Friday, November 30, 2007

word of the day

Sausage Fest - n. - from "sausage festival". (humorous) Coined to describe situations where there are disproportionately more males than females, or where male presence and/or contribution is over-represented. This forum is a god damned sausage fest!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Here's something that I recently discovered I have strong feelings about. It's the use of the word "entitle" to mean "title" or "name". It bugs the bejeezus out of me. Although it pains me nearly physically to do so, let me give some examples of the use of which I speak:
- "Entitle a single appendix APPENDIX, typed in all caps; multiple appendices should be titled and ordered alphabetically: APPENDIX A, APPENDIX B, etc."
MBA Style Guide)
- "Dr. Thompson's talk was entitled Fire in the Mind."
(Colorado State Science Fair)
- "Readers' Responses to the Webcast Video Editorial Entitled 'A Healthcare System That Works'"
(MedScape General Medicine (MedGenMed))

(bold lettering and italics above are not mine)

I've spent some time thinking about this tonight. What is it about this use that I find so problematic? I'm not a prescriptivist. I'm a grammatical and linguistic pragmatist, for the most part. It's not that I believe "entitle" is ungrammatical (it's not). Even if it were, grammaticality alone is not grounds for me to dislike a use so intensely. There's some nuance here which is eating at me. And no, it's not the similarity to the other, more common meaning of "entitled".

While I can't fully see the details of what bugs me, here's the gist. If "entitle" means to give a name to, or more simply to name, then it should be synonymous with "title", right? Then why use the prefix form? Maybe in a diachronic view, "en" + "title" could be considered the correct form, or the more correct form. It's certainly plausible that somewhere along the line someone felt it was more proper to use a Latin/Frenchy form to express the event of titling rather than rely on some good old fashioned conversion. But this isn't Latin or French. It's English. And the usually quite linguistically myopic native speakers of modern English are more than happy to noun our verbs and verb our nouns quicker than you can say "zero derivation". It would seem that "entitle(d)" ranks up there with "enthrone" and "besmirch(ed)" (which, like "entitle(d)", seems to appear more often in the passive voice) for screwy archaic forms. Except "enthrone" and "besmirch" don't have easily found and high frequency synonyms while "entitle" sure as hell does.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

weather, or not

It's almost December. In the past week, it has snowed, it has rained, it has frosted and frozen onto my car. I think it's even freezing rained.

Yesterday between periods of cold rain, all the tree between here and campus released their remaining leaves all at once, as if winter had come upon them - shivering and rolling its eyes - brandishing a gun and screaming "Ok everybody, drop the leaves! I SAID DROP THEM! DROP THEM RIGHT NOW GOD DAMN IT!!!!"

And today's high is 57.

Me and my joints, not to mention the trees, are getting mighty sick of this shit.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Off by about three months

Yep, that sounds right. Except the preppy (and put together) part.

You Should Be A Capricorn

What's good about you: hard working and ambitious, you're practically a guaranteed success

What's bad about you: you can be unforgiving toward people who fail you

In love: you're very picky, but extremely devoted to the one you choose

In friendship, you're: likely to be a good friend but expect a lot in return

Your ideal job: rock climber, sculptor, or practitioner of black magic

Your sense of fashion: preppy and put together

You like to pig out on: meat and potatoes

Saturday, November 24, 2007

am I 5?

I just ate a whole shit load of peanut M&Ms and now my stomach hurts, and I have a sugar rush so I'm blogging about it because A___ is grading and I am sitting here for once with nothing to do (I am done!!!....for now).

And I can't help wondering, am I like 5 years old or something? What 36 year old woman actually eats so many M&Ms that she gives herself a tummy ache?

Me. I do.

Well we all have our faults. I just happen to have ALL of mine plus a few I borrowed from a kindergartener as well.

On the plus side, I discovered that diaper pails make good kitty litter-leavings disposal receptacles. The diaper genie, in particular, works pretty darned well. Max (my cat) has had some digestive issues for a while now which got worse again about a month ago. This meant, among other things, I found myself needing to scoop his box more frequently. Like four to five times a day.

