Monday, November 24, 2008

Over the river and through the woods.

I'm taking the week off to give thanks for a week off.

Previous Thanksgiving posts can be found here, here, and here.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. This years' pie, I predict, will be delicious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Role model.

I was conferencing with one of my students yesterday about an essay he was trying to write. I say, "trying," because he was utterly and completely stumped. He had a great intro and several serviceable paragraphs, but then he just ran out of steam. He was stuck--racking his brain, trying to figure out where to go from there.

"You have all these great ideas," I said. "I can see that they are struggling to get out at the same time. See--it's not that you don't have anything to say, it's that everything you have to say is trying to come through the same small portal and it's all dammed up."

"Yes!" he said. "That's it--that's exactly what it's like!"

"Don't worry," I assured him. "It's easy enough to fix. You just have to relax and let it come. Put it down and do something else for an hour or so. Stop thinking about it. Find something to do that requires absolutely no mental activity at all--"

"You aren't going to suggest I take a bath are you?" he asked.

Which is what I do when I'm blocked. I must have mentioned it--probably several times--in my classes.

"--Because I tried that, and it didn't work. What else you got?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If you are one of those people with my phone number, I want you to call and talk me out of it.

I knew this was going to happen.

I'm not the most self-aware person in the world, but I did suspect that once I was spending some portion of every day on campus, I might feel the urge to find myself a good doctoral degree program.

That's assuming I can find one that will have me. After a little research, I see that I may not be able to get into a program because I lack the ability to understand a single language other than English.

I wonder if I can find a program that will accept my demonstrated mastery of LOLcat.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who had the special?

I took time out yesterday to sit down in a restaurant for a late lunch. I had a table along the window, and sitting in the afternoon sun was just exactly what I needed after three long days of rainy fall weather. I had a plate of hot food, a cold drink, and the pleasure of my own company. It doesn't happen very often, but for the time being, I had everything my heart desired.

The people at the next table were not so lucky. She was unhappy about something, and although I wasn't close enough to overhear the actual conversation (nor would I want to), I was able to tell by the rise and fall of her voice that she held him somewhat responsible. For his part, he didn't say much.

I had one brief fleeting moment of wondering why one of them--either one--didn't just get up and leave. It would have been so easy to say, "You know, this is uncomfortable. I'm not happy and neither are you, and so--at least for now, I'm going to go and do something else."

But of course, they didn't. And I'm sorry to say that right at that very minute, not being one of those two poor unfortunate people turned into the very best part of my perfect, late afternoon lunch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A book review. Because my audience demands it.

I got a lot of grief yesterday for not ponying up the title of the book I was so happy to have found. Sheesh. I was gonna, but I wanted to do it on my own timetable.

Well, this is it, so lay off, whydoncha?

I initially picked up Debra Ginsberg's The Grift because of the clever wordplay on the cover. As soon as I saw it, I was convinced that Ginsberg must have had the title first, before she had written a word. Better that way, I guess, than to have written the perfect book and then get all jammed up on the title.

From the book's intro:

grift - n. a group of methods used for obtaining money falsely through the use of swindles, frauds, etc.


gift - n. a special ability or capacity


Marina's been on the grift since childhood, conning others into believing she has the second sight. And it's true--she's pretty observant, and is able to pick up on all sorts of things the average observer lets fall unnoticed. It's not a bad way to make a living, I guess, provided you don't mind telling others only what they want to hear. But just about the time Marina has worked out all the kinks to her act, her real psychic abilities kick in, somebody gets killed, and the cops start thinking that all the cards point to Marina. Somebody's got to figure out who-done-it, and you don't have to be a mind-reader to figure out who that somebody is going to be.

I love books and movies about psychics. This may be because I come from a long line of women who think they can tell portents. My grandmother was convinced that her dreams sometimes came true, and even my mother tells of dreaming about her grandfather on the night he died. The apple, they say, doesn't fall far from the tree, and so it should come as no surprise that I can tell the future too. The problem is, I'm too dense to pick up on it until after all the smoke has cleared. It's hard to get credit for telling the future if all you have to offer is, "I knew that was going to happen."

But that's okay. I've got lots of stories to back me up. The thing is, I'm not telling them until I'm ready.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Get lost.

Yesterday I finished a really good book. This is sort of a big deal. First of all, I've become so much harder to please; it's hard to draw me in, and even harder to keep me interested. If I'm not completely hooked by page 45, I'm not going to bother plowing through to the end. I call this the 45-page rule.

It amazes me that more people haven't adopted some version of this rule, especially those who have to read a lot of things they would really rather not--you know, things like a freshman-level paper on sports doping, or step-by-step instructions for building a tissue-paper cover from old magazines and pipe cleaners.

