Monday, August 31, 2009

Does anyone remember living in this world?

From The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken:
Afterthought Cookies

Should you ever need cookies for children and do not feel up to making any, you can spread confectioners' sugar moistened with cream and vanilla between graham crackers.
I retain an affection for this book, which happened to be on the shelves when I was growing up, and which is hilarious both as an artifact of a lost time and as a piece of comic writing in its own right. But that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is this: is it wrong to say that, after a day in which I
  • wrestled with exporting a presentation into Quicktime which, inexplicably, has an low volume on the audio,
  • chatted with a colleague about the status of the College climate, a conversation after which I found myself feeling rather low,
  • went to College Senate, where I felt simultaneously a little vulnerable and also like the Paragon of Pomposity (but not a nattering nabob of negativity, so whew),
but then went a-visiting, first to the historian's son's house for birthday presents and greetings from a passel of granddaughters, and then to my middle daughter's for dinner, water games, cupcakes, chalk-drawing with one grandson and holding/squeezing the other, liberally sprinkled with passionate, uproarious conversation--is it wrong to say (reprising the subject and predicate of this syntactic machine) that I kind of long for the days when I might find myself surrounded by children, and, as a matter of course, making cookies for them, afterthought or no?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lisa, it's your birthday.

𝄞 Happy birthday, Lisa . . . 𝄫

Obviously, I'm quoting from the Simpson's, not singing happy birthday to myself. Gosh. And frankly, there was no need, since I received a swell of birthday wishes and it was grand.

Here are some of the happy facts of this weekend, which we treated like one delightful celebration:
  • the teeny tiny strawberries grown by Weeks Berries of Paradise, the ones that are a distillation of the strawberry, so fragrant you swoon a little bit.
  • blueberries grown by the same people.
  • the happy accident of finding, in the archaeological dig that is my study, a recipe I'd saved for a blueberry cake (from the NYTimes Sunday Magazine). Ladies & gentleman, it was delicious. I AM PACKRAT (in honor of the archaeological dig and its riches).
  • a beautiful handmade book made by Montana artist Gerri Carlson:
  • two movies (The Hangover and Julie & Julia)(for those who know I've already seen The Hangover once . . . you're right, there's really no excuse. The historian hadn't seen it. It was at Brewvies (still). My veggie burger was delish. AND I did laugh a second time. Quite a bit.)
  • make that three movies--my youngest daughter and I saw The Ugly Truth, which was kind of ugly, it's true, though it had a redeeming virtue or two . . . and there was popcorn. And good company.
  • breakfast out this morning.
  • a chat with my oldest friend.
  • a visit from my son's old friend, and then my son and his family.
  • Mad Men.
I also worked quite a while on stuff for my course, read the newspaper, talked to the kids in Scotland, who sent me an awesome video of the granddaughters singing Happy Birthday, then everyone dancing to "Stop Your Sobbing," which, what a thoughtful present! And the aforementioned birthday wishes from one and all--I feel thoroughly celebrated. And it's not even concluded--my middle daughter has invited us to her house tomorrow for a barbeque and water games (and to play with my grandson)--and I hear there are birthday wishes awaiting at the historian's son's house full of granddaughters.

And so, as a fitting conclusion to this self-congratulatory post, I offer you this:

It was a lovely, lovely day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Faculty life.

Signs that it may be a long, long year, and then another long year after that:
  1. I have started dreaming about administrators, and not the one I'm married to.
  2. I find myself carrying on lengthy, involved, never-ending arguments with certain people in my head.
  3. People have started dropping by my office to tell me true and alarming stories of Things Gone Dreadfully Awry in their respective areas.
  4. The classroom I'm teaching in is deluxe but very, very warm.
  5. I wore overly ambitious shoes today, an error I'm prone to, which means that by the end of the day I was not only overheated but footsore.
  6. I am measuring the year by holidays.
  7. I have started referring to myself as "aka, Sucker" when people ask me about being a faculty leader.
  8. Many, many of the necessary instructional artifacts for me to teach these classes have yet to be made. Did I say "many"? I meant "endless amounts. Gobs. A whole heap. Incalculable numbers. Myriad. Multitudinous loads. The necessary instructional artifacts yet to be made are legion. Are numberless. There's a whole passel of them. As far as the eye can see would be full of the necessary instructional artifacts I have yet not made, had I yet made them. A whole slew. A zillion."
  9. I may possibly be teaching two entirely new classes, as in classes that have never been taught before, in the spring.
I have started every day this week with a loud and encouraging rendition of "Stop Your Sobbing," but at this rate, I may need to play it several times a day. I may need to rig something up so that every time I open my laptop (how many times a day is that? a lot of times.), I can hear these words, in the immortal voice of Chrissie Hynde:
Each little tear
that falls from your eye
makes, makes me want
to take you in my arms
and tell you to stop all your sobbing
--and while I'm at it, I should also stop enumerating The Dreadfuls, aka the reasons why things were, are, and will always be terrible. No: Stop stop, stop stop. It is time for me to laugh instead of crying.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not enough hands.