I can't flush it on account of the plumbing in the old house my apartment's in, so I scoop into grocery store plastic bags (damn stop and shop bags, there's a hole in every 2 out of 3). During Max's period of increased box use, I found myself trying to conserve bags by double scooping in one bag. This was disgusting for many reasons I don't think I need to go into. Then I remembered my friend cjblue telling me about this diaper thing which wraps up each individual diaper and then drops it down into the pail so you can toss another one in on top, wrap it, drop it, and keep going. It's great because it keeps the smell mostly shut in the container and I'm pretty sure I'm going through less plastic per scoop, which is good. Aside from few minor drawbacks involving the first one or two disposals in the pail (it apparently needs a bit of ballast to work properly) and a slightly less efficient but a hell of a lot more effective need to first scoop into a brown paper bag (lunch bags...ew), this thing is excellent.

I was feeling all smart and proud of myself for having found a good solution to the cat box scenario until I went on autopilot tonight after finishing my grading and ate all those fucking M&Ms while watching The Office webisodes.

Oh Shit. Sugar crash time.


No, this isn't about the cost of gas, utilities, housing, or dairy products. It's about grades at university. I'm thinking about it as I finish my round of grading the most recent assignment from my students. I'm teaching a writing intensive section, which means by university policy that if a student doesn't pass the writing component, that student fails the course.

This ups the ante in what is already the high stakes, high pressure grading scenario at the college level. Each semester, I find myself engaging in a process of lowering my standards in what I consider not only A work but passing work. So both ends of my scale fluctuate in a way which widens the range of passable and good work such that it encompasses products which I do honestly feel are substandard.

Why do I waffle so? One reason is that I suspect my standards are not commensurate with the level of work students at my university typically produce. All the talk about how we have a larger number of high quality students simply doesn't add up when I take informal stock of the overall level of work my students produce. This spans semesters and years and different courses I've taught. This holds true across my colleagues and peers too. Because I am by nature a relativist, I tend to adjust my scale to accommodate what seems to be the norm here. That is, what to me is B or C level work apparently at my university warrants at least a full letter grade higher in the final accounting.

Another reason is that even in the cases where there is no reasonable basis for awarding the higher grade, I have had students complain, insist, wheedle, flame, contest, and confront about the grade they earned. One such student brought her belief that she had received an unfairly low grade all the way to the head of undergraduate studies for my department last spring. The course had ended four months prior. She missed the final, she turned in a fragmented final essay, she had missed a good deal of class at the end, and had missed a writing assignment mid way through (which despite my giving her the entire rest of the semester to make up on account of me being a really nice person she never did make up). The grade I gave her, a low B, was charitable. Her basis for contesting her grade was that she thought I hadn't taken all her work into account when I awarded her final grade. This was nonsense, but is one of the few legitimate bases for contesting a grade. The head of undergrad studies was sympathetic to my situation as an instructor, but suggested that I look over her work and my records anyhow to see if I had missed anything. I managed to give her a slight boost, to a full B, after bumping up her participation grade (which had been moderate, a reflection of her missing so many class meetings at the end of the semester) and allowing her to make up the final (she did poorly on it, not a surprise since it had been four months since the class ended). Again, that was charitable and not at all the grade her work had earned, but at that point I just wanted her off my case.

She was disappointed, but thankfully she did not proceed further with the grade contesting request.

I was truly appalled that the undergrad studies director had not been more strict with her from the get go. He sends out emails once a semester reminding grad student instructors of the policy on grades and grade contesting. Belief that the grade was miscalculated or that the instructor missed or didn't count significant work on the part of the student are the only legitimate reasons to change a grade after it's been submitted, and yet here he was encouraging me to go on a fishing expedition to find some way to elevate a grade which was already somewhat inflated.

I know I am not the only one (cf. "A's for Everyone!"). I know that this happens with other instructors at other universities. Still, although I don't want to be part of this trend, it is incredibly difficult to work against that aspect of the system.

How are instructors ever to feel confident assigning the grade student work has earned when even the instructors' own departments seem to falter in support of stated grade policies? I know I feel a hell of a lot less confident now.

