Sunday, February 28, 2010

All is well.

I woke up this morning to a phone call with no person on the end of it. A necessary fumbling for the reading glasses revealed that the caller was a toll-free number. But since I was awake, I thought I'd see if my son-in-China had communicated in the night.

Yesterday we chatted online briefly, and he gave me a hotel phone number that never worked. Moreover, he told me that the credit card and debit card we'd so assiduously arranged for--including the de rigeur "I will be using this credit/debit card in China, as in C-H-I-N-A, so don't decline any charges coming from this card in Beijing, which is in Ch-China" conversation--was not working. As in, when he used it to charge a hotel room, the card did not "function."


I will spare you the rantings of me, moi, myself as I tried to figure out how to get that situation in hand, without a functioning phone number, and with a bank that is decidedly and emphatically not available on the phone on Saturdays. Yes, it meant I waited in the drive-through line to find out, ultimately, that they, the bank, were not declining any charges. So what the hell?

Actually, having finally conversed with the bank, I kind of calmed down. I had done what there was to be done. Meanwhile, son-in-China slept off his jet lag in his hotel room (he is lucky we insisted that he carry some cash).

So, today when I looked, I saw a cheery e-mail in which he informed us, his parents, that he had purchased a cell phone, that there is now indeed a way to contact him, and that his credit card is now working, whatever! And he is registered at the university, his tuition and room and board paid for, and all is well. He has a blog, and there are a couple of posts. We spoke on the phone and he sounded great. He had noodles for breakfast, MacDonald's for dinner, and has purchased orange juice and Oreos for breakfast, much like college students everywhere in the world, apparently.

I feel so much better. So much better, in fact, that after having read the entire New York Times (with an excellent article about Jeff Bridges), I stood up from the comfortable red chair in the living room, looked around, and thought, I love this house. Hope you're up for a little tour:

tags: relief, Ch-china, financial instruments

Thursday, February 25, 2010

La fête du bon voyage (containing an ode).

(a), he was going to China, but
(b), so did Marco Polo, so
(c), it was perfectly fine for it to be a pizza party.

You cannot imagine the array of good pizza stuff I had--enough for pizzas for the 5000. We did happen to have only 2000 or so people, at the fête, so there was a lot of good pizza stuff left over, which we packed up and sent home with several.

But that's not what this post is about. What this post is about is ice cream cones.


For it is edible, yet it contains an edible,
which is both icy and creamy;

but the cone itself is crunchy
and brittle: for it is
a cookie, yet it is also a vessel:

for it is made in several versions, to wit,

the cake cone, which is for children;

the waffle cone, embodiment of savoir faire,
the cone of choice at the ice cream parlor; and

the sugar cone, the cone of my youth,
burnt sugar crisp into which

the double dark chocolate
ice cream of Swenson's was dipped:

because it comes in exceedingly
small sizes, such as
the kiddie cone:

why not have two?


The day before the party, I found tiny ice cream cones at Target, and the people, I bought them, and for dessert we had cupcakes baked by my daughter, with tiny Chinese flags affixed to toothpicks and stuck in the tops, and to finish it off, there were tiny ice cream cones, vanilla and chocolate, and they were adorable.

I don't always think "adorable" is the most salient quality in a dessert. But sometimes it is, especially when the boys--little and big--who are attending your party ask for just one more.

tags: ch-china, odes

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Running son is taking off to Beijing tomorrow. He's been home just over two months, and off he goes again. Who thinks going off to Beijing for five months, after having been home for just over two months, sounds like a grand adventure? Raise your hands!

That's right, it is a grand adventure. Full of Mandarin and noodles and a foreign land, and right now, after midnight, we, the people, are both trepidatious and really excited about it.

If I were a 21-year-old and I were going off to Beijing to learn to read, write, speak, and understand Mandarin even more than I already did, I would have the following as my priorities:

1. Do not get kidnapped.
2. Do not have my money or credit cards stolen.
3. Do not get lost or have anything patently unsafe (aka, "dangerous") happen to me.
4. Blog religiously and truthfully about the safe (aka, "not dangerous") and wonderful things happening to me. Post many pictures of myself, safe and sound, in China.
5. Call home and e-mail at sufficient frequency that my mom wouldn't freak.