ON THE ONE HAND, when I came home from my first full day of work in a very long while, a day which which started at 6:30 a.m., and not in a good, greet-the-dawn kind of way, more in a "I need a shower now so my hair will look okay by 9 a.m." kind of way, and which also involved a rawther expensive trip to Kinko's where the employee was on the other hand very helpful but the cardstock was kind of pricey, A DAY WHICH involved listening to intermittently interesting yet somewhat dispiriting and even enraging talks for two hours during which I desultorily added student after student to my online Introduction to Imaginative Writing course, a day WHICH SUBSEQUENTLY led to a mixed-up whose meeting was it, mine or the Academic Vice President's?, and though I was quite certain it was an honest mistake nonetheless I sat there with my very expensive handouts and thought, is this my fault? is this my fault? and then it was my turn to echo at the entire faculty in the cavernous room, somehow never getting the mic placed so that I wasn't breathing like a heavy-breathing phone caller: STILL--and here we clearly need yet another hand--there were lots of conversations (here a grumble, there a rant, everywhere a gripe gripe) THOUGH THE DEPARTMENT meeting was swell and so many friends were there: EVEN SO: when I came home, took off my teacher drag and high heeled feet, lay on the bed, talked with the historian for awhile, checked this and that on the internets, I then fell asleep at six o'clock for one hour, and for that excellent, sweet hour the hands spoke no more.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

At last.

Years ago, on Ally McBeal, Ally's therapist (played by Tracey Ullman) told Ally she needed a theme song. (I have searched in vain for a clip from the show of Tracey U. singing her theme song, which was "Tracy, When I'm With You," sung by the Cufflinks--but of course, she was just lip synching, so here you go):

You've got to admit, that is a pretty awesome theme song if your name happens to be Tracy.

However, the fact remains that my name isn't Tracy--not that I wish it were, though damn, that song is catchy--so this song will not work for me. However, the idea of a theme song, one that will affirm some quintessential truth about yourself when you hear it or sing it, is pretty excellent. In fact, ever since Ally McBeal, I have been on a quest for a theme song, if by "quest," we mean "intermittently thinking about," but tonight, at the Pretenders concert, I believe I finally found it:

Theme song--check. If you have a theme song, I definitely want to hear about it in the comments.

Updates: My dad says perhaps my theme song is actually the state song of Idaho, and he just might be right there:
And here we have Idaho
Winning her way to fame
Silver and Gold in the sunlight blaze
and Romance lies in her name
He says that perhaps this is also his theme song, although "the Air Force song ["off we go into the wild blue yonder/ flying high into the sky . . ."] is in strong contention." He further suggests that my mom's theme song must be "Georgia," since she was born there.

Jennifer C. says hers is "Wide Open Spaces"; Sheonagh's is "I Wanna Be Sedated," which I think might actually be my alternate theme song. Y'know, on the days when I don't want to stop my sobbing.

Anyone else?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My intentions are good.

So, yesterday I finally dug myself into the very bowels of Blackboard to sort out my online work. An unattractive metaphor and yet so appropriate! Here are some things I found out:

1. when the content (which I originally developed) the instructional designers rolled over from the last time I taught English 2250 is as awesome as I frankly did not expect it to be . . . I don't actually need to develop very much new content after all. Hello, excellent design and solid original effort! What a friend we have in you.