And so here I am, nearly done reviewing these papers. I saved what I figured would be the most tricky ones for last so I could at least grade them with the lowest possible standards (that is, standards relative to what was most likely to be the best or typical work of their peers on this assignment, which I had started with). I'm looking them over and thinking "Ok, on a non-relative scale this thing deserves a C, tops..." but I know for at least some of these students, the amount of effort they have put into the assignment is what they expect to be graded on. And I know for my more tricky students, that is, the ones who I've already identified as having problems with the topic or the manner of writing about it, there has been a reasonably high level of effort involved in getting the assignment done. I am wondering not just do I inflate but by how much? How much can I justify before I feel like an academic whore, pimped by the university and my department, here simply to at least minimally gratify the majority of my students?

Friday, November 23, 2007

PFG needs (2)

My god some of these are frighteningly accurate...

PFG needs a generic re-post action
(ok not that one)

PFG needs a girlfriend
(not my thing, strictly speaking, but in a more general sense, couldn't we all use more love and understanding?)

PFG needs the volume throughput to maintain the economies of scale

PFG needs some psychological help

PFG needs to change her name
(Petite Flower Goddess Who Is Kind and Sweet and Fair but Who Does Have a Somewhat Short Temper?)

PFG needs another expensive pleco

PFG needs broadband
(No, I need broaderband)

PFG needs a good shot in the arm
PFG needs to constantly adapt in order to stay ahead
(so true)


One holiday down, one to go. It was great to see my brother and sister. So great I managed to only blow up and act like a douchebag one time. Aside from that, it was great. The food was good, company was nice, and Skeletor was a big hit, as was this little number.

The end of my Fall Break means it's time to go back to work, and I approach work with a toxic mixture of trepidation and irritation these days. It's the close of a semester, always a crazy time. This one will be especially complicatedly crazy. I go back to an ambiguous relationship with my advisor, who has probably forgotten again that we have twice had the difficult but open and useful discussion in which I tell her where I think the faculty can stick their lip service to making medical accommodations and this PhD (nicely of course). Also waiting for me are some truly unpleasant discussions with various mid level administrators in my program as part of my effort to at least leave gracefully. And in the meantime there is grading and tonight there is an inbox stuffed with emails from a particularly annoying student, Princess.

I'm having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about work right now.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I'm listening to my fella chip the ice off our cars. I just sat back down after a big fat cleaning fit. The place looks good, except for the kitchen which will soon be the site of pie making and food prep so I figured why bother with the heavy cleaning in advance? I've graded all but four papers from my students, alternately horrified and delighted by their writing. And now it's time to relax for a bit, clean myself up, eat, and then go pick up the siblings from the train station an hour up the interstate.

I know it's late November, but still it was something of a shock to wake up to find white stuff dusting the ground, the bushes, and the mostly bare tree branches. Oh and the cars. I looked at the weather... "Ice Pellets" is on the menu for today. That and black ice, freezing drizzle, and fog. Yeah, I guess it's winter.

I fell asleep in pain and woke up in pain, so this was a lot of work to get done on top of that and despite the fact that I pulled some muscle or something in my shoulder vacuuming, I feel like I got a hell of a lot accomplished. I'm still not used to the fact that my body and my mind are not exactly on the best of terms. When I can manage to get a lot of shit done in one day, it makes me happy. I'm looking forward to resting this evening, watching movies, and eating. We still have the drive up in not great weather but we'll take it slow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

turn out

Hate crimes rose 8 percent in 2006
By Michael J. Sniffen, AP Writer
WASHINGTON - Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities.

Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.

I read this and I am satisfied that there is visible outrage. There damned well should be. But I also immediately wonder where the outrage is over the numbers 358,220 and 38.5.

The first is the number the US Department of Justice 2005 personal crimes report gives for women who were victims of rape* or sexual assault** in 2005. The second, again, from the US Department of Justice, is the percent of women who reported an incident or threat of rape, sexual assault to the police.

Yes, there are Take Back the Night Rallies every spring - often on campuses or in university-heavy cities. But that's a bunch of feminists, right? And feminism is considered a political stance, not an attitude encompassing basic human rights. Where's the basic outrage and anger over the victimization of women? Seriously. Where the fuck is it?

For the data/methods interested folks out there, here's the methods for the 2005 survey

And from that document, we get the following definitions:
* Rape = Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, anal or oral penetration by the offender(s). This category also includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims and both heterosexual and homosexual rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.

