue

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I generally don't do hate but there are a few extra people I'd rather not spend time with

25. What was the best book you read?

Can't limit it to one. Here's what I've enjoyed:

War and Peace
In the Time of Butterflies (Julia Alvarez)
Rereading all of Octavia Butler's work

I'm currently reading Their Eyes Were Watching God and loving it.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Ben Harper
Jenny Lewis

27. What did you want and get?

For Angel to be happy at college and do well

28. What did you want and not get?

For Angel to come home

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw way more movies and films (in the theater and downloads) than usual this year. Most were ok at best. Trouble the Waters was phenomenal. Foot Fist Way was about the worst movie I've seen in my life.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 43 this year. On my birthday I went to work, attended a few meetings, had a migraine, and went out to a lovely dinner with b and Angel.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

More Angel, less meetings

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

outdoorsy academic?

33. What kept you sane?


34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Prop 8

36. Who did you miss?

Angel and Sensei

37. Who was the best new person you met?


38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

Not all socks are equal. There are some exceptional ones out there and you shouldn't accept less.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

What are you changing?
Who do you think you're changing?
You can't change things, we're all stuck in our ways
It's like trying to clean the ocean
What do you think you can drain it?
Well it was poison and dry long before you came
-Jenny Lewis

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Doors

The Scientiae Carnival this month is about one door closing and another opening (or vice versa). As my regular readers know, the big door that closed for me this year is active mothering. Active mothering is a phrase I termed for having a child in the home with you; a child you nurture and care for on a daily basis. That ended for me when Angel went away to college. I am now on inactive status. As with the military, inactive status can be stressful in its own right--you never know when you'll be needed and called to serve. Inactive status still feels, for me, less than.

I assumed that when this door closed a new one would open. I can't make it open (although I'd like to); I can't force the new door to be my research or a new relationship (although Pumpkin has been a big help). I honestly don't think I've really been ready for a new door. I think the closing of this door is a big task unto itself. I am just beginning to find a semblance of peace with my new life--as long as I don't think too hard about my old one. Hopefully with time and continued peace a new door will show itself. What it will be or where it will take me, I really haven't a clue.

Pop Culture

I have to start this post with a disclaimer. I am often way behind the times when it comes to pop culture and rarely, if ever, do I catch up. Keeping that in mind we can begin.

b and I were having dinner at our friends' home last week and the subject of the Twilight series came up. One of my friends, GnomeLady, had discovered and devoured them recently. GnomeLady is also a huge Harry Potter fan--books and movies I am aware of but I have never desired to imbibe. However I had only recently heard of the Twilight phenomenon (and wasn't really aware of the whole teenage aspect to be totally honest) and I love a good vampire story. Grades were also recently submitted and my holiday break loomed ahead of me, so I jumped at her offer to lend them to me. Unfortunately she had already loaned another friend the first book, so at the end of the night I went home with the remaining three.

Generally with this type of literature I expect to be engaged and entertained but also to put up with poor writing and sentimentalism. I think of these books the same way b's thinks of McDonald's--every once in a while you get a craving and while its good going down afterwards you don't feel quite right. I would say that my expectations were pretty well met with the first book I read, New Moon. It was the story of a heartbroken adolescent girl. There was a lot of yearning for something that will never come again and physical pain to mark the overwhelming emptiness that her life now holds. Frankly with all my feelings over Angel's move to college these past few months, it was fairly cathartic.

However with the next book, Eclipse, the tone changed considerably. Now her beloved was back in the picture but he was controlling and emotionally abusive. I have no idea if this is how the romance is portrayed in the first book and movie, but I found myself growing more and more disturbed as I read it. There was another love interest character who was also abusive--emotionally and physically. What exactly is going on here? The girl's true love is technically her age (having become a vampire as an adolescent) but in reality has lived for over 80 years. Given the maturity and knowledge he's gained in that time, the relationship is reminiscent of a May-December romance. Add to that his supernatural ability and the power imbalance is off the charts.

The novel hit home because I've lived it (well sans vampire part). My first husband was 18 years my senior and a person with considerable power and authority in my life at that time. While not supernatural, he was exceptionally strong, tough, and emotionally manipulative. I was a teenager when we first started dating and not much older than many of my students are now when we married. Much of the relationship portrayed in the novel reminds me of those early years--how my behaviors and thoughts were manipulated and controlled to serve his purposes. It was not pretty and not healthy--even though I was convinced I was making my own choices and knew what I was doing. Of course, over time I matured. I learned where I began and he ended--mostly through raising Angel--and our relationship changed and stretched until it finally broke.

I was so taken back by the positive portrayal of this relationship in a book geared for adolescent girls that I started searching the web for critiques. Now I realize this phenomenon is already old and so what I found was written months ago. It seems that the accusation of an abusive relationship surfaced and caused many a blogosphere battle. Perhaps most disturbing were the point-by-point rebuttal by fans, as they sound so similar to what women in abusive relationships say.

So I wonder, what am I missing? I read a number of feminist blogs, news clippings and magazines. Even given my general lack of interest with pop culture, why did it take me so long to find out about this? Why did I need to search to find the feminist response? Am I really that out of the loop or have we so internalized the dominance as romance narrative that even people like my friend, a self-proclaimed feminist, don't see it? Or worse yet, are turned on by it?

Saturday, December 27, 2008


So today is my first blogaversary. In retrospect December 27th seems an odd day to start a blog but I guess it makes sense for an academic. My life rotates around an academic calendar and it is during the in-between times that I tend to reconnect with my other sides.

It some ways it is hard to believe it has only been a year. Much has happened in that year and somehow I've grown accustomed to an open chronicle of my life. Although I hate "highlight" shows on TV, I'm going to try a month-by-month teaser recap. Below are the titles and a few lines from some important posts:

December 27, 2007 -- My first post ever

Where to start? I suppose an introduction is in order. Something along the lines of "Welcome to my blog?" I've never been one for elaborate greetings or farewells. I'm the type of person who prefers to slip quietly into a room rather than make an entrance. A smile and nod of acknowledgment are more my style than a boisterous "Hello, how are you?"
January 25, 2008--My first comment ever (from the amazing Dr. Bad Ass - thank you so much for starting me off!)

Protecting Time
What with the new year and new semester, there has been a lot of talk in the blogworld about schedules. People have been busy creating schedules and figuring how to keep research or writing time sacred. I came up with my own variation on a workable schedule and I've been trying to stick to it.
February 7, 2008--This is the first time I really wrote about what it feels like to teach and made personal connections for myself between my academic life and my martial arts life.

