Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More puppies!

Check out my dog-niece, a boxer puppy that my brother Ryan got just before Thanksgiving. He named her "Sugaree," which is apparently a Grateful Dead song. We've always been a cat family, but it didn't take long for her to win us all over.

Here she is with Ryan.

With Ryan again.

Sleeping in Jeff's arms.

Hanging with Kelsie.

With yours truly.

She even passed the test with my mom, the biggest challenge of all. Less than 5 minutes after this picture was taken, my mom was calling her "Oma's dog." Too funny.

And of course, I've got video.

This last video shows what happens when puppy meets cat and neither one saw it coming. Notice, by the way, how I get asked, "Did you step on her?" Real nice, folks.

Fall wrap-up

Now that I am catching my breath, here are some photo highlights (?) from this past semester...

First, there were the conferences...

Vogel and I at SSAWW in Philadelphia in October. This is the one decent photo I have from that conference.

Aaron and David at SAMLA in Atlanta in November. A couple of hotties, right?

Gretchen was at SAMLA, too, and we totally geeked out over her presence at the book displays. The above photo is a blurb she has on the back of this book.

And of course we had to get a photo of her just happening to notice her own book on sale.

Of course, it wasn't all about glamourous conferences and travel this semester. There was also, as I've complained about a lot on this blog, tons of freakin' work to do!

Not everyone was happy about all that work. Here are Bing and Wes doing their best to talk me into taking a break one night. This was in the middle of advising, as evidenced by the spring course schedule and catalog in the picture.

Bing's tactics got increasingly desparate that night. "If she won't stop, I'll just throw myself on the papers and look cute."

Again, it was a long semester!

But there were some fun moments, like the one below, from Allison's Halloween party.

Why yes, that is Little Red Riding Hood, Marie Antoinette, and a poor imitation of the Octomom.

I promised puppies...

...and I deliver puppies.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a day that I had been in my office on campus all day grading papers and reading applications, my friend Steph stopped by with her new acquisition, Cali. Pretty darn cute, right?

You can also check out this video on Cali and Bella, her new big sister, playing on the floor of my office. Please ignore my silly laughter--you can tell I was punchy and just thrilled for such an adorable distraction.


I am trying to keep this relatively quiet, since most of my colleagues are still mired in grading, but I am DONE with mine as of about 3:00 yesterday afternoon. Some of the credit is due to early exams, but I also just plowed through them, determined to get done as soon as I could.

More good news: my dad had a heart procedure yesterday that (for once!) went amazingly well. He had to spend last night in the hospital, but should actually feel better once he gets home. Believe me, that is so not the usual pattern. And God bless the scientists/doctors who had made such amazing advancements in technology. Yesterday, his doctor was able to remove a blockage that had been untouchable and untreatable since 1989. That's 20 years. Amazing.

The cherry on top: tomorrow, I have a day of Christmas shopping and fun with Jane on the schedule.

I haven't said this for a while--haven't had the heart to in the middle of what has been a rough couple of months--but life seems pretty darn good right now and I feel quite blessed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Goodbye to an old friend...

Sad news from New York: my parents' cat Bailey died today suddenly at the age of 15. (The doctor thinks it was a heart attack.) He was just fine when I saw him over Thanksgiving. He and I even fell asleep together on the couch one night, with him snoring happily away. He really was a major part of our lives for so long--in fact, it is strange for me to call him my "parents' cat" since for so long (when I considered NY my home), I would have called him "my cat," too. (The semantics of these things evolve when you move away and get your "own" pets.)

My parents are understandably shocked and very sad. Couldn't have come at a worse time for them, for lots of reasons I won't go into right now. To tell you the truth, I cried my eyes out when I heard. He was a great cat and I'll miss him a lot.

Emerging from Grading Lockdown...

So I've still got a decent amount to get done: about 30 more exams to grade and one of those short articles to finish, but I am taking a mini-break to say one thing:

Holy crap, can you believe the ending of Dexter last night? So amazing.

Okay--back to work I go!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

End-of-the-Semester Totals posts in a long time! Sorry 'bout that. Life has been very busy since that last posting. The presentation went well, but then there was Thanksgiving, over 160 job applications to read, 100 ENGL 204 papers to grade, 20 MLA interviews to schedule, and just general craziness.

But, catching my breath for a moment, here are the final tallies of work awaiting me--all needing to be completed by December 16:

1) Seventeen English 101 essays, each about 4 pages. This class started out with 20, so I lost three of them... I got these essays today and have already read through four of them. (It does by so unbelievably quickly when you don't have to comment on them!)

