Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Always on Christmas night there was music.

An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."

From Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales

I'll now be taking a short posting break, while extremely knowledgeable and prompt servicepeople move my interweb connection to my lovely new home. Be back before you know it.

image, raceytay's photostream.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stop shopping already.

It's almost Christmas. Have some cider, or eggnog, or cherry-flavored cough syrup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. Find some fuzzy socks and settle in.

Cause baby, it's cold outside.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More than the usual Christmas mess.

My friends will be relieved to hear that I've hired a truck and muscle-y movers to get all my crap from point A to point B. I was getting all worried about how heavy I was packing the boxes, and then I counted the ones that contain books, and divided that number by the ages of the people on the moving crew, and I decided that if any of us get injured over the holidays, it should be because we were trying to do the Shasha Fierce to Single Ladies, and not because we were carrying boxes from one side of town to the other.

But that means that everything has to be packed and ready to go by Saturday morning. If I work really hard and stay away from the intertubes, I can still take two days off to be with kith and kin at the Christmas Family Compound.

Brother Butch is coming, and we've plans to spike the cider with Apple Jack.

photo, Nina Leen, December 1948, Life Images.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On love and loss.

I moved the contents of one of my closets to my new place this past Saturday. Since nobody likes moving other people's clothes, I thought taking care of the closets would be a kindness to the people who are slated to come and help next weekend.

But also, I still have what I believe to be a greater number of black slacks than Tawana considers necessary. I'm not giving her the opportunity to take me to task for owning more pair than she wants to carry.

I moved a lot of shoes, too. I am heart-broken to have to say that these were not among them. My mother and I, after long deliberation, determined that they were broken down and beyond saving. They weren't even in good enough shape to make the donation bag.

I am heartbroken.

You can see that these soles saw many, many miles. This is because they were very probably the most versatile pair of brown shoes that I have ever owned. And even though my feet are quite large, these shoes make them appear delicate and feminine. These shoes are business-like, yet flirty, and they are flat enough to make any podiatrist happy. Each and every time I wear them, someone complements them from the other side of the stall. But I think the main thing I love about these shoes is the adorable nubbin-type button on the side. That part, I can't explain.

They are just simply irreplaceable. And they are gone.

I find it impossible not to mourn a pair of shoes that feel so good that I managed to wear them right out from under me. Most of the time, the shoes I'm in are so uncomfortable that my feet are fairly screaming to be freed. If you were to look under the conference table or beneath my desk, you might catch me--completely naked from the knees down. On particularly hot, summer days, I often slip one foot out and onto the soothingly cool tile floor while I wait for the elevator to arrive.

I never had to resort to such hillbilly shenanigans while wearing these shoes. I miss them already.

Friday, December 19, 2008

While you're waiting for the room mothers to show up with cupcakes.

Aw, come on. It's the last Friday before Christmas. You know nothing productive is going to happen today.

So, while you're updating your facebook status or doing some last minute internet shopping, I recommend the online radio station Pandora.

Instead of grouping songs into genres, like other online stations, Pandora uses the Genome Music Project to find new music based on the music you already like.

Just type in the name of an artist or song, and Pandora "creates a radio station featuring that music and more like it."

image, Ian Hopkins.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dimwit dim lit, dammit.

Yesterday, I purchased 1000 twinkly Christmas lights to place upon the boughs of my pre-lit Christmas tree. This was necessary because of the 800 or so lights that came from the factory already hanging upon the tree, roughly 750 refused to twinkle. This represents an additional 60% failure rate over last year's frustrating Christmas tree installation. The wire branches and polyvinyl chloride faux pine needles may very well last into the next century; the twinkly lights didn't make it to the five-year mark.

Say what you will about the quality control at that particular Christmas tree factory, somebody there knows how to wrap a string of lights around a fake tree branch. For the majority of the afternoon and well into Wednesday evening, I cut the old lights out of my pre-lit Christmas tree with a pair of garden shears.