Why I Teach...Tai Chi
So there have been a number of posts in the academic blogging world on why people teach what it is they do teach. Reading these posts and their resulting comments, I can't help but spend some time thinking about why I teach at all and why I teach what it is I do teach. Profgrrrrl has a particularly interesting one up today that covers a lot of my feelings on why I teach (or rather why I enjoy teaching) my academic classes. I don't feel the need to add much more to that subject here but would rather discuss why I teach tai chi, which provides nothing for my career and brings me no money whatsoever.
March 12, 2008--My first photo essay post, where I outline my pizza-making process

Pizza...Or How I Spend Spring Break
I love to bake (much more than I love to cook) and baking bread is probably my favorite. Since it's Spring Break this week I figured I had time for "Make Your Own Pizza" night. The name is a misnomer as I do most of the making. B assembles at the end and Boy prefers me to do everything.
April 16, 2008--The importance of this one speaks for itself
Last night I found out that my Sensei has passed on. He had just turned 70. He suffered a stroke right before I moved down here. The last time I saw him he was in the hospital and I was pretty sure it was our final visit.
May 9, 2008--The beginning of my on-going bad-pet-owner-neighbor saga (quick update--two of the kittens from this litter are now pregnant)

Our next door neighbor has lots of cats and one small dog. It seems she doesn't spay her female cats and they have frequent litters. At the moment she has two litters just 3 weeks apart. The moms are very protective, as you would imagine, and they appear to be co-parenting.
June 15, 2008--One of my few posts devoted to the wonderfulness of b

Father's Day
It's Father's Day. b will be spending most of it driving Boy to a far away airport so he can go visit his (biological) Dad up north. Seems wrong, don't it? b never gets a Father's Day with Boy and, since both of our fathers have passed, the day pretty much goes unnoticed in our household. So I decided today warranted a post on fathers in general and on b as a father in particular.

July 4, 2008--This post continues to get more hits than anything else I've ever written

Random Learning
Yesterday I went to a seminar with a friend at a local organization. I thought the seminar was going to be about this, which looked very cool and interesting. However the three speakers addressed related but different topics. All of the speakers were from India (at least originally). Two of them discussed their work with Indian women (and sometimes girls). One of them was an artist who does art workshops with women and children as a means of empowerment. Her art, print work, is based on the ritual art of kolam.
August 20, 2008-The day that will live in infamy

We're Off
to the Land of College.

Wish me luck.
September 12, 2008--My teaching philosophy, of sorts

Creating Critics
The semester is still kicking my a$$ but my undergraduate class appears to be going well. They've been writing some great journal posts, talking up in class and today a colleague told me that one of them called me "terrific." So that felt pretty good.
October 6, 2008--Pumpkin makes her debut

Hate Me If You Will...
...but I just not a huge fan of children. Don't get me wrong, I don't lure them into my candy-covered home and stuff them into ovens. In fact there are quite a few out there in the world that I'm fond of, especially the ones in my family. What I mean is I don't go ga-ga over babies and I don't immediately get down on my knees to play with toddlers. I don't try and engage every child I meet in conversation and I don't think they're all cute...not even the babies (I mean most babies are but there are a few butt-ugly ones in this world).
November 1, 2008--Still hurting

Empty Nesting

Angel has always done things in his own time. If he wasn't ready to go it was murder trying to get him out of the house but if it was someplace he wanted to go--he was out the door like a jack rabbit.
So that was my first year blogging, folks. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Celebrating Christmas

Given this was the first time in 19 years I've celebrated Christmas without Angel, it really wasn't as strange or even depressing as I had anticipated. b and I combined many of our old traditions with a few new ones.

For the first time ever I had presents wrapped and under the tree by December 23rd. I even had his stocking stuffed. So on Christmas Eve I really didn't have a lot to do, other than prepare the cinnamon buns. This is no small feat as it takes about 10 hours total....and then they sit overnight. b had to work during the day but after he came home we went out on a dressed up date--which is rare for us--to SouthLite's fanciest restaurant (new tradition). We sat in the bar, drinking cocktails, eating appetizers, and talking. Then we went home to watch It's A Wonderful Life (old tradition). It was a perfect date.

Christmas morning we got to sleep in a bit (new tradition) and then opened stockings in bed (old tradition). When we got up we unwrapped our presents under the tree while drinking champagne (old tradition).

Without Angel, Pupzilla got a few extra presents. A new bed, a squeaky penguin, a rubber pull toy, and the biggest bone ever.

The Brute got stoned off catnip.

b did a perfect job with stockings and presents this year and I have enough recreational reading material to get me through the break.

After presents it was time for the cinnamon buns (old tradition).

Then we snuggled in bed watching one of b's presents. When we woke up we went for a run (old tradition) and the day was beautiful (over 60 degrees and sunny....have I mentioned how much I enjoy Christmas in the south?). b made some yummy eggs and we toasted up the bread I made the other day for brunch. Then we decided to go to the movies (new tradition). The theater was far more crowded than we expected. We saw this. I enjoyed myself immensely.

With all this activity, Christmas dinner was much later than normal, but b cooked us up a huge surf and turf spread: homemade crab cakes, pan fried scallops, twice-baked potatoes, sauteed asparagus, and fillet mignon (for him). I couldn't quite finish and we were so stuffed we never got to the hot cocoa.

I did check my email a few times during the day, in hopes of word from Angel but no such luck. Pumpkin called to wish us a happy holiday and this morning my sister, Jo, called and we gabbed it up for over 2 hours. Then finally, after brunch, I got a quick call from Angel. Overall, far more sweet then bitter.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Weekend

I haven't really done lists here at Dirt and Rocks. IRL I'm a big list maker but they are always To Do lists. However I feel the need to document what I've done this weekend in list form. Here it goes:
  • Worked out at the dojo with b
  • Went to god-awful show
  • Dropped in on Pumpkin's party
  • Food shopping
  • Finished Christmas shopping for humans
  • Baked coffee cake for friends
  • Visited Pumpkin as she was bored and immobile
  • Visited with friends; saw their new house; played with a puppy
  • Walked Pupzilla twice
  • Ran 2 miles (yeah I know, wimpy, but I'm working my way back up)
  • Baked bread
  • Baked small loaves of banana bread for b to give to his superiors
  • Cooked Avgolemono soup (well my version - I use onions instead of celery and broad egg noodles instead of orzo)
  • More food shopping (for everything I forgot the first time)
  • Finished the analysis I need for tomorrow morning's meeting
  • Wrote an email to my Department Head explaining my position on a potential spousal hire in the middle of a budget crisis
  • Ate a yummy dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches (with home-baked bread) and Avgolemono soup
  • Drank a Guinness (well several but not all in the same day)
  • Blogged
Why do they call it our days off?

Tomorrow will only be a half day of work for me. It is b's last day off (he worked all weekend) before Christmas and there are still errands to be done. We have yet more food shopping to do (going to specialty supermarket for Christmas dinner fixins') and then we need to buy presents for the pets (shhh, don't tell but Pupzilla is getting a new bed this year).

