Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thank You

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts and words and music suggestions in the last post. It really meant a lot to me. (And you know what really made me cry -- aside from the Pastry Pirate's personal remembrance -- and Wiseass's over at her blog, too -- is that "Geoffrey Chaucer" gave condolences in modern English. It's weird what gets to you sometimes.) Anyway some of your music suggestions made it to the final disc, by the way, so thanks especially for helping out there. The final mix included classical music as well -- Mom had eclectic tastes -- and you might be surprised to learn that Yo-Yo Ma's performance of Bach's Cello Suite #1 in G Major follows Guns n Roses' "Paradise City" quite nicely.

By the way, I noticed something cool about that Rosetti sonnet a couple of days later. It's really deceptively simple, and my Mom may never have noticed this, but she would've appreciated it if someone pointed it out to her. It's a Petrarchan/Italian sonnet with the usual "volta" or turn in the conventional place, at the beginning of the sestet: "Yet if you should forget me for a while..." But in the fourth line, in what would be the end of a quatrain in an English sonnet, there's a false volta, a kind of fake-out, just as Rosetti writes: "Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay." Clever Rosetti! The sonnet itself "half turn[s]" and "yet turning stay[s]" as well! So while the poem may be simple and direct in its diction and expression, unornamented by metaphor or complex figurative language, it nevertheless does that sonnet thing of self-consciously playing with the form. Wonderful!

And you know what else? That's also the point in the poem, if you're reading it aloud at a memorial, when you begin to cry, and you want to "stay" in the sense of stop, but you go on, just as it does. Or at least that's what happened to me. It's both wonderful and weird how manipulative -- in a neutral sense -- literature can be, how it can make you react in rhythm with it, not just by what it says (after all, that sonnet isn't particularly deep) but by how it says it. The sonnet is one of my favorite genres for that effect -- the force of the logical structure often just carries you forward nearly against your will.

Part of me wants to connect that last remark to grief and love, but my brain's too dull and it's all coming out in my head sounding hopelessly Romantic. So I'll end here by saying, again, thank you for all your kind words, thoughts, and prayers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mother Virago, 1930-2006

Thank you all for your kind offers and thoughts in my last post.

My mother passed away at the hospital just before midnight on Tuesday night. I regret that we were not able to get her home and into hospice care before the end, but I'm glad that I was home during her last days and was able to spend a number of hours with her every day, in what was really just a coincidental aligning of circumstances.

Virgo Sis arrived today and we made the funeral and cremation arrangements. Part of Mom's ashes will be placed in a niche next to her daughter, Ms. V. We are planning to scatter the rest some place Mom loved -- if not Paris, then perhaps some pretty domestic coastal region. I found the following poem marked by an asterisk in Mom's collection of Victorian poetry and so I'm reading it at her memorial on Saturday. I offer the poem to you all as an early edition of Friday Poetry Blogging.

Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

And, as an early edition of Friday Random 10 (well, not quite 10 and definitely not random), here are some of the songs I'm going to put on a CD and play. When you get the the Guns 'n' Roses, you'll think I'm joking, but I'm not. My Mom loved GNR. Seriously. I think she wanted to adopt Axl Rose. Anyway, here's the list of possibilities, some obvious, but they're bands and songs Mom liked and they're appropriate:

1. The Beatles, "In My Life"
2. The Flaming Lips, "Do You Realize??"
3. R. E. M.'s cover of "Pale Blue Eyes"
4. Guns 'n' Roses, "Paradise City"
5. The Rolling Stones, "Ruby Tuesday"

Does anyone have any suggestions along similar lines -- especially pretty, hook-laden rock? I have a little time to get the CD to the funeral director. Seriously, suggestions (especially if you know it's available on iTunes or elsewhere) would be much appreciated because I'm drawing a blank.

Monday, May 22, 2006

In case you're wondering...

...the situation with Mom is not good.

