Friday, July 30, 2010

Garden Pics...

I've got this much produce coming in every day or so. It's almost too much...
The cucumbers are making a comeback! Yay!
Tomatoes ripening on the windowsill.
I love the way this pepper is changing color--so pretty.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

101 Syllabizing: done!

I just submitted my syllabus to the copy center today, so it's (more or less) set now. Here's what we're doing: a paper on the all-campus read, a paper on the Little Albert study, a paper on this study on teacher expectations and the Pygmalion effect, and a paper/group presentations on social psychology. Each group will be assigned one of the following famous psychological study to research and present to the class: the Milgram experiment, the Stanford Prison experiment, the Kitty Genovese case, and Solomon Asch's study on opinions and social pressure.

I've only written the first paper assignment, but know (more or less) what the second and third will be, too. I'm still kicking around ideas for the last paper and group presentations, but at least the topics are set, and that feels good.

One class down...two to go. Well, technically three, but I am teaching two sections of the same class, so it feels a lot more like "two to go."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Firefox's Tab Candy

Wow...this looks awesome. A blogger/compulsive web surfer/bookmark-builders dream!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I think I need this...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer soda. You know, I do have a birthday coming up...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Roasted Yellow Pear Tomatoes

Made these last night and they were pretty darn good--worth using the oven on a super-hot day. Surprisingly sweet and so very simple!

Dexter Season Five

Check out the trailer here. Can't wait for September 26! One problem, though: my free year of Showtime will be up by then...I wonder how much it costs to get just Showtime, if that's even possible.

Two quick links: Appalachian writers taking on Big Coal

These are already a bit old, but worth posting:

1) Wendell Berry pulls his personal papers from UK over the University's relationship to the coal industry.

2) Silas House takes on an absurd, infantile, sexist attack on Ashley Judd over MTR.

Seems like a good place to include a Berry about this one?

"The Peace of Wild Things"

Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
(via the Poetry Foundation

Hmm...and let's give Silas a shout-out, too: consider buying a copy of The Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Volume II, featuring a new and very moving short story by House, "Recruiters."

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's hot...

So I am driving home today and wondering why the thermometer in my car isn't going down much from the 107 it showed when I first got in it. It dropped to 104 and then stayed there. Weird.

Then I got home, turned on the Weather Channel and saw why...

....because it's 104 freakin' degrees outside.

Not 104 with the heat index.

Not "feels like" 104.

It's literally 104 degrees.


101 Syllabizing, continued...

This morning finds me still working on my ENGL 101 syllabus. I'm making my way through the Forty Studies that Changed Psychology, paying special attention to those Erin marked with a check in the table of contents. I start reading about one called "The Nature of Love," by H. F. Harlow. (The book actually summarizes the studies and then discusses their influence--it doesn't directly reproduce the original articles.) About a page into it, I realize what study this is: the one with monkeys and fake mothers. Can't do it. Even thinking about this study makes me depressed. Seriously. I told Erin this when we talked about it, but I guess she thought I was joking.

Moving on...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gift to myself...

Check out what I just bought myself. With my garden producing dozens of tomatoes (especially yellow pear tomatoes) and the (now recovering) zucchini and peppers coming along nicely, too, I am anticipating continuing to have more fresh produce than I know what to do with. And in the past, every time I've looked at recipes that call for intense chopping or a food processor, I just move on, since I don't have the equipment. Now I'll be in business, baby! Feel free to share any recipes for lots of tomatoes...

P.S. I'm also contemplating taking up canning. Lord help me!

101 Syllabizing...

I've got three new course preps for this coming semester: ENGL 377: Peer Tutoring and Composition Theory, ENGL 301: Introduction to Literary Study (the pre-requisite for all upper-division English classes), and ENGL 101: Written English.