Yes, that's certainly what I would do. But that's me.

tags: China, adventure, safe

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing, a consideration.

There may come a day when the following genres are no longer a part of my active written repertoire:
  • the letter of recommendation;
  • the agenda;
  • the notes on a discussion topic for further discussion;
  • the addenda and corrections to minutes;
  • the proposed language for inclusion in the Academic Guide;
  • the policy draft;
  • the memorandum.
Perhaps on that day, I will be dead. Perhaps on that day, I will merely be old. Perhaps I will have written myself out at that point. I may have no more clicks of the keyboard in me.

Is this writing? This is writing. Or, perhaps, "writing."

On the other hand, I might have a new poem coming along, about dust and mice. Mice could write some of the things I'm writing these days. I think a mouse would be the exactly appropriate author of "Addenda & Corrections to Minutes." A mouse, writing in the medium of dust.

I, on the other hand, surely was meant to write loftier things. Such as blog posts and checks to Target. And the answers to the clues to the crossword puzzle, nestled snugly into their little boxes. And sassy agendas. And elegant policy drafts.

TAGS: genre, loftier

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stressed out and its discontents.

There's a certain amount of madness that occurs in the long middle of any semester. In fact, you don't quite know it as a semester until that madness arrives--when you realize that you are, officially, behind, and you're probably going to be behind until it's over. Some semesters are worse than others; sometimes there are things beyond your personal control that make it that way, sometimes you just have less inner resources than other times, blah blah blah and then, the semester's over, and you can survey the ashes.

Is anyone else feeling bleak, though, about the entire enterprise? By "entire," you can take your pick: the global recession, the state of higher education, the specter of long-term unemployment that really takes the shine off optimism about anything, gridlock in the federal government, our truly horrifying state legislature, and on and on.

Who wants to read this? No one. I don't even want to write it.

Last week, I thought I was, perhaps, getting a handle on a particularly knotty problem at work, in my life as a faculty leader. That knotty problem is pretty substantial, involving budget cuts and the potential loss of jobs among the faculty. After a faculty meeting I conducted, wherein those present decided upon a course of action, a crash occurred. As in, I crashed. I crashed, emotionally, for a couple of days.

What it feels like is this: you feel like there's at least something you can do. It can still be daunting and scary. You can still feel, as it were, out there. Exposed, a little, but you feel like you can marshall your powers, be brave, get out there, exert yourself, execute a strategy, do something.

However: when you start to think that perhaps the action you've decided upon won't have the effect you've intended--that maybe it will lead to a worse outcome than just doing nothing--what is that? That makes you feel useless. And if you've marshaled your own powers--your research, your relationships, your rhetoric--to start taking action, and then you feel this shock of existential terror that this strategy might not be a good thing . . . you feel leached of direction, motive, faith in your own powers. Or anyone's powers, frankly.

By "you," I mean "me." Obviously.

You know what actually made me feel better? Not about the situation. I don't know what will make me feel better about that. No, the thing that made me feel connected to life again was buying food. Running son is off to Beijing this week, so we're having a little family/friends party tonight. Wandering the over-priced aisles of Whole Foods made me feel like a human being again. A person who can plan and execute the plan. A person who can make something good happen, like dinner. And conviviality.

We also saw my niece in her junior high musical production of Annie, which was shockingly well-produced and very enjoyable. May I say that my niece played a very talented Person of New York? and that the dog who played Sandy was very talented at sniffing out dog treats, and also alarmingly adorable? This play--there were a hundred kids, I bet, involved in it, and countless hours of planning and effort. I am not embarrassed to say that it lifted my spirits--the play itself, which was wonderful, but also just the thought of people working that hard to make something happen.

And off I'll go tomorrow, after we clean up the dishes and the leftovers tonight, to try to pull something together. Perhaps a more nuanced, multi-level strategy. More conversations and more behind-the-scenes negotiations. Something, maybe, that will make the situation better and not worse. Maybe I can still help.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things I do and do not give a damn about, apparently.


1. The Winter Olympics. I'm sorry, the people, but I just don't. On the other hand,


1. Trying to remember all ten Best Picture nominees for the Academy Awards. In case, y'know, there's a call for a street nomination showdown, because I'd want to win that.
2. Sleeping in the big chair for more than an hour this evening.
3. Why my television programs were not on tonight. The answer is: Winter Olympics, that's why. Which, by the way, I don't give a damn about. On the other hand, I do possibly give a damn about
4. Whether a tulle skirt should become a part of my wardrobe. On Etsy, there's one that's described thusly:

I'm pretty sure there are good reasons I should give a damn about possibly acquiring an item like that.