**Sexual assault = A wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats.


The studios have defined the streaming of films and TV shows as promotion, not programming. (LA Times Patrick Goldstein)

It kind of makes you wonder if streamed content constitutes "promotion" (rather than "show"), what is it that's being promoted? Shows? The network? Whatever product is being pimped 5 or 6 times a "promotion" (have you had your "white moment"? I am asked repeatedly by a totally surreal and fucked up ad which provides regular bathroom breaks in my viewing of an online "promotion" I watch regularly).

I haven't had cable or receivable TV in years, god something like 8 now. Then I discovered that some decent shows are on DVD. I rented them. Then they appeared on iTunes. I tried out a few, and the ones I liked I subscribed to. Now many of these shows are available as streams at network sites. ABC's player is better than NBC's btw. So now I watch 3 shows from NBC, 2 ABC shows, and one Fox show routinely, all online.

Although what is shown in the streaming version is identical to the show I would get were I to watch on TV, the networks would like us to consider this media "promotional", which appellation they believe absolves them of needing to compensate the writers for the work.

What a load of shit.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I'm so supposed to be grading....


My sister was asking me whether my university has the StanfordPrisonExpDocumentary (as opposed to this potential movie on the topic). They do and I am now wondering why we don't make a point of showing this footage to our students.
I'm not sure if the clip below is from the movie.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pumpkin soup

I just made pumpkin soup and holy crap it's yummy. And pretty damned easy too. It's an adaptation of the recipes I found by googling "pumpkin soup recipe".
One small to medium onion
1/2 stick of celery
One peeled carrot
One potato
1/2 inch of peeled fresh ginger root*
2 cans of chicken broth (low sodium is better b/c the non-low Na has like a whole salt lick in it)
1 can pureed pumpkin (the pie stuff is fine providing it's not seasoned already)
1 crushed clove of garlic
A dash of ground cayenne pepper
Black pepper
A dash of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
A very tiny amount of ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp butter
~ 1 cup of light cream

Melt butter in a large saucepan/pot. Add diced veggies, garlic, and seasoning and sautee until slightly tender. Pour in about 3 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender or food processor (we used an immersion blender right in the pot, worked just fine but wear an oven mitt because that broth gets hot). Stir in pumpkin, cover, bring to a boil then let it simmer for about 10 minutes on a very low heat, stirring occasionally (again, the oven mitt is necessary). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add cream and heat through on low heat.

I added a splash of cider too since (a) I had it and (b) my fella salted it up a lot and I figured the sweetness of the cider would help cut that somewhat.

* You can probably use dried ground ginger instead, although I'm not sure what the fresh to dried equivalent would be.

long week

It's saturday after a long week, before a long week. Extra long in fact since next week is thanksgiving. I need groceries, for the short and long term, but I don't even want to drive past the supermarket. Once when I was younger, married and living in Michigan, I went grocery shopping the weekend before thanksgiving. Standing in a line which moved slightly faster than grass grows, I vowed never ever to make that exact same mistake again. I didn't. Instead, I ended up going grocery shopping the wednesday before thanksgiving some years back.

This year, I am going mid-morning monday. I am hopeful that the swarms of holiday food shoppers who adopt the manners of petulant sharks will all still be at work.

However, it's saturday after a long week and I am already nearly out of coffee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday poetry

Tom Waits sings Tom Waits and K.D. Lang sings Leonard Cohen

Monday, November 12, 2007

When a Bear Isn't

Let's try an experiment. Take a moment to imagine a big white bear. Got it? Ok, now that you've got it, I need to ask that while you are reading the following post, you try not to think of the white bear. Any time you do think about it, you should tap your left index finger.

Where to start. My weekend was not good. My fella's family doing an early thanksgiving because fella's sister and brother in law and new their new baby were in town. It's the first time I've met this sister and her husband, who are very important to my fella. I wanted to meet them. I wanted to like them. I wanted them to like me.

Maybe I should start with the The Card Game Which Wouldn't End on Friday night. That was most of the family, minus more local brother and his wife. Father was drinking. He gets a little competitive when playing games. He has made the now wife of my fella's brother cry. Me? He pissed me off. And I don't have a poker face, voice, brain, or mouth.

