Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

The Girl's Costume: Witch

The Boy's Costume: Geologist

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So It's Come to This.

It seems a bit pathetic that one of my birthday wishes to hubby went like this:

"For one of my birthday presents, can you watch the kids a lot this weekend so I can try to make progress in my stacks of grading so that I won't have to grade on my birthday?"

There are a lot of things wrong with this statement. So many levels of wrongness. But, nevertheless, hubby did provide me with opporutnity for lots of grading last weekend. But am I paper-free today, on my birthday? Nope. Gotta cram in a bunch this afternoon. But there are good things about today, too:

  • Birthday greetings this morning by the family.
  • A round of "Happy Birthday" from my daughter's kindergarten class when I went in to volunteer.
  • Dinner out this evening with family.
  • Reading group tonight to discuss Stoner by John Williams.

And tomorrow, after a morning of teaching and an afternoon presenting an assessment workshop, I will meet up with hubby and two friends for dinner out and an evening with David Sedaris.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second-Hand Haul

  1. One denim skirt
  2. a pair of brown linen pants
  3. a pair of stone-colored khaki pants
  4. a tank sweater
  5. a short-sleeved, thin-cabled cardigan
  6. a long-sleeved cardigan
  7. a long-sleeved linen button up shirt
  8. a cotton, collared button-up blouse
  9. a novelty T-shirt
  10. a pair of leather shoes that will look great with jeans

The grand total? $27.80

The icing on the cake? I found $25 in the pocket of the linen pants!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Aesthetics and the Kindle

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a Facebook status update that dissed the Kindle. After several people commented, she said, "If you read a Kindle on an elegant train, I still have my doubts that you know anything about Beauty."

I puffed a bit at this because I, myself, have read my Kindle on some elegant trains.

But after my somewhat defensive fog began to clear, I realized that, to some degree, she might be right--at least when it comes to me.

I do know some things about beauty. In fact, I can tell you the difference--according to Edmund Burke--between the beautiful and the sublime. I can also discuss how the picturesque is different from both of these. I am especially moved by the sublime in both nature and literature.

But when it comes to aesthetics, especially in terms of visual artifice--I am woefully inept and indifferent.

The evidence:

  • In college, I would wear turquoise sweatpants with a red NCAA championship sweatshirt. With Reeboks. (A look which earned much astonishment and derision from my fashion-savvy cousin.)
  • I don't like to shop.
  • The only new clothing items I've purchased in the past six months (or year?) are some t-shirts from Kohls.
  • I only wear natural fibers.
  • I chose my couches because they don't show dirt, and all four sections recline.
  • I only purchase cars that I can sleep in, if necessary. My last car was a pickup truck. Now, I drive a minivan, and I love it.
  • I rarely buy shoes.
  • My favorite shoes are Chaco flip-flops. I also like Danskos, Borns, and my very old pair of second-hand Naturalizer black boots.
  • I've been carrying the same Fossil purse for about a year-and-a-half. Still going strong.
  • I don't wear make-up.
  • I don't blow dry my hair.
  • The glider that we got when our baby was born? Seven years later, it's still a central piece of furniture in our living room*.
  • The only art on my walls is by my children or my mother (all beautiful, I think).
  • I like quilts and knits more than I like paintings.
  • I like stunning, spare prose much more than complex, lyrical poetry.
  • When I worked at a used bookstore, I was not very interested in the rare books. I didn't associate much "value" with the book objects**.

So is it any surprise that I like the Kindle? I suppose not. Granted, for a long time, I didn't want one. I couldn't imagine wanting one. But then, about a year ago, I suddenly wanted one real bad. At first, I loved it. Loved. it. And I still do. But, admittedly, I find that, sometimes, I like to read a hard-copy novel. It's not that I rarely handle "real" books. As an English instructor and PhD student, I handle books every day. But, every once in a while, these are not enough, and I like the feel of a hard-copy novel in my purse or in my hands at bed time.

But I don't think it's the beauty of books that I miss. It's the tactile experience. It's the way a book affects all of my senses. When you pick up a hard-copy book, your brain has at least five seconds to prepare for the words, to orient itself to that particular book and all of its bookish nature (the size, the cover, the font, the feel of the pages, the smell). But with the Kindle, much of that is lost. No matter what book you're reading, you're picking up the same thing--the size, color, and font remain the same--and the brain does not receive diverse imagistic and tactile cues. And my brain misses those cues. And some books just smell so good.