Now, yeah, I've taught ENGL 101 before (lots of times), but I am shaking it up this time, using an entirely new textbook and writing new assignments. Like last year, my 101 class is part of a "learning community" with a section of Psychology 101. Last year, all I really did to link the two classes was have them talk about what was going on in PSYC 101, especially when each student took a turn leading in-class writing. We also spent some time talking about the paper they wrote for their psychology class. But really, that was about it. When my colleague and I decided to link our classes again, I decided to do better. I hope this will lead to all the goals at the heart of the learning community mission: connections between coursework in different classes, better critical thinking, and a higher retention rate for enrolled students.

So here's what I am doing: throwing out the old textbook, which is a good book (and edited by a former colleague!), but didn't allow for readily apparent connections to their psychology coursework. The old book is the required text for all 101 classes, but I can get around that rule because of the learning community. (I see it as my subtly subversive way of beginning to challenge the "required text" idea for everyone.)

For alternative class texts, I was really inspired by an article the students brought in one day about "Little Albert" and the famous experiment about conditioning. Now I gotta say, I had never heard of Little Albert or the experiment, but I was instantly intrigued. And it was one of the best discussions we had all semester. "We should be writing about that!" I thought. Why not, I wondered, just use a series of articles like that one--or a series of readings about famous psychological topics/studies--and base most of the course assignments on those? So that's what I've been working on...finding those articles/topics. For years, I've been saying that I really want to teach a composition class using less than ten readings, since I don't believe you need a big old (or even little old) reader to teach writing.

Fortunately, my teaching partner (also named Heidi) is pretty awesome and very into the idea. She pointed me towards Forty Studies that Changed Psychology, which I've been working my way through. Equally fortunate, Erin, my younger sister, is also a psychologist, so she looked through that book and pointed me towards some studies she thought students would be drawn to.

I also ordered They Say/I Say as our main writing textbook and was especially glad that I did so after my friend Aaron said how much he liked it. It's a slim little book--and almost completely focused on practical moves that good writers make. (I ordered a handbook, too, the one the whole department uses, and one that I have a soft spot for since it was the one I bought my first semester at Roanoke and used all four years--and through much of graduate school.)

My big problem/challenge now is coming up with the actual writing assignments. I think, for instance, that we'll spend some serious time talking about Little Albert, the Milgram experiment, the Kitty Genovese murder, and the Stanford Prison Experiment, but for the life of me, I can't think of freshman-level assignments about them. There's also one that Erin told me about involving false memories--I can't think of the name right now--that should also be good. Basically, I need four or five decent prompts (for essays ranging from about 3 pages to about 7) that freshman can handle.

I tried to find some inspiration from online videos...

Check out this footage of poor Little Albert. Again, maybe most people know about this study, but it was new to me. My students (lovable little jerks...) were like, "You don't know who Little Albert is?" As if they knew before they took the freakin' class. Anyway, the video...

By the way, H.P. Beck and G. Irons' 2009 article, "Finding Little Albert: A Journey to John B. Watson's Infant Laboratory" (American Psychologist 64. 7:  605-614) is one of the most intense pieces I've read all summer--it had me on the edge of my seat! I am thinking I'll base an essay prompt on it...what that prompt will be, though, I have no idea.

Then there's the Milgram Experiment, also quite depressing... I know the students will eat this stuff up, but again, what kind of essay assignments can I base on it? Anyway, here's the first clip (1 out of 3) from a recent recreation of the experiment.

And here's a link to some original footage...again, no idea how to connect this to essay prompts. Maybe sleeping on it will help.

More to come, I am sure, but for now, if you've got any great essay prompt ideas, feel free to share them!

Glee Re-Watch

It's been sort of fun re-watching Glee this summer, although I am probably as conflicted in my opinion of the show as ever. At the same time, though, I've laughed out loud hearing some of Sue's great lines again. This one got me tonight: ''...I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night, I will steal away into your house...and punch you in the face.'' That's good stuff. More Sue Sylvester wisdom here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Quick Links...

