Thursday, June 25, 2009

I want to hang out with Connie Britton...

If you adore Friday Night Lights and the fantastic Connie Britton, you'll want to take a look at this item from EW's Michael Ausiello.

And in references to this post's title, I mean, seriously, doesn't she just look like she'd be fun to have dinner with? And knowing she's in it actually makes me look forward to the new Nightmare on Elm Street. That's no small statement since the original is one of the formative movies from my youth.

(Side note that should make you think my brother Christian is pretty cool: as I've mentioned before, my siblings and I love horror movies--always have. The original Nightmare on Elm Street scared me so much after I first watched it that Christian let me sleep in his bed and took the floor for himself. He also did this after The Exorcist. All together now: "Awwww.")

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Buffy vs. Twilight

Here's the set-up for this most excellent video clip: "In this remixed narrative, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer at Sunnydale High. It's an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward's character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy's eyes some of the more patriarchal gender roles and sexist Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed in hilarious ways."

Having never read a word of any of the Twilight books, I am in no position to speak too critically of them, but it's pretty clear that Twilight is no Buffy.

UPDATE: My good friend "Someday Ph.D." puts it all even better than I could have. Have a read, won't you?

Broken arms and fourth-grade romance

This weekend I finished going through all the notes/letters from (roughly) fourth grade to the present. Quite a feat, right? Anyway, as promised, I present the last batch of notes from Mike S., my elementary school boyfriend.

Let's start with this one:

This one is really hard to read, I know, but it says: "Dear Heidi, I hope your arm feels better. Do you still like me? I like you. Please write back. Love, Mike. P.S. I love you." (It's easier to read if you click on it, but trust me on the transcription.)

A couple of things worth pointing out:

1) The "hope your arm feels better" reference allows us to actually give this note a date. November 1986--when I broke my arm over the Thanksgiving Holiday.

2) Someone needs to write a paper about the differences between saying "I like you" and "I love you" in elementary school notes. Mike S. uses both here and I can't tell if that's redundant or if he means two different things.

3) For anyone who thinks this was a one-sided relationship (given all those desperate pleas for me to write back), please note that he says "do you still like me," implying that I had confirmed at least once that I did like him. That had to be done through a note, because I know there is no way fourth-grade Heidi would have been able to say "I like you" face-to-face.

This note, however, shows that Mike S. might have been a hard guy to appease:

It reads: "Dear Heidi, Do you still love me? I love you. For God's sake, please write back. Love Mike. P.S. I love you."

Notice again that he says "Do you still love me?" That looks good for me, right? The "For God's sake" is awfully needy, right? And pretty cute, I guess.

I love how he adds that postscript to every note.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ten Simple Rules to Combine Teaching and Research

I've been meaning to link to this article for weeks now, ever since I found them via the tomorrow's professor listserv. Some of these are common sense, but we all need to hear common sense repeated now and again, don't we? These tips are geared towards all disciplines, so some of the ideas (about powerpoints and online assignments) don't work all that well for the humanities, but there are lots of great ideas here that do cross disciplines. Some thoughts:

1) In just my brief time in academia, especially once I started teaching a 4/4 load, I've found that #1 (recommending strict budgeting of time for both teaching and research) is perhaps the most important rule.

2) Rule 2, on setting specific goals, is a trick I learned back in dissertation days. It was never helpful for me to say "I am going to write my dissertation today." I had to be so specific, writing down (another key tip) goals like "Type notes for sources A, B, and C," "Finish reading Book D," and (eventually), "Write 5 pages."

3) Rule 3, "Don't Reinvent the Wheel": So important, especially once you are teaching a full load. When I was a graduate student, I would come up with new paper assignments and syllabi for my courses just about every semester. Well, this was actually only true for the first couple of semesters...then I stopped...well, reinventing the wheel. Yes, you should consider changing the texts up every once in a while and if you find a new assignment that you are excited about, then by all means, do it. But don't feel bad for sticking with what works.

I realize I have a preachy tone here, but it's worth noting that I am actually giving myself a mini-lecture. I sometimes feel guilty for doing certain things semester after semester. I have this fear of turning into one of my old college professors (an awesome teacher overall) who used notes on yellowed paper that were certainly 30 years old. I also hear about the exciting new ideas my colleagues or friends at other schools come up with to use in their own classes and I feel my own inadequacy. But I need to get over this--if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Tinker with it, maybe--especially if the tinkering makes you more excited about what's happening in your classroom, but be okay with recycling.

4) Don't Try To Explain Everything: This one made me think. It seems like especially good advice for a general education course (like our American Literature Survey at Shepherd) where you can't possible cover everything.

5) “Be Shameless in Bringing Your Research Interests into Your Teaching”: Love this one. Thus, my (possible) Poe Seminar in the Spring and my "Black Cat" article.