But the Kindle is practical, and I'm a practical girl. It's easy to pack. I don't have to decide which books to pack. I can download a book in just a few seconds. Voila.

So my friend is probably right. Or perhaps I would say that though I do know a few things about Beauty, I am often insensitive to it. The sublime? Yes. I am moved by it. The beautiful? Not always so much.

But. right now, I need to finish this post so I can go curl up with my Kindle and get through the third book in the Hunger Games series. So there. Now you know the truth. Good Enough Woman is a Philistine.

*And even I am bothered by this.
**But there are some old books that do move me. Usually old books--books made with leather and amazing materials. Or original editions of Charles Dickens literary magazines. Things like that. But I am not moved by, say, a first edition copy of Interview with the Vampire.

Belated Life Updates

So, about six weeks ago, we found out that hubby was going to get laid off from his full-time lecturing gig. That wasn't a total surprise. I mean, we do live in California, home of budget woes. We had known that he might not get his teaching contract, but he's a great teacher, and his department likes him, so I figured he'd be rehired pretty quickly. And, since I have a full-time gig, I thought we could scrape by for a quarter or two. But here's the surprise: Because of some weird loophole, he was going to lose all of his seniority. In other words, after being a full-time, contracted lecturer for three years (after being a load-entitled lecturer for a year or two before that), he was going to fall to the bottom of the part-time pool, which would make classes for winter and spring unlikely*.

I wanted to post about this back then, but I didn't think I should because we were smack dab in the middle of a home refinance, and I didn't want the bank getting wind of our employment troubles. Not that the bank reads my blog, of course, but still. I was hesitant to put it "out there."

The good news, lo these six weeks later, is that it looks like hubby will, in fact, get two classes for winter quarter. The other good news is that the community college put out a part-time job pool in his area, and he applied and got a position, so he'll have two classes at the CC where I teach.

It will mean working at two schools instead of one, it will mean working more evenings and longer days, and it will mean teaching basic skills courses. But I think he's excited. He started his education 23 years ago at this very CC, so it's a bit like a homecoming for him. And we're thrilled that he has a job (two even!) when we thought he might be totally unemployed. In this economy, we just can't really complain. I hope he likes teaching at the CC. It would be great if, someday, he could work there full time. We could argue with each other at curriculum meetings! How romantic.

*Yes, the union got involved, but the contract was pretty clear. It's stupid, but clear.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Radio Play

Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard two songs on the radio that I am loving so hard. One is actually a few years old, I guess, but I never heard it until last week. (That's because I'm not at all hip, and I'm always late to the musical party.) But now I've heard it twice on a good local, independent radio station. The other song is by a local guy, and the song is so beautiful. I think it's awesome that he can get radio play since our station plays local artists.

The first song is for those who want to rock out. If you can sit still while listening to this, you are made of different stuff than I am. If you want a live version, go here.

The second is for those who want to hear a great little indie crooning song with cool lyrics.

If music be the food of love . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paper Accepted!

The upside: The paper to the national conference at swanky, elite school in the UK was accepted! I have never been to the city or seen the school, and I'm very excited. I feel wanted and affirmed.

The downside: My trip to the conference might impact winter break plans in a bummery way.

Another upside: I think I might get some funding to help with costs!

Another downside: Between attending the conference and visiting my PhD supervisor at my PhD institution, I will be away for two weeks. This will be hard on hubby, the kids, and (most of all?) me. I've never been gone that long before.

One more downside: I need to write the paper, and I'm nervous as a caterpillar in a chickencoop about presenting to these people!

A big upside: My mom is going to come with me for the first half of the trip! She'll travel with me to conference city and then we'll celebrate her b-day in London! Yay!

My husband has been quite supportive of this whole plan, which is especially amazing considering the potential impact on the family and the holidays. Impressive, no?

All around, it's good news.

Monday, October 11, 2010

King of the Castle? Not.

Last night, as I was washing dishes and hubby and the kids were in the back yard roasting marshmallows, hubby came inside and said, "The Girl just said that I make her think of the song 'Who Made You King of Anything?'"