Also I'm obviously in the middle of a baking frenzy. I still have cinnamon buns to bake for Christmas morning (it's actually an all day affair I do every Christmas Eve) but then after Christmas I want to try sourdough bread again and I want to bake a chicken pot pie.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Festivities

We've been knee-deep in holiday cheer at the House of Dirt and Rocks, not the least of which is caused by my on-going baking extravaganza. Today's treat was Sunday Morning Deluxe Coffeecake, which we brought over to our friends' new house for dinner and good times. They were dog-sitting the cutest puppy I've seen in a long time. He looked remarkably like the dog I had, loved, and lost when I was 9 years old. b was smitten by him as well.

Yesterday we went to see this. Pumpkin had gotten tickets but was not feeling well (she's recently had minor surgery and was hosting a party that night) so she asked b and I to take the tickets. Now b is a big Dickens fan and reads the book every year. In fact, as I may have mentioned, our holiday season starts with reading the first chapter around the fire on Thanksgiving while sipping cocoa. We also watch our favorite movie versions each year (we love this one because it is the one we were both raised on; however this version is incredibly well-done and the most authentic to the book; and then we like this one because its very funny). So we were pretty psyched to see it live.

Contrary to the article, it was a far cry from "as close to the to the novel as possible." And the comment that "it incorporates music but isn't exactly a musical" also a big fat lie. It was a musical. And who makes a musical out of a ghost story...with dancing dolls? It was like Dickens had wandered into the Nutcracker. It was, in short, horrible. It was almost bad enough to be campy but not quite. I will agree with the article's last comment on rural audiences enjoying it--because ours certainly did--but the thought that this is the closest they get to theater is down-right scary.

Afterwards we stopped by Pumpkin's party and met many of her friends. She is quite the charming hostess, even on crutches.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Our Story Continues

Now that grading is a thing of the past (whew!) I thought I'd update you on the various goings-on at the House of Dirt and Rocks.

When last we left our story, b and I had come back from a brief visit with Angel for his birthday and bought our Christmas tree. The following Saturday we received an email from Angel stating his semester was over and he had a few days before his trip to Costa Rica and he thought he'd spend them with us. Now you may remember that his last trip home ended in a car accident (everyone safe) that totaled his car. Not having found another yet, he needed one of us to drive down and retrieve him.

We had already made plans with my adopted daughter (she really needs a name...let's call her Pumpkin) for the evening. b was going to cook a lobster dinner for her (she had never eaten lobster before). I was making cupcakes (chocolate with peanut butter frosting--not very holiday like but b requested them) and we would trim the tree.

b drove the 3+ hour round trip to bring Angel home while I made the cupcakes. Angel and Pumpkin finally met, b made an amazing lobster (and steak for the red meat eaters) dinner and a good time was had by all. Pumpkin braved her way through the lobster but is definitely not a fan.

Tree-trimming was fun.

Pupzilla played the role of reindeer.

Cupcakes were a hit.

I've spent the last few days hanging out with Angel. He's a bit more relaxed than the last trip and more like himself...but not completely.

Or rather he is himself but that self is a bit different from the boy I knew. I'm trying to adjust to the man he's become and figure out our relationship in this new phase.

b had to work today so it was up to me to drive Angel back to school. He leaves for Costa Rica tomorrow morning. I'm very excited for him but was not ready to give him up. I guess I never will be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Much has been going on here in the House of Dirt and Rocks--not the least of which been grading. But as of now I am officially done. Here's the tally.


Grading 30 literature review papers
Grading 30 essay exams
Grading 33 final exams w/ essay
Grading 2 independent study reports
Entering all of the above grades into various computer programs.

I'm happy to put this semester to bed but must quickly start prepping for next semester.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Guess I Don't Get Out Enough

As seen at Seeking Solace's:

1. Started my own blog

2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - this doesn't take much for me
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing - barely
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check - more times than I care to remember
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - Teddy is still on my dresser
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar - luckily I don't like it
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square - many times, once even for New Years Eve
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job .
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox - 3 days before my first wedding
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - Tom Berenger
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

RBOC: End of Semester Edition

  • Others may be in grading jail but I go straight to grading hell.
  • I am currently grading 30 final papers but will have over 60 essay exams to grade by the end of the week.
  • Today was a full-day faculty retreat (who holds retreats at the end of the semester???? Before grading is over????).
  • The retreat was held in SouthLite's nicest hotel but no breakfast was served and coffee was scarce.
  • Tomorrow we have a half-day retreat follow-up....at school....no coffee or lunch.
  • Friday I have a full-day committee retreat.
  • My affiliated department is trying to hire a faculty member before the semester ends. This week there are two presentations and a vote.
  • Saturday b won a very special award at work. He was nominated and picked by his colleagues. He received a very nice watch and will be going to one of our favorite cities out west in the summer. I'm planning on tagging along.
  • Saturday was also Angel's birthday. He turned 19. We visited him at college, took him out to dinner and then met his frat family at a semi-formal event.
  • I miss him.
  • Tonight we bought our tree. This coming Saturday we'll be trimming it....bittersweet.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dr Seuss: Ideological Role Model

I recently realized that Dr. Seuss has guided both mine and b's lives in complimentary but very different ways. At a tender young age b was strongly influenced by this. In fact on one of our early dates we were browsing in Barnes & Noble and he read it to me and then wept.
"I speak for the trees. Let them grow. Let them grow.
But nobody listens too much, don't you know."
It is no real surprise then that b is an environmentalist.

The Seuss story that got me was this one, as it aptly displays the insanity of racism and prejudice with an added bonus of poking fun at capitalism. And all these years later, social justice and equality are still my burning issues. I love the trees and I'm 100% behind the green movement, but ultimately it is people who do it for me. My other favorite Seuss as a youngin' was Horton Hears A Who, cause
"a person is a person, no matter how small."
Which Dr. Seuss story speaks to you and why?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My View

Over the Thanksgiving holiday Angel took a stroll down memory lane with his dad. They went up to our old neighborhood, where Angel spent a good portion of his early life. It is the area he thinks of as home.

As would be expected, he found everything to be much smaller than he remembered. However during the excursion they ran into our old landlord. It seems our landlord took over our apartment after it was vacated and spruced it up quite a bit. It is now his pied-a-terre/study. He was kind enough to bring them up and give them a tour.

Angel had his camera with him and took a few pictures. He shared several with me. It was strange seeing my old home looking like a completely new home.

I loved that apartment. We moved there when Angel was 18 months. Prior to that we lived in a decent-sized (for ReallyBigCity) one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that many described as funky and eclectic but did nothing for me.* Our apartment was on the first floor in the back and looked out only at alleys and other buildings.

