Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Five quick funny links...

If you've had a long day like I have, you might appreciate any one of these links. Today (as always) I am especially grateful to the Daily Dish, which has supplied almost all of them.

1) The Ten Funniest Freudian Slips in the History of TV. Number one is especially awesome because it makes no sense... (And I love Shepherd Smith...)

2) Porter the dog plays a keyboard and "sings" along. Really funny, but be glad he's not your neighbor's dog.

3) Funniest fact-checking joke you'll read all month. And I'm willing to bet you on that one.

4) How do faculty members handle naked locker-room encounters with their students? My answer: avoid them altogether!

5) And straight from Japan, a couple of clips featuring Maru the cat. Seriously--you've got to watch both clips.

Students, students, students...

Three links on students, grading, and attendance:

1) This article on essay mills astounded me. I knew, of course, that this stuff goes on, but I've never seen the details. Outsourcing paper writing to Manila? Really? And folks trying to purchase entire dissertations? Crazy.

2) Surprise, surprise: Grade inflation is still a problem.

3) And then, just to keep things light, a poem inspired by that annoying question: "Did I miss anything in class today?"

A couple of lists...

1) This one is fun, sweet, and interesting: 1001 rules for my unborn son. I love the brevity of some of the entries.

2) Every once in a while, when I need a mental break (perhaps on a day like today, where I've spent 4 straight hours conferencing with ENGL 102 students), I stop by this list and work my way through a couple of its entries...even the ones I've seen before. Then it's back to work...

Two happy TV posts...

1) Some good news about characters from the Whedonverse: Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof have a brand-new baby girl.*

2) Friday Night Lights will be back--and here's the kicker--for TWO more seasons. This is amazing--way more than I could have dreamed for! If you aren't watching this show, you need to be. It's the best realistic drama on TV. Period.

*in other baby news...yay for Baby John!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Andy Hallett...

This news kind of blows my mind. I remember him being ill a couple of years ago, but I had no idea how bad his condition was. RIP Lorne.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bing at Seven

So this might just be my lamest post ever...but here it is: actual video of one of my cats. There's a reason, though. Bing just turned seven and, according to some experts, that puts him right at the beginning of his "senior" stage of life. That seems very strange to me, as he is still like a kitten in lots of ways...as evidenced by these clips. (Sorry--they are kind of dark.)

Yeah, he might be seven, but he still loves to fetch. I like how in this first one, he takes the long way around the coffee table to bring the toy back. And how cute is his little face at the end?

In this second one, he is all business and shows off some of his mad skills.

Who you calling "senior?"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Still more link dumping: Publishing Edition

1) What to make of this news from the University of Michigan Press? It will "shift its scholarly publishing from being primarily a traditional print operation to one that is primarily digital." As someone who one day hopes to publish a book through a university press, I like anything that makes that process easier. A significant passage:

Because digital publishing is so much less expensive -- with savings both in printing and distribution -- the press expects to be able to publish more books, and to distribute them electronically to a much broader audience. Michigan officials said that they don't plan to cut the budget of the press -- but to devote resources to peer review and other costs of publishing that won't change with the new model. Significantly, they said, the press would no longer have to reject books deemed worthy from a scholarly perspective, but viewed as unable to sell.

2) Speaking of academic writing, there were lots of sessions at this past 4Cs that I wish I had attended, but after reading this piece at Insiderhighered.com, I am really regretting missing “Empty Rhetoric and Academic Bullshit: Strategies for Composition’s Self-Representation in National Arenas.”

Since my 4Cs presentation was on teaching working-class students and our whole panel, in fact, was about shifting classroom demographics, this section really caught my eye:

Bauerlein started by noting that many of the reports issued by the composition group and panels at the meeting deal with issues of race, class, gender and so forth, and he said that this would make no sense to the “man in the street.” Such a person would say “it’s just writing” and wonder why “politically charged subjects” capture such attention.