I think he must have been trying to limit her marshmallow intake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And Now Back to the Dissertation

Not doing it, mind you. Just talking about do it.

But first, can I tell you that I just (unwisely) ate half of a tri-trip sandwich and a bag of BBQ chips? It's the first time I've purchased lunch on campus in a long time, but at Chez GEW we are seriously low on groceries. After this high-calorie lunch, I am seriously over-stuffed. But aren't you impressed that I did not--for the sake of completion--gobble up the second half of the tri-trip sandwich?

Anyway, on to other matters.

Since classes started way back in mid-August, I haven't done much work on the dissertation. I've been too focused on teaching. This week, we have a couple of professional development days (i.e., no classes), and I had hoped to use them for dissertation work. However, it looks like I'll spend most of the extra time grading.

Still, I've been thinking about the dissertation work. Regular readers might remember that back in August, I submitted about 35 pages to my supervisor of what might serve as a chapter. Her feedback was mixed. She thought I got more convincing and confidant as the paper went on. Also, she noted that it relied too heavily on too few secondary sources (which I already knew, but it was just an early draft, so I just let it roll). Overall, she thought it was okay, but I don't know that she thought it was great. I think she thought it was less original than my previous work.

Also, most significantly, it goes in a slightly different direction from the previous writing I've done, so now I'm trying to figure out how the different points of concern might be connected. I think this is probably a typical part of the dissertation process--trying to understand/explain how it all fits together. The good news about arriving at this stage is that I wouldn't be at this stage if I hadn't already done a fair amount of work. The bad news about arriving at this stage is that I've officially gotten to "the hard part"--and I'm sure I'll be in the midst of "the hard part" until the whole darn thing is finished.

I think I know a couple of research directions that might help me get a better "framework" for what I've done so far, but, mostly, I just think I need to become better informed. Despite my progess, I feel very underinformed in my time period and areas of interest. It's time to hit the books. But when? When am I supposed to cram in all of this reading?!

I also submitted a paper proposal for a big conference that will be in the UK at a fancy elite school that I've never visited before (oh my, it's so hard for you to guess this one, isn't it?). I should find out in the next few weeks if the proposal is accepted. The Call for Proposals said that full panel proposals were preferred to individual papers, so the planners and panel chairs might not want me since I am, indeed, a stray individual. We'll see. But the conference is soon--in January--so I wonder if I need to start drafting the paper before I find out if it's accepted. If I don't, I could be stuck cramming on the paper in November and December, which is not an easy time because of teaching, holiday shopping, family visits, etc. You know what a wash November and December are, right? It's not just me, right? And plus, as a Yank, I'm am terribly nervous about presenting on a British writer to British scholars in my nasal American accent.

As for getting work done, I think that maybe, every couple of months, I need to take off for a night and go to a hotel room and spend two days and one night just working on the dissertation. No grading. No schoolwork. Family stays home. Just focused attention on the dissertation. This past summer, having that kind of focused time made all the difference in my production.*

It's just not easy to get dissertation work done what with a full-time job and a full-time family. But I still love my topic, so that's good. But sometimes I really wonder how it happens that a dissertation can ever really be finished. Or, perhaps, like novels, "they are never finished, merely abandoned." Who said that? Was it Forster?

*Okay, looking back over that post from July, I'm struck that it doesn't seem like I was all that productive while they were gone. But it was so great to be able to work to my natural stopping point, then leave all my stuff on the table and start straightaway the next morning. And I did get a lot of pages done.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Big Love

Girl: Mommy, I have a secret to tell you!
Me (leaning in close): What is it?
Girl (whispering loudly): I have a new boyfriend!
Me: Oh! Who is it?
Girl: Jackson. He's really sweet.
Me: That's good.
Girl: And do you know who his girlfriend is?
Me: Um, you?
Girl: No. Jordan!
Me: Oh.
Girl: We're sharing him!
Me: Oh! I see. Um, I thought you were in love with Jasper?
Girl: Well, yeah. And I think I might keep him, too.
Me: Oh?
Girl (with some regret, but not much): Yeah, because I think Jordan might take Jackson.
Me: So you'll keep Jasper just in case?
Girl: Yeah.
Me: Sounds sensible.