By the time Angel was walking (10 months) it was clear the apartment could not contain all three of us--at least not if we wanted to remain sane. So I started apartment hunting. I was working full-time and had just gone back to school part-time. I got no help in the search from my ex. I did get a lot of help from my sister Jo, as I was looking in her neighborhood. She had recently given birth to my nephew and so we pushed strollers through empty apartments for about 6 months.

And then I found my view:

The apartment had several other features that I adored as much as the view, including a truly funky neighborhood that was convenient to Jo.

We lived there together until Angel was nine and I realized I could no longer deny the marriage was over. Unfortunately my ex did not share my feelings and the break-up was difficult. He could not afford the apartment on his own and I could. It was a 2-bedroom apartment and Angel's only real home so it seemed obvious that I would stay and he would go. Except he refused to go. After 6 months I finally moved out.

He stayed a few more years, renting out Angel's old room to make ends meet, until he found his new love and now wife and moved in to her apartment (also with a view). Angel was sad to see the apartment go but I had long put it behind me.

Yet now, seeing these pictures, I miss it.

*The great thing about that neighborhood was that Sensei lived right across the street. How that came to be is an interesting story for another time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Jet Airliner" - Music Meme

As seen over at Dr. Curmudgeon's

A little music meme to fill the time. As always, it comes with rules:

Put your iTunes or MP3 player on shuffle
  1. For each question, press the next button to get your answer
  3. Tag 10 friends who might enjoy doing the game as well as the person you got the note from.
So tagging 10 people is way too much work for a silly music meme filler. So we'll break that rule. Play along if you like.

"Feeling Good" - Nina Simone

"Teach Me Tonight" - Dinah Washington

"Stubborn Kind of Fellow" - Marvin Gaye

"Send The Marines" - Tom Lehrer

"Hesitation Blues " Roy Bookbinder & Jorma Kaukonen

"Johnny B. Goode" - Jonny Lang

"Witchcraft" - Marvin Gaye

WHAT IS 2+2?
"Our House" - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

"O Holy Night" - Tracy Chapman

"Bang Bang (my baby shot me)" - Sonny & Cher

"Black Boys" - Hair Soundtrack

"This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" - Natalie Cole

"Sunshine on My Shoulder" - John Denver

"Truth Is" - Fantasia Barrino

"Matrimony" - Gilbert O'Sullivan

"The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game" - The Marvelettes

"Will It Go Round In Circles" - Billy Preston

"The Joint Is Jumpin'" - Fats Waller

"Vincent" - deb talan

"Walk On By" - Dionne Warwick

"Burn One Down" - Ben Harper

"I'm The Only One" - Melissa Etheridge

"She's So Cold" - Rolling Stones

"In Your Eyes" - Ben Harper

"That Old Black Magic" - The Rat Pack

"Maybellene" - Chuck Berry

"I'm So Tired" - The Beatles

"Jet Airliner" - Steve Miller Band


She had been thinking, and the thought came back like the turntable coming round, that it was hard, or anyway she found it hard, to realize that what you did was usually just done once. Once and for all. That doing something wasn't just a kind of practice for something that would keep happening, but was what would happen, was what happened. You didn't get to practice.
-Ursula K. Le Guin
I stumbled across this paragraph a few weeks ago. As I've mentioned, I'm re-reading my way through my Le Guin collection. This was in a book of short stories and it struck me because it sums up a lot of how I've been feeling about motherhood lately.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting Published

I did a little project about 3 years ago. It was an opportunity to try something on a very small scale that I found interesting. It was also an opportunity to provide a very meaningful learning experience for a few high school students. I was at an in-between time with my research and there was little cost to me, other than my time. It was fun and I enjoyed it.

This pilot project asked an interesting question but, given the size and circumstances of the project, the methodology was not the strongest. I started writing it up thinking I would publish it but then I got busy re-locating to SouthLite and it sat in my back burner pile. Early this year I dug it out, polished it as best I could and sent it to what I thought was a very appropriate journal. I was quite surprised to get my first (and only) acceptance pending minor revisions on the first round.

The revisions really were quite minor and I sent the paper back in as per the editor's instructions at the beginning of the summer. I was then really surprised to get an email last month stating the revision had been reviewed and rejected. It seems the journal had changed editors in between the two reviews.

It has taken a few weeks for the new editor and I to connect but we spoke right before the holidays. I was happy that she admitted my paper was not the only one to be in this situation and that it was due, in part, to her inexperience at the position. However I was not happy to learn that once it has been rejected it cannot be reversed. I really don't know much about the magic laws of journal publishing but on this she was clear.

So now I need to resubmit it as a new article, with a new title and take into consideration some of the suggestions made in the second round of reviews (and they were mostly reasonable, justified and doable). It will get special attention of some sort that hopefully will result in an acceptance and not a third round of revisions. It sounds as if nothing can be promised but all attempts will be made to rectify the situation.

I don't mind doing the revisions, as I said I agree with most of them and they will make for a stronger paper. In fact, they were what I was expecting on the first round (although not the flat out rejection). I just hate reopening a paper that I had considered to be done.

My Science Is Hot....*

...and yummy.

Pumpkin bread for tomorrow's event

Being a behavioral scientist I study people. I also happen to conduct community-based research and the communities I work with are most likely to be female. If you hope to be successful conducting research with communities of women you are going to have to feed them. This means I am often baking (and cooking) for (and with) my participants.

Much of my research is participatory, which means my communities help shape my projects. Together we come up with all sorts of interesting and sexy ideas. Last spring we did Spa Day.

How hot of a science project is that?

*written in response to Dr. Isis' December Scientiae theme "My Science is Hotter than Dr. Isis's Naughty Monkeys Because"

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Perfect Thanksgiving

Really. The day couldn't be nicer. b, Pupzilla and I headed out Wednesday afternoon. We set-up camp and had a lovely dinner in front of the fire. It was a tad cold that night but we were snuggled tight under many sleeping bags and blankets.

Thanksgiving day reached about 60 and was sunny all day long. b made breakfast and we lolled around camp reading and chatting. Our adopted daughter and her beau dropped by, bringing me coffee--as a good daughter does--in the early afternoon.

b spent the rest of the day cooking and we sat around watching and talking and playing with the fire. Occasionally b would ask one of us for help and we would happily oblige but this was not often.

The dry ice did not do the trick, so the ice cream was soup...but yummy soup. Adopted Daughter brought green bean casserole and pumpkin pie and there was more food than anyone could even imagine eating.

After hot cocoa and the first chapter of A Christmas Carol, b and I took a walk up to the field to gaze at the stars.

