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, May 28, 2008

A Gift

My graduate-level class last semester was a small and intimate group of 9 students. During the course we covered a lot of social constructions (gender, race, class, etc) as well as a number of sensitive subjects such as abortion and adolescent pregnancy. The class did an amazing job of tackling these issues. They struggled with the concepts individually and as a group. Even though they came from very diverse perspectives the discussions were always balanced, fair and respectful. I was proud of their work and happy with the class as a whole.

One of my students is a doctoral candidate in a different department. She is an older student and comes from my mother's generation. She had great difficulty with the idea that gender is socially constructed and both the readings and the discussions often took her outside her comfort zone. She was very upfront in class and in her reading journals about her struggles and I really appreciated how she stayed with me in the course. I believe for many people it is easier to be dismissive of perspectives outside of your own world view.

Today she sent me an email with a story attached. She told me she was waiting for grades to be done before she sent it to me. The story was of an everyday experience that occurred while she was gardening and she used the story to illustrate her views on many of the issues we discussed in class. She ended the story by stating that she was firmly entrenched in her view of sexual and gender boundaries and she wasn't willing to venture to other locations. She then complimented me and thanked me for being so sensitive with difficult topics.

My response to her was that as a teacher I don't look to change student's world views. I just want them to know there are other perspectives out there and to be able to think critically about them. I believe her story showed that she not only could do that but, 3 weeks after class had ended, was still doing just that. It made me feel like I actually accomplished something last semester and that, as difficult as they are to have, these conversations belong in the classroom.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Flat M

My niece, M, is in the first grade. Her class is doing a project based on the book Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley was run over by a steamroller and had a series of adventures, including one where he travels through the mail. Everyone in M's class had to make a flat version of themselves and mail it to a friend or relative that lived far away.


Flat M helped me bake cupcakes and peanut butter banana bread for my class

So I received Flat M a little over a month ago. I was supposed to take Flat M with me on various adventures and take pictures of her visit with us and then mail her back to M's class with letters and stories about her visit as well as information about where I live. It sounded like a cool project and I was happy to agree when my sister, Amy, asked if I'd play along. Unfortunately she arrived at the end of a busy semester so Flat M sat on my desk for longer than I'd like.


Flat M went camping with me, b, and Pupzilla

So my priority for this week is to put together the story of Flat M's visit and get it in the mail before school is over (half the class has been returned already and I know M must be getting anxious for her turn).


Flat M loved snuggling Pupzilla

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Summer Mellow: Nerd Style

Today marks the end of my first week of Summer. It has been much anticipated and I am happy to report that so far it has not disappointed. I've spent most of my time engaged in physical activity (made it to the gym 3 times and the dojo twice); taking long walks with Pupzilla and Boy; and writing. I went into the office a few times but it was mostly social.

You could say that I work a lot for someone on vacation and yet none of it feels like work. I'm catching up on a ton of article reading and I'm writing a few papers and a grant. I've also got projects in various stages of analysis (thankfully all data collection is over at the moment) and an intervention to develop. I'm sure to many people in my life this sounds incredibly boring but I tend to wake up every morning thinking about what I get to work on today.

I did finish a book of fiction and have seen one summer movie. There are plans for more of both but not today. Instead I'll spend a few hours at the gym and then get back to a new analysis idea I had late last night.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Comments-R-Us

I've joined Dr. Bad Ass and many many others in NaComLeavMo. It starts May 25th. Details and the chance to join are over at Stirrup Queens.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Freegans

I ran across this website the other day. Tonight I asked b and Boy if they had heard of Freegans and, since they hadn't, I read them the description of "What is A Freegan." They were 100% in agreement until we got the part about Dumpster Diving and I lost them.

I also found this website and have been thinking a lot about the amount of food we (as a nation) and we (as a family) waste.

So while I won't be rummaging through other people's garbage for the food we eat I do think we can do better about not dumping so much ourselves.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mark This One As Done

I just sent off the revision to this chapter. As I mentioned in that post, writing this chapter was a bit of a stretch for me. It was a combination of a scholarly argument in my research area and a memoir. If published it will appear in a book commemorating the anniversary of a groundbreaking book in a field related to my field that was written by one of my favorite college professors.

I was told the chapter needed "major revisions if it is going to work in the collection." The editor's comments and suggestions were right on the mark and it was actually a lot of fun re-thinking and re-writing the chapter. I teach my students that a revision is a re-vision of the original thought. And I know that I need time (and often another pair of eyes) before I can see that original thought in a different light. It can be painful to go back to a manuscript you have already marked as finished in your head but once you re-immerse yourself it is far more rewarding than the first go around.

Next on my To Do list is to finish the "minor revisions" on a more traditional (for me) paper that was accepted on the first round of reviews (a first for me!). I suspect this will be far more cut and dry (aka boring) but it does feel good to be told you got it right on your first attempt.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Book Meme

As seen over at Radical Mama:

The top 100 or so books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. Bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Children's Poetry

When my sisters and I were young we had a favorite book of poems: Piping Down the Valleys Wild (edited by Nancy Larrick). I was lucky enough to come across this book at a garage sale several years ago. Some of my favorites include:

Get Up and Bar the Door (Anonymous)
The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear)
Cats (Eleanor Farjeon)
Every Time I Climb a Tree (David McCord)
My Shadow (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Daddy Fell Into the Pond (Alfred Noyes)
Father William (Lewis Carroll)

It was that collection and A.A. Milne that I believe fostered my love of poetry. To this day I make sure I always have a copy of When We Were Very Young in the house. Favorites from that include:

Buckingham Palace
The Four Friends
Disobedience
Rice Pudding
The King's Breakfast
Halfway Down

Poetry is meant to be read outloud. I read these and many others to Boy in his youngest years but, alas, he finally asked me to stop. Since then I've read them to the cats.

