Teaching the same honors composition class, only with five more students, can wreak havoc with one's scheduling, especially when there are only fifty minutes per session. Five more students = at least one more group for group presentations = at least two more days for whole-class draft workshops = at least one more day for presentations = wait, from whence do I acquire three more days? (Ah, if only we could do what we did at the University of Chicago, where our courses sometimes just kept on going into the next semester. Not officially, you understand.)
Thanksgiving break is really annoying. Not because it's a break, but because it a) happens in the second-to-last week of classes and b) makes it extremely difficult to keep up the momentum of any ongoing assignment.
I hope the Victorian students don't mutiny over Mrs. Sherwood. Then again, they might have fun (we're reading only two chapters, the gibbet chapter and the God-as-Eye-of-Sauron chapter).
With any luck, I am not accidentally scheduling myself to have three papers due on the same day. One never knows, however. (See under: professor, absent-minded.)
Then again, I've doubled my reading pleasure by making drafts mandatory in the two courses that emphasize skills, composition and intro to lit analysis. The drafts carry a substantial enough point value that students are now motivated to do them, at any rate.
Do I dare not hand out syllabi in paper format, and just point everyone to ANGEL?
It occurs to me that most of the books I'm teaching this semester are actually available on Kindle.
In mid-July, I got out of bed and accidentally stubbed my toe. The little toe, to be precise. I hopped around a bit, said all the things one tends to say when one stubs a toe, and then ignored the toe for the rest of the evening. Because, hey, toes get stubbed now and again.
The next day, I awakened to the cheerful sights and sounds of gentle sunshine and birds chirping...as well as a strange throbbing sensation from the direction of my feet. I got out of bed, inserted my contact lenses (without which I can't see much of anything), and looked at my little toe. And observed that it had turned an interesting combination of black and purple overnight, along with some other parts of my foot. This, it seemed to me, was probably suboptimal, all things considered. My mother concurred, and schlepped me off to the nearest emergency room, where I had to explain to the intake nurse that I had stubbed my toe. (The nurse seemed to find that amusing.) As I was obviously rather far down the emergency room scale of priorities, I settled down to read; luckily, it was a slow morning (other patients apparently being less clumsy), so I had a surprisingly prompt chat with the ER nurse, who was rather less amused by the state of my toe than nurse #1. More waiting, followed by a return visit to the nurse and accompanying doctor. "Wow, that looks broken," said the doctor, and sent me off for X-Rays. (At this point, needless to say, I began to think about my bank account.) I posed my foot prettily under the X-Ray machine, the X-Rays were processed with remarkable speed, and...my toe wasn't broken after all. Just, you know, really sore, plus of many unusual colors. (As it is still a little sore, nearly three weeks later, it's possible that I may have torn something in there. Ah well--as my mother put it, "You'll know in twenty years when it falls off.")
In any event, the day of reckoning came today--by which I mean, of course, the bill. (Or, at least, the first bill. If I'm remembering this hospital correctly, they may bill me separately for the ER doctor, whom I saw for at most five minutes, all told.) My stubbed toe cost a mere $2329--at least, so far. Thanks to my insurance, my share of the bill will not be the equivalent of the transmission for my car, and will only amount to rather a lot of secondhand books from Amazon. I told my toe to rejoice in this statement of its value, but am not entirely sure it was listening.
2002nd revision of the Academic Integrity Policy. The Policy applies to all students entering in the 50-51 ABY school year.
The following constitute violations of the University's policies. For a summary of the reporting and appeals process, see the appendix.
1. Telepathy. During examination sessions, telepathic contact with students in or out of the classroom is strictly forbidden. Students may not forcibly initiate telepathic contact with any instructor or proctor.
2. Unauthorized contact with Force ghosts. Force ghosts are not considered reliable, peer-reviewed sources, and should not be cited in academic papers or examinations. (See the Intergalactic Style Guide, 247th ed., on the appropriate use of sources.) Students may not use the University to forward any political projects developed by Force ghosts, nor may they assist them in leaving Chaos. Force ghosts should not be invoked to intimidate faculty, administrators, or other students.