I don't really know what else or how much to say here, which is why I've just been putting up my K'zoo posts. But I haven't had much time or inclination to join the conversation -- just so you know I'm not ignoring y'all and I'm actually really happy if people carry on conversations without me.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Life lessons at Kalamazoo

(Post 4 in K'zoo series)

I mentioned in passing in an early post that my first year at Kalamazoo as an assistant professor (two years ago) provoked in me some anxiety that I wasn’t as successful as some of my peers from graduate school, that I hadn’t landed as good a job as they had at various flagship state universities, Ivy Leagues, and prestigious SLACs.  But the last couple of years at Kalamazoo have taught me that those anxieties can be terribly misplaced; as Erma Bombeck once wrote (hey, my mom loved her and her books were around the house in my childhood), “the grass is always greener over the septic tank.”

Sure, some members of my cohort may never have “tag-glance” anxiety because their affiliations are so impressive, and their lives among high-power colleagues and intellectually engaged students may seem rosy, but each of them has a set of problems and anxieties associated with that prestige that I have not had to face.  One friend tells me that he won’t get tenure unless his book is accepted by a high-prestige university press (and we know how much harder that is getting day by day for first-time authors).  Knowing this particular friend, he’ll swing it and I sincerely hope he does; but in the meantime the pressure he has experienced – starting in his very first year – has been extreme.  Another has had to deal with a long-distance relationship and one of those universities where assistant professorship are rarely tenure-track. She’s on the market every year trying to get situated more permanently closer to her husband and now she has a baby on top of that.  And then another former colleague, in just a few words, expressed to me how oppressively insular and crazy-making her SLAC is, and how changeable and seemingly arbitrary her tenure requirements can be.  Where she has previously been told to take her time getting her book accepted by the most prestigious press possible, now she’s been told she needs a contract by the fall.

All of which is not to say that my professional life is a cake-walk and all I do is sit around talking about LIT’a’chure for a fat paycheck.  Good lord, no!  I work my ass off!  First of all, there’s the fact that my teaching load is higher than all of these folks’ loads and many of my students much less well prepared.  And I’ve got serious publishing requirements, too, especially given my teaching load, and I’ve been striving to meet it (my book, by the way, has a May 2007 publication date – just in time for K’zoo!  Woo-hoo!).  I’ve estimated that I work at least 60 hours a week during teaching semesters, and 40 in the summer or during semesters on leave from teaching.  BUT, the expectations and requirements of my job have been, thus far, clearer, more consistent, and more realistic than any of theirs.  This is, in part, due to the supreme sanity of my colleagues, who seem to have a more realistic view of the state of the profession than some people.  But it’s also the result of being unionized. Unlike some of the bloggers out there who’ve been preparing third-year reviews I’ve put together three annual reviews so far (or rather, two annual ones and one semi-annual one in the case of my first year).  And actually, I’ve done three of the big dossiers that go to all the college and university-level committees and big wigs, and then three shorter, departmental ones for the purposes of merit review.  And before all that, I signed a document that laid out my pre-tenure expectations in language guided by the terms of our union contracts, and each year my chair and I set the percentages of my workload agreement according to how much emphasis we both expect me to place on teaching, research, and service in a given year.  All of that may sound like a ton of busy work, but I’m here to tell you that it marks the difference between the sanity of my job expectations and the stress and potential insanity of my friends’ jobs.  Because there’s a yearly paper trail at all sorts of levels, because it comes in smaller increments than the traditional third-year review, there are multiple opportunities for the people in charge of retention and promotion to tell me I’m not doing enough or that I’m doing just fine, or that I’m showing exemplary progress towards tenure, or whatever they determine.  And those determinations are (ideally) based on the statement of expectations and the contract governing my employment terms.

