Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When studies contradict each other...

...I usually go with the one that makes me feel better. So here's a study that says Facebook users have lower average grades. And here's one that says that, with the exception of internet addicts, people who do a lot web surfing during their breaks are more productive at work. I'm going to go with the second--all this surfing and posting makes me more productive at times since I tend to use web-breaks and blogging as mini-rewards for accomplishing tasks. This post, for instance, is a mini-reward for finishing writing part of a final exam.

(And yes, I realize that these studies don't actually contradict each other at all.)

New MLA guidelines

Another week's old bookmark I've been meaning to link to: Yes, the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing has made some changes. But don't panic. (It's okay to admit that you were panicking.) Everything you need to know is here. Take that, underlining!

Lit geek humor...

I've been meaning to post this for awhile now. It sure did make me giggle. Then I felt like a dork. Then I laughed again.

Via these guys.

End-of-the-Semester Tallies

Since our last day of regular classes is Friday, it seems like an appropriate time to lay out what I still need to get done. I am particularly proud of myself this semester for getting all the research/critical essays graded for my ENGL 204 and ENGL 312 classes. (That's how I spent last weekend--me and about 45 research papers. What fun!) Having that task done makes a big difference. So here's what's left:

  • 45 papers for ENGL 102, each about 5-6 pages each, 2 sections worth. I get these on Thursday. These classes started off with 25 students each, so about five have dropped or disappeared.
  • 33 final exams for ENGL 204, which I won't get until next week. I think I've officially lost two here, since we started out at 35. I think two or three more might be gone--that is, they've been AWOL as of late, but you never know--sometimes folks just show up for the exam.
  • 12 final exams for ENGL 312, which I also won't get until next week. This class started out with 15 students...three have disappeared. I am pretty sure these will be take-home essay exams, so they will be a bit time-consuming, but still, 12 is a great amount.
Hey--that sounds pretty doable, right?


Just a really quick TV post: Any one watch Chuck last night? It might not be my favorite show on TV, but it's pretty high up there on the list. These last two episodes have been outstanding. It would be a real shame if it didn't get renewed.

He's back...

Remember Maru the cat? Well, he's back and this time, the box is very big.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Alumni Weekend

I am still trying to process the fact that my ten-year college reunion was last week. Shannon has already posted a ton of great photos, but here are some of my contributions. I really thought I took more pictures than this (and Shannon has already called me out on the fact that I don't have any of her), but what can you do?

Caitlyn, my road-trip companion for the weekend. She and I rode in the back of her parents' new car. We enjoyed a selection of wonderful DVDs, including "Elmocize!" and, my personal favorite, a compilation that included "Harry the Dirty Dog" and this great little story about a Scotty dog and some ducks.

Holding baby Morgan, the daughter of my freshman-year roommate. I am just going to lay it out there: Morgan was the first of several babies I contemplated stealing that weekend.

Beth holding Morgan. I think Beth thought about stealing her, too--or at least getting started on Baby #2.

Two of my favorite people: Mike and Mary.

The always-adorable Allison and her fiance, Greg.

Caitlyn enjoying her burger from Five Guys. This was a compromise dinner: our favorite pizza place in town closed down (sad!), but none of us had tried Five Guys before, so we gave it a shot. Verdict: delicious! (And messy--especially if you are two years old.)

What would a trip back to Salem be without a drive up to the Homeplace? Here are Beth and Caitlyn sitting outside before the restaurant opened.

Caitlyn and her daddy swinging.

Sharon, Chris, and their kids joined us at the Homeplace. Here's a cute shot of Abby and Sharon.

This was the first time I met Colin, Sharon and Chris's new baby. How cute is he?

I did not want to put him down!

Abby and Caitlyn playing after lunch. Cute, right?

Anyway, those are all the pictures I have--until next year! And next year will be even better because Jane will be back, Amber, Mike and Baby Tran will be there, and Heather, Burt and the boys will be there, too. (That's right--you all have no choice in the matter.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009


"For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer—let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape—to sail forth, as in a ship!"