2) Ninety-nine English 204 exams (3 sections). This could be worse: each class started off with 35 students, so there could have been 105. I get two sections worth of these tomorrow and the other section on Monday morning.

3) Two short introductions for the Anthology of Appalachian Writers, one on Jesse Stuart's "Split Cherry Tree" and one on Rebecca Harding Davis's "Life in the Iron-Mills." These are, as I mentioned, supposed to be short (2-3 pages each) and I've got the research done. I just need to sit down and write them!

4) MLA interviews to plan. This is a minor thing--and there's a committee involved, but it's on my mind, so it's on the list.

5) One party to host at my house. The Sigma Tau Delta students want to have a holiday party at my house, so tomorrow's the day. Should be fun--but I've got to clean the house and all that before then, so I am putting this on the "work" list.

After that, it's a short trip home for Christmas, then off to MLA, then back to WV to finish up those syllabi for next semester!

As a reward for myself for getting work done, I might be taking some blogging breaks (breaks during which I blog!) to catch up a bit. I've got pictures from Thanksgiving, for instance, and pictures and videos of puppies! (Everyone loves puppies, right?)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"The Black Cat" Presentation...

If you are wondering what the image below could possibly have to do with Poe's "The Black Cat," you'll have to come to my presentation tomorrow.

Special thanks to David, who knew how I could get that image off of my cellphone and onto my computer. He's my tech go-to guy.

Ken Ober

He was only 52. That stinks. I have lots of fond memories of watching "Remote Control."

Friday, November 13, 2009

That's about right...

My friend Bethany forwarded this cartoon to me. It's perfect, right?

On a related note, as several of my friends know, I hate text messaging. Some of that is because I am so darn slow that it takes me 2o minutes to type a line. Some of it is because it costs me anywhere from 10 to 30 cents to send or receive messages and I don't like that I don't have choice about whether or not I want to receive them. But a whole lot of it is because I hate "text speak"--the abbreviations and general butchery it does to language. Similarly, I can't send emails without salutations and proper closing, much less without punctuation or capitalization. I know that I have issues...

Imagine my horror, by the way, when someone (I have no idea who!) taught my 60-something year old father to send text messages and he took to it a like a fish to water. I mean, he texts with the enthusiasm and frequency of a 17 year old girl. The other day, I got this message from him: "How r u". Seriously?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So long, Dollhouse. For what it's worth, the show never really took off for me--lots of promise and potential, but always several steps from greatness.

Veteran's Day Links

Just in time for Veteran's Day, take a look at "Ian Fisher, American Soldier," a photo essay capturing 27 months in the life of a young serviceman.

After that, you know you'll want to check out this collection of soldiers' dogs welcoming their owners home from overseas. (I've linked to one of them back in October 2008).

Random Link Dumping...

...because my bookmark file is getting unruly.

1) Awesome collection of photos, courtesy of The Big Picture, marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The before and after ones are pretty amazing.

2) Metaphors people use to describe their lives. Most days, I'll go with "a journey," although sometimes it feels like "a battle" (yes, I am being dramatic), and when I am teaching, a lot like "a performance."

3) A blog of bank robbery notes. This one is a bit addictive. And lord help me, some of these read like little found poems. I love how some are so short and simple (one simply says "$250,000"). Others are (perhaps not surprisingly) marked by some serious spelling/grammar mistakes. And who knew so many robbers were concerned about dye packs? Finally, gotta love how many of them say please or thank you.

4) Are the Dexter fans out there aware of these animated webisodes about our favorite serial killer's early adventures? Very cool.

5) Poor Dollhouse. It's probably too late to do anything to save this show, but that doesn't mean people won't try viral marketing campaigns.

6) In better Whedonesque news, check out what Nathan Fillion has to say about more Dr. Horrible.

Poe links

Last weekend found me in Atlanta for SAMLA (which went very well--a picture or two will follow in a subsequent post). Now that that's done, I can move onto the next item on my busy semester's to-do list: getting ready for my presentation at the Faculty Research Forum on November 18 (in one week!). The subject: that "The Black Cat" paper I've been kicking around in various forms for quite awhile.

Now the paper itself is done--has been for a very long time, but I need to make it a bit longer and want to make it more general-audience friendly (in other words, not just for a bunch of English PhDs). Plus, I've got a to make a powerpoint presentation, something I am not very good at doing. It's the aesthetics of the thing that always trip me up--mine never look as sleek or polished as I want them to look.