In other words, it’s as if I’m in a class where there’s a syllabus with all the assignments and requirements set out or at least enumerated – along with the respective weights – and as I complete each of those assignments, I get a grade.  The professor may be a little rigid and unglamorous, but you really learn and you know what’s expected of you in the process.  My friends, on the other hand, are in one of those classes where the professor may be famous and/or fabulously engaging, but where the grade is all based on some mysterious final assignment or assessment, the rules and expectations of which are clouded in mystery.  I had both kinds of professors in college and grad school, and while I managed to do well in both such systems, I can tell you I preferred the first kind, where I knew where I stood.

It took going to Kalamazoo three years in a row and running into and talking with my old grad school cohort to figure this all out, to realize that there’s more to a “good job” than the prestige of the institution.  The first year I spent feeling a little inadequate, while the second and third years started to bring this enlightenment.  My point here is not to delight in the difficulties my peers face – I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things work out for each and every one of them – but to remind myself and others reading this that the success of others is not always what it appears to be.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Why bloggers and K'zoo *do* mix

(Post 3 in a series on the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo)

In reading around the blogs of other people who were at our little K’zoo blogger meet-up, I was glad to see that everyone seemed to have a good time. (Not everyone I linked mentioned the get-together specifically, but I thought I’d like you anyway – if I forgot someone, mea culpa).  We had a long table and we tended to stay put in our seats, so I didn’t get to talk to everyone that much, especially since I was at one end of the table, so I was actually a little nervous that people were feeling weird or uncomfortable.  I’m probably always going to go to K’zoo, even when I’m not presenting, so if people liked the event, I’m happy to continue arranging similar such gatherings in the future – and this time maybe I’ll make the reservation myself, so Elisabeth Carnell, who already has way too much to do for the conference, doesn’t have to do it.  

Anyway, I also noticed that no one wrote in much detail about the meet-up, which is perhaps for the best.  I mean, I’d be pretty bummed out if New Kid wrote “Dr. Virago only wishes she looks like Lorelei on The Gilmore Girls.”  (Te-hee – as if New Kid would ever write something so mean!  And as if I really believe I look just like Lauren Graham!)  But the meet-up got me thinking about blogging and its uses and I want to use the meet-up to discuss those ideas a bit.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the panel on that subject because it conflicted with a good friend’s panel (which gave me new ideas for teaching Pearl – something I desperately needed as I floundered through it this semester – so thank god for that!) so I’ll air my thoughts here.  Since it seems from what I’ve heard that the audience for the blogging panel was mostly other bloggers, anyway, I suppose this post is a half-sibling to that panel.

It will probably come as no surprise to people that bloggers’ writing voices and their in-person demeanors are not always the same.  Some bloggers consciously create voices and personalities that are only one part of or an exaggeration of who they are in real life – Dr. Crazy and Bitch Ph.D. come to mind here.  And I know I have often been told I write and speak very differently (this I know from the whole online dating thing back when I was in graduate school).  But one particular difference struck me at that meet-up, and it’s that some bloggers who use their blogs to voice their anxieties and insecurities seem much more confident, polished, and even potentially intimidating in real life.  And therein lies one of the great useful aspects of blogging, especially anonymous blogging.  Anonymous blogs allow us to express feelings that might otherwise seem “unprofessional” to our colleagues, that would make us seem like we weren’t “handling” things, or that would generally make us seem needy or not together.  We can also talk about the ‘imposter complex’ in general, or specific anxieties about skills we think we should have but feel inadequately trained in; we can ask directly for help in teaching or researching something without exposing ourselves to feelings of inadequacies in front of those who review us; and for those of who are the only medievalist in our department (me!) we can ask a question on our blog and have an answer from other medievalists in cyberspace within hours, sometimes minutes.  (A benefit I haven’t exploited as much as I should, but I like that it’s there.)  And again, because we’re anonymous, we don’t have to feel like such a fool.  Some might say you can do those things – especially requesting information – on listservs, but listservs generally require some identification (I doubt very much the listservs I know would very welcoming to people with funny pseudonyms) and often are populated by at least a few judgmental people.  Blogs have a different audience (for one thing, greater numbers of us are assistant profs and grad students), and the combination of anonymity and content-control that an individual blogger has frames the conversation differently.  I, for one, don’t feel like the dunce raising her hand in the back of the class when I’m posting on my own blog, and I would definitely feel like that on a listserv.