TAGS: do, don't, should, shouldn't, a damn

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lies I tell myself: a running list.

1. I'll get caught up over the weekend.

2. I'll get caught up over the long weekend.

3. That's the last thing I'm going to buy.

4. That's the last potato chip I'm ever eating.

5. There, that's all tidy. I'm never to let it get that bad again.

6. Just five more minutes online, and then I'm going to [fill in the blank: take a walk; do the dishes; grade an online discussion; organize my sock drawer . . . ]

7. Starting now, I'm going to write everyday. [write = not the millions of words I generate a day; write = something that might eventually be a poem]

8. (at midnight) That's all right, I can get all of this done tomorrow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Open letter to Size Zero.

Dear Size Zero,

Today, when I was shopping online, I ran into you again, Size Zero: I saw a lovely dress that cost only slightly more than I should consider spending on a lovely dress (that's if I had any business whatsoever shopping online, which I didn't). I clicked over to see what sizes were still available, and what do you know? There you were, Size Zero, the last size standing. Acting like you are a size at all.

Let us pause to consider The Zero. Here's what Zero is: nothing. It is the place holder between positive numbers, which signify actual amounts, and negative numbers, which signify--well, in my view, they signify less than nothing, but then what do I know? I'm no Wizard of Numbers--the point is, Zero is a big empty space between something and not-something. Wait, let's try again: the Zero is a big empty space. . . .

there's an empty space in the middle of it, right? Okay: the Zero technically is, as in, it exists, but only conceptually. What is the Zero? It is a blank: it is naught, nil, nullity.

So how can Zero be a Size?

Size Zero, I object to the existence of you: what you really signify, Size Zero, is tiny. Tiny, while I admit it doesn't thrill me in a grown woman, I can accept. There are those of us who are capacious. There are those of us who are middling in size. There are the smalls, and there are the tinies. Fine.

But Size Zero? You are a downright rude notion. I reject you, Size Zero, á la lettre. Size Zero, I mets you dans l'abîme. Size Zero: BOO. That's right, I am saying I do not care for you, Size Zero. No doubt, I am jealous of you. But that will not stop me from taking umbrage, openly. Perhaps you feel the same way about me, but Size Zero: really?




tags: I am not tiny

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The ordeal.

It's Tuesday, it must be time to whine.

1. Why is it that getting up in the morning--and by getting up, I mean getting going--is such a project for me? Once last semester, I think it was, I thought I was going to get an 8 a.m. teaching slot by virtue of some evil shenanigans inherent in the scheduling process, and I was all, SERIOUSLY, you guys, that is a terrible idea. And it's not because I'm lazy--although it's possible that I am--it's because 8 a.m. does not AGREE with me. As in, 8 a.m. wants to pick a fight with me, if I try to do something serious instead of, say, think about what outfit I might wear, or contemplate taking the dog for a walk in an hour, or thinking about breakfast. Which is to say, I can think, the people, but I cannot do.

2. Yes, shut up, I know, I would not last one minute in a job in the so-called real world. Which is why, the people, I am not there. And also, I am not teaching at 8 a.m., ever. My chair said, "But you'd do it if the program needed you to." And I said, "Sure," by which I meant, "Not even if you promised me the world in the form of a banana split with all the shoe money in China: in other words, hell to the no."

3. So, by the time I am in shape to actually do stuff, the morning feels frittered away. Even though I have decided on an outfit, taken the dog for a walk, and eaten breakfast. Gaaa.

4. After all that productivity GOSH I get started on my grading. Thanks to my colleague for her excellent presentation on audio grading! I launched into some fine commenting on student work on Audacity, which was great, but then Bruiser started barking his ferocious there's-a-gangster-at-the-door bark, which meant, of course, that the postman was drawing nigh, with a package from the Beijing University of Language and Culture for running son--a package of very very important papers. So: dog barking in the background of the student comments; containing the Big Bruise from enthusing the postman to death; and now, figuring out how to get an expeditious student visa for running son so he can go abroad. Again.