Anyway, I've got Poe on the brain, so figured I'd link to a couple of recent "Poe in the News" sites. Incidentally, I think I'll reference both of the stories in the beginning of my talk, since they speak to people's continuing fascination with Poe.

1) "Edgar Allan Poe Finally Getting Proper Burial." I found this one all sorts of creepy--and totally appropriate for Poe.

2) "Quoth the Raven: 'Baltimore.'" This recent NPR story discusses an exhibit of works inspired by Poe. Anyone up for a roadtrip to Baltimore to check it out?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


...World Series' Titles, that is. What a sweet night!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two quick (completely unrelated) links...

1) Remember this post about Tamara, who graduated from Roanoke with me? Short recap: she wrote a blog about 31 dates in 31 days. Well, how about an ending straight out of a movie? Love it!

2) Via Andrew Sullivan, a really cool chart that helps you understand cell size.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More TV heaven...

So right now, Castle is on, always a fun TV treat given my love for Nathan Fillion. But my heart skipped a bunch of extra beats when A) Rick Castle put on a Mal Reynolds costume (he looks so good in that get-up), B) a few bars of the Firefly theme played, and C) he made a Buffy reference. So much geeky Joss Whedon love!

Here's the youtube clip (that is sure to vanish soon):

World Series, baby!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TV Heaven...

Joss Whedon is directing an episode of Glee. Seriously. Awesome.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Common reading suggestions?

I put this on Facebook, too, but I am now on the FYEX (first-year experience) Taskforce (sounds official, right?) and one of our jobs is to select the common reading for Shepherd.

Some guidelines: the book should appeal to lots of different groups (not just freshman, not just English-major types), should be in paperback (or at least an affordable hardcover), and should be no more than 300 pages. You can read about this year's book and the events we've held around it here.

Any suggestions, oh wonderful readers?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Portfolio: done!

For those of you keeping score at home, check another item off my huge Fall 2009 semester to-do list. This morning I handed in my pre-tenure review portfolio (also known as "third-year review portfolio").

It actually was a pretty easy process--time-consuming, I suppose, but not all that difficult since I've been saving and organizing all the materials from day one here at Shepherd. (That's a piece of advice to all my friends who are also in new academic jobs--be pack-rats! Save thank-you notes and emails, fliers with your name on them, write-ups in local papers, etc.)

Incidentally, I think part of the reason the process was relatively pain-free is because at UNCG, we were encouraged to create and constantly update our teaching portfolios. The pre-tenure portfolio is a lot like a teaching portfolio, but with sections about your scholarship and service, as well. Anyway, just another reason I am glad to have gotten my degrees at UNCG.

Now...back to work on that SSAWW paper!

Also, someone please explain to me why in the last week or so I agreed to A) serve as a reader for a manuscript submitted to a journal (I can't say which journal) and B) write two introductory essays for an anthology? I might never get out of this hole...but that's okay.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Another good one from GraphJam

Captain Lou!

Another icon from my childhood passes away...

Rest in peace, Captain Lou Albano.

My kind of tax break...

Up to a $3500 tax break for pet owners? A great idea, especially for those who take in "recession" dogs and cats, which I've previously blogged about here.

Why do babies love Beyonce?

It's one of the world's great mysteries, I guess. Don't worry. Time is on the case.

For the record, this is my favorite. Baby's got mad moves!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One more on Silas House...

...take a listen to this radio interview with House in which he discusses Eli the Good and other works.

Silas House at Shepherd, Pictures

Some pictures from Silas House's visit to Shepherd...

The Sigma Tau Delta students, who hosted Thursday night's keynote event, posing before anyone showed up.

Some of them wanted to take a "funny" picture. The rest just acted normal. This is the result.

Dr. Shurbutt giving Silas the 2009 Appalachian Heritage Award. The plaque has this wonderful quotation from Clay's Quilt: "He had spent his whole life listening to stories from the past, and now he had his own, and it was slowly building, chapter by chapter."

Silas talking about the winning story from the West Virginia Fiction Writer's competition. It works like this: a panel of judges (including yours truly) narrows the pool down to about 10 stories and then the writer-in-residence picks the winner and two runner ups. This year's winning story, "Ruined Water" by Natalie Sypolt, is an amazing story.

Silas giving his keynote, "The History of Every Country."

Silas answering questions.

More questions.

Another question, this time from the President herself.

After the event, Silas posed for a picture with the STD students.