This is the first time in my history that it's taken me more than three days to erect a Christmas tree. Given all the time and energy I've expended to avoid having to purchase another (functioning) tree, I could have grown a bonsai from seed, cultivated it to fit into the palm of my hand, and then groomed it into the shape of a Christmas stocking. That is, assuming I could borrow the neighbors' garden shears. Mine are shot to hell.

Image, Shorpy Photo Archive

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of my friends.

I'm moving again.

It's been not quite two years since my last relocation, and the kind souls who helped me the last time still haven't fully recovered. Until they see this, they won't even know that I'm packing.

But packing I must be, since I've already signed the lease.

If you could find Tawana to ask her, she would tell you that I'm just never satisfied, and there's a certain truth in that. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and as an adult, I get tired of the same four walls after a while. And even though I've compiled a long laundry list of things I don't like about my current digs, this move has nothing to do with the floor plan or its proximity to the train tracks.

This time, I'm moving to a smaller apartment to match my smaller salary. It's the smart thing to do, so it doesn't hurt matters that I was pretty much ready for a change, anyway.

And since I'm off work until mid January with no students to torment, I'm going to need something to keep me from trolling the internets all day. I can't nap the entire time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How was your day?

I've put off virtually everything until now--the laundry, the housework, the Christmas shopping. I haven't even put up a tree yet. I had been telling myself that I would roll up my sleeves and get busy bright and early with the sun on Monday morning.

But the sun did not appear, sleet rained down all day long, and I spent the majority of the day listening to NPR, reading all the internets, losing more games than I won of Spider Solitaire, and eating every potato chip in the house.

Well, the cat ate a few.

This is so unlike me. The potato chip thing--okay, that sounds like me--but the rest? Usually I'm the one voted most likely to give herself a heart attack in the course of an average day.

I don't mind telling you, the whole thing has me worried. What does it mean when one gives herself completely over to "I don't want to?" Who takes care of things? How long is this going to last? Should I see a professional? I can tell you right now: I don't have enough pairs of pajamas to live this kind of life.

I think that this might be the result of the company I've been keeping. 16 weeks of hanging out around college freshmen, and suddenly, I'm acting like one. Really, what else can explain it?

Tonight, I'm thinking of drinking PBR until I'm blind, having some Ramen Noodles, playing Rock Band until 2 or 3, and then falling asleep on the couch--in the pajamas I wore the day before.

In the morning, I'm going to call my mom to see if she'll help me with my laundry. With any luck, she'll let me come home and lay around on her couch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just another (justifiable) reason to buy another pair.

When it comes to social interaction, we have our own way of doing things down here in the South. We smile and make eye contact on the street, say "please" and "thank you" to perfect strangers, and may even go so far as to pretend that we don't notice how rude and inconsiderate the other guy is behaving.

We may not agree with you--we may not even like you very much--but we'll be on our very best behavior. It's all based on not making the other person in the least bit uncomfortable--even if we happen to think the other person is a dick.

This mode of behavior works for us. And it's so deeply ingrained, that I doubt most could change, even if we wanted to.

But then yesterday I read a news story describing how an Iraqi journalist took umbrage at something our always well-spoken president said during a news conference in Baghdad. Apparently, the guy chunked a shoe* at the head of the sitting President of the United States. When that shoe missed the mark, he immediately followed with the other one.

Neither shoe hit home; as it turns out, our president is fairly quick at dodging footwear. So quick, in fact, that I suspect these were not the only shoes he has had occasion to duck. Actually, this looks to me like exactly the kind of thing that might come of being married to a man like George Bush. Certainly, I could find it in my heart to forgive Laura Bush the occasional urge to lob a kitten heel at the noggin of her (surely) frequently infuriating husband.

Which all has me thinking that--Southern charm aside--I could really get behind this particular method of demonstrating my dissatisfaction--at that snooty grocery checker at Kroger or that girl on her cell phone during the movie--even that kid who keeps dragging into my 8 o'clock class at twenty minutes after the hour.