2. Blackboard is just as glitchy and un-user-friendly as ever. It's nice to know some things never change.

3. Some of the instructional designers are worth their weight in gold, and their names should be praised evermore.

4. Blackboard likes neither my browser nor the docs I've developed in Dreamweaver.

5. An afternoon slice of everyday cake makes the medicine go down.

6. Putting together a daily schedule for the semester is like a crazy game of Jenga.

7. Every year I have excellent intentions for: reading and returning work promptly; having hard deadlines instead of squishy, malleable ones; ending the semester with finality--when it's done, it's done, no matter what you have or have not managed to submit, Mr./Ms. SlackerStudent with a Million Excuses. This year is no exception. But this is the year I will make good on these promises to myself.

And now, I will invent a syllabus for English 2010 out of thin air. Or, to put it another way, by appropriating the guts of syllabi I've recently encountered. That's right: I am the Dr. Frankenstein of syllabi, and soon I will reveal my monster.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rough draft.

My Sabbatical Report.

Prologue. Sabbaticals are very important. Reasons, examples, &c.

Account of activities.

Summer 08 (technically before my sabbatical had officially started): sat in the mornings with a warm beverage reading at an ever more frenzied rate about the election. Constructed in fantasy a patio-centric life, with breakfast out there and then lunch under the cherry tree minus the birds eating the cherries &c. And dinner. And parties. Wrote. Took footage. Took notes. Walks with Bruiser.

Fall 08: Then we went to Ireland. Then I went to Massachusetts and Maine. THEN it was almost Christmas. Walks with Bruiser.

Winter 09: Then, it was January, a perfect time for new beginnings. more words more words more words about stuff. Wrote, revised, wrote/revised. Increased anxiety about the video essay component of the sabbatical proposal. Walks with Bruiser.

Spring 09: finished a draft of the manuscript. Started making video essays. Walks with Bruiser.

Summer 09: revised that manuscript like it was my job. Made video essays. Idaho.

In conclusion: And now, it's time to go back to school, thank you very much syllabus pedagogy benefit to the department sabbaticals are very very important &c &c I really wish my sabbatical would have lasted forever.


Appendix 1: my manuscript
Appendix 2: a list of all the things I wanted to do but never got around to
Appendix 3: the URL to my Vimeo site
Appendix 4: my Ireland/Idaho photo album
Appendix 5: Alternative proposal for never-ending sabbatical, with benefits to students, my dept., the school, the college, the world and the universe. Also global warming, the environment, and world hunger.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Bruiser who had my back. Thanks to my new iMac for giving me the will to keep going. Thanks to the historian for everything, literally. EVERYTHING. Thanks to my kids and grandkids and everyone I love, who called and had breakfast with me and kept me living in a real world.

The End (the real one).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To whom it may concern:

I have just started three different blog posts, and all of them were whiny--not that I have anything against whining, and in fact, I consider myself to be something of a whine stylist, but the whining in these posts was so abject, so pathetic, it smelled bad--nay, it stank--even to myself, aficionado of the whine, the Maven of Moan, Doyenne of the Doldrums, Ace of Waaa, Guru of the Gripe, Crackerjack of Complaint, Proficient of Plaint: I'm saying that once not so long ago, there was some serious writing going on around here, but not anymore, because all I got is grievance grouse trouble and whinge, and if you want something different, I'm sorry to say, you'd better go ahead and find yourself another blog.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The birds of Seattle.

We are having a wonderful time in Seattle, to wit:
  • we've spent some time at a park down by Pike Place Market where we had a fine time watching birds and the water and people.
"You know what I find kind of touching? young love," said the historian, pointing out a young, obviously in-love couple.
"You're a better person than I am," said I. "I just feel kind of bitter I'm not still young myself."
Later on, though, the historian's daughter told us that all manner of drug deals go on down there.
"Really?" I said, turning to the historian--"so, that young couple you thought was so charming?"
"Probably doing a drug deal," said the historian's daughter, and she ought to know.
However, the birds of Seattle are not interested in giving me the time of day. You can see what I mean:

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Not that I've ever fully acknowledged this to myself, but I may be in search of a life where I am never not online. I realize how sick this is, but yesterday, when I got an e-mail from my air travel provider that my flight would have Wi-Fi, I thought, I am so going to connect.