Saturday brought something like an apology from him. "Will you forgive me for being belligerent?" my fella's dad said to me with a pouty face and in what I was a little aghast to realize was slightly baby-voiced speech. I wanted to say "If you're apologizing for acting like a child, it'd help me feel a whole lot better about it if you said it like an adult." But while this was honest, it felt shitty. Instead I hemmed and hawed a bit and finally I settled on "I just thought you were drunk," which in retrospect was probably not exactly polite but I respected the guy too much to try to hand him some insincere bullshit. The apology came in front of several other family members so I couldn't have the open discussion with him which I'd like to have had. The one which would have started with me saying "Yeah that was a little weird..." and which would have hopefully ended with us agreeing amicably just not to play cards again so no one's style has be to seriously crimped. Or to have a safety word or something.

Fella's father went to bed early that night.

And then came Sunday.

Sunday I had what I am recognizing as a "pfg's greatest hits" fight. I've had it now with at least one social group at each stage of my life. This fight has happened with my family, friends, lovers, friends of lovers, and family of friends. It's the "I don't want to watch Freddy Krueger/Hannibal Lecter/most of the Quentin Tarantino collection" fight. Why a fight? Fuck if I know. It always starts out simply and I'd guess innocently enough. Someone suggests, shows up with, or goes out and rents a movie for a group which includes me. Since it's meant to be for group viewing, and making my usual assumptions that group members have a say about what the group's going to do during group decision time, I say something like "I really can't watch movies with over the top violence..." I often say it with some degree of self recrimination or chagrin, a tone of apology because I know that people don't like to have their video recommendations dissed.

Aside from the largely unavoidable tone, I have tried different ways of saying it. I've tried different word choices in expressing this. The repeat nature of the arguments my sentiment provokes has taught me what apparently doesn't work. I'm still looking for what does.
Here's what doesn't:
"No no, it's me. I mean, I don't think that (insert title of movie, e.g. Pulp Fiction) is a bad movie. I know it got good reviews, and if it's not death, dismemberment, rape, torture, and the like from start to finish and if you've seen it and can let me know when not to watch, I'm ok with watching it because I have heard it's good"
"Does anyone get a finger cut off?"
"A lot?"
"Does anyone eat a body part?"
"A lot?"
"Hey I'm not saying you guys can't watch it."
"If it's open for discussion, I mean, if it has to be something we'll all watch, can I just vote we not get it, at least not tonight?"
"Look, can we just not make a big deal about this?"
" Can we not have a fight over this? If you really want to see that tonight, I can do something else for a while..."

When dealing with this topic, I've even gone so far as to explain (to people I have some established reason to believe I am close to and who therefore should give a shit) what watching such movies does to me. As a matter of fact, I had had this conversation with my fella's dad on Wednesday night (we were over there a lot this week on account of the family thing). The topic happened to come up totally out of the blue and I thought "Aha, this is a good time to let him know I can't watch that sort of thing". I see it as like letting someone know you're allergic to peanuts. You might not tell them right away, but if the topic of peanuts or food or allergies comes up at some point and if you happen to have this allergy, you'd be stupid to not mention it then.

I do sometimes find people who don't take deep personal offense when I express my desire not to expose myself to this stuff. Being agreeable about it is different from "taking my side" - which in fact I find I genuinely don't like. "Taking my side" only perpetuates any possible (and likely) contention the whole issue is causing. My statement and the "side takers" who chimed in after created a terrible fight at a friend's place many years ago. That episode ended by me giving in because I wrongly accepted responsibility for making a scene, harshing a scene, or otherwise fucking up everyone's plans. I think I felt that continuing to try to negotiate a reasonable activity which did not include this movie would have necessarily meant continuing the extremely unpleasant argument about banning all things nasty and violent, ever, for everyone. I'm older now and I make a point of not letting that happen anymore. That is, I try to own my shit but not anyone else's. And I'd rather leave and create a social tear than stay and fill my head up with that fucked up shit which will bother me for YEARS.

This weekend the topic of one of Tarantino's latest projects came up - as raised by my fella's brother and brother in law, who had come back to the 'rents' house with the movie Saturday night. I was not quiet or demure about my feelings and intentions for MYSELF on the movie that evening. I was clear and upfront about it. And I thought "hey I talked to my fella's dad about it and he seemed to get it", which gave me some reassurance that I could at least assume he wouldn't get on my (or someone else's) case about it.