1) I've been meaning to post this one for a long time: the unaired Buffy pilot. Worth checking out if you are a big Buffy fan. The biggest difference, of course, is the actress playing Willow. You can get more info about the pilot here and here.

2) Holla Back DC! Fighting back against street harassment. There's at least one good 4Cs paper in here, isn't there?

"A Homespun Love"

by Alicia Partnoy

Because this humble and homespun love
— just as you see it, simple, unadorned —
is what keeps our feet on the ground,
is what engenders the fruit of our nonconformity,
and throws us a lifeboard amidst the shipwreck.
Every so often our love blazes like thousands of stars,
gets dressed up to go out and uncorks
bottles of effervescence, cases of laughter.
You see, every so often, when the moment is right,
our love recalls that is it, like we are, a survivor.

(via the Speaking of Faith podcast/website)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That time of year...

Every July I have to do one of my least-favorite tasks: take the boys to the vet for their annual check-up and shots. In the past, this wasn't a task that bothered me. But that was before I got Wesley. Those of you who know Wesley might be shocked to hear this, but he is absolutely horrible at the vet. He's so bad that they've made a note of it in his file. Hilariously, they call him "vocal," which is a pretty great euphemism for the snarling, hissing, and growling he does from just about every second he's in there. (It's not as bad as one of my sister Erin's cats, who got the dreaded designation "Biter" in his file.)

It's so strange because Wesley is, in his home environment, absolutely the sweetest, most loving, friendly cat you'll ever meet. He's downright dog-like in his demeanor. He even seems to like dogs who visit. All of that goes out the window at the vet, though. I always try to assure the staff that "his bark is worse than his bite," and I do believe that's true--he's never actually bitten or scratched anyone or even tried to, but you can tell they aren't taking my word for it. Heck, I wouldn't if I were in their shoes.

So every year, I stand there, embarrassed and apologetic for bringing in this nasty beast. It's not fun, despite their reassurance that they deal with much worse.

And how about Bing? How does he handle it? Well, compared to Wes, he's an angel. In fact, if he does any growling or hissing, I think it's just because Wes gets him so scared. Today, poor Bing just sat on the exam table waiting, but I could feel him shaking in fear. The doctor even said, while listening to his heart beat, "You may be quiet, but your heart is racing."

Thankfully, the vet visits are always pretty short--in and out in about 40 minutes or less--because it's not an awful time for me. I know they are terrified and feel lost and uncertain and there's nothing I can do to really reassure them. Even when they cower against me for comfort or protection, that only makes me feel worse. Last year, Wes took a flying leap from the exam table, across the room, and onto my shoulder. It was impressive and sweet, but majorly guilt-inducing.

As soon as we get home, though, they snap right back to normal. It's actually quite sweet: as soon as I put the evil boxes (the cat carriers) away, the boys walk around like they are so freakin' happy and grateful to be home. You can practically hear them saying, "Yeah! My house! We're back! I love it here!"

The wonderful thing about certain animals, especially those not gifted with a whole lot of intelligence (like my dear Wesley) is that they seem to very quickly forget just who it was that brought them to the vet. He runs to me for comfort and protection and as soon as we get home, he's all over me with a story to tell. My loose translation: "You wouldn't believe what I've just been through! But I am so happy to be home with you, oh person I love so very much!"

If this is what it's like to take a little kid to the doctor, my friends who are parents have even more of my undying respect!

Bing, post-vet visit, looking out an upstairs window.

Wes, in my lap, post-vet visit.

Quick summer pics...

Ah, summer. Sometimes it brings us great things, like zucchini fresh from the garden.

I sauteed this baby--the first fruit of the season--a couple of weeks ago. Delicious! (There's another possible crisis in the garden right now...perhaps some kind of wilt. I really hope not.)

Sometimes summer brings us awful things, like last week's heat wave. This is how my car greeted me about a week ago:

How rude, right? And this was in the evening, not even the heat of the day. Ugh. Thank goodness that's over (for now.)