While Bauerlein is critical of what he sees as a political one-sidedness on humanities faculties, he was careful to say that he was not arguing that the man in the street was “right” and that in fact this man might have a “simplistic” view of teaching writing. But Bauerlein said that the gap between the public understanding of what composition is about and the discipline’s understanding of itself is “not healthy for anyone.”

A key source of this problem, Bauerlein said, is the “publish or perish” system of academic advancement. The “extraordinary burden” on scholars in composition and rhetoric to come up with something new to say, he said, results in work becoming more specialized, with “every narrower niches,” language that can only be understood by other experts, and a “progressive departure from popular understandings” of what writing is about.

3) Finally, a bit about my own current attempts to make further contributions to the over-crowded, uber-competitive world of academic publishing.: Some of you might remember that I am working on project on the idea of pet-keeping (and domesticity) in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat." One of my main goals for this summer is to take that paper from conference-length to article-length and send it out. Anyway, I'll be doing lots more research on the history of pet-keeping and that's why this blog post caught my eye: See One of the World's Oldest Pet Portraits.

Even more link dumping: Literature Edition

Three more:

1) A student brought this up in class today and it reminded me that I had a bookmark about it: A new portrait of Shakespeare?

2) Lots of folks are discussing the sad news about Nicholas Hughes, son of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. This certainly demonstrates the lingering power of mental illness and depression on a family.

3) On a lighter note, be sure to check out this awesome blog that recently came to my attention: How a Poem Happens. And I might as well give another shout-out to my former grad-school colleague, Dan Albergotti, who has an entry there.

More link dumping: Grad School Edition

Three this time:

1) From the Department of Obvious Statements: The New York Times tells us that Humanities PhDs Are Anticipating Hard Times.

2) Laugh through the tears, folks: Check out the Profzi Scheme.

3) And finally, from McSweeney's, Saved by the Bell: The Grad School Years.

Seven weeks to go...

...for the Spring 2009 semester. We're back from break (obviously) and although I came back to school feeling like I'd gotten a whole lot done, I already feel behind (again). A short list of things I need to get done in the next couple of days outside of teaching four classes and all that: my annual report and merit pay raise application, a cfp for SAMLA, a textbook review, scheduling of advising appointments for next week, and a report on the conference I just attended (to the folks who helped fund it). Long story short, I could use another week of break.

This evening, I was about to head home with a big stack of papers to grade and the best of intentions to plow through them tonight. As I pushed open to the door to head outside, I felt a searing pain in my hand. A freakin' wasp that got inside the building had perched itself on the door handle. Lovely. Fortunately, I am not nearly as allergic to stings as I used to be (in fact, I wonder if I am at all), but it sure did hurt. That was enough to throw me off my carefully planned schedule.

Right now, for instance, I should be grading. Instead, I am blogging and catching up on some shows sitting on the DVR.

Anyway, here's are some links that have been clogging up my bookmarks, the first of several link dumps I've got planned for tonight. Let's start with the purely funny and random ones:

First, take a look at yourlogomakesmebarf.com and blackpeopleloveus.com.

Also, leave it to the Japanese to invent stink-free underwear.

Enjoy. More to come...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

San Francisco, Part III

Saturday was another great day. We did attend the conference a bit, but also hit some more highlights in the city.

Again, we rode a cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf. When we got off, the driver offered to take our picture. Then he said that because we were the last off, he'd take it from two angles. By the way, check out Kari's pose in this picture. Like she's a professional model or something!

Here's the second shot the driver took. Too bad my hair is in my face!

Our main destination at the Wharf was Ghirardelli Square. Vogel had been telling us that if you went to Ghirardelli Chocolate, you could tour the place and get a free piece of chocolate. She insisted that this was true, and it sounded pretty darn awesome to Kari and me. But then the woman at the information booth looked at us like we were crazy. She told us that there hadn't been any factory there since the 60s. (True: you can read about it here.) "But you get a free piece of chocolate!" Vogel kept insisting. She even kept holding out one hand and tapping it with the other. "They put it in your hand!" Kari and I told her she must have been confusing this place with Hershey Park. From personal experience, I know that's true about Hershey. The information booth lady did tell us that in the ice-cream parlor, you could see some of the old machines. We decided that was good enough and set off to the parlor.