Silas House at Shepherd

September 28 to October 4 marked Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence week here at Shepherd and this year's writer, Silas House, certainly left a positive impression on everyone here. I've been saying for a while now that I am going to get around to writing a long post on House's novels, but there just hasn't been time. I don't think that's just a stall on my part: his stuff is so good that I don't want to rush through it--and I don't think a few blog posts will do him justice. Seriously--he's that good. And don't just ask me--ask anyone who has been lucky enough to read A Parchment of Leaves, Clay's Quilt, or The Coal Tattoo. They are simply amazing books. Silas' texts embody just about everything wonderful about Appalachian literature but also remind me a lot of the Transcendentalist texts of the nineteenth century.

We read Parchment in my English 204 classes and out of 100 students in those three sections, I didn't hear a single "why did we have to read this?" at the end of our discussions. In fact, many students said something like, "I don't like reading [they say this to their English teachers all the time!], but this I really liked."

Anyway, I thought I might just paste in my opening remarks from the "Writing Life" event, held on Wednesday, September 30. (Yes, I was lucky enough to get to introduce Silas, who told me, "You can introduce me anywhere" when I got done. Swoon!) I'll admit that the text reads a bit hokey, but it was the best I could do during that extra busy week.

Welcome to tonight’s Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence event, “The Writing Life” with Silas House. We are in for a treat tonight. First, though, I’d like to thank the Shepherd University Foundation, the Friends of the Shepherdstown Public Library, and the West Virginia Humanities Council for sponsoring this event.

I picked up my first Silas House novel in May of 2008—Memorial Day weekend. The book was A Parchment of Leaves. It was a lovely day—the windows were open, a sweet breeze blew in, birds sang outside. I opened that book in the early afternoon and before I knew it, it has grown dark outside, singing birds replaced by singing crickets. And if you’ve read Parchment, you know how appropriate that setting was. And I read on and on and on. Eventually, I took a break, but got right back to that book the next day and finished it that next night. I was, simply put, captured by this book—moved by it, exhilarated by it, and wanted to read more. Since that time, I will confess: I can’t read enough Silas House and continue to be thrilled by his words.

Last November, I saw Silas read at the South Atlantic Modern Languages Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I sat in the back and just listened as he talked about his craft. This is a man who knows what it means to be a writer. Again, we are in for a treat tonight, folks.

At that reading in Louisville, Silas spoke of the best piece of writing advice he’s every received, from the great Appalachian writer James Still: “Discover something new every day.” If you’ve read any of his books, it’s easy to see how closely Silas House has followed this advice, how he makes his readers see the new, the interesting, and the beautiful in the everyday: the way he careful writes of his characters singing, dancing, cooking, or just sitting silently with each other. The way he lovingly creates the landscapes he knows so well. The way he writes about what it means to be alive in the world. Anyone interested in writing—or in reading great writing—will benefit from hearing Silas House talk about his craft and about “The Writing Life.” So it gives me great pleasure to introduce Silas House.

Consider this your introduction to Silas House and pick up one of his books. You will not be disappointed. I picked up a copy of Eli the Good at one of the events and can't wait to get into it. Also on my wish-list, Something's Rising, a collection about mountain-top removal that Silas and some other writers (including Jason Howard, who I also met--he's terrific!) put together.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Bring on the Angels! (Although, gulp, they scare me more than the BoSox.)

Constance Fenimore Woolson

Yes, I know that most people have no idea who Constance Fenimore Woolson is, but she's kind of a big deal in 19th-century women's writing. As I mentioned below, I am hard at work on my paper about her poetry, which I'll present at SSAWW's conference in late October. I've been going through all my research notes and found some great quotations from her worth sharing.

Woolson, who had a difficult life as a woman writing in the nineteenth century, wrote to Edmund Clarence Stedman in 1876: "'Why do literary women break down so...It almost seems as though only the unhappy women took to writing. The happiest women I have known have belonged to two classes; the devoted wives and mothers, and the successful flirts, whether married or single; such women never write'" (qtd. in Torsney 19). What a powerfully sad observation--and one often repeated by other women artists. I am reminded of that troubling section in Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall where the main character tells her daughter that she prays the child never ends up like her mother--a successful writer. "No happy woman ever writes," she thinks to herself.

Woolson's writing is full of such observations as again and again she acknowledges her own desire to write and be respected yet also notes how this separates her from other women--how it marks her as different. Torsney's Constance Fenimore Woolson: The Grief of Aristry covers this idea quite well and it worth a read if you are at all interested in Woolson.