3. Telekinesis. Students may not use telekinesis in physical education or dance classes without the explicit permission of the instructor. At no time may students use telekinesis to manipulate, elevate, remove, or destroy computers, either theirs or another's, during an examination session. Students may not use telekinesis to defenestrate the faculty, move objects or items of furniture in classrooms, or levitate buildings.
4. Protocol droids. Students may not submit for credit any translation or original work produced by a protocol droid. Students may not order any protocol droid to complete assignments or examinations, and they may not tamper with any instructor's protocol droid to obtain answers to examination questions. Students who have religious, linguistic, cultural or medical reasons to use protocol droids in class must obtain permission from the Office of Android Management.
5. Astromechs. Students may not use astromechs for any purpose related to coursework in coding, engineering, mathematics, or space flight. Programming astromechs to insult faculty, administrators, or students in Binary is strictly forbidden.
6. Joining the Dark Side. Students may under no circumstances join the Sith to force faculty to grant higher grades. Students who enter into apprenticeship contracts with Sith Lords will be immediately reported to the authorities. It is strictly forbidden to use Dark Side powers, such as force lightning, to injure faculty, administrators, and fellow students, or to damage electronic devices, droids, and ships.
APPENDIX: Reporting and appealing violations
Faculty or administrators wishing to report violations must use the following procedure.
1. Documentation of the violation. Faculty may document the violation using holovid or droid recording capabilities. The University discourages faculty from citing Force ghosts as witnesses, communicating with the administration using telepathy, or immediately challenging the student to a dual-wielding lightsaber duel.
2. Report to Department Chair. The incident should be reported to the Chair using Form 39171(b), available on the University website (see "Disciplinary Forms"). Incident reports must be made within one day of the event. Faculty must fully complete all 21 pages of the form and forward it to the chair with the accompanying evidence. Failure to answer all questions correctly will result in instant dismissal of the complaint.
3. Chair reports to Assistant to the Assistant Associate Dean. The Chair must evaluate the complaint using Form 3911118(a), and forward that form to the AAAD, together with Form 39171(b) and the documentary evidence. Reports must be completed within two weeks of the complaint. The Chair must fully complete all 48 pages of the form for the complaint to be considered by the administration. Failure to answer all questions correctly will result in instant dismissal of the complaint.
4. AAAD reports to the Assistant Associate Dean. After evaluating the relevant forms, the AAAD should forward their recommendation to the AAD within one year of receiving the complaint. In general, a one-word "yes" or "no" should suffice.
5. AAD reports to the AD. Once the AAAD's recommendation has been received, the AAD has three years to suggest a plan of disciplinary action to the AD, or to dismiss the case altogether. Action plans may be submitted verbally over a regulation game of Sabacc.
6. AD reports to the Dean. Within five years of receiving the AD's action plan, the Dean should hand down a final ruling. However, disciplinary action will be voided if either the student or the faculty member is no longer at the University because of graduation, retirement, or other proximate cause.
1. At the initial report phase. Students may challenge the instructor's account of events using Form 3333991 (z). This Form must be submitted within thirty minutes of notification that a complaint has been filed. Students must fully complete all 83 pages of the Form or their appeal will be disregarded by the University.
2. After the Dean's ruling. Students who for some reason have not left the University at the time of the Dean's ruling may challenge the disciplinary action using one of the following methods: 1) a podrace in the canyons of Tatooine; 2) a game of Dejarik according to Galactic Core standards; 3) a time trial in protocol droid assembly. Students are required to provide all materials and, if necessary, pay for their own transportation. Students may not use any University-related funds for this purpose. A student who loses the challenge must compensate the University for all costs incurred.
1. Oh joy, oh rapture! I have empty bookshelves! I must fill them.
2. Wait, that means I must remove books from boxes. How many boxes did I have, again?
3. These are some of my boxes. They have been exiled to the hall outside my office, because my new office is half the size of my old one, and the floor space is occupied by all the other boxes. These boxes look melancholy, somehow.
Clearly, I must cheer them up.
4. Incidentally, I need to find my OUP editions of the Brontes. They are in a box.
I have not the slightest clue which box, in case you're wondering. Luckily, there are only thirty-two boxes.
5. *censored cursing from dropping box on toe*
6. Large boxes full of books are heavy, possibly because there are no strange quantum effects altering their weight. Fortunately, I am a woman of incredible strength! The boxes are no match for me! I can--
*female custodians approach*
"Dear, don't move those by yourself. You're so little."