Imagine our surprise, then, when at the door of the store, a worker handed us a piece of chocolate. And then imagine our further surprise when, in the parlor, the old machines weren't just on display, but actually working, making batches of delicious chocolate. So--much to her delight--Vogel was vindicated. The information booth lady, meanwhile, should be more well, informed about the place where she works.

Vogel and Kari pointing to the chocolate machines.

Kari studying a pool of chocolate. We wanted to ask the workers if they ever felt the urge to jump in, but they looked pretty busy.

A happy Kari waiting for our order to arrive.

And here it is--a hot fudge sundae that we split. Yummy.

After our ice-cream, we walked down to the water. Along this way, I took this picture of Alcatraz. Kari and I really wanted to visit the Rock, but it turns out you have to reserve your spot in advance, and we hadn't done that. Maybe next time...

Looking back towards Ghirardelli Square.

Kari and I down by the water.

Later that night, after some conferencing and such, we went to North Beach and walked around a bit before having dinner at this yummy Italian place. We were sure to visit City Lights Books, where I picked up this book and a couple of postcards.

The next day, sadly, it was time to head home. But all in all, an awesome trip!

San Francisco, Part II

On Friday, we gave our presentation, and like I previously noted, we were awesome.

Here we are afterwards. We asked a nice guy in the audience to take our picture.

Once that was done, we felt the need to celebrate, so we headed to this Irish bar down the road from our hotel. Kari and I had beers, while Vogel picked something different...

...this HUGE Bloody Mary. Apparently, this bar is famous for them.

The fun really got started when a group of strong and attractive men sat down next to us. What made them even more attractive? They were firemen from Limerick, Ireland, in town for the parade. I mean really, Irish firemen? Swoon. (Btw, Limerick is where my dad's family is from, so that was extra cool.)

We had a lot of fun with them, especially the young guy on the right, who was their captain. (So young!) They got a kick out of the fact that we were English teachers and made us scold them in English accents. (Don't ask.) We also tried (unsuccessfully) to teach them that most women don't like the term "hooters." Oh well.

Eventually, we parted ways with the firemen. That night, we went to Chinatown for dinner, which was quite yummy. Despite some bravado earlier in the evening about getting a bit crazy, we burned out early and were asleep relatively early.

San Francisco, Part I

So 4Cs in San Francisco was a blast. Even though Team Awesome found itself one man (well, woman) down since Bethany couldn't make it, we still managed to rock the conference presentation hardcore. And yeah, we had some fun, too.

On Thursday, once the three of us (Kari, Vogel, and I) got together, we took a cable car down to Fisherman's Wharf to look around a bit and meet up with Joel, one of Vogel's good friends from back when she lived in San Francisco.

Vogel on the cable car. We were standing/hanging on the outside. It was pretty awesome--kind of thrilling for a non-risk-taker like myself.

Vogel and Joel at lunch. Don't they look like siblings?

After lunch, we waited for another cable car to take us back to the hotel. I snapped a couple pics of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Another pic of the bridge.

It's pretty hard to get these two to focus for a picture.

Much better!

Something I didn't know: when the cable cars reach the end of the tracks, they have to turn them around manually. I thought that was pretty cool and took a couple of pictures of the process.

Spinning it around.

All done!

More to come...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Some more quick and completely random links...

1) More Jane Austen/science-fiction cross-overs.

2) The sometimes depressing, sometimes hilarious, almost always interesting "F*** My Life" blog.

3) "The Dirty Lie": a website all about the myth of clean coal. This topic will be on my mind a lot more in the coming months as we prepare to host Silas House as our Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence next fall. House is a big opponent of mountain-top removal. (I've been meaning to write a long post on my love for House's books for months now...I'll get to it someday. I promise!)