Anyway, all these thoughts occurred to me at and after the blogger-meet up, and I think meeting the people behind the blogs really crystallized these particular benefits of blogging for me.  Blogging allows us to be the “Virago,” “New Kid” or “Wiseass” that social and professional conventions of real life don’t quite allow fully – especially for women (it’s no accident that Karl the Grouchy Medievalist was the only guy at the meet-up, I don’t think) but also for grad students and assistant profs, those of us in the most tenuous positions in the academic hierarchy.

And here’s something else blogging has done for me, personally.  I would probably have never met any of the bloggers who came to the meet-up, except through their blogs.  And yet, it turns out, a few of them work in areas adjacent or overlapping with work I’m doing, so now I have a few new acquaintances who might be able to point me in the right direction towards resources I don’t know or don’t know how to navigate, and vice versa.  I also went to one blogger’s panel and learned things about texts I teach, and I might not have done otherwise, since I usually attend panels and papers either directly related to my own work or given by people I know – and I wouldn’t have known this person if it hadn’t been for blogging.  In other words, blogging has served as another means of networking, one with lower stakes and anxieties than most forms, especially since we were brought together by a common interest that is somewhat extra-curricular (though, of course, we use our blogs in ways that benefit our curricular and research interests, too).  And though everyone at this particular meet-up was an assistant prof or grad student, blogging has the potential to cut across status and position.  So even if we still have to put up with the hierarchical rituals of the tag-glance, blogging can potentially help dissolve some of those differences or at least help us cross the boundaries of affiliation.*

*This is only partially related to a K’zoo post, so I’m putting it in a footnote, but I’d also like to add that just reading blogs has kept me abreast of what people are up to in other fields – either in other disciplines or other historical periods of literature.  I definitely wouldn’t sign up for the listservs of these fields and disciplines, and the Chronicle only covers so much, so the academic blogs that address research more specifically – usually the non-anonymous ones – have been really good in keeping me from being too susceptible to the tunnel-vision that specialization can cause.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kalamazoo Post #2 - Name Tag Anxiety

So I’m back with my long delayed Kalamazoo posts (not much else to do in a hospital room!), and this one also applies to academic conferences in general, I think, perhaps across the disciplines. (Hear that Inside Higher Ed?)

I’ve been to Kalamazoo four times now, once as a dissertating graduate student, presenting on work related to my dissertation, and three times as an assistant professor, presenting on newer projects. The first year I made the pilgrimage I knew no one, stayed by myself, and felt utterly overwhelmed and lonely. But my experience was made a little smoother by the fact that the #2 reader on my dissertation attended every year and was more than happy to introduce me to some of the VIPs in the society dedicated to the somewhat canonical (though still slightly red-headed step-child like) genre on which I worked. Knowing that I was #2’s student and that my #1 was a VIP of several orders of magnitude, these people asked me about my work, encouraged me to get involved in the society, and invited me to join them for dinner after one of the panels.

Of course that was the year I had Fancy Big Deal University on my name tag. The next time I attended the Zoo, I was glowing with the confidence of being a real scholar – all grown up with a doctorate and a full-time, tenure-track job. But something was wrong. Now I had Rust Belt University on my name tag and it changed things. Now I noticed how people looked at name tags and what they did afterwards, something I hadn’t noticed before when I wore the Cloak of Privilege with FBDU on my tag. Now people went through a weird ritual in which they looked at me, then looked at my name tag, and then made mental calculations about how much of their precious time I was worth. And some of these people were freakin’ graduate students! Perhaps you think I’m exaggerating, but some people really did speak to me only a few seconds after doing the tag-glance, and I swear that never happened when I had FBDU on my tag. And some of the very same people who’d met me two years before and invited me to be part of their gang, so to speak, were now among the people who committed the most egregious tag-glance sins.