These past couple of days have been better, bringing us some much needed rain. We went about three weeks without a single drop falling, so you can imagine how my lawn looks right now. It's still kind of humid and a bit gross, but compared to last week, it's paradise!

Off it goes!

Major box checked off on the "Summer To-Do List."

I just emailed a copy of the Poe article to a journal (who shall, at this point, remain nameless) and will later drop two paper copies in the regular mail. I've done this a number of times before, but that actual moment of sending the email or mailing the package still terrifies me. I always take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and then let go. Gulp.

Cross your fingers, say some prayers, etc.

(This picture is from April or so. It's a pretty good encapsulation of the "Year of Poe" in my professional life. From the presentation at the Faculty Research Forum in November to the Poe Seminar in the spring semester to the final push (for now) on this article, it's been a whole lotta Edgar. And, as I write about in the paper, Wes and Bing have been a part of it all. They were, in fact, the inspiration for the paper.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Advising and Registration

This year, I am helping with (and yeah, getting paid for helping with) the Advising and Registration sessions for incoming freshman. There are four two-day sessions in all and we've just finished session 3. (So one more to go--this Friday and Saturday.) I am advising English, English Education, Spanish, Spanish Education, and Communications majors.

Overall, it's been kind of fun. Those two days are quite busy and stressful at times, but it's cool to meet the incoming students and (separately) their parents. We even get a couple of free meals in the dining hall, which rocks because A) it's free B) no cooking dinner of packing lunch those days (and no dishes!) C) the dining hall is actually pretty darn good.

Most importantly, so far, despite the paucity of General Studies offerings, we've been getting people into workable schedules. Session 4 will be tough, as it will be slim pickings. But based on how well today's session went, I am a bit more confident than I was in the beginning.

And I can't make this point strongly enough: the "A-Team" (student leaders who assist with the whole process) is awesome. What a fabulous group of students! They make me even prouder to work at Shepherd. (Hmmm..that's cheesy, but genuine!)

Sad week for the Yankees...

First Bob Sheppard and now George Steinbrenner. Looks like the boys in pinstripes definitely need to bring home that 28th championship this year to pay tribute.


...these Mel Gibson tapes are absolutely horrifying. I don't give a crap if the woman is a gold-digger, a cheater, whatever. There is just no excuse for what he says on those tapes. He sounds like a raving maniac, a monster, a batterer, a deeply disturbed misogynist. Oh yeah--and a racist. They are chilling. And to think there are people out there defending him...that's a whole other level of sick. And yeah, I'm looking at you, Whoopi Goldberg. (But don't forget Whoopi's defense of Roman Polanski.) Hearing people defend him makes me sad for the world. Ugh.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Emmy Nominations

So I know I've been complaining about being busy, and yet, here I go writing a big old blog post about TV. Yeah, the irony isn't lost on me.

Anyway, I've been meaning to do a quick post about the Emmy nominations and could use a break from Hawthorne. Overall, I am super-excited about some of the nominations, especially Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler. It's about time! Connie Britton needs to win this one. She just does. Did you see Friday's episode? Amazing. Also, check out this interview. Don't you just want to be her friend? Other thoughts:

All the love for Modern Family, the best new show of the season (yeah, including Glee, which I do love, but more about that below). But no nomination for Ed O'Neil? He really is fantastic on that show--a wonderful combination of funny and sweet. You buy him as a dad, a grandfather, and as Gloria's husband. Makes you totally forget Al Bundy, a character I never liked.

Nominations for more of my favorites: my beloved NPH, Michael C. Hall, Kyra Sedgwick, Glenn Close, Terry O'Quinn, Michael Emerson, and Rose Byrnne .

The nods to Lost: Matthew Fox really was a lead actor/heart of that show, so an Emmy this year would be awesome (but maybe not at Kyle Chandler's expense?). And hell yeah, Elizabeth Mitchell! Good thing I'm not an Emmy voter, because I'd have a heck of a time deciding between O'Quinn and Emerson (but would probably end up voting Emerson.)