And so, I am now at 40,016 feet, with 1 hrs, 12 mins to go before we land at Seattle/Tacoma. I know this because, having connected, my Safari page has a header with info from the airline:

Absurdly, I find paying $5 for this experience entirely satisfying.

Now, I am going to finish reading the New York Times. That is all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A lot of questions.

Q: what will I wear to the important yet exceedingly early meeting I must attend tomorrow?
Q: why potato chips?
Q: what to do first, on the interminable list of what to do?
Q: why so much insomnia?
Q: what will I take to Seattle? and when will I pack it?
Q: moths: why?
Q: why have a CSA share when we've been gone so much this summer?
Q: when will I get around to seeing the Harry Potter movie?
Q: is a sequined cardigan in my future? or anyone's?
Q: when will the library's robot call me to say the H. Mankell book I've requested is in?
Q: will my laptop accompany me to Seattle?
Q: when and/or where will I find Season 2 of The Wire to watch?
Q: cloud computing: awesome or a pain in the butt? or both?

Answers to these questions--or new questions, with or without answers--will be taken at Thanks for your support.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The fire.

Oh, wow, is what my grandson says when he's impressed with something, like the dinosaurs in Ice Age part One Million, or an extra large blueberry in his muffin. I am saying oh wow myself at all the stuff that must be done between now and when school starts. For instance,
  1. I must get the shell and some of the content up for my two online or part-online courses.
  2. I must make podcasts or basically some kind of multi-media online content for those courses, at least some of which needs to be in place when school starts.
  3. I must continue to work on my manuscript, which on the one hand is in very good shape and on the other hand, likes to alert me to its flaws with each successive reading. Which, on the third hand, is very helpful of it, but on the other other other hand, this is the endlessness of this kind of writing: it will be finished when I'm dead.
  4. I must make several more little videos in several different categories.
  5. The historian and I are taking a small trip to Seattle to see loved ones.
  6. There are meetings I have to attend.
  7. I have to write my sabbatical report.
  8. I'd like to have a strategy for doing my faculty leader work this year. Does someone have an extra strategy they'd like to let me use or adapt?
There are events unrelated to work:
  1. I need to see people, such as my family for my dad's birthday, and the upcoming birthday of a niece, plus the birthday of some grandchildren, plus some other family birthdays I can't quite enumerate right now.
  2. Events with friends, such as my writing group, a dinner, a lunch, a book group.
  3. A concert.
  4. I didn't go to my aunt's to play Rock Band tonight, but I could have, and it would have been fun.
  5. My own birthday is coming up, which at this point appears to me to be most appropriately celebrated by a very quiet, extended nap.
I am not complaining. Repeat: I am not complaining. I am just saying. Maybe it looks all the more complicated by contrast with three weeks in one of the most peaceful places on earth.

Okay, with that off my chest: I think I need a novel to read. I read The Girl Who Played With Fire, which was a page-turner and a pot-boiler, and--in that vein--very good. I love the main character, in case you want to know. But now that it's finished, I feel that not having another story to fall into makes me even more anxious than I already am.

Oh the anxiety! The anxiety is a pain in my ass. The anxiety is why I took a sabbatical in the first place, to get rid of it and to come back all chilled out like the gesture I made last year when I said, "This will be my new mantra":

Right. Not that I'm cynical about my own self, but let's just see how long that lasts.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Better thinking through cooler weather.

It's a pretty much straightforward equation, which, if I had even a passing acquaintance with equations, I would demonstrate here, with an equation:

[Note: I don't even know what the above drawings mean. They are not real equations for this situation. At least, I don't think they are.]

However, since I don't remember a thing about what smarter people than I call "Mathematics" anymore, let alone anything remotely equational, I will simply say this: I think better when it's cooler. (Decorate that sentence with all the math you want. I wish I could, but I do not wish it enough to take a mathematics course.)

Of course, yesterday, I was paying the price for not being able to sleep since I got back from Idaho. (Wait, isn't that paying the price twice? Can't sleep because it's so hot, then get sick because can't sleep because too hot. The mighty injustice of it all!) So my hot weather/productivity matrix was a little bit skewed by a summer cold:

[The above: obviously, not even a matrix. At all.]