"Dude. I wouldn't mess with her. She wears like an 8 and a half."

Video of United States President demonstrating dodge-ball skills here.

*Showing the soles of one's shoes is considered extremely insulting in Arab culture.

photo, Anna Trinchera

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fine. Make merry if you must.

Announcing the 1st Annual Mundane Jane Christmas Video Countdown.

Every day, from now until Christmas, I'll select a special holiday video, and post it for you in the sidebar.

And there you thought I didn't know how to celebrate Christmas.

Edit: Don't look for them now. I removed the videos after the season concluded--all 18 of them. They were a bit hit. Watch for them again next year.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I have 93 final portfolios and 24 research papers to evaluate, comment upon, and assign grades to. Then, using a complicated formula I do not really understand, I have to calculate final semester course grades for each student, and post those grades so that they--in turn--can log onto their computers and see whether or not I have ruined their lives.

I have a lot to do.

Or at least I will have, any minute now.

This should be old hat to me by now. By my calculation, I've graded almost 400 essays this semester. But I've done so--more or less--at my leisure:

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Keep your shirts on. I'll grade 'em--when I get good and ready."

These grades, though, have to be posted in less than a week. I don't know what happens if they aren't posted by the deadline. No one I know or heard tell of has ever missed it.

I hadn't realized I was so uptight about this, until I thrashed about in fitful sleep all night--grading papers in my dreams. I'm all tired and grumpy today because essays I haven't even seen yet were gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

It's like having someone say, "I'm going to poke you with this lit cigarette a couple times. In just a minute."

Let's get on with it already.

Image, #5 of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Somebody get my mom a corndog.

Actually, she would probably be a lot happier with a zucchini on a stick. Nevertheless, it is her birthday, and a corndog is required.

This picture was taken back in her halcyon days, before my brother and I were around to torment her. When I call to wish her happy birthday today, I plan to find out what, exactly, she's hiding beneath that tarp.

Probably, it's filled with shoes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The hell with Dr. Feelgood; I'd be happy with Dr. Feelsgood enough.

That's a pretty titilating title, wouldn't you say--for a woman who's too sick to blog?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Can I get a red bow on that recession, please?

A couple days ago, my local news channel signed off for the evening by running through a short list of things one might do to save a little money this Christmas. Their closer? Wrap Christmas gifts in newspaper--just plain old unadorned, smeary, black-and-white newspaper.

This idea might be just a little too Walton's Mountain for my taste. Nothing says hard times quite like a holiday gift wrapped in pages torn from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Even though I worked for quite a while with people who really could make a silk purse out of a Kroger sack, you don't have to be an artist to apply a little ingenuity to your presentation.

Tsutsumi (folded paper wrapping) at PingMag
Furoshiki (cloth gift wrapping) Techniques
Plastic bag bows at ReadyMade
Gift Packaging Roundup from Jess at How About Orange
Paper Flower CD Case from Curbly

Pictured: Peace, Love and Happy gift wrap alternative from Print*Pattern*Paper.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I don't know where I'm supposed to be or what I should be doing. Thank goodness, someone does.

Last week, another professor and I switched classes for a few moments so we could proctor one another's end-of-term evaluations. I don't know if you remember, but in college, the students get an opportunity (before grades are posted) to evaluate instructor performance. We don't administer our own evaluations, and nobody sees anything until next semester. Which sort of takes all the fun out of it, if you ask me.

I've only just realized that while he was sitting at my desk and waiting for my students to finish their civic duty, he took a moment to add some items to my teaching calendar. On this week's agenda:

Tuesday, December 8, 9am: Leg Waxing.
Friday, December 5, 8:30am: Re-evaluate life choice.

I haven't read ahead any further than this. I don't want to spoil the surprise.

But I do hope he's found me a date for New Year's Eve.