I might have dismissed all this as my own insecurities – for it is true that that particular year I was starting to feel like I hadn’t been quite the success that other students of #1 had been (and that’s another post in and of itself). But then again, those insecurities were being stoked by the tag-glance experience itself, and for all I know the tag-glance was the instigation for them. At any rate, the next year at K’zoo confirmed what were then only suspicions that “you are where you work” in some people’s minds. That year, a glitch caused all the conference name tags to be printed without university affiliations. I had the best time ever. (Of course, part of this was also because I knew a lot more people from having participated in an NEH Institute, but that’s another post as well. Short version: I recommend such Institutes – and the Seminars as well – highly, especially for assistant professors.) Suddenly I had long conversations with strangers of all positions on the academic ladder about our work (both scholarly and pedagogical) and only somewhere in the midst of those conversations did people ask where I taught. By then they were already invested in the conversation, however, so there was no rude excuse-making to get out of the conversation. And sometimes they seemed a little surprised, as if they were just realizing that someone worth talking to could be at a university they’d never heard of. Maybe I’m being ungenerous, but it sure seemed that’s what was happening. And I couldn’t help noticing that the people who’d bothered to write their affiliations on their name tags were people at the major, name-brand Research I institutions. Apparently there was at least one exception to this rule – John Marlin of the tiny College of St. Elizabeth wrote an Inside Higher Ed article about this, in which he says he proudly and perhaps rebelliously wrote his institution on his tag after seeing others do so. But of course the others he mentions were all at top-flight institutions.

In contrast, I wrote to the powers that be encouraging them to make the same “mistake” this year. I had high hopes. Alas, they were dashed, for not only were our institutions back on the tags, they were bigger than our names. Yikes! Talk about “you are where you work”! But this year, like Michael Drout, I only hung out with people I already knew and liked (either from real life or from the blogosphere). Unlike Prof. Drout’s choice to do this, my circumstances were a little more accidental – I had so many meetings and social arrangements lined up there was precious little time for incidental encounters. I didn’t even stay long at the dance because I was presenting on Sunday and had to pack before bed. So I didn’t really have an opportunity to test the whole tag-glance thing. But perhaps others have stories to share?

I know there are practical reasons for needing one’s institutional affiliation on the name tags – if someone wants to track you down later, for instance, they need to know where you work – so I don’t think we’ll ever be able to eliminate the tag-glance (except in the case of future glitches). And yet, I can’t help but be nostalgic for that year in which the status and hierarchy of institutional affiliation didn’t seem to matter, when were just a collection of 3000 people equally interested in the Middle Ages. (Funny – I’m not nostalgic for having FBDU on my name tag again.) And I can tell you this much: although it was never my inclination to start, I will now definitely never, ever be dismissive of an “Independent Scholar” or someone at an institution I’ve never heard of.

Other K’zoo posts in the works: the blogger meet-up and why blogs and bloggers rock; learning that the grass is always greener over the septic tank (or why I shouldn’t envy my peers who got “better” jobs); and, finally, a minor K’zoo-inspired identity crisis.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More hospitals

UPDATES in the comments (from me and, on the assisted living issue, from Virgo Sis). Short version: Mom's on the mend but a little more slowly than I hoped at first. The conservative estimate for discharge is not until Friday at the earliest. But at least they're letting her drink and eat now.

Original post:

Sorry I haven't blogged in awhile. I meant to blog from, ahem, beautiful Effingham, Illinois, beneath the shadow of a hideous 50-ton steel cross where I-70 and I-57 meet (get it -- it's a cross at a crossroads, just like Charing Cross only much, much more appallingly ugly), but I didn't get a chance. As my brother pointed out in a comment below, I'm a cheapskate who chose the Motel 6 over other options -- well, it was next to the drive-through Starbucks -- and it didn't have its own wifi and the Starbucks signal (if that small one did have one) wasn't quite strong enough to reach my room. So no blogging from the road.