. . . but today, with the weather holding at whatever blissful temperature it was holding, and I having slept pretty well, finally, and with whatever cold symptoms I was experiencing being kept in a chokehold by one--just one!--DayQuil capsule: today, the people, I worked. Things happened. Revision was my boyfriend.

So whatever we can all do to keep things at this equilibrium, let's do it. Just keep things cool.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Weather Channel.

In today's Salt Lake Tribune:

Monsoon? Please explain:

Exhibit B (my backyard):

As I believe the evidence shows, the people, what we have here is another kind of nasty weather altogether. A mistral-type situation. You know, a hot, dry wind that hurts your brain, makes you cranky. The kind of weather that makes the murder rate go up? That's what we have here.

Lock up the guns, knives, rat poison and nunchuks, and maybe we'll get through this alive.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Thought-free zone.

It is too hot to think.

Instead of thinking, I did this:
  • took Bruiser for a spritely walk.
  • bought Sprite for singing son, because he had a sick stomach.
  • drove to Park City to work on a syllabus with colleague.
  • kvetched about work with colleague. (I have to get in practice for the regular academic year--the marathon event of kvetching about work.)
  • went to lunch with colleague and talked about television and movies. And kvetched about work.
  • went to the Gap outlet store where I picked up a skirt and walked around with it, spritzed myself with Grass eau de cologne which I have a nostalgic fondness for even though these days it smells like the chemical formula for "grass." Put the skirt back. Bought nothing.
  • drove down the mountain to a meeting.
  • went to meeting.
  • kvetched about work with another colleague, after the meeting.
  • drove home.
  • arrived at the same time as the historian. Whined about the heat. Turned on the swamp cooler. Poured myself a tall glass of ice water.
Which brings us to now. We are preparing for an evening of crosswords and television and some dinner at some point, with possible ancillary heat-related whining (on my part--the historian does not whine. Seriously: never.). Also, many iced beverages.

Dear Weather Robot,

My husband reports to me that there's supposed to be a cold front, which he heard about on the radio while driving home. What does the term "cold front" mean, with respect to how hot it is now? And the fact that it's August? I just want some assurance that the Doppler Radar, or whatever, is correct about this, and that I will recognize it when it happens. Tell me, Weather Robot, what will the weather be like?

Sincerely, htms

Dear Hightouchmegastore,

Today the weather is like this:

Please do note that, while the temperature is 96 degrees, it feels like a mere 91 degrees! I'm sure that, if you happen to be currently taking a cool shower, while sipping a Slurpee and thinking of Antarctica, you will concur.

On Friday, however, the weather will be like this:

77 degrees, with scattered T-storms, is cool enough that it doesn't have to feel like anything more or less than its own damn self.

Robotically yours, with hints of rain,

The Weather Robot.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Summer hours.

Tonight, we went up Millcreek cabin to build a fire, roast hot dogs and make s'mores and check things out:

It was my daughter's idea. We had a fine time--D was ecstatic about throwing rocks in the river, ate his s'more but not a hot dog, and, in the end, could not be persuaded that leaving the river was a good idea. A small, strategic sucker placated him:

So, it was the historian and me; my daughter, her husband, the boy who liked to throw stones in the river, and their little dog; and my son and his wife as well as this charming young man:

I'm deliberately not focusing on the part where one of the cars (not ours) spontaneously combusted, necessitating a tow back down the canyon. It was a lot of fun to hang out with a little guy by the banks of a creek, helping him find small stones and enjoying his joy as he hurled them into the river, watching the dog try to conceptualize a running creek by snapping at it, and feeding a little watermelon to the baby. Then we put out the fire and went home.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Down the mountain.

The people, it is hot.

And, in that environment, I must begin to think about work, as in my job. As in:
  • syllabi
  • online content
  • reading the governing documents for faculty
  • developing some content that other faculty can use (one of the outcomes/deliverables of my sabbatical proposal)
I think we can all agree that "hot" is an unconducive environment for any of that. But I am a professional and therefore I will execute faithfully all of the above with only minimum amount of whining.

I have various pieces of the manuscript to mull over still. And I have some video essays I'd still like to make, let alone movies I would like to see! Maybe tomorrow has to be my laundry day/make a plan day.

I don't want to start counting down the weeks or days or hours, but it sure feels like it's about that time.


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