The movie was not watched Saturday night, rather, when my fella and I got to the 'rents' house Sunday afternoon, father, brother, and brother in law told us they had watched it that morning. Then began the retellings. My not watching this shit ban (for me, personally) extends to not wanting to hear retellings. If I am going to go through all that social fuckery to AVOID seeing this shit, why the hell would I want to hear about it second hand? If I could deal, I'd just watch the damned thing and not risk what is seen as a totally unacceptable fuss in expressing my desire not to see it in the first place.

I have come to totally dread this discussion. It touches on issues of my own abuse implicitly, whether or not I choose to explicitly involve them. Needless to say, I find it extremely difficult to navigate a tricky social interaction when a good chunk of my brain is trying very hard to suppress some quite unpleasant thoughts.

So the retellings..."It was totally disgusting," fella's dad declared. Ok. I'm with ya. Totally disgusting. Sure. I had just taken off my shoes in the other room, put down my purse, hung up my coat. Brother chimed in with "No way, it was awesome!" he went on saying something unintelligible or possibly just unmemorable because around that same time, just after brother in law also started talking about the movie, I turned to my fella and said "I really don't want to hear this, I'm going outside," and started putting my shoes back on.

My fella spoke to them while I was putting on my shoes. I heard him say something like "She really doesn't like those movies guys...can you not talk about it?" and then heard him say "Ok well we're going outside, you can talk about it while we're out." When we came back in, we played a game of cards with one of fella's sisters. The other men watched various football games in the living room. Topics like Hustler and Ann Coulter came up. I mention this I suppose because I think the lack of disagreement as a result of these topics demonstrates that I wasn't just looking for a fight. I just wanted to get through family time, enjoy what was enjoyable and not get ruffled or ruffle anyone over the rest.

Then Pulp Fiction came up. "Lollipop. That's what Bruce Willis' character called his girlfriend in Pulp Fiction" my fella's sister said. We were playing cards at the dining room table while father and brother sat swallowed up by sofas in the living room when she said it to the group as a whole. Fella's brother in law was sitting at the end of the dining room table where sister, fella and I were playing cards. Brother in law was dividing his attention between looking up scores for other football games on a laptop and watching the TV which brother and father of fella had begun switching between several games.

At the Pulp Fiction reference, I shifted a bit. Shit. More Tarantino movies, I thought with some concern. I didn't say anything then though because sometimes it doesn't go there and why preemptively go there anyhow? I wanted to avoid coming across as unreasonable.
"I didn't see it..." I offered conversationally.
"Yeah, I took my mom to see it" sister said, most of her attention still on the card game.
"You took your mom?" we heard father's voice chuckling from the sofa (her mom is his first wife)
"I've never seen it because I didn't want to see it." I said.
"She didn't like it" sister said and went on a bit about what her mother couldn't watch. Now details of the movie were starting to come out. And now the details of the conversation for me become less specific*.

Brother or father or brother in law said something about "...that scene where they inject the...into the heart...."
And I said "You know guys, I didn't see it for a reason."
The conversation continued, but without graphic details for a few turns.
Then sister said "She got up and left after..."
"Hey, guys. If I'd wanted to know about it, I'd have seen the movie" I said, slightly louder.
Father and sister had some conversation about the first wife's reaction. Everyone's attention was divided, except mine. I had my cards in front of me but they were little better than polite props.
And then someone said something about "the rape scene"
It may have been brother in law. Or it may have been someone else and then brother in law was expanding on that. Regardless, it was soon after "rape scene" and to the brother in law that I said, loudly "I say for a THIRD TIME, IF I HAD WANTED TO KNOW I'D HAVE WATCHED IT."

Brother in law looked up, searching my face for the sarcasm cue my tone hadn't held. I felt hot and I know I was flushed. I have some idea what I look like when I'm feeling that pissed off. In turn, he looked the way someone would look if the refrigerator suddenly started doing The Chicken Polka, just totally caught off guard. I felt bad for that.

Then father said "So I can't talk about movies in my own house?"
Shit. Maybe I needed an analogy I thought. "No, but it's like, how about if I came into your house and lit up a cigarette**? You wouldn't like it, right?"
"Right, so if I'm in YOUR house, I won't talk about this."