6) Get the Most in Career Advancement from Bringing Your Research into Your Teaching : This one gives some good food for thought, too. I really like the idea of bringing your research into your class and seeing what students think. (I have done this with my "Black Cat" thesis with some good results.)

7) Compromise, Compromise, Compromise: After #1, this one is the most important, I think.

8) Balance Administrative Duties with Your Teaching and Research Workload: Good luck with this one. Seriously.

9) Start Teaching Early in Your Career: Fortunately, I am in a discipline that had me teaching by the second semester of my MA work, but clearly not every field is like this. I wonder how big a disadvantage this can be. When I was a new hire at Shepherd, there were a couple of folks (in math and sciences) who were brand-new to the classroom. It's hard to imagine that--from not teaching to teaching four classes? Ugh.

10) Budget Time for Yourself, Too: I love this rule. I believe in this rule. I need to practice this rule more.

Baby Abigail

Check out this amazing little baby. Congrats to Mike and Amber. Amber, I spent some of today looking through old letters and cards from my college days (getting ready for the big move), and they reminded me how much your friendship has always meant to me. (And also how freakin' funny you are.)
And now you are a mom--wow! Abigail is a lucky little girl to have you as her mother--and I am lucky to have you as a friend.

[end of sappy post]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some quick laughs...

On a rather serious and depressing news day, how about some quick funny or feel-good links?

1) "The Happiest People Ever." Here's my favorite picture so far:

2) You so need to check out this crazy clip from Dixie Carter. At the end, she says, "You're not laughin' at me, are you?" Uh...yes, yes we are. And hiding from you.

3) Finally, via Andrew Sullivan, the surprise wedding reception. This looks like so much fun!

Mike S. returns...

Remember about a year ago when I first posted about my elementary school boyfriend? Back then I promised more notes soon. You can see how well I kept that promise. Now, though, with the big move to my new house coming up in at the end of July, I really need to go through boxes and boxes of old notes. This evening I spent about an hour looking through letters, cards, and assorted documents from my last two years of college (more on those later!). Mixed in with them, though, were some classic Mike S. notes. Here they are for your enjoyment.

Transcription: "Dear Heidi, Just remember that we can write notes on the bus and give them to each other in school. Love Mike. P.S. I love you." He was very concerned with me writing to him--this is a recurrent theme in his notes.

Transcription: "Dear Heidi, Remember where my mailbox is? I wanted to ask you to the square dance but I'm not going and anyway, I can't dance. Love, Mike."

About the mailbox thing: if I remember correctly, he made this little paper mailbox just for notes from me that he hung on his desk. The square dance thing made me laugh, too. I guess he didn't know that I can't dance, either. If he still can't dance, maybe I should look him up!

The back of the above note--he must have really wanted me to write back! (He repeats it five times.) I think I played coy with him. Plus, I was painfully shy and even with a boy telling me he liked me, I was still reserved. And remember: this was a kid who got in trouble in school--and I never got in trouble. I think that scared me a bit about him.

This is the best one, in my opinion. Check out the Garfield notepad! Transcription: "Dear Heidi, I'll like you if you stop liking Chris. I kinda like you and Melanie. Guess what? My dad gave me permission to break this kids nose, because he keeps punching me and bothering me at boyscouts. I just figured I'd tell you. Boyfriends and girlfriends should never keep secrets. The reason why I am writing sloppy is because I'm writing on the bus. Love, Mike."

You know, Mike S. should write relationship books. Here, dear reader, is what would certainly be the quick version of his tips (based on the above note):

1) Be willing to compromise in a relationship. Tell the person you are interested in them that you'll really only be interested in him/her if he/she drops any interest in any other potential boyfriend/girlfriend.

2) Men--be sure to brag about your feats of strength and displays of machismo. Especially if your dad has given you permission to beat someone up. At boy scouts.

3) Remember--boyfriend and girlfriends shouldn't keep secrets.

Seriously--if he hadn't gotten kicked out of school for lewd conduct (in fourth grade--or was it fifth?), I might have married this guy.

Bragging on my students a bit...

Check out this article by one of my students (in which she also interviews another of my former students.) Natalie's a smart girl who is works hard, plays well with others, and has the kind of organizational skills we wish every student had. And she's on the executive board of Sigma Tau Delta which means we see a lot of each other since, as I've mentioned to some of you before, those kids think they own me.

We've got some really talented people enrolled in our classes at Shepherd. They are just one of the many reasons I love my job so much.

Some more poetry links...

Five fabulous poems I've stumbled across in the past couple of weeks:

1) "I'm a Fool to Love You" by Cornelius Eady. A sad but beautiful poem--and this link has an audio clip of the poet reading it. It begins with this terrific opening:

Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father...