Then things got kind of bad here in Cowtown.

I arrived in Cowtown yesterday afternoon with flowers and chocolate covered cherries for Mom. She seemed weaker than most days -- she didn't get out of bed -- but otherwise things seemed as normal as they're going to get. Virgo Sis was there and Eldest Niece came over, and we sat and visited with Mom in her bedroom. And then Virgo Sis and I watched Grey's Anatomy, which I don't usually watch. I think it was an omen, because I'd spend most of the rest of the night in the hospital with Mom and Virgo Sis.

In the middle of the night, Virgo Sis woke me up to come help -- Mom was having difficulty getting her breath and we decided she needed medical attention. (In usual form, Mom unreasonably wanted us to do something without involving doctors or hospitals. We overruled that, not being medically trained ourselves.) So I called 911 and a firetruck and ambulance came right away. (Why, btw, must they send a firetruck when I said clearly on the phone that the problem was an elderly woman with a history of heart failure who was having trouble breathing?) The head fireman, who I swear to god looked like something out of central fantasy casting -- tall, dark, and handsome; all a bit surreal at 2 am coming up the lawn to the front door -- was acting like we'd overreacted (well, handsome doesn't mean "not a jerk," you know) but the EMTs did want to take her to the hospital and they finally convinced her it was necessary. One of them, who kind of looked like the put-upon guy on Grey's Anatomy, was particularly kind and gentle with Mom and convinced her she needed to go. (Lesson: ignore the hot guy -- the competent guy is probably hiding behind him.) And they let her decide which hospital she'd prefer, and she chose "Dredel Hospital" (not it's real name, of course!) over "St. Jumping Jehosephat," which is actually nearer. Part of me thinks she did this just to spite Dad, since he grumbled about it.

Though Dad was awake at that point -- to see her go -- he actually slept through most of this. When he did wake up, mostly what he said was how when he was here all by himself he didn't need to call an ambulance. He was able to take Mom to the hospital himself. He could have carried her if he'd needed to. Then he went back to bed while Sis and I followed the ambulance to the hospital and stayed there until about 4:30 am until we knew whether Mom was being admitted or not. She was and she's in the ICU now and probably through tomorrow. Dad has still not been to the hospital.


So Mom's pretty stable and very alert. But she's uncomfortable -- she's thirsty and hungry but they can't give her food or water until the fluid is out of her lungs. And she's cranky and telling them that she's going to die of thirst and it will be all their fault. Frankly, though, a little cranky fiestiness is a good sign, so I hope she'll be out of there by tomorrow afternoon or the next day at the latest. When I left at dinner time to go get Dad some food, she was asleep and I left her that way simply because I didn't want to wake her up to more fussing and discomfort.

Anyway, while in the hospital all day -- in between telling Mom for the gazillioneth time that no, she couldn't get up to use the toilet, that they had her hooked up to a catheter, and no, they weren't purposely trying to starve and dehydate her, and that actually she was getting nutrients from the IV -- I managed to finish most of my Kalamazoo posts (a series of four!) and I'll posts those one a day over the next few days, whenever I get a chance to get out and get a wifi connection.

I swear, I'm starting to think I'm bad luck for Mom! Maybe I shouldn't visit anymore!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

On K'zoo, Part I -- The dorm bathroom as a DMZ

Before we all left for the Zoo, Jeffery Jerome Cohen posted a "good luck" message that also said, "May you never meet the mystery person with whom you share the bathroom in your dorm." One year I did meet the people with whom I was sharing -- two 20-something publisher's reps -- and it was the best K'zoo bathroom experience ever. After they left their bathroom door open, but had vacated the bathroom itself, it seems, I ventured in through my side and called out. They came in and I asked if I could use the sink or whatever -- it was something that allowed for simultaneously bathroom usage -- and we all got to chatting, just like in a dorm. See folks, that's how you use a communal bathroom -- communally. In fact, in those bathrooms, someone could be on the toilet, two people could be at the sinks, and one person could be in the shower. That's how it worked in college, and those of us young enough to remember -- or not so privileged that we went to colleges with private "rooms" -- have no problem with this.