-Whitman, "Warble for Lilac-Time"

Since this blog has been on a bit of a Whitman kick lately, I figured I'd keep it up. This isn't one of Whitman's best poems, but it certainly captures the joy that comes with spring's arrival (for me at least), including the urge to take off and do something fun. And yet, I don't like the slippage from spring to summer that comes in that first quoted line. There ought to be a clear break between the two seasons--and summer should take its time coming, thank you very much.

Today, though, if I ignore certain sure-tell signs of spring (stacks of papers waiting to be graded, for instance), it sure does feel like a summer day, especially since I am watching the Yankees play the Red Sox on TV and Bing and Wesley are in their standard summer day poses (stretched out, quiet, sleeping).

And oh yeah--there's this: it's currently 92 degrees outside. I don't like this at all. What happened to the 70s?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reading Terminal Market

So ever since Vogel moved to Philadelphia, I have been eager for her to take me to the Reading Market. Finally, on the way back from Camden, we stopped there. To my amusement, by the way, I discovered that I had already been right outside the space a bunch of times, most recently when I was at the 2006 MLA.

We had a great time there. Of course, the first thing we did was eat. (Remember--we had a hungry and thus easily annoyed David to contend with.) There are tons of choices for cuisine at the Market, but we picked Delilah's, in part because I remembered it from an episode of "Throwdown with Bobby Flay." I don't normally watch that show--and by the way, I think the concept is a bit obxious (let's find what folks say you do best and then let Bobby try to take that away from you), but I thought it would be fun to go anyway. Delilah's is famous for their mac & cheese, something I don't personally enjoy, but Vogel and David ordered some and loved it. I had fried chicken (pretty good, but not awesome) and Vogel had barbecued wings (which she said were delicious). David had some of Vogel's mac & cheese, but then ended up getting Indian food at this booth right across from us.

After we ate, we walked around a bit and just did some people watching. We stopped here to pick up some chocolate-covered pretzels that Vogel promised would be delicious--and they were. Finally, we stopped at Bassett's Ice-Cream, since we had all seen it featured on this Travel Channel show about the country's best ice-cream. We got a couple of scoops of vanilla to share (which was more than enough, since we were still full from lunch) and it was divine.

Some pictures from our adventure:

The sign for Delilah's. (Yes--it's a bit blurry.)

Bassett's Ice-Cream.

How could I resist this sign?

The delicious pretzels.

David and Vogel enjoying their ice-cream.

Whitman's Grave

Whitman's grave is just a short ride from his house, so we made the drive over. (This was especially challenging since David was both in pain--from that knee of his--and hungry. Hungry David=Easily Annoyed David.) But we went anyway. After all, since when do we give in to Easily Annoyed David?

The family tomb.

Some of the name plates inside, including Walt, his parents, and some of his siblings.

Close up of Walt's nameplate.

A marker with an American flag next to it. I wish I had gotten the whole flag in the picture because it is a great reminder that Whitman spent so many hours visiting with wounded and dying soldiers during the Civil War. Today when I teach Whitman (especially to non-majors in the gen. ed. survey class), so many students act as if he is some crazy liberal outsider. The more close-minded among them turn off any sense of appreciation or understanding when they hear about his sexuality. But here his grave is marked with military symbols--a clear reminder of how much he embodied, loved, and served America.

Finally, I was especially moved by this simple hyacinth that someone had left by the grave. A lovely touch of spring on a rainy Saturday--and the day before Easter.

Walt Whitman House

As regular readers no doubt know, I am a total geek for Walt Whitman. So, as you might expect, the news that Vogel had made arrangements for us to visit the Walt Whitman House in Camden put me in Nineteenth-Century American Lit Nerd Heaven.

We weren't allowed to take pictures in the house, but I do have some from the outside.

Here's David outside. He was a tough little trooper since his knee was really hurting him.