7. *open box*
*break down box*
*toss box into hall*
8. In case unboxing books becomes too strenuous, I can cool down using this method located right outside our office suite.
Yes, we have a shower, due to the dangerous chemical experiments performed by all humanities professors during their lectures on Wordsworth. It's a stealth method of pedagogical disruption: just combine organic chemistry with British Romanticism, and you can fulfill two gen ed requirements for the price of one! And with only one instructor!
9. *censored cursing from breaking fingernail on box*
10. Still no sign of the Brontes.
11. I go in desperate search through the building for vending machines containing choc--I mean, heart-healthy snacks. No, I mean chocolate. There are no vending machines. I feel a panic coming on, which I quickly assuage by leaving the building, walking to the Student Union, and acquiring heart-healthy--no, chocolate.
12.I have found enlightenment, thanks to all the philosophy books I've unpacked, but the Brontes continue to elude me.
13. When we chose our office furniture, we had the option of either lots of drawers or lots of bookshelves. As a result, I now have lots of student-generated paper and no place to put it.
Except, of course, in one of these boxes.
14. I have found the Brontes! And I've also found that I have OUP editions of Emily and Anne, but not Charlotte. You may insert censored cursing here.
15. Not only do I have papers from my undergraduates, I have my undergraduate papers. Anyone up for a Chaucer midterm?
16. The internet's siren call beckons me away from unpacking boxes. Is this yet another sign of the degeneracy of the Internet Age? One more example of the inability to concentrate brought on by twenty-four hour access to social media? I ask you.
17. Wow! They're almost entirely unpacked!
Except for that part where I haven't actually shelved them, just sorted them onto shelves. But...but...they're out of boxes, right? Baby steps!
This past summer, I replaced the wooden garage side door with a steel door. After all, every warm season had brought with it the Great Door Problem: humidity made the door swell and, thus, cease to fulfill its primary door-like function, which was to open on request. As you might expect, I soon tired of hurling myself at the door like a character in a bad cop show. However, once the steel door was installed, all was well.
In the summer.
I have since discovered that the door's locks freeze in extreme cold weather, making the new door even less useful, if possible, in winter than the old door was in the summer.
Both of my cats are getting up in age--they'll be fifteen in April--and so they come with the standard complement of elderly-cat issues. Disraeli recently decided that arthritis and inexplicable allergies were insufficient; no, he needed a defunct thyroid, too. (He may have been trying to catch up with his sister on that score.) This means that he requires thyroid meds every day.
As you can see, he's pretty "uh-huh, yeah, no" about that.
Is that a "you just try it" expression or what?
Dizzy is a pill about being pilled (as I explained to the vet, "two people are required, and there's only one of me"), so he gets his meds topically, via a gel pen. Unlike his sister, who had a yikes-inducing allergic reaction to the pen, Dizzy seems to be getting along with the gel. Unfortunately, also unlike his sister, he is not, shall we say, all that patient with the situation.
For those of you who have never used one of these gel pens, you rotate the base of the handle to dispense the appropriate amount of medication. The base clicks when you rotate it.
You can guess where this is going.
After about two weeks, Dizzy figured out that clicks translated to EVUHL GELZ IN MAH EARZ, and he took evasive action accordingly. I, having a Ph.D., started concealing the sound by turning on the faucet. This worked...for a few days. I, again being the one with a Ph.D., upped the ante by using the very loud vent fan in the kitchen. This worked...for two whole days. Tomorrow, I will try the next step: going into the garage. Which I am not anticipating with any great pleasure, because IT IS EXTREMELY COLD RIGHT NOW. However, as I completed my Ph.D. in Chicago, I am no doubt inured to extreme chill. Right?
Cats have long been regarded as ideal companion animals for academics: they are relatively self-sufficient, do not require regular walks, and spend long periods asleep--all of which enable academics to focus on their research, teaching, and service-related tasks. It is our contention, however, that living with cats in fact produces a skillset that can be usefully generalized to many aspects of today's academic working environment.