And ends with this truth about the lies we sometimes tell ourselves when we think we are in love:

This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man's kisses
A healing.

2) "Lullaby" by Paul Guest. (And there's audio of the poet here, too.)

I'm not sure I get this one completely--if the speaker is talking to a child or a lover, but it reminds me of my dad, who always told (and still tells) me the most interesting stories and facts. Some people give him a hard time about this--roll their eyes or whatever, but it's one of my favorite things about him. When I was a child, there was always such a comfort in hearing his voice say these things--these seemingly insignificant, inconsequential facts that made me feel like he wanted to talk with me, to teach me things. (I am afraid that's much sappier than what Guest intends in this poem, but there you have it.)

Here's just the ending:

Which leads me to say how kamikaze
means divine wind, a fact I loved
before I loved you. And there I go, rattling
like an old fan. And still you sleep,
small and warm, having asked
in your drowsing slip of a voice
that I talk and talk, quietly, without cease,
about anything, anything at all,
until you drift and I am at last the one you dream of.

It's a poem about communication, too, isn't it? About how we want to fill the ears of those we love with the sounds of our voices--even if all we can talk about are trivial facts.

3) "Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting," by Kevin S. Powers, an Iraq War veteran. Short enough to quote in full:

I tell her I love her like not killing
or ten minutes of sleep
beneath the low rooftop wall
on which my rifle rests.

I tell her in a letter that will stink,
when she opens it,
of bolt oil and burned powder
and the things it says.

I tell her how Pvt. Bartle says, offhand,
that war is just us
making little pieces of metal
pass through each other.

It is not easy to write a love poem that says anything in a new way, but Powers does that here in those first lines. And what a devastating description of war in those last lines.

4) "Small Moth" by Sarah Lindsay. It's also short enough to quote in full:

She's slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full on—
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again.

Dang it if that's not how happiness often hits us--and how we feel when it does.

5) And finally, "To be alive" by Gregory Orr. Another short one that I won't comment on because anything I say will only take away from what's so amazing about it:

To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That's crudely put, but…

If we're not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?

NY Visit: A few more pictures...

Just a couple more pictures from my visit home:

Aidan, fresh from his bath, meets Mini-Jane.

Kelsie (isn't she looking grown-up these days?) and Mini-Jane.

Even Erin got in the spirit, posing with Mini-Jane while cooking some lunch on the grill.

Finally, check out Bailey--still going strong at 15 years old. (He celebrated the big 15 on my parents' anniversary. A nice fact: Bailey was born on their 25th anniversary.)


If I get lots of my "real work" done today, I will reward myself with some catch-up blogging. Since I am (so far) ahead of schedule (with 20 minutes to kill before class starts), I thought I'd link to some sites I've had sitting in my bookmark folder...this morning's theme: Plagiarism and Cheating!

1) Have you seen or heard about this story? It's pretty surprising, but this graphic is absolutely astounding. I don't see how this guy can get away with it.

2) Then there's this...I am really hoping it's a joke or something.

3) And then there's an article from about a website which offers to corrupt students' files for them so they can get extra time. Doesn't that seem like a lot of effort? Like effort a student can use to actually write a paper? (Such is the case with lots of plagiarism...) Incidentally, if a teacher tells a student the he/she won't accept online submissions, then this isn't a problem. If the teacher wants to accept them or has to accept them, can't that teacher say that a satisfactory online submission must include a file that works? This whole scheme seems pretty stupid.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

NY Visit: My crazy nephews...

Ever since Kelsie showed me how easy it was to take video using my camera, I have used the "hey, you want to make a movie?" trick to calm down many a niece or nephew on the verge of a fit or tantrum. My nephews spent most of the time at the restaurant taking turns being impossible, so I used this trick more than once. Here are some results. (Sorry for the sound quality, but good luck getting a gathering of my family to quiet down.)

Aidan, still SpongeBob obsessed, singing "Best Day Ever," which was in the Spongebob movie, I think.

Further proof of the obsession. Can you tell how on the verge of losing it this kid was at this point? There was some energy waiting to explode.

Finally, Colin, dressed like a young executive, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This is a pretty big deal for him since he has some speech problems. He's making great progress, though, which is wonderful to see.

NY Visit: 40th Anniversary Party

May 31 marked my parents' 40th anniversary. That's pretty amazing, right? My siblings and I hosted a nice dinner for them (at one of my mom's favorite restaurants). Some pictures from that day:

The happy couple.

Aidan, Olivia, and Colin. (Kelsie couldn't be there--she had dance recital dress rehearsals all day).

My mom and Colin.

My mom and the kids.

Colin and Jeff.

Christian and Aidan.

Ryan with Olivia and Colin.