Additionally, she writes again and again about the limitations she feels imposed on her--about what a woman should write about and just how she should handle her subject. For the most part, even if such choices kept down her sales figures, she wrote what she felt she had to, a courageous choice for a woman who was more or less financially dependent on selling her writing. Here's a heck of a passage from another letter: “‘I had rather be strong than beautiful, or even good, provided the good must be dull’” (qtd. in Pattee 132).

But it's not all sadness and gloom in Woolson's letters: check out this gem from a letter to Henry James, her good friend, written in February, 1882, in response to his Portrait of a Lady:

“How did you ever dare write a portrait of a lady? Fancy any woman’s attempting a portrait of a gentleman! Wouldn’t there be a storm of ridicule…For my own part, in my small writings, I never dare put down what men are thinking, but confine myself simply to what they do and say. For, long experience has taught me that whatever I suppose them to be thinking at any especial time, that is sure to be exactly what they are not thinking. What they are thinking, however, nobody but a ghost could know” (qtd. in Torsney 39).

I love this passage because it's both funny and biting, playful and serious, marks of the best kind of humor.

And one more--just because it gives me funny mental images--an excerpt from an 1875 letter: "'I hate Wordsworth. Yes, I really think I hate him. And the reason is because people keep flinging him at your head all the time'" (qtd. in Hubbell 725). Don't tell anyone, but that's kind of how I feel about Wallace Stevens (in part because I don't get him!).

Works Cited

Hubbell, Jay B. “Some New Letters of Constance Fenimore Woolson.” The New England Quarterly 14.4 (December 1941): 715-735.

Pattee, Fred L. “Constance Fenimore Woolson and the South.” South Atlantic Quarterly 38 (1939): 130-141.

Torsney, Cheryl B. Constance Fenimore Woolson: The Grief of Artistry. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989.

Fall Break...

Technically, we are on Fall Break today and tomorrow, but I've been up here at school since about 9:00 this morning. Despite this, it does feel a bit like a break--it's very quiet here and I've been ultra-productive. After all, on a normal Monday, I would have already taught three classes and held a bunch of office hours by this point. (What does it say about me that "feels like break" = "time to be productive"? Note to self: consider more ways to expand life beyond work.)

Anyway, here are the three things that have been occupying me so far today:

1) Printing and organizing application materials for our two job searches. All of our materials (with the exception of reference files) are submitted online (official university procedure), but someone (me!) still has to print them out for colleagues who don't like to read online documents. It's a pain the neck and takes an incredible amount of time (hours and hours and hours), especially with my super-slow printer, but it is easier on the candidates this way and I am all about making things easier for the poor folks on the job market.

2) Working on my third-year review portfolio, due on October 15. It's not all that different from the teaching portfolio I put together while on the job market, although this one includes documentation of scholarship and service, too. It's coming along, but I have lots of question about formatting and stuff and no one to ask until Wednesday when we are back in session. I also think it's always a bit strange to put together what is essentially a binder all about how awesome I am (ha!) and how they ought to keep me around. I mean, I know you've got to do it, but it's a weird process.

3) Working on my paper on Constance Fenimore Woolson for SSAWW. I've been done with the research part of the project since the end of the summer, actually, but haven't taken the time to do the actual writing. It's all up in my head and everything, but I've got to just sit down and write the thing. And I am about to write another post about how cool she is...

Don't worry too much about me working through the break: I have scheduled myself to stop at 2:30 to run to Hagerstown to run about a thousand errands, with a healthy mixture of "fun" and "practical" tasks on the list.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wildlife at the new house...

A couple of weekends ago, I was outside working in the yard a bit when I noticed Bing and Wesley transfixed by something...

I wasn't sure what to expect--I knew it had to be something small (since I couldn't see it from where I was) but not too small since they don't pay attention to really little things outside.

Well, here it was...

That's a pretty big mantis, right?

I put the watering can next to her so you could get an idea of her size. (I think it's a girl...don't know why...I think it's because in my mind, all the boy-mantises have had their heads removed by their mates. I know that's not accurate, but oh well.)

Check out Bing and Wes fighting a bit over the best viewing position.

Anyway, the preying mantis has made a few more appearances, although I haven't seen her in a week. I hope she comes back, though, as last weekend I saw her grab one of these sucker and eat it!

Take that, stink bug!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two quick links... fun blogs.

1) My Parents were Awesome. Great old photographs of cool looking people.

2) 1000 Awesome Things. No explanation needed.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Take that, Midterm Week!