On the other hand, there's the suitemate Ancrene Wiseass and I got stuck with this year. She scolded us. But in true K'zoo dorm bathroom weird, passive-agressive form, she did so by note. At the time AW and I were really pissed off by it and it seemed dripping with nasty condescension, but I saved the note for posterity and now it seems pretty darn polite (lots of "I'm sorry" and "please" and smiley faces), if rather cowardly, what with being a note and all.

Anyway, our suitemate was apparently kept awake the first night by the conversation taking place on our side of the wall until the wee hours. AW and I got in kind of late, still had some catching up to do, and, most important, AW had to edit her paper down to a reasonable size for the next morning, and I was helping her. It's not like we were partying or anything. But we both do have voices that carry -- I just didn't realize how much voices carry through those walls (is anyone else humming 'Til Tuesday now?). So apparently our suitemate couldn't sleep and it was making her ill, and so the next day she bought earplugs and wrote us a note. My question: why didn't she just knock on our door and ask us to keep it down instead of suffering in silence?*

Ah yes, because of the weird, wasp-y K'zoo bathroom "etiquette" of never encountering or addressing your suitemate(s) directly, but only communicating through wordless signs of doors and light switches -- unless, of course, you're a newbie and a pair of publisher's reps. Then you'll have a grand ol' time and no one will ever have to wait for someone else to relinquish the bathroom.

Seriously, folks, we're the new generation -- can we change this silliness and use the dorms like dorms?? And by the way, why does everyone think the dorms are so horrible? I've stayed there four or five times now and find them quite comfortable and the price unbeatable. Plus, no shuttle bus nonsense to deal with. And until this year -- the first time I was sharing a room -- I'd never bother to bring my own towel or hangers or anything like that (though hangers would have been good in the past -- I used the chairs and bed posts). Besides, the whole hotel/dorm divide is starting to look like a haves/have nots divide and it depresses me.

Speaking of which, my next post (probably from Cowtown unless my motel on the road has wifi) will be on class and the nametag.

*I know this is coming from the woman who still has not told her downstairs neighbors they're too noisy. But that's more complicated. How does a thin woman tell the heavy people that they walk too hard? How does the childless woman tell the parents that their child is too loud? How does the dogless woman tell the dog-owners that their dogs are too rambunctious and noisy?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Help! I want a Gmail account

UPDATE: Done! I now have a Gmail account, thanks to Julie of No Fancy Name, the queen of all things bloggy. Would you believe "drvirago" was taken?! Who's the imposter? Well, anyway, I am now drvirago2 [at] gmail [dot] com. Now to go change my sidebar.

This message is for those of you with a Gmail account. I want to sign up for one, too, and get rid of the sbcglobal address for Dr. Virago because in a month and a half I'm moving in with Bullock (no, he didn't build our house, like the Bullock on the show did, but he is building me bookcases) and he has a different ISP than I. But the problem is his ISP is very, very local and identifiable, and I need a nice US-wide anonymous address for the blog. Gmail seemed perfect, but then I learned you have to have a code text-messaged to you and I don't have a text-message capable phone. The other option, however, is to have a friend invite you to join (what is this -- Friendster???).

So please, pretty please, will one of you invite me to join? Send an e-mail to drvirago[at]sbcglobal[dot]net. Thanks!