We differentiate between two primary types of skill: a) skills learned from cats b) skills learned by co-existing with cats. Our study will classify and evaluate the relative applicability of each skill to the academic environment, focusing on their respective cultural, political, and social ramifications. By the end of our study, we will better understand the practical importance of cat companionship to academics, and propose new targets for assessing the positive and negative effects of such companionship.
To our surprise, despite the presence of cats at all levels of the academic workforce, no study of this exceptionally important topic has yet been undertaken. As a result, we are free to forge new methodological ground in our pathbreaking investigations. We therefore propose a cross-sectional study, drawing on eighty-six volunteers from diverse demographics who are united by one thing: their longterm co-existence with at least one cat. This is a participant-observer study, as the grant applicants are all owned by multiple cats apiece. Data will be collected via interviews, questionnaires, and personal observation. To analyze the data, we will employ a multidisciplinary blend of empirical sociological research, statistical analysis, animal behavioral study, French feminism, and Derridean deconstruction. Although the grant applicants are all English professors, we have devoted at least three weeks' worth of study to each of these modes of inquiry, and are confident that we can deploy them with considerable proficiency.
Sample interview questions
1) Do you remove cats from chairs before sitting down, or do you opt for a different chair? Explain your reasoning.
2) Estimate, to the nearest HZ, the frequency at which you converse with your cats.
3) Describe how living with a cat has affected your home decor. Be sure to include such examples as carpet color, upholstery types, and so forth.
4) When a cat sits on your book, how do you respond?
5) Estimate your annual expenditure on cat toys, catnip, and treats.
Skills to be assessed: learnt from cats
1) Ignoring human communication. Potential applications: evading requests for grade changes and extra service assignments.
2) Sleeping at all hours. Potential applications: dozing off surreptitiously during long department meetings.
3) Demanding food at 5 AM. Potential applications: gaining favors from department chairs by nagging them early in the morning.
5) Staring at walls for no reason. Potential applications: producing the appearance of serious thought during exceptionally dull conference presentations.
Skills to be assessed: learnt from co-existing with cats
1) Sneaking up on cats to medicate them. Potential applications: introducing potentially boring topics to students by concealing them within shiny apps.
2) Being ignored. Potential applications: learning to be philosophical about the department chair's refusal to grant favors (see #3 above).
3) Effluvia avoidance. Potential applications: avoiding unpleasant departmental conversations about new office assignments.
4) Physical contortions to avoid disturbing cats. Potential applications: negotiating the space between door and desk in one's cramped office.
5) Spending more on the cat's needs than your own. Potential applications: discovering creative ways of using the department's pen budget to fund a wine-and-cheese party.
Participants will be asked to maintain Excel spreadsheets tabulating the frequency with which they use each cat-related skill, noting important results (e.g., whether or not the department chair retaliated for being nagged at 5 AM by assigning the faculty member to teach a Saturday morning course the following semester). In follow-up interviews, the practical use-value of each skill will be evaluated on a one-to-ten scale, with "one" indicating that the skill had no academic applications, and "ten" indicating that the skill worked consistently in multiple academic contexts. Our final report will then analyze the data utilizing a groundbreaking statistical method that melds quantitative analysis with the Greimas square.
Dissemination of final results
We expect to present our work at the 2015 MLA conference, where it will receive additional exposure from journalists looking for unusual titles. The tentative title: "Cat People or Pet Semetaries? The Discursive Construction of Relations between Cats and Academics in Upstate New York." We anticipate that an international publicity tour, including multiple daytime talk shows and a possible hosting gig on SNL, will ensue shortly thereafter.
New high-performance gaming laptops with HD touchscreens, to maximize ease of use while Skyping and to test feline aptitude for electronic media: $2000 ea/$10000 total
Weekly first-class ticket purchases to upstate NY, to maximize one-on-one access to subjects for the duration of the study: $1000 ea/$2600000 total (note: may be offset by frequent flier miles)
Luxury hotel accomodations, necessary to produce the correct frame of mind for conducting interviews: $500 nightly ea/$390000 total (note: may be offset by hotel rewards programs)
iPhones for each candidate, in order to enable ease of data collection and exchange: $500 ea/$46000 total
Dinner budget, to reward candidates for participation: $100 ea dinner/$8600 total
Deluxe catnip toys, for experiments: $5 ea cat/estimated $1000 total
Variety of high-quality cat food, for experiments: $520 ea cat/estimated $4000 total
One of my unfulfilled childhood dreams was to have a fancy dollhouse. Oh, I had a plastic Fisher-Price dollhouse, but...I wanted one of the big ones you built from a kit. As an adult, I've always got a kick out of looking at dollhouses, and thinking, sort of wistfully, that it would still be fun to have one. And then, when I was visiting one of the local antique shops, I saw a Fancy Dollhouse from a Kit that was on sale, and it suddenly occurred to me: I'm an adult! With, like, a salary and everything! If I want a dollhouse, I can buy one!