If there were a hidden camera in my office, it would have just recorded what I am sure was an interesting, amusing, and potentially disturbing sight: yours truly doing a happy dance* celebrating the end of my midterm grading. That's right: I've finished grading 100 ENGL 204 exams and 20 ENGL 101 papers. I've also survived AHWIR week, the Sigma Tau Delta conference, and a weekend visit from the 'rents. I might even survive this cold.

Cue another happy dance!

*the soundtrack: "The Air That I Breathe" by the Hollies. Not the best choice for a happy dance, but it's been in heavy rotation on my ipod since I downloaded it earlier this week (after seeing it on last week's episode of Fringe).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So tired...

So posting has been especially light here lately, but I have pretty good reasons.

1) It's midterms week. A week from tomorrow (at 9:00 a.m.), I'll have to have graded 100 ENGL 204 exams (complete with essay section) and 20 ENGL 101 papers and submitted midterm grades for all of my students. Now you might be thinking, "That's okay--knock out that grading this weekend." Ordinarily, that would work just fine, but not this weekend, as you'll see.

2) It's AHWIR week, which is awesome, but oh-so-time-consuming. I've been on campus every day this week for at least 12 hours straight.

3) We've got this going on on Saturday, all day Saturday, and it really might do me in. Never thought I'd be worrying about things like tracking down a registration table, printing name tags, etc. at this late date.

4) My parents are visiting this weekend--not to see me, but to crash at my place so they can visit with little sister and her fiance (and meet his parents). It's always nice to see my parents, but man, this couldn't come at a worse time.

5) And then there's this lovely cherry on top of the big bowl of stress-sundae: I've got a very nasty cold. No, not the flu...just a cold. But really...when I felt it coming on Monday night, I said, "Really, God? This week?"

It's been fun. I get home, eat dinner, collapse, and then start it all over again the next day. The only light at the end of the tunnel? For the first time ever, Shepherd is giving us a two-day Fall Break, October 12 and 13. So if I can just make it to October 9, the day the grades are due, I'll be okay.

(No time to even think about the other things on the horizon: the two search committees I am chairing, my third-year review portfolio--due on October 15, a conference I've got in a few weeks...)

Nevertheless, I might--for mental health breaks--still manage to do some catch-up link dump postings in the coming days.


Everyone is talking about this, so I thought I'd add my two cents, but only in the laziest way, by linking to what I feel are some pretty definitive takes on the situation.

Read this.

And this.

Enough said.

Monday, September 28, 2009

For Shannon...

Update: it's working now. I had to re-up-load it, and delete the old one, but it "processed" right away.

A "thank-you note" of sorts for Aunt Shannon, from Bing and Wesley. Also worth noting: how quickly play turns into fighting for these two--play fighting, yes, but still...

They really like the new toy, Shannon. On Sunday morning, one of them had dragged it all the way upstairs and left it at the foot of the bed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Couple of quick links...

...from The Daily Dish, which has been overflowing with good stuff today.

1) A great new (to me) blog called "Letters of Note." Check out this one and try not to get choked up a bit. There are also lots of more famous notes, like this one.

2) Amazing video footage of a skier trapped in an avalanche and then rescued. Seriously--it's amazingly intense and, in the words of the person who posted it, "I don't think that you could've paid a Hollywood crew to stage something better. The fact that he could've been facing any 360 direction and yet he's looking right up into the sun-filled blue sky with that first full scoop away of the shovel is borderline spiritual."

Sunday baseball...

Good: Beating the Red Sox.

Better: Sweeping the Red Sox.

Best: Sweeping the Red Sox and clinching the division title on the same day.

Bonus: Having the game be nationally televised so Yankee fans all the way in West Virginia can watch it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dirty Scrabble Playin'...

No, not that kind of "dirty" (how would "Strip Scrabble" work, I wonder), but "dirty" as in "fighting dirty."

I love this clip and this advice, but if I was playing with this guy (especially with the triple letter blocking), I think I'd be fighting the urge to punch him in the face.

Playoffs, baby!

Oh yeah!

Image courtesy of ESPN. com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dr. Horrible at the Emmys

How awesome was this? This was (no fooling) one of the absolute highlights of my Sunday. (That is, perhaps, a bit sad...)

In other Whedonverse news: the Buffy Baby is here! (And she even has a normal name, another reason to love SMG.)

Delayed Gratification

This video (which I found on the Daily Dish) made me smile.

Oh, The Temptation from Steve V on Vimeo.

I love how many of the kids pretend to bite the marshmallow, as if that will make waiting just a bit easier.

Forgotten Bookmarks...