Friday Randomness Extravaganza: Random Bullet Points of Crap, Friday Random Ten, and a Random Poem

OK, I don't know what was up with Blogger the last few days, but it has prevented me from doing any posts, let alone my K'zoo update (which is more a musing on blogging and its uses, actually, but from a particularly K'zoo-oriented perspective, and which I will post later). So until I get something more substantial up, here's a Randomness Extravaganza. And yes, even the poem is random. I used the Representative Poetry Online "Random Short Poem" function.

But first, Random Bullet Points of Crap (concept yanked from Ianqui):

  • Did I tell you yet that I'm going to be the Graduate Advisor next year instead of an Undergrad Advisor? Yup, it was decided and agreed (love that passive voice) that it made more sense for the person who was teaching the graduate research methods course (i.e., me) to be Graduate Advisor. I'm really going to need that course release, I think, since I'll have to do admissions in the spring and recruiting before that. My plan, btw, is to try to get more of our area high school teachers into our program. I know that a lot of them are doing DL programs, but I'm going to emphasize that there's just no replacement for personal mentoring and instruction that comes with a traditional program. Anyway, I'm really excited by this turn of events, but I'm a little nervous, too.
  • In related news, I picked up Graduate Study for the 21st Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities, by Gregroy Colón Semenza, at the Palgrave booth at K'zoo, and so far it looks *fantastic*. And that's not just because Michael Bérubé did the foreward. But as he says: "Trust this guy. He knows what he's talking about and his judgement is unerring." I'm going to give my students in my methods class the chapters on "The Graduate Seminar" and "The Seminar Paper," but for those of you with Ph.D. students -- or who are Ph.D. students, especially in the beginning stages -- I recommend the whole thing.
  • In more personal and frivolous news, the Boyfriend's new name on this blog from here on out will be Bullock. Why? Because in honor of the upcoming new season of Deadwood, he has started growing a Bullock-style moustache and soul patch. I have to say, it looks kinda cool, but it's still in that scratchy phase. Not good for kissing. I hope it softens up soon.
  • That new season, btw, will begin June 11. I can't wait, especially since my Bullock has a 50-inch HDTV. Oh it's going to look so awesome! (That reminds me -- I could insert a Deadwood-related fact about Dr. Virago here, but I want to pick up that "100 fact" meme thing on its own. I think I left off at #4!)
  • Meanwhile, I'm going away for a week and a half -- to visit and help out with the increasingly elderly, frail, and demented parents -- so I guess Bullock's moustache will be fully formed when I get back. And expect some blogging from Cowtown. I will definitely take my computer with me and blog from the Panera at the fancy-schmancy outdoor mall near the old homestead. Or maybe Dean and Deluca has wi-fi -- then I can feel really fancy.
Friday Random Ten

1. Real Men - Tori Amos (Joe Jackson cover)
2. Should've Been in Love - Wilco
3. Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues - Ryan Adams
4. Kid A - Radiohead
5. Bad Day - Actual Tigers
6. Unfair - Pavement
7. Rat Velvet - The Lemonheads
8. Jesus Walks - Kanye West
9. I'm Waiting for the Day - The Beach Boys
10. The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand

Friday (Random) Poetry

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask"

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Monday, May 8, 2006

Pants Off Dance Off!

As some of you already know, one of my favorite words in the English language is "pants." So when Unfogged linked to something called Pants Off Dance Off, I just had to go take a look.

My eyes! My eyes! They're burrrrrrrrrning!

Go see for yourself. No words can do it justice.

[For the Cliopatra readers -- and others -- coming here for a K'zoo update, I swear I'll post one. I also swear I'm not always this silly. Only sometimes.]

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Trip to the Zoo

I'm leaving shortly for Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo-zoo and I'll be back Sunday night. I will not be blogging from there as I am going blissfully computer free.

I promise not to feed the animals.

Update: I'm back. Much frivolity was had. Oh, and there was this professional conference thing going on, too. Te-hee. Actually, after I sleep for about 24 hours, I'll probably say more, but right now I'm too tired to think any more.

So tired. So very, very tired.