And so I did.
However, I also had Lofty Ambitions. Why couldn't I...maybe...build a dollhouse? Or, at least, decorate a built dollhouse? Now, bear in mind that I am not a crafty person (although I'm sure that some of my students think I'm pretty sneaky). I wouldn't describe myself as all thumbs, precisely, but unlike some of my friends and colleagues, I don't do craft-type things (sewing, knitting, woodworking, model building, doll-making, etc.), so any dollhous-ing would be, to say the least, a learning experience.
One go at dollhouse-decorating came to an end when I found that the house (an older kit model) had a fatal structural crack, but it was useful practice (primarily, for figuring out How Not To Do It). In September, however, I found someone on Craigslist who wanted to give away a dollhouse that she had been working on, but unable to finish. The exterior had been sided and painted, but that was about it. And so dollhouse, take two.
Now, Dollhouse Take Two isn't a kit model--it's a custom build by a professional woodworker. On the one hand, it's sturdier than a lot of kits. On the other hand...well, as I said on Twitter, never mind it being hip to be square; it would have been even more hip if this guy had used a square. Because the house is ever so not squared, although it looks square enough when you're eyeballing it. Walls are strangely angled and the top floor is on a very slight diagonal. Not all of the wood was planed flat, either. Moreover, the window openings weren't squared, which was kind of disastrous for the kitchen; my handy rotary tool and I were sort of able to fix the opening so you could, y'know, actually get a window into it (I did mention that the house was already sided...), but the window in question still doesn't fit quite right (although you can't tell from the inside). There were some other funny things that engaged my little gray cells, like the interior door openings, which have standard interior door width matched with standard exterior door height (cute tiny shims to the rescue!), and the staircase opening, which matches no standard staircase on the market. Oi vey.
Also, I'm pretty sure that I've used more spackle on this house than I've used on any real house I've ever lived in.
For some reason, I failed to utilize my previously Hard-Earned Wisdom, which is that painting anything white will lead to nothing but torturous agony. If it's white, it has at least three coats of paint on it.
This did take the entire semester to finish, given that copious spare time was not forthcoming. But there was something nicely stress-relieving about cutting tiny miters or laying little hardwood floors.
I really don't know why my last name is such a magnet for extra "n"s. I used to assume it was the Leonard Bernstein phenomenon, but is that still true now? There must be a doctoral dissertation in this somewhere.
It was unseasonably warm and sunny, which is why I spent most of the day indoors memorand-izing and collating. The joys of life in academia, etc.
Speaking of which, I am not convinced that there is some idyllic space in which we can all express our pretty little thoughts in perfect liberty. There are these inconvenient obstacles known as "people" and "communities of people," who have an unfortunate habit of introducing a similarly inconvenient obstacle known as "politics" into any given situation. Now, I have yet to hear that a life of contingent academic labor leads to perfect liberty, despite what this essay appears to be arguing. A "portfolio of employed work both at higher eduction institutions, private organisations and freelance writing and consultancy" will simply shift the constraints on thought from one context to another, depending on the payment and the piper.
If only NAVSA would do the equivalent of this. There are oh so many nineteenth-century databases that my campus cannot afford.
I don't recall ever missing more than one day of class when ill, although given the usual progression of my close encounters of the viral kind, lecture days tend to turn into group work days. But contingent faculty may not have paid sick days--in fact, one adjunct showed up in the comments while I was writing this post to make that very point--which turns this issue into an academic exercise of a very different sort. "Don't come to work while running a 104 degree fever" may be the right advice, but it's not useful advice if it also means "and don't have enough money to pay your rent."