A great new must-read for me: Forgotten Bookmarks. If you like Found Magazine, you'll want to add this one to your bookmark list, too.

How we spend our days...

I've been meaning to link to this chart for a while now. Interestingly, (appropriately?) it can become a bit of a time-sucker. For instance, did you know that "at 8:50 p.m., 1% of people with advanced degrees are at church or engaging in some religious activity"?

The New Literacy...

Having just finished lots and lots of ENGL 101 grading, I found myself particularly drawn to this short article on Andrea Lunsford's Stanford Study of Writing.

"I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization," she says. For Lunsford, technology isn't killing our ability to write. It's reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It's almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford's team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

Perhaps this is why these days I seem to have fewer students who say "I don't like to write." At the same time, I am not sure about the idea that students are "adept at...assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique" for different audiences. Maybe that's because I just got yet another one sentence, run-on sentence, salutation-free, punctuation-free, capital-letter-free email from a student. That stuff might be okay for a Facebook exchange between friends, but it sure annoys one's English teacher.

Still, it's nice to see a study about writing that is full of so much good news.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Link Dumping: Academia Edition

1) Have you heard about these 60-second recaps of "great works"? Kind of fun, no? (Yes, I know some students might use these instead of doing actual reading, but let's face it, they are going to use Sparknotes or whatever.) Maybe start with this one. After all, it's my favorite book. More about the girl behind them here.

2) Teaching after midnight? Seriously?

3) A pretty cool lesson about how math can be useful and interesting in the "real world." Here's a teaser: the express lane at checkout is NOT necessarily faster. (I could have told you that, but it's nice to have math backing me up.)

4) What do you think of colleges and universities scheduling a mid-day activity hour for meetings and such? At first blush, I gotta say I like the idea, since there are few things more hellish than trying to schedule a freakin' meeting. Another alternative: one of my friends teaches at a university that doesn't have Friday classes, so all the meetings and things are on Fridays. Not a bad solution, either, although this means classes meet (at most) twice a week and I do best with classes that meet three times a week. [If you work outside academia, you might consider this a really boring and unimportant question, but trust me--it matters. I have already had seven committee/organization meetings this week...]

5) Community premieres tonight and I am planning on watching, primarily because of my love for Joel McHale. As you may have heard, this show is already a bit controversial...

6) Finally, some GOOD news: UNCG has decided to renovate--not demolish--the historic quad. Fantastic choice, folks!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

All is right with the world...

...Bing has a new box. Yes, I ended up taking his old one a few days before moving day. Don't judge--it was a crazy time. And he hasn't seemed to miss it much, since he loves his new perch by the window so much.

Nevertheless, this box was on the floor for all of 5 seconds before he jumped in it. On the plus side, it does go with the furniture just a bit more than the old one...

Jane is back! (And I am so bad at taking pictures...)

Seriously, how often do I post something like, "I didn't take too many pictures"? What is up with that? You would think that I would have taken a ton of pictures to mark the momentous return of the fabulous Jane and my visit with her on Saturday, but I failed once again. I mean, I didn't even get a picture of the two of us, which really bugs me.

I did take a few, though, on our shopping trip. Jane, Kara (Jane's super-cool sister) and I hit Kohl's to get some essential clothing items for Jane, whose wardrobe took a real beating during her two years in Azerbaijan.

Lord knows why anyone thought I would be good at helping her find clothes (have you seen what I wear?), but she was very lucky to have Kara's help. Seriously--Kara could do this professionally. Watch out, Stacy and Clinton. I, on the other hand, did some very good putting things back on the racks and saying, "I like that a lot!"

Every once in a while, I would pretend to be a camera person from "What Not to Wear" and snap a picture.

Jane, arms overflowing with clothes. I know it's blurry, but doesn't she look thrilled to be back in the good old US of A?

Jane is always a good sport when I get a bit silly, so here she is posing for me in her possible "job interview outfit."

I told her that she looked like she doing the pregnant lady "this is my baby" pose, so we should try again.

She said, "Okay, I'll make 'serious face' now."

I think someone spent a bit too much time in a former Soviet state, because this looks like something out of a USSR propaganda poster--and I love it.

Nice outfit, though, right? And it must have worked, because word on the street is that the girl already has two job offers. Not bad after only 4 days back in the country. She rocks like that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday night poetry

Love this one...