Vogel out front. Look how happy she looks--well, it's a bit hard to see, but trust me--she's happy! She was especially excited about seeing Whitman's actual boots in his bedroom. I'm not gonna lie--that stuff rocked hard core. They even had things like dishes he used, chairs he sat in, and his cane. I know most museums have things like that, but in this case, because no rooms were roped off or anything, it just seemed so natural--like touring a house, not a museum.

And here I am, posing for my front steps shot. Don't I also look happy? I was--I really, really was!

A view of the back of the house. I was a bit surprised that I didn't notice a big lilac bush, but maybe I just missed it.

Anyway, if you find yourself in the Philadelphia area and you love Whitman, you so need to go!

Vogel's Birthday Dinner

Just a couple pictures from a delicious birthday dinner David and I enjoyed with Vogel a couple of weeks ago.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening day...

...at the new Yankee Stadium. Ah, opening day--it always makes me smile because not only are the boys in pinstripes back, but also because it reminds us that spring is here and summer is just around the corner. [Correction--the game's not actually at the Stadium. They are playing at Camden Yards.]

You might enjoy this gallery of memorable opening days from CNN/SI. I've pasted my favorite below: William Howard Taft throwing the first pitch back in 1910.

Get your printable Yankee schedule here. I've got one for the office and one for home.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More job search/grad school links...

1) Thomas H. Benton is back with more reasons why people shouldn't go to grad school in the humanities. As much sense as he makes in certain places, I kind of hate this dude. This part especially rankles:

So I do not wholly trust anyone who applies the word "love" to graduate school; such language strikes me as possible only from a position of naïveté or privilege. The rhetoric of sentimentalism is used by people who are not willing to interrogate the reasons for what they do, or, more likely, the reasons for asking others to do something irrational.

I am showing my 19th-cent. American lit. leanings a bit here, but his dismissal of emotion (here dismissively labeled "sentimentalism") is grating. But perhaps that's what makes this column and the one before so frustrating and, it must be said, so thought-provoking--he refuses to be even the littlest bit sentimental, romantic, idealistic, or even emotional about his claims.

2) In Benton's defense, though, the numbers in this MLA/JIL midyear report are awful. Read 'em and weep. Seriously.

Skip down to page 21, look at those American lit. numbers, and marvel once again at how the heck I ever got a job. It's a good time (well, relatively speaking) to be in rhet./comp. or multi-ethnic lit., but that's no big surprise. What accounts for the up-tick in creative writing positions, though? That makes me happy for all my poet/fiction-writing friends.

3) Finally, some advice about how schools can conduct their searches more humanely. And I love the Huck Finn reference the writers uses to kick off her article. The advice that she gives is so obvious, so straightforward, so logical, it's amazing that she even has to give it. And yet, anyone who has done a search in the last few years knows that again and again, that some schools treat job applicants horrendously.

One of my favorite anecdotes about this subject involves my first year on the job market when I applied to Ursinus College in PA. Each step of the way, the search committee chair kept all of the applicants fully informed about where they stood. I remember learning over Thanksgiving break (via email) that I had passed a certain round of elimination. She even explained how proud candidates should be for getting this far, giving us the raw numbers: maybe 150 people had applied and now it was down to 50, then down to 10, etc. Very good for the ego when a person is getting mostly rejections or silence from other schools.

After the MLA interview, the search committee chair contacted those who weren't being invited to campus to tell us the news, basically saying, "So it looks like you won't get an offer here." It was courteous, warm, and just decent of her to do it--especially in such a timely manner.

I know some schools don't respond at every stage of the process--they want to keep all their options open until the very end, and yet, come on: why keep the people who you cut out in that very first round wondering? And, believe me, I know this kind of communication takes time, but it's worth noting that 3.5 years later, I still think of that school and that department so fondly. (You don't want to end up on the Universities to Fear list, do you?)

Oh--and when I interviewed for Shepherd? They were similarly amazing. Yes, I have to say that, but it's also true.