5. Off to school. Successful consultation with a student. Successful kvetching with a colleague. Successful meeting with a VP. Successful run-in with another of my students. Off to a big fat meeting. Survived it.

6. Sitting in the busy student center, I attempt, with my headset, to comment on a couple more student drafts. But my laptop doesn't want to locate the LAME file which turns Audacity files into mp3s. Woe. Another student lingers, then says, "I recognize your voice." Turns out he's another of my online students. That is a weird, but increasingly common, phenomenon--they hear your voice, they know you.

7. Another meeting, a dinner meeting.

8. In a race against time, I finish writing and producing another screenr presentation, with a fair amount of gnashing of teeth. I draft a piece on shared governance. I draft an agenda for a meeting tomorrow. I draft an e-mail. I locate many, many attachments to attach to the e-mail. I send it. Somewhere in here, I watch The Good Wife.

9. At 11:55 p.m., I begin thinking about possible outfits for tomorrow, because there is an 8 a.m. Board of Trustees meeting.



tags: whiny whiners and the people who tolerate them

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A true story.

Once not so long ago--about a week and a half ago, in fact--I was asked in a flattering way if I wanted to participate in a production of The Vagina Monologues. [Note: in case you have a sixth sense about these things, you are correct! It's possible that this post may contain the word "vagina" more times than you can shake a stick at. Although why you would want to shake a stick, I can't imagine.]

I thought about it, and then I said, yes, sure, why not? I'm a forward thinking person, I am a feminist, I think a show that is all about embracing the female body [note: there are a lot of words you could use in place of "embracing"--loving, empowering, etc.--and all of them get you close to the fact that we're not all that comfortable with the female body, after all, which is part of the whole point of The Vagina Monologues, which is why it's a good thing to do that production every year on or about V-day--that's V for Valentine's and, not uncoincidentally, V for Vagina.], so why wouldn't I want to be a part of The Vagina Monologues? I would. Yes, I would. Kind of.

However, an obstacle ensued to my participation in The Vagina Monologues, an obstacle in two parts. Part 1: a preliminary rehearsal that happened to fall on the morning after the sleepover with grandchildren, a morning heavily scheduled with waffle-making and waffle-eating. Part 2: a preliminary rehearsal that got rescheduled for later that day, a part of the day that was heavily scheduled with a going-out-to-lunch to celebrate my son-in-law's birthday.

So I had to bow out of the preliminary rehearsal, although it wasn't supposed to be a deal-breaker. In the meantime, I received a script of The Vagina Monologues, whereupon I read it and found, in fact, that the word "vagina" occurs many, many, many, many, many, many times in that script. Wow, I thought, this script uses the word "vagina" a lot. But, I thought, I am nothing if not forward-thinking. I am a feminist. Oh, I can say the word "vagina" in a huge theater full of people. Sure. Not only am I forward-thinking and a feminist, but I am brave. I can say "vagina" with a zillion people watching.

So, I followed up. On Monday, I e-mailed to find out how the preliminary rehearsal had gone and what monologue I would be reading. Well! That preliminary rehearsal was, in fact, the deal-breaker. And they had enough people. So, guess what? No saying "vagina" in a crowded theater for me.

And that is the story of The Vagina Monologues, and my participation therein, or not. The end.

tags: V

Monday, February 01, 2010

And now, I pause to note a limitation,

which I am loath to admit, and which I shall represent now as a series of propositions and factual statements:

1. I wished to create a hand-drawn/-written post that contained within it clickable links.
2. I drew/hand-wrote this post.
3. I scanned these drawings.
4. I figured out how to insert these links, known as "hotspots," in Fireworks.
5. I exported this as a .jpg.
6. When you upload this fussed-over and finessed .jpg to Blogger, it is just a picture.
7. A picture with no clickable links.
8. I do not know how to work on this problem/challenge to my skillz at the level of html code. Moreover,
9. I do not know that this problem/challenge to my skillz can be surmounted at the level of html code.

Ergo, please note that the "click here" commands in the hand-drawn/-written images below cannot be executed by clicking, and if you would like to click, you may use the links below the images. This is an inelegant solution. It pains me. Nonetheless:

Fred Hersch [Jobim] [@Jazz Standard] [NYTimes]

That is all. Carry on.

TAGS: frustrated, execution


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