"Misgivings" by William Matthews

"Perhaps you'll tire of me," muses
my love, although she's like a great city
to me, or a park that finds new
ways to wear each flounce of light
and investiture of weather.
Soil doesn't tire of rain, I think,

but I know what she fears: plans warp,
planes explode, topsoil gets peeled away
by floods. And worse than what we can't
control is what we could; those drab
scuttled marriages we shed so
gratefully may auger we're on our owns

for good reason. "Hi, honey," chirps Dread
when I come through the door; "you're home."
Experience is a great teacher
of the value of experience,
its claustrophobic prudence,
its gloomy name-the-disasters-

in-advance charisma. Listen,
my wary one, it's far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let's cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.

You can find audio here. Reminds me just a bit of this gem by Charles Simic.

Patrick Swayze

This one hits hard as Patrick Swayze was one of my first celebrity crushes. I think my first memory of him was from a movie that still has (in my opinion) one of the greatest collections of male eye-candy ever...

But my big old crush on him really got going when he was in North and South. This mini-series was a huge hit in the Hanrahan household. Erin and I would re-watch the VHS copies we had of it (taped from the original broadcast). Heck, it's how I first learned so much about nineteenth-century America because let's face it, that mini-series covered everything--from the Mexican War to John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry to all the big battles of the Civil War. It was even my first introduction to the tragic mulatta trope, the subject of my first published article many years later. Sometimes when I am teaching the nineteenth century to my 204 students, I almost want to tell them, "Go watch North and South!" It's totally racy, too, and must have been a bit scandalous back in 1985. Check out this trailer from the third night of the first part of the mini-series. Good stuff.

For the record, I haven't seen the whole thing in years and years, although I did discover not too long ago that it's all on youtube and soon wasted about an hour watching the beginning. Yeah--it's not Ken Burn's style accurate, but it still rocks. And at the center of this epic (yup, that's right, I called it epic!) mini-series was the young, gorgeous, and charming Patrick Swayze as Orry Main. Hmmmm...maybe Patrick Swayze, therefore, is part of the reason I became a nineteenth-century Americanist.

And then...Dirty Dancing. Again, I was obsessed. When the movie first came to theatres, my parents insisted I was too young to see it. That was probably a good choice (although they did always let us watch the most gory horror films...) since I was just ten years old. But when it came out on VHS about a year later, all of the sudden, they decided I was old enough. I remember watching it at one of my first slumber parties, too. I had two posters from the movie, the soundtrack(s), and yes, a VHS copy. And I watched and rewatched it. I can still probably quote most of the script.

One of my favorite moments from this movie (and there are so many): the look Johnny Castle gives Baby at about 1:42 into this clip (youtube won't let me embed it) followed by that bitchin' jump off of the stage. It still gives the pre-teen girl in me flutters in the stomach.

And then...Ghost. Cried like a baby in that one, even enduring the awkwardness of seeing it in the theatre with my dad. (I was 13 by that point...not the right age to watch that pottery scene with your dad right next to you. Although, is there a right age to watch that scene with your dad next to you?)

Anyway, I've got lots of other Swayze stories to tell (like the time my brothers thought it would be funny to tease me by pausing Roadhouse at the point where Patrick's bare butt is on screen), but it's enough now to say that it's very sad to hear of his death. He was such a decent man who fought so hard against his disease. Rest in peace, Patrick.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Birthday pictures...

Well, they are about a month late, but here are some pictures from my birthday, when my mom and Kelsie were visiting.

My mom and Kelsie outside Crystal Grottoes in Boonsboro, Maryland (about 15 minutes from my house). Visiting the Grottoes was a nice way to spend an hour or so. It's no Howe Caverns, which I remember vividly from my childhood, but it was still interesting and cool (literally) and our tour guide was excellent.

Below, a bunch of pictures from inside:

For dinner that night, we went to the Bavarian Inn and had a lovely dinner. You can read about the last time I was there here. The food was delicious, of course, but my favorite part of dinner was watching Kelsie develop a crush on our waiter, a Shepherd student who I know a bit from Sigma Tau Delta stuff. Girls got good taste--he is a cutie and he kept calling her "Miss" and "young lady," which she seemed to love. At one point, he asked if he could refill her almost-full water glass and she was like, "Sure!" and took a big gulp when he went off to get the pitcher.

A nice view of part of the Bavarian Inn.

The chalets overlooking the Potomac at the Bavarian Inn.

After dinner, we walked around town a bit and took my mom to see my new office. Kelsie sat at the desk and pretended to be me.
Okay--that's about it for August, which turned out to be a pitiful month for posting. I am making a vow right hear to aim for at least 30 posts a month. (I managed that in July, I think.) I am already behind for September, but I like a challenge.