A moment later I was putting on my shoes. I was thinking maybe I'd go outside for a smoke, walk it off...but I was also thinking "this just isn't getting any better. This is bullshit. I don't need this. Not again." and I was thinking "This is worse than the booze fueled Card Game Which Wouldn't End but now, unlike then, it's still light out. I can get in that car and drive home.."
And the keys were in my hand as I walked out the door. Brother called after me "Are you going out?"
"No, how about I'm just going?" I said.
And I left.

For which I now suck the most of anyone ever in my fella's family. Which really is nothing compared to how I feel about myself for so many things.

* There are actual terms for this shit. "Intrusive thoughts" being a good one if you want to look it up on Google Scholar or some such.
** Since it was lost on most of my fella's family, I feel the need to expand on the analogy. My smoking is to his house as his descriptions of violent imagery is to my head.

How's that not thinking of the bear thing going for you? Did you forget about it? If you're like most people, you didn't (unless my story of family drama was that compelling). Try going back and re-read the post, but this time know that it's ok if the white bear prowls through your head while you're reading. No biggie. Just a bear. It's not like a graphic rape scene.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Drink, drank....

I don't like the holiday drunks. I do not find them cheerful or jolly. More often, I find them irritating, sometimes amusing in a "Laughing at you not with you" way, but never ever endearing.

Why bring this up now? Because my fella's family is doing an early Thanksgiving this weekend. This means drinking, and drinking apparently means drunk.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Got A.P.?

What the hell are they doing in AP English these days anyhow? One of the worst writing examples I got so far this semester is from a student who told me "...I took AP English". Was it a confession? An abdication of responsibility? An unexpected but welcome acknowledgment of the hypocrisy of western education? An excuse? An incantation?

Maybe it was a reassurance, for the student that is. As in "I know I'm not a bad writer, I took AP English, after all."

As I look over another draft, my is head pounding from lack of sleep after meeting with this student's group for two hours last night. After the group meeting was over, I met with him for about an hour in one of those unplanned meetings. I found myself wanting to write sarcastically to these students who do such things....No, please don't respond to my emails about this. Wait several days to see me in person, then hit me up just when I think I might finally get to add to the total 10 hour food intake of two chocolate chip minimuffins. I will be sure to be in an excellent mood and I will happily reexplain everything to you, tell you which emails you should have read, and give you extra days to do (or redo) the assignment because I am that awesome.

Hey guess what? I'm not. You're not supposed to stress this issue with your students, even though dealing with other people's limitations is a good thing to learn (so why not teach it to them?). I've found students think it's a threat if I say something like "Pestering about your grade puts me in a cranky mood, and I am grading papers today, so you don't want to put me in a cranky mood."

And so I didn't want to say anything like "hey man, I haven't eaten in many hours, I'm tired, and I'm super annoyed that you didn't reply to my emails but you're stopping me now. Given that, I'm going to be inclined to be uncharitable, and charity is what you're asking for" to the boy who sprung his last minute "can we talk about this" request on me after the two hour group meeting last night.
And so I let myself be sucked into the excruciating hour of going over the exact same issues I went over with him exactly one week ago (yes, a great way to spend time on Halloween evening).

During last night's impromptu discussion, I discovered that in addition to everything I have already obliquely ranted about above, the boy has not gone to the university's writing assistance center as I asked at our last meeting (nor has he even set up an appointment). My fella said "Of course not. The writing center is for stupid people."

I sit here looking over the boy's latest draft over this morning's minimuffins, trying to determine what feedback I can give which will better explain why reasoning of the type "X because X" is not ok even if it is stated in perfectly grammatical and stylistically impressive sentences* and the phrase "I took AP English" plays in my head, like a skipping track so I start talking back to it. "I took AP English!" it says. I reply "Yeah, you took AP English and you repeatedly use words 'additionally' and 'furthermore' to connect what are otherwise disparate concepts rather than do the work of relating them to one another..."

Lack of sleep, looming holidays, and some more hip problems over the last few weeks means re-reviewing a draft I spent a whole shit load of time going over in person only to see it still sucking in the very same ways it sucked before conspire to make me cranky. Additionally, (heh) there's something about the AP English statement which simply incites me in the context of a student who I can tell doesn't even read basic directions for assignments.

* It's so not. However, the sentences are sometimes grammatically impressive and stylistically correct. Unfortunately for my students, I find grammatically impressive sentences to be annoying.