Before I went back to school, I used to read everything. I read so many books, and I read them so quickly, that I sometimes found myself completely enjoying a book that I had, in fact, already read. This still happens to me sometimes, but it's not because I'm reading a lot. It's because I've grown holes in my brain and stuff falls out. The end result is the same, but the latter is an indication of encroaching senility--as opposed to the voraciousness of a hungry young mind.

It does occasionally still happen, though, that I come upon a book that passes the 45-page rule. I realize that the sun has gone down and I'm trying to make out the words in the dark, or I look up and say, "Oh! I didn't hear you come in." I almost always go right back to my book, mumbling something along the lines of "this is really, really good."

Only it's not. Because that's when I realize, I'm only about ten pages from the end. Who knows when I'll find another really good read. Or how long it will take me to forget the last one.

photo, Elliot Erwitt.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Name that kitteh.

I seldom post my own pics. Now you can see why--the blurry focus and bad lighting, evidence of questionable reading material on the shelves and post-Halloween gluttony on the table, unsightly TV guts in plain sight. Whatever.

The point is--I've given up. It's time to take the question to the masses. Somebody, please, come up with a G-rated name for this kitteh. My contributions (at least as long as she still has claws attached) have run toward the unprintable.

edit: The committee has settled on Tinky Winks. Unless, that is, I find out that this is actually slang for something I can't say in mixed company.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

They didn't cover this in grad school.

Imagine it.

You are a Composition instructor and you have indicated that you are about to lead the class in a discussion of one of their assigned readings.

You wait while everyone rifles through their backpacks and bookbags.

Finally, the class is ready and all eyes are upon you.

Because this is one of those groups that's really easily engaged, most of the time all you have to say is "I thought we might discuss the essay about sports team names." Then you skillfully guide the conversation exactly where you want it to go.

But on this day, one of those students says, "Oh! Wait! I just read something about this! Lemme think! It was something having to do with naming teams after animals, or Indians, or something!"

He's racking his brain to remember where he saw this story. And it's almost as painful for you to watch as it must be for him to experience. You can see that it's right there--juuuuust beyond his reach. Everyone in the class can see it, in fact.

Imagine yourself in this scenario. And then tell me how long you would leave the poor kid on the line before you told him that he was trying to remember where he had read the story you'd asked him to read for this class.

image, kim in cajuncountry's photostream.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's the day.

Get up, get dressed, get out, and get in line.

And no matter how tired you feel, no matter how much your feet hurt, no matter how long the line--please, stay there until it's your turn.

Because you're a part of this. You're the most important part.

Pipe up, dammit. Be somebody.

Vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

(I'm a) fool for you, Baby.

On Saturday I broke up with the Internet.

Oh, I didn't come right out and say as much. You know how it is. I said that I wanted a break; I needed some space.

I never committed to monogamy. Exclusivity was never part of the deal. No way. I still have other interests--television, movies, books, face-to-face conversation. It's a big wonderful world, and I'm still a young woman.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still as much in love as ever I was. But lately, the Internet has grown more demanding--dare I say, needy, even. In the beginning, a quick tete-a-tete was enough for both of us. It was quick, it was dirty, and it was good. Everybody went home happy. But the Internet has been demanding entire afternoons, lately. Sometimes, it's the wee small hours of the morning before I can tear myself away. Maintaining this relationship is interfering with other things. Important things.

Like my work. I have to work. And because I'm doing something new, I have to focus on bringing my best to the work. Which means, naturally, devoting more time and energy to the work. And that's part of the problem: The Internet and I work in the same place.

Anyone will tell you--when you combine work and romance, you should expect problems. Because somewhere down the line, the relationship is going to hit a snag. At its best, it's going to be awkward. At its worst--and I've seen this happen--the rejected suitor sabotages the work. Or sometimes, as happened to me on Sunday, you run into one another in the hall or the parking garage or while checking your gmail on iGoogle, and there's just no denying it: the spark is still there. You allow your desires to get in the way of your better judgment.

I know, I should have known better. That's what happens when you allow yourself to be swept off your feet.

Breaking up is easy. It's the staying away that's hard.

image, Cinematical.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In my heart of hearts, I always knew it.

It's been years since anyone has bothered to argue that napping is just another way to waste an afternoon. Even the hardest working among us have known that sometimes, a little nap is just the thing to wring that last best drop of creativity from a sagging cerebral cortex.

Most experts, however, have always recommended a snooze of a mere 15 minutes as optimum. I was never a proponent of this recommendation, and it's not just because I ain't got no self control.

It's because the long, languid nap feels good. And now I've discovered that the Boston Globe has got my back.

Yes, indeed-y. According to this graphic, those of us who do not get a healthy 8 hours of sleep each day are at particular risk of "toggling between normal and... a dangerous state of slowed responses and foggy inattention." Enter, the 90 minute nap!