The next morning b made us all and egg bake and leftover cornbread. It was hard to imagine the need to eat more, but we did. Then we packed it all up and listened to Christmas music on the ride home. Pupzilla has barely left her bed since then. b and I ended up napping for most of Black Friday but we did make it out to the theatre to see a reading of David Sedaris' SantaLand.

All-in-all a marvelous start to the holiday season.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Madness

This is disturbing on so many levels and I'm having a hard time getting it out of my head. Now this is also disturbing, especially since they both happened on Black Friday, but it is the Wal-Mart story that really grabs me.

I think because to me it says that people in our country feel their right to buy cheap "stuff" is so inalienable that consequences be damned. We are so afraid of the falling/failing economy that instead of curtailing our purchasing frenzy we start lining up at 9 pm on the night of a major holiday for a chance at a sale.

Now people are blaming Wal-Mart for the lack of security and I'm certainly not one to let Wal-Mart off the hook, but is it really the lack of security guards that is the issue here? Why do we need to open stores at 5 am on Black Friday? But more importantly why are so many people lined up by 3:30 am that the police need to be called? And why are people so impatient by 4:55 am people that they feel the need to bang and press on the doors? Another article reported customers chanting "push them in." Really? They couldn't wait 5 more minutes? Is this our Christmas spirit?

It particularly bothers me that the man who lost his life serving Wal-Mart was a temporary employee. But I think the part that took me over the edge was that after it happened people did not want to clear the store, stating that they had been on line since the day before. I guess our right to shop exceeds the rights of others to live.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

RBOC: Academic Updates

  • I am momentarily up-to-date on all grading. It won't last longer than a week, since as soon as Thanksgiving break is over there are papers, presentations and exams aplenty.
  • My writing has slowed to a crawl but has not actually stopped. Better yet, I got a one month extension on the chapters that were due Dec 1. Now being halfway through all 3 of them is actually a good place to be.
  • I spent yesterday and today working on my favorite research project and it is going so well. I actually think the analysis can be done before spring break and I can submit something before the summer.
  • I met with my tenure mentor yesterday and I am ahead of the pack (ok, so the pack is only Big Daddy this year but it seems I'm well ahead of where most people in my department normally are at this point in the process). My goal is to have a working draft circulated by the end of January.
  • This afternoon I tweaked one syllabus for the Spring semester and there's very little left to be done there. Of course I still have an entire course prep for the other course but I'm not thinking about that just now.
  • I also spent this afternoon sorting out articles and organizing the bits and pieces I need to get back to my grant that has been languishing.
  • I actually feel like I can take 2 days off without coming back to a complete and total mess.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Plans

The first year we moved to SouthLite we realized it was warm enough to camp comfortably (well our version of comfort) in November. So we had our first camping Thanksgiving.

b is an amazing dutch oven cook and created an entire Thanksgiving meal at the campsite.

After eating way too much food, we sat around the campfire drinking hot cocoa and taking turns reading aloud from A Christmas Carol and David Sedaris' Holidays On Ice.

Last year we planned to continue this new tradition but SouthLite was in the middle of a long drought so there was a burn ban at the campgrounds. Camping in November without a fire is a far cry from comfortable.

b decided to create his Thanksgiving masterpiece in our backyard.

My favorite graduate assistant, DeeDee, came over and a fun time was had by all.

This year--no burn ban and no Angel--we're back to camping.

We'll be leaving, with Pupzilla, Wed afternoon and staying through Friday morning.

My student/adopted daughter and her boyfriend will be joining us Thanksgiving morning.

b has added a fourth dutch oven to his collection so we will be having turkey, stuffing, corn bread and apple cobbler.

He'll throw some sweet potatoes in the fire and cook up some veggies on the new camping stove.

He makes the cranberry sauce ahead of time and this year there is talk of dry ice to keep the vanilla ice cream frozen until the cobbler is ready.

We'll see how that one works out.

Another Baking Sunday

Update: Sorry about the clip...it was Get Smart.

This week it was bread and chocolate chip cookies. I also made chicken and noodle soup (it's been cold around here -- good soup weather) with a Greek twist. At the end you add a blend of lemon and egg. It came out quite yummy and the bread was a perfect compliment.

We had cookies and milk in bed watching this:

Great cookie, bad movie.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter Wonderland

It snowed in SouthLite last night. This morning there is a good covering of snow on the ground. Now I have to admit I hate snow. Sure I got excited over it as a kid but honestly that only lasted a few years. Snow in ReallyBigCity gets pretty ugly pretty fast. Then we moved a little ways up North and lived in a snowbelt region for four years. We had a very long, very steep driveway and nothing but shovels and our backs to clear it. That got old for me even faster.

So you could say I'm Mr. Heatmiser. b, of course, is Mr. Snowmiser. At this very moment he has his kayak on the roof of our car and is off to go paddling.

(Sorry Moxie and b--I know this violates the "no Christmas music before Thanksgiving" rule but I couldn't resist)

Wednesday night at the dojo, one of our young students--LittleBit--was telling me how much she wanted it to snow because she wants to throw snowballs. So even in my Heatmiserly ways I am happy for her today. She may even have a Snow Day from school, as people flip out down here from even a dusting.

The nice thing about snow in SouthLite is that it will be gone by the end of the day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Tale of Two Committees

I serve on a committee that manages the undergraduate curriculum of an interdisciplinary program at my university. It is my main institutional service. I also serve on a committee that manages the graduate program within my department. It is my main departmental service.

Yesterday I met with my undergraduate committee. We have met twice so far this semester and have no plans to meet again until the Spring. At our first meeting we brainstormed a list of tasks for ourselves (mostly from last year's list of uncompleted tasks). I was given one task (a peer observation) to complete outside of the committee meeting. I completed the task and wrote a report. The report outlined concerns that I had that I felt should be addressed by the committee. I brought them to the attention of the committee chair and we agreed to discuss them in yesterday's meeting.

During the meeting we discussed my concerns (which everyone shared) and agreed upon a very watered-down solution. We then discussed the original agenda item (1 issue from the very long task list generated in the previous meeting). After discussing this issue for some time a decision was made to shelve any action and instead to concentrate on implementing the watered-down solution for the other issue by the end of the semester. There were no action items or tasks delegated by the end of the meeting nor was a new meeting date set.

I like the people on the committee and I am very committed to the interdisciplinary program. However when a program has no funding, barely any staff, and borrowed faculty, there is no chance of accomplishing much of anything. So instead we spin wheels and discuss what we feel we should do, as if we are ever going to do it, and then go our merry ways.

Drives me batty.

My departmental committee met this morning. We started the semester with a very long list of tasks, many of which are time sensitive. We also have a long range goal that the department has been putting off for some time now. All the committee members feel the time has come. We have opted to meet weekly throughout the semester and to devote a full day for our long range goal during the winter break.