And one book to write...

How do you write a book when teaching a 4/4 load? Well, this article over at the Chronicle has some good advice. Like the author of this piece, I don't need a book to get tenure. But I want to write one. I want to publish more because I like doing it. The problem is, as he explains, finding the time. I've been trying my best to get work done on my book, but it sure is hard. I've found that when I set aside certain afternoons for my writing, they tend to get hijacked by meetings or grading. If only I could give up teaching for the first summer session, but it's too hard to resist the money, however tiny the amount is...

Two books to buy...

1) The Boatloads, a collection of poems by Dan Albergotti, who I've already blogged about here. Check out a review here.

2) Flannery, a new biography of Flannery O'Connor by Brad Gooch. Here's a piece about it from the New York Times.

TV links...mostly about Dollhouse

Just some quick links I've been collecting:

1) Good news for Dollhouse fans who are worried about low ratings: lots of people are watching the show on DVR. That's true for me: I have yet to watch a single episode while it aired. (Sidenote: How did I ever survive without a DVR?)

2) A fun interview with Eliza Dushku.

3) An essay about a topic I've thought about before: What if a TV show would really work better as a movie? (And yes, this pieces uses Dollhouse as a specific example.)

4) Matt Groening on The Simpsons and Futurama.

"In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth"

This New York Times article has been getting some attention in the blogosphere, especially (predictably) among academics in the humanities. (This post offers a really fine answer.)

The article is an interesting if predictable read, but there are a few unsupported or just stupid claims. For instance, towards the end, someone points to students not being able to enroll in humanities classes as a sign of their decline. Ummm...couldn't it be seen as exactly the opposite? A sign that they are in demand?

You also gotta love the obligatory-academic-Obama-love (I'd like to copyright this phrase) that finds its way into the article:

To Mr. Delbanco of Columbia, the person who has done the best job of articulating the benefits is President Obama. “He does something academic humanists have not been doing well in recent years,” he said of a president who invokes Shakespeare and Faulkner, Lincoln and W. E. B. Du Bois. “He makes people feel there is some kind of a common enterprise, that history, with its tragedies and travesties, belongs to all of us, that we have something in common as Americans.”

(For the record, I think this statement about the President is true and one of my favorite things about him.)

For the record, I side with Anthony T. Kronman. Here's his take on the "crisis":

“[T]he need for my older view of the humanities is, if anything, more urgent today,” he added, referring to the widespread indictment of greed, irresponsibility and fraud that led to the financial meltdown. In his view this is the time to re-examine “what we care about and what we value,” a problem the humanities “are extremely well-equipped to address.”

The article ends with a bit of gloom and doom:

As money tightens, the humanities may increasingly return to being what they were at the beginning of the last century, when only a minuscule portion of the population attended college: namely, the province of the wealthy. That may be unfortunate but inevitable, Mr. Kronman said. The essence of a humanities education — reading the great literary and philosophical works and coming “to grips with the question of what living is for” — may become “a great luxury that many cannot afford.”

I hope this isn't true, but as I work on my 4Cs paper for this year, I do find myself wondering how we can continue to emphasize the importance of the humanities to students who aren't wealthy. Stay tuned for more about that after 4Cs.

Cool ad...

So Andrew Sullivan often posts cool ads on his blog. I really liked this one.

If you've got another four and a half minutes, the "making of" video is pretty cool, too.

I enjoy watching dance numbers way too much for someone who can't dance at all...

Monday, March 2, 2009


You so totally need to check out Save the Words. I first noticed it several weeks ago, but then it was unavailable for awhile because of some upgrading the folks behind it were doing. Now it's back and better then ever. Thus the title of my post...

Gleimous: slimy, full of phlegm.

That's my word of the day, especially appropriate given that today I gave an exam and never in my life have I heard so much sneezing and coughing and sniffling and snorting. It was nasty. Seriously--I don't want to even touch their possibly gleimous papers.