Now I know everyone loves Shel Silverstein, and I do too, but the other children's poet I adore is Jack Prelutsky. I am especially fond of his book The Dragons are Singing Tonight.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Children's Literature

K8 tells us that this week is Children's Books week and invites us to share some of our favorite children's literature. I was very lucky growing up to have a mother who loved children's lit and exposed me to many excellent books. At the time she was pursuing her doctorate in English Lit but eventually put that aside and started writing books for young adults. One of my sisters, Meg, is also a published author of books for young children, so it is a subject with which I have some familiarity.

I decided to share some of the books that made it through Boy's childhood. These are books that I bought him and shared with him and when he outgrew them I refused to let them go.

The Trumpet of the Swan
is definitely number 1. I know Charlotte's Web is the favored E.B. White but the story of Louis, the mute young swan who plays Beautiful Dreamer on his trumpet to win the heart of his one love, Serena, won me over the first time I read it. I can't tell you how thrilled I was when Boy loved it best too. It was a book we discussed for several years and one he still remembers fondly.

Next up is An Anteater Named Arthur by Bernard Waber. I picked this little gem up in a library booksale in Boy's elementary school. I had never seen it before but fell in love with the stories of Arthur as told by his mother. The last story in the book "Sometimes Arthur Forgets" was Boy to a T.

A favorite of mine, but not Boy's was Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin. I do love anything by her and her Earthsea Trilogy was my first foray into science fiction. Who wouldn't love a story about a litter of kittens born with wings? Unfortunately that would be Boy. I could never get past the first chapter with him.

I have loved dragons since I was a child (I still get weepy when I hear Puff the Magic Dragon) and I read any story that contained a dragon. Yet somehow I missed Ruth Stiles Gannett's "My Father's Dragon" books. Meg gave them to Boy when my niece had outgrown them. Originally there were three but I can only find two now: Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland.

Another book that Boy loved as much as I but seems to have disappeared, is The Phantom Tollbooth. He totally got into the adventure, the puns, and the general zaniness. He would often fall into hysterical laughter and make me reread sections over and over before we could proceed. Wonderful illustrations by Jules Feiffer just adds to the charm.

I'll end tonight's post with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. A charming story of a mother mouse who must move her children out of the field before the harvest but her youngest son, Timothy, is too sick to be moved. Super intelligent rats from NIMH come to her aid.

Stay tuned for the post on children's poetry.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Kittens

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.



The kittens are old enough to begin roaming around and frequently wander into our front yard. Our neighbor is generally successful at finding new homes for the various litters but I still find it incredibly irresponsible not to spay your cats. She has gone away for a week and has friends and acquaintances (including our postman) "dropping by" to keep an eye on the kittens. Before she left she told me that the last time she went away and left a litter of kittens someone came by and "swooped" them all up. One of the kittens (the most dominant one in the group) gets along well with her new dog (her last one was hit by a car) so she wants to keep her. She decided to take just that kitten to her friend's house for the week--for safekeeping.



Last night there were thunderstorms and tornado warnings in our area. When b and I went to bed we heard a kitten (the little orange one) crying outside our window. When I got up to investigate I found our other neighbors were already on the case. They located the kitten and brought him in for the night.



Today Boy and I had to drag them out from under Boy's car so he could go to work. I think we're down to 2 maybe 3 kittens (there were 7 originally). I can only hope the mother cats have moved their location (what with all the activity) or others have "swooped" in to rescue them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

how cool

its my birthday and my laptop is home and I am blogging from my brand new ipod

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Class-Related Baking

I spent most of today in the kitchen. You may recall that I've been teaching a practicum class this semester. This class was totally my idea and I was able to hand-select a small group (N=10) of undergraduate (n=6) and graduate (n=4) students. My research assistant served as a TA. The entire class was focused around my research topic and we conducted field work that was a mix between necessary and helpful for my research agenda. The students were great and we've really grown as a group.

Tomorrow is the last class. Everyone will be handing in their portfolios and we'll share our experiences of the semester and our ideas for the future. Several of the students met on Friday to audiotape some of the poems from one of my studies. My friend and colleague (who has been volunteering with the class) is putting it together as a photostory. We'll preview that as a group.

Several times during the semester I baked for some of the community events. Mostly breads - pumpkin bread, banana chocolate bread - and other times I brought in muffins from a local bakery. I promised them I'd bake them all something for tomorrow.

I recently found this website and enjoy both the receipes and the restaurant posts (most take place in my home town). Today I baked Beer Cupcakes (substituted Beamish for Guiness) and Peanut Butter Banana Bread. The cupcakes were as easy to make as promised and I think they look pretty good.



I decided against the optional peanuts outside of the banana bread, so it doesn't look quite like the photo but it too was fairly easy and rose A LOT in the oven. I'll have to wait for tomorrow for the tasting.



Two of my students (undergraduate) and my assistant will be graduating next week. We'll have lots to celebrate and feel proud of but it will be a little bittersweet.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

PC Blues

Yesterday b and I took a trip to the nearest Apple store. It was a beautiful day. We got a lot accomplished and I got my birthday present (I won't touch it until the actual day--b seems to think this is a little crazy). However I needed to leave my MacBook behind so they can send it in for repairs. It felt weird walking out the door without it. I am now working on an old pc laptop that I have. It is clunky and annoying.

When my MacBook comes back it will also get a brand new hard drive (more than double the current space) and it will have an amazing back-up system ready and waiting for it. So life should be good in a few days. I'm hoping it comes by my birthday.