Love that Burn Notice gets a bit of notice with the fun nomination of Sharon Gless. This isn't a superb show, but it's a lot of fun and she's terrific on it. These summer shows (including The Closer) are changing the way we think about TV. I like that.

Very happy for Julia Louis Dreyfus. New Christine was a show that was too funny to be canceled. (Ausiello's got an post-nomination interview with JLD here.) Too bad Better Off Ted didn't get any love either. Man, that show was hilarious--like Arrested Development with less of a mean streak.

Glee...well, I've been thinking a lot about this, and I am not sure how I feel about all the Glee nominations. Don't get me wrong: I love, love, love the show, but part of me doesn't believe it's superior TV. I think that what I love so much is the music. The writing can be so sloppy and cliched, some of the acting is pretty bad, and lots of times, you can't tell if it is a big old satire or serious. Lea Michelle deserves her nomination, as does Jane Lynch (someone needs to put together a gift book of Sue Sylvester insults), and Matthew Morrison's nod doesn't bother me.

The Glee nomination that intrigues me is the nomination for Chris Colfer. No one saw that coming. I'm not sure if it was his performance that was Emmy-worthy or the writing of his storylines, especially with his dad, played Mike O'Malley (who totally deserved his nomination). That was excellent stuff. A friend and I have had conversations about the character of Kurt: she hates him because he's so obnoxious and bitchy, but I think that makes him more realistic. What that portrayal shows you is that it is hard to be a gay high school boy (duh, right?) but instead of making him a sweet, always-victim, he's a bit of a brat at times. He makes a play for Finn even though he knows Finn is totally straight. That seems real. I don't works for me. The same is true for Artie's struggles as a disabled person.

But other storylines (Finn's sadness over his absent dad, Rachel and Finn's on-again/off-again status, Ken and Emma's relationship early in the season) confuse me about the show's tone. It's like the show can't make up its mind about what it wants to be. (Kind of like Nip/Tuck, also created by Ryan Murphy.) Watch an hour of Glee and then an hour of Chuck. Chuck hits all the notes (seems like an appropriate metaphor): acting, writing, production, and has a sort of central theme/heart. Glee puts on a good show in terms of music and some laughs, but minute for minute, it seems to me to be the weaker show. Anyway, if any of you, dear readers, watch Glee, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this show--especially the whole satire vs. serious question.

Some snubs that bug me: No best drama for Friday Night Lights? No love for Chuck? No nomination for FNL's Zach Gilford? Nothing for John Noble on Fringe? Each of these is an absolute crime. But here's the deal: this year, it seems, there are far fewer of these types of crimes, and that's progress.

How I've been spending this Sunday...

...up in my office again, this time organizing and copying creative writing submissions for our second Sigma Tau Delta conference.

Up next, re-reading some Hawthorne (for my paper at SAMLA later this year), and after that, maybe some fall syllabizing...

I need a life, but can't find the time.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How I've been spending this Saturday...

In my office on campus, editing, editing, editing...

And now, converting my freshly-edited article from MLA to Chicago style. Three and a half pages done out of 19. Fun stuff. I need a break.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mood lifters...

So if, like me, you find yourself feeling frustrated or even slightly, to quote my nephew, "yucky" today, try one of these to lift your mood:

1) Rep. Mike Weinstein's awesome campaign ad. This catchy little tune was stuck in my head for a hour or so yesterday.

2) Six thing from history that everyone pictures incorrectly. My favorite line (about what Greek statues really looked like): "Ancient Greece looked more like someone crashed their LGBT pride parade into a Mardi Gras Festival."

Technological difficulties

I am doing my best to finally get this darn Poe article done and sent out for review. Lately, though, it seems that the universe (or at least the technological universe) is conspiring against me. First, my most recent, heavily revised version of the file simply vanished from every place I thought I had saved it. I suspect that this was actually my fault, that in an effort to copy the folder with the article and all my notes from my university network drive to my flash drive, I actually did the opposite--copied from flash drive to network drive and somehow deleted the article.