Olivia and Aidan with a Gameboy or something like that. (A great distraction--but only if you have one per kid...)

Ryan and my mom.

Greensboro Visit: Aaron's Graduation Party

The main reason for my visit was, of course, Aaron's graduation party, hosted by David. Some pictures from that night...and yes, there was karaoke.

Will (who refuses to smile normally in pictures), Vogel, and John. John is the father of one of the coolest and cutest kids in the world, Emma. Emma was at the party too (along with Sarah, her mom and John's wife). When Sarah told us that Emma loved to sing and dance, we decided that we needed to do a number for her. Unfortunately, the karaoke machine did not have her current favorite song (Beyonce's "Single Ladies"), but we learned that she also loves Abba. So....

Vogel, me, and Will singing "Take a Chance on Me" for Emma.

Emma and her mom watching us sing. Emma, we would learn, though, is no mere observer.

Soon, she joined in, singing along with us. Folks, if you want people to actually enjoy your karaoke singing, having a baby join you is a surefire way to make that happen. Well, that and having a good singing voice. We went with the baby option.

Vogel and Deirdre. Notice the orange object on the bottom of the picture. David threw a carrot. We don't know why.

David and Craig.

David and I dueting. I think this was when we did "A Whole New World" (from Alladin). David didn't really know the words and it was way out of my range, so I don't think it was that pleasant for anyone listening. But it was fun.

Courtney and I bringing some Latin flavor to the night, doing a bit of Enrique Iglesias. "Bailamos!"

Cameron, Kenny, and Aaron. (Cameron and Kenny are Aaron's friends from way back...)

Another shot of Aaron and his friends, this time joined by Jason.

A very fun night!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Greensboro Visit: Around town...

There are certain almost mandatory stops on any return trip to Greensboro. One of these is, of course, Old Towne. We got there at 5 on Friday and I am pretty sure we left after midnight. Wow.

Vogel, David, and Sara at Old Towne. (It's still light out at this point.) more pictures from that night. Weird.

Another required stop: Thai Garden on Tate Street. Here's Vogel and David after lunch.

And look who came with me! It's Mini-Jane! (Look for her to be popping up in a few more posts...) Here she poses with my yummy leftovers (Chicken Pad Thai, of course.)

(Who the heck is mini-Jane? Well, she's like our own version of Flat Stanley, handmade by Shannon, and a stand-in for the real Jane, who is off doing great work in Azerbaijan. You can read about some of mini-Jane's previous adventures here, here, here, and here. So far she's been to Northern VA, Richmond, New Jersey and Arkansas. Now I've got her and find that she might be getting kind of bored. My life isn't nearly as exciting as the lives of my friends. I also think I might be a bit crazy, because I think I purposely shielded mini-Jane from the more debauched aspects of the Greensboro visit. That is crazy on at least two counts: 1) it's a freaking doll and 2) the real Jane is all about the occasional bout of debauchery.)

Greensboro visit: Grasshoppers' Game

Memorial Day Weekend found me visiting friends in Greensboro. Lots of fun stuff: a Grasshoppers' Game, stops at some of my favorite restaurants, and a great graduation party for Aaron.

Some pictures...first from the baseball game.

Vogel and Lauren.

Sunset over the field.

Another nice evening shot.

Like any minor league game, a Grasshoppers' Game is about more than just baseball--it's also about the wacky stuff that's also going during the game. You know--dizzy bat racing and sumo wrestling between innings. That kind of stuff. But what we really love about the Hoppers are Yogi Berra and Babe Ruth, the two dogs who retrieve bats and do other stunts during inning breaks. You can read about their more...interesting stunts here and here. Vogel, who loves dogs more than she loves people (it's not even close) goes crazy for these dogs, so I took a couple of videos for her (and you all, of course.)

Something I wasn't able to get decent video of, though, was the Waffle House strikeout. I am not sure if other teams do this, but it's one of my favorite things about going to a Hopppers' game. They pick some poor guy from the other team and designate him the Waffle House Strikeout Victim. If he strikes out at any point in the game, everyone in attendance gets a coupon for a free waffle. So every time he comes up, they play the Waffle song (more about that in a bit) and people yell "Waaaa-fuulll! Waaa-fuulll!" It's totally silly, a little bit mean (but harmless), and a ton of fun. And in the 8th inning it happened--he struck out. Free waffles for everyone! Yay! I tried to get video of the jumbo-tron and the song, but it didn't come out. Here's a clip of it from youtube, though. I just love it and it totally gets stuck in my head. Even now, I think I'll probably be singing it all day.

Here's Vogel with her free waffle coupon. Doesn't she look happy? Who wouldn't be? And now I have incentive to come back to Greensboro before October 31 (the coupon's expiration date) to put that sucker to good use!