While we often go off on tangents in meetings (as all academics do) someone always reigns us in. We have agendas for each meeting and work through them. We end with action items, delegated tasks, and confirmed meeting dates and times. We've made progress but still have far to go.

Again, I enjoy spending time with all of these people and I am personally committed to the tasks we have assigned ourselves. What makes it possible to progress in this committee? At the moment two of the members have been given lighter teaching loads to free up their time for administrative work. In addition we have been assigned an assistant who has no other administrative responsibilities outside of this committee.

This was not the case last year for this committee (which is why we have such a long task list this year) and has not always been the case for other committees in our department.

The entire process of managing by committee goes against my better judgment but I understand that it is the lifeblood of academia. What I really can't get behind is pretending we are accomplishing tasks just because we attend a committee meeting. Why spend time developing plans we know full well we don't have the resources to execute? I sometimes feel we would be better served by grabbing a cup of coffee and discussing the weather.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Meme to Past the Time

Saw this over at Seeking Solace and thought it would be fun:


* Name: Brigindo
* Birthday: May 7
* Birthplace: ReallyBigCity
* Current location: SouthLite
* Eye color: Brown
* Hair color: Brown
* Height: 5'3
* Righty or lefty: Righty
* Zodiac sign: Taurus


* Your heritage: English, Irish, Italian and German
* The shoes you wore today: Keens!
* Your weakness: Angel
* Your fears: failure
* Your perfect pizza: John's in NYC
* Goal you’d like to achieve: tenure, getting Angel through college, owning land somewhere pretty


* Your most overused phrase on AIM: heya
* Your first waking thoughts: do I really have to get up?
* Your best physical feature: Hair? Butt? Boobs? It's all good
* Your most missed memory: Angel as a little boy; Baking or gardening with my grandmother


* Pepsi or Coke: Don't do soda
* McDonald’s or Burger King: don't do fast food
* Single or group dates: Single
* Adidas or Nike: New Balance
* Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Don't do iced tea
* Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate
* Cappuccino or coffee: decaf skim latte


* Smoke: For 1 week when I was 12
* Cuss: Not my style
* Sing: Alone in the car
* Take a shower everyday: Yes
* Do you think you’ve been in love: I don't think it; I know it
* Want to go to college: Liked it so much I made it a career
* Liked high school: No.
* Want to get married: Both times
* Believe in yourself: Absolutely
* Get motion sickness: No
* Think you’re attractive: Absolutely
* Think you’re a health freak: I'm into health and I'm a freak but not a health freak
* Get along with your parent(s): Define "get along"
* Like thunderstorms: Love 'em...especially in the summer
* Play an instrument: Alas, no. Took guitar lessons for a few months when I was nine but it didn't stick

LAYER SIX: In the past month…

* Drank alcohol: frequently
* Smoked: No
* Done a drug: Does Imitrex count?
* Made out: No but thanks for reminding me
* Gone on a date: Yes
* Gone to the mall: Thankfully no
* Eaten an entire box of Oreos: No
* Eaten sushi: No. SouthLite doesn't do sushi well
* Been on stage: No
* Been dumped: No
* Gone skating: No
* Made homemade cookies: Yes
* Gone skinny dipping: No
* Dyed your hair: No but it needs it
* Stolen Anything: No


* Played a game that required removal of clothing: No
* Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Yes
* Been caught “doing something”: Yes but not since I was 15
* Been called a tease: Uhm, no
* Gotten beaten up: No
* Shoplifted: Don't remember but somehow I feel I must have at some point
* Changed who you were to fit in: Hasn't everyone?


* Age you hope to be married: First time I was 23, second time 37
* Numbers and names of children: 1 - Angel
* Describe your dream wedding: I don't dream about weddings
* How do you want to die: With dignity and before Angel does
* Where you want to go to college: I'd never get another degree but my undergrad was done in a small liberal arts college in the middle of the city that had absolutely no requirements
* What do you want to be when you grow up: a little old lady
* What country would you most like to visit: Lately I've been wanting to see Greece


* Number of drugs taken illegally: Too many to count
* Number of people I could trust with my life: 2
*Number of CDs that I own: Uhm, more like number of songs: 2517; 6.8 days; 10.23 GB
* Number of piercings: Two; earlobes but I believe they are completely closed
* Number of tattoos: None
* Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper: None that I know of
* Number of scars on my body: 2 - chin and wrist

Sunday, November 16, 2008


b has changed his work schedule for the holiday season and he is now working Sundays. Actually as of next week, he'll be working Saturdays and Sundays. Anyway, it seems Sundays have become baking day. Last week was sour cream pound cake. Today its calzones for dinner and coffee cake for dessert.

I was supposed to spend the day working but other than getting a final exam together for my undergraduate class not much of that has taken place. Pupzilla did get a long walk on a beautiful fall day, so that was good.

In other news, I am now the proud mother of a Pi Kappa Phi. The initiation went well but was very long--from 7 pm last night to 7 am this morning. And that is all us outsiders are allowed to know.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Angel Update

Angel's had his first migraine. Yesterday was Day 4. It seems the stress of I-week triggered it. The good news is that today is the last day of I-week and, as of yesterday, he had only lost 3 matches.

For I-week they are given a pack of 20 matches at the beginning of the week. A brother can stop them at any time, inspect their attire (they must be wearing a tie, dress shirt and pants) and/or ask them fraternity-related questions. If they answer incorrectly or are not dressed appropriately one of their matches are lit. By the end of the week if they have no matches left they cannot pledge.

So yesterday Angel told me he's had a throbbing headache that he thinks is like the ones I get. I went through the obvious symptoms of a migraine with him and he answered them all in the affirmative. I mentioned remedies that people claim work for them, although they've never done anything for me. Last we spoke, he was off to lie down in the dark and hopefully nap before some big I-week event last night.

I'm not surprised by the migraine and I'm sure this won't be his last one. When he was young he felt his stress and anxiety in his stomach. It somehow makes sense that as he's gotten older its moved to his head.

Inpromptu Double Dating

Friday night is Date Night here at the House of Dirt and Rocks. b and I go to our favorite class at the dojo and then grab a drink at our favorite pub. We generally decide on a dinner plan over Guinness (me) and a jack on the rocks (b). Last night we were the only ones to show up at the dojo--even our sensei was a no-show--so we did a short workout together. b had a dinner idea before we even made it to the pub.

We have a favorite Italian restaurant just blocks from our house. It is a cozy, low-key, friendly establishment that serves really good food. It is the type of restaurant where you choose your entree and beverage but everything else is set for the day. It is always packed and even with a reservation we've often ended up waiting. When b suggested we give it a try, I recommended we call ahead and get a reservation. He did and we were set for 8:30 so we stayed at the pub and had another round.