Major crisis, right? Well, it was, but thankfully, I had a print-out version, which my awesome friend David passed on to my awesome friend Aaron, who scanned it for me and emailed it to me yesterday. Yay! I shudder to think of the labor I would have had if that print-out had not existed...I still have my scribbled on, earlier drafts, but they are a mess. Plus, what makes it to the next draft is never an exact replication of those scribbled annotations, etc. So yeah, David and Aaron are awesome.

Next step: clean up the scanned version. As you might know, when you convert a pdf to a Word document, things get slightly messed up. Characters get switched, certain formatting gets lost, etc. Fixing the errors is a time-consuming process, but obviously less time-consuming than having to retype the whole thing. Plus, it makes you re-read everything again--and closely--which is always a good thing at this stage of composition.

Yesterday, after the end of Day 2 of Session 2 of Freshman Advising and Registration (more about that later, maybe), I spent about an hour cleaning up the document. It was actually kind of fun work. Yes, this is because, neat-freak that I am, I even enjoying cleaning documents. Plus, it was cool to see the progress in front of my eyes. Then the student I was doing an independent study with showed up, so I had to stop for awhile. She actually showed up about 15 minutes early, so I saved my work on the network drive, and only the network drive. This is okay (theoretically) since the network drive is super-secure and backed up every night, etc.

When an hour had passed and the independent study meeting was over, I turned back to the computer, which was displaying some pop-up messages about "network connections" being lost, etc. No big deal--this happens, then things get fixed. The document was still on my screen so I thought, "just in case, I'll save a copy on my desktop," but then Word crashed (don't know why) and that didn't work. And when I restarted my computer, the network drive was unavailable. Email wasn't working either. I eventually went home, where my Shepherd email was working (in web form) and there was an from IT explaining that there were all kinds of server problems, etc. "No big deal," I told myself, because I know that document is okay--just sitting on the network drive waiting for me to get back to it.

But now it's almost 11:00 on Friday and the network is still inaccessible. So much for getting those revisions done today. Very frustrating.

End of my technological venting session.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yeah, it's hot out there, but I want more summer...

I am already not looking forward to the (short!) walk to my sure-to-be-a-replication-of-what-hell-might-feel-like car, and am hanging out here in my nicely air-conditioned office just a bit longer. I want this "historic heat wave" to be OVER. Yet, I am also fighting off a bit of a freak-out about not getting nearly enough scholarship done (yet) this summer. Because--honestly--this darn summer is flying by and I feel like I've wasted some time. Ugh. Talk about yucky, conflicting emotions. With all that said, how about some mindlessly fun links before I get a bit more reading done and then head home?

1) From Gawker, "How to Survive the Heat Wave with No Air-Conditioning." Fortunately, I have AC at home, but I am such a mega-cheapskate that I use it pretty sparingly. Anyway, the tip about using a regular old electric fan made me laugh: "Park the fan nice and close to your face and it's double the pleasure. Pretend you're Tyra Banks at a photo shoot and your weave is just blowing in the wind." I also like their tips about losing your socks. That one is so absolutely true (right down to making sure your feet aren't all stinky!).

2) A fabulous new blog: Catalog Living, which imagines those perfect yet slightly "off" catalog photos from Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, etc through a couple named "Gary" and "Elaine." I will admit to doing some serious coveting while looking through these sorts of catalogs (or for that matter, houses in movies like It's Complicated), but then I always think, "Do people actually have houses like this?" No one I know. And when do we cross that line from "cool conversation piece/decorating element!" to "huh?" My sister Tara is actually pretty good at this. Her house is kind of amazing. I did once scratch my head at her purchase of a ball of twigs for her coffee table. "What will you do with that?" I asked. I don't think she ever answered.

3) Glenn Beck University. Just the title is funny...or horrifying. Whatever.