We arrived at the restaurant at 8:30 and ran into someone b used to work with. She's someone he's always really liked and was sad when she moved on to a different job. I had met her a few times, always liked her, but never really got to know her. She and her partner were on their date night. They did not have reservations but had decided to wing it and order a carafe of wine while they waited.

We were having a lovely conversation in the tiny hallway as we waited for our tables and their favorite waitress subtly suggested we all sit together. So after the mandatory back and forth to make sure no couple really wanted to be alone on date night we opted to double date.

We were then quickly seated by their favorite waitress, who really is lovely--she's always smiling and laughing and enjoying herself--and proceeded to have a fabulous dinner with great conversation. By the time we left the restaurant was just about empty and we were feeling no pain.

Unfortunately I can't say the same about today as the 2 glasses of wine on top of the two pints of Guinness have left me slightly under the weather.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good Old Dewey Decimal

As seen over at K8's

Brigindo's Dewey Decimal Section:

128 Humankind

Brigindo = 28979445 = 289+794+45 = 1128

100 Philosophy & Psychology

Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.

What it says about you:
You're a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times. You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com


...it's only Wednesday?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

RBOC: I've Got Nothing Edition

  • This post gets me more visitors than any other post. They all occur through image searches. Today I got 4 visitors in a row from: Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Neenah, Wisconsin, Bremen, Bremerhaven (Germany), and Richmond, Indiana all because people were searching for random learning images. What's with that?
  • Yesterday one of my students invited b and I over for dinner. It was very nice. We had a cheesy lasagna.
  • Today I spoke on the phone to my sister Jo for over 4 hours.
  • I baked a sour cream pound cake today.
  • I did very little work this weekend and absolutely none today.
  • My workouts have become non-existent except for going to the dojo.
  • I've had a migraine for the past 4 days and I can feel it coming back as my daily medication is wearing off.
  • I'm really really ready to be done with teaching this semester.
  • This week starts I-week for Angel.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Students In Crisis

Today a student came in for advising but s/he didn't really want advice. S/he wanted to catch up and see me. We spoke for almost 2 hours. This student went through an educational crisis hir first year and a personal crisis hir second year. This is hir third year and s/he'll be graduating in the Spring. Hir life is stable and good. S/he has many options ahead of hir and has had some enriching experiences in the program. For the first half of the conversation I was waiting for hir to tell me why s/he wanted to meet with me. I assumed it would be a letter of recommendation or something along those lines. Then I realized s/he just wanted to spend some time with me.

I was able to be there for this student during both issues...not in any heroic way just in the human kind. I liked this student when s/he was a student in my class before any problems hit so I made a point to reach out when they did. Sometimes that's all it takes....little things like checking in, providing encouragement, and listening. I'm proud of this student. Back when s/he needed to hear it, I reminded hir that s/he was strong enough to see the bad times through. S/he was and s/he did.

I have a student in my current class who is in crisis. I like this student. A few weeks ago I reached out to hir. We met and I offered advice, encouragement, support and tried to connect hir to some additional help. S/he is trying very hard to cope with some really big issues on hir own. S/he is strong and I'm proud of hir efforts but things have gotten worse not better. We spoke briefly in class today and I've asked hir to come and see me again tomorrow. Hir problems require more than just checking in and listening but that may be all I can do.

I hope we reach the day where we can waste an afternoon sitting in my office and catching up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Packet Work

Twice a month I meet with one of my colleagues to work on our tenure packets. We both need to put them in next Fall. It was actually my colleague's (I'll call him Big Daddy) idea to schedule regular meetings to keep us on task. It's been working out rather nicely. Being the rule-follower that I am, I feel the need to have something done--some product--each time we meet. He, on the other hand, is never prepared. So often our meetings turn into working meetings and we hide ourselves from phones and email and work quietly (well most of the time) together for about an hour and a half. This means I'm already making considerable progress but there is still a long road ahead.

One of the things I need to do is describe my research life pre-tenure track. This means rehashing what I worked on for over seventeen years. It amazes me how much I've forgotten, like entire grants. Literally I spent years of my life working on research projects that seemed so critically important at the time and now I'm like--oh right we did do that project, didn't we? So its turning out to be a rather weird trip down memory lane. It is also interesting to see all the seedlings of the work I do now in the work I did then. It feels like I'm in an entirely new place, research agenda-wise, but all the roots are firmly in my old work.

I find this to be an aspect of aging that I enjoy--being able to look back at different versions of young Brigindo and trace the connections, all the twists and turns, to this Brigindo. With hindsight it makes so much sense but looking forward is another story completely.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Another Reason Why I Love My Students

I'm working with one of my doctoral students on an analysis of my data that will eventually turn into a paper. I'm very excited about this analysis as it involves poems. I asked this student if she wanted to work on it with me because I knew she had published a poem and she made a joke about a haiku in a meeting. Other students I've tried to entice have been scared off by the thought of poetry. (What have we done to make poetry so terrifying in our culture?)

The other day we were talking about what it feels like to write poetry and I said that there are parts that are very similar, for me, to analyzing numerical data or to solving logic problems. There is a reductionism in poetry that doesn't happen with prose. There is also a satisfying sense of problem-solving that may happen for fiction writers but doesn't happen for me when I write fiction.

It was a fun conversation. The kind I like to have with students. The kind that got me into academia so I could have them on a regular basis. Afterwards she sent me a copy of the Nobel Lecture by Wislawa Szymborska. In it is this:
This is why I value that little phrase "I don't know" so highly. It's small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself "I don't know," the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself "I don't know", she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying "I don't know," and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

Poets, if they're genuine, must also keep repeating "I don't know." Each poem marks an effort to answer this statement, but as soon as the final period hits the page, the poet begins to hesitate, starts to realize that this particular answer was pure makeshift that's absolutely inadequate to boot. So the poets keep on trying, and sooner or later the consecutive results of their self-dissatisfaction are clipped together with a giant paperclip by literary historians and called their "oeuvre" ...
Which so hits the nail on the head for me.

Not That It Really Matters But...

...electronic voting is just not as satisfying as the big old booths with the curtain and the big handle.

However voting is now checked-off on the To Do list and I'm on to grading.

Still waiting to hear from Angel on his first voting experience. I took him with me almost every time I voted in the past 18 (well 19 actually if we're counting pregnancy) years. I wish he could have voted with us today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

So Far, So Good

I've been trying to write a minimum of 500 words a day to meet my InaDWriMo goal of 15,000. So far I've managed to meet and exceed this daily goal. I tell myself I will write for 1 hour and that in an hour I should be able to get 500 words done. I'm finding an hour gives me time to both think and write. So 500 words is truly feasible and I can usually crank out more. Also I can go longer if I am so inspired.

Today was the hardest and I think that is because I've been working on the same project each day. After an hour I was at 446 words and still not feeling it. So instead of quitting I switched to another project and flew through another 415 words in half an hour.

This process is teaching me some interesting lessons about my own writing habits.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Empty Nesting

Angel has always done things in his own time. If he wasn't ready to go it was murder trying to get him out of the house but if it was someplace he wanted to go--he was out the door like a jack rabbit.

It took me years to realize it was futile to force him to do something before he was ready. I remember one time I was watching him brush his teeth about a month before his third birthday. He was still in diapers in spite of my best efforts. I had tried everything and had nothing left. So that morning, when he was talking about his upcoming birthday, I simply told him that in fact most boys didn't wear diapers when they were three. He looked at me for a moment and said ok...after his birthday he'd stop wearing them. Sure enough his birthday came and diapers were a thing of the past.

You would think I could learn but I didn't. Instead I sent him to summer camp when he was ten. Neither one of us was ready and it didn't go well. (poor b got the brunt of that one). However the next year he was ready. He went to a different camp--one of his choosing--and had a ball. Fast forward a few years and Angel is in his last year of high school and accepted at the college of his choice. He decides he wants to defer a year and get some work experience. I agree but worry that he may never go. Well I think you know how this story ends.

I believe I mentioned that Angel is not coming home for Thanksgiving, opting to go visit his dad Up North instead. We were supposed to have him for Christmas and the winter break. However this week we have learned that he will be spending Christmas and most of the break in Costa Rica with 3 frat brothers. It is a great deal and a golden opportunity. Angel loves to travel, especially international travel, so he's very excited.

Out the door--like a jack rabbit.

b and I are trying to figure out how to be a childless couple. It seems particularly hard over the holidays.

Friday, October 31, 2008

InaDWriMo 2008

You may have noticed the new word counter in my sidebar. Saturday starts InaDWriMo 2008, which will last throughout the month of November. The idea is to set a goal for your academic writing and then track your progress throughout the month.

This could not have come at a better time since my writing has been suffering and I have a major deadline on December 1st. Technically I don't have to write much -- just 7000 words--but they need to be finalized and I've yet to begin. I also need to push an article along so I've made my goal 15k. I've never tracked my writing by number of words before so this should be interesting.

For those of you who would like to play along, InaDWriMo 2008 is being hosted by Dr. Brazen Hussy.

Happy Halloween!

b's jack o'lantern

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sci Fi Marthon II

I finally finished my Octavia Butler marathon. I ended where she did, with Fledgling. A great read. I've always been a fan of vampire stories and this one does not disappoint (except of course that there can be no sequel...but that is sad on many levels).

So I've decided to move on to my other favorite sci fi writer, Ursula K. LeGuin. However I'm not sure where to start. I have 2 collections of her short stories, so I may start there. However I first found Ms. LeGuin through her Earthsea books, so part of me feels I should start with that series. This would mean having to re-buy the first book, as that one has somehow gotten misplaced. I will also have to repurchase The Left Hand of Darkness. However it is highly likely that I never actually owned that one. Much of my sci fi reading started by borrowing from my mother's bookshelf.

I have never read any of her Hainish series. Once I work through everything I have I'll have to decide whether to start on them. It won't classify as a reread of course but there is something very satisfying about reading an entire body of someone's work. She even has a new novel out, which will definitely be on my Christmas list this year.

This is going to take a long time.

b and I often talk about our retirement/escape plan. It mostly consists of getting all of our earthly possessions down to a car load and hitting the open road. The other day we discussed how this would mean parting with all my books. Luckily retirement is still in the distant future as I've decided that I will need to reread the entire collection before I can do that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Angel Update

Angel is feeling down. He is working hard at both school and extra-curricula activities (the good kind). He is putting school first, extra-curricula responsibilities second and hanging out/socializing/beer third. He is making friends, fitting in, and maturing. However he is still having academic difficulties. Angel is learning disabled (hate the term but it is what's used). It takes him a lot more effort to get something done than most of his classmates and, while his effort pays off, it is never to the degree that satisfies him.

Reading takes him a very long time. Writing is a mixed bag. He has a vivid imagination and a poetic sense but horrible grammar and atrocious spelling. His grasp of concepts and ability to analyze is outstanding. His ability to write about what he understands succinctly and clearly is another story. His spatial skills are very limited and math is always a challenge.

He's passing his classes and learning a lot. His writing is improving but improving your writing takes a long time for anyone. I try to tell him this but he is still disappointed in himself. I tell him that I'm proud of him and I am. I think he is proud of his effort but not of the outcome.

Part of me is happy he is so hard on himself. Most kids with Angel's disability would have given up on school years ago. He enjoys college and it is the first time in his life that he has ever enjoyed school. I have always been amazed that he didn't just give up and act out. I'm not saying he tried this hard all the time but he did try hard in spite of very little encouragement.

But part of me wishes he didn't take each grade so hard. Part of me wishes he could see the progress he is making and be satisfied. Part of me wishes it could be easier on him. However life isn't easy and he is resilient and really that is better in the long run.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Little Meme Interlude

Saw this over at my friend Deb's and grabbed it.

A is for age: 43

B is for burger of choice: Don't do red meat and turkey burgers are too dry, so it's generally grilled chicken sandwiches for me.

C is for the car I drive: 1994 Toyota Corolla

D is for your dog's name: Pupzilla

E is for essential item you use every day: my laptop is pretty much glued to my fingers

F is for favorite TV show at the moment: Hmmm...Grey's Anatomy? Celebrity Rehab?

G is for favorite game: Othello

H is for home state: Up North

I is for instruments you play: i wish

J is for favorite juice: cranberry

K is for whose bum you'd like to kick: my sensei's...well I don't really want to...just want to be ABLE to, but it's never going to happen

L is for last restaurant at which you ate: local irish pub for brunch today, where they served me hazelnut coffee (very disappointing)

M is for your favorite Muppet: Snuffleupagus

N is for number of piercings: one in each earlobe but they've gone unused for about 6 years now...I doubt they work

O is for overnight hospital stays: just the one night for birthin' Angel...almost 19 years ago

P is for people you were with today: b

Q is for what you do with your quiet time: work

R is for biggest regret: not having a baby with b

S is for status: middle class? married? sane?

T is for time you woke up today: sometime between 9-10 am

U is for what you consider unique about yourself: my love of a male-dominated ancient fighting art?

V is for vegetable you love: spinach and brussel sprouts

W is for worst habit: coffee addiction...technically I'm decaffeinated but really I'm only fooling myself

X is for x-rays you've had: 3 or 4 I believe...broke my wrist twice and my ankle once

Y is for yummy food you ate today: Ben & Jerry's waffle cone with a scoop of coffee and a scoop of chocolate therapy

Z is for zodiac: Taurus the bull