Thursday, September 27, 2007

Feeling down about the state of the world?

I know I am. And that's why Spouse suggested I watch Jon Stewart's interview with Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Does your heart good to know there are people like that in the world. Both of them.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prophets in Mirror are Closer than they Appear

As I was driving home from work today, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys came on. And just at that moment, a big black Hummer pulled up behind me. All throughout the song, the Hummer stayed right behind me, turning where I turned. Song ends, Hummer disappears.

What have I done to offend Juniper Creek?


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Something Good

That last post was draining. Here's something to renew my spirit:

The Wild Boy has started pre-school. An actual curriculum. He recognizes his letter (that is, the first in his name) everywhere he goes and asks me about all the other letters and who they belong to.

But the best part of the curriculum is the arts and crafts. After the kids create their work of art, the teacher asks them what it is, and write the title on it. We just got a painting he did of a big brown blob.

The title: "A Big Daddy Tater Tot." That totally made my day.

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Awake? Aware?

It's been a difficult couple of weeks in my little corner of the intertubes. And not the teaching... that's been going really well. But outside of my own experience, some serious shit has been going down. A lot of it having to do with race.

I used to believe that I was really aware. I mean, aware. I was a liberal. I celebrated the heritage of the Civil Rights movement. Back in the 80s, I boycotted products that invested in South Africa. Sure, I lived in a town with very few black people, but growing up, my best friend was black. I had credentials!

Did that make me aware? Short answer: no. Long answer: HELLLLL, NOOOOOOO!!!!

The Jena Six (check out Elle's coverage, it's excellent) is just the tip of the iceberg. I may have had good liberal credentials, but I had no fucking idea. The stories that these events have brought up, the experiences of friends of mine, blog authors I read, the nitty gritty of what it is like to be black (and poor, and rural, and you name it), I had no idea. And truth be told, I probably liked it better when I didn't.

W.E.B. DuBois said that the question of the 20th Century would be the race question. He underestimated. This nation has a lot of shit to examine. And pretending it doesn't exist, or that it's isolated, or that's it's the past, or that it's far away, or that it's only the uneducated or the poor or the rural or the Southern is to ignore just how prevalent the question of race remains.

I'd like to thank those people out there who've shared with me their insight on this. And I hope to keep learning.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

More Fun with Fundy Fireworks!

So we didn't get the incident over the creation of the world that my subconscious was expecting. But something equally interesting happened today.

We were discussing a section of a source in the textbook, about King Solomon and his trading/labor relations with his neighbors. Pulled from the First Book of Kings, Old Testament. Conversation went well. Many people discussing it, all seemed to go fine.

After class, one student stayed behind. He asked me, "What do historians think about using the Bible as a source? Can you do that?" I replied something along the lines of how you can use it to get a picture of society without having to believe in Judaism or Christianity, and that it would be difficult to discount the whole thing. "Well, I discount the whole thing." So I got the REVERSE of what I expected... not a Biblical literalist, but someone interested in throwing out any real information stored in the Bible because he didn't believe in the religious aspects of it.

We had a nice (and peaceable) talk over the matter. I'm not sure I convinced him. I compared it to Uncle Tom's Cabin, using fiction to understand historical situations, even when you know that the author didn't witness these things first hand or indeed visit the South. But that didn't mean that everything she wrote was a complete fabrication.

I wonder how the reaction will be on the course evaluations? Will the Christian student see me as their champion and the atheists think I'm a nutjob?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Best Church Sign Ever

"We have enough religion to hate each other, but not enough to love each other."


Monday, September 17, 2007

"Call Me When You Have No Class"

I survived my first day, and no fundy fireworks to be found. (Although, KR, your responses were excellent!)

The classes are a longer format than I have had at previous institutions. I've usually taught either an hour or 1.25hr a day course, or simply the 3 hours once a week marathons. The courses at College are 5 credits instead of 3, and therefore either 1.5hr meetings 3 times a week or 2 hrs twice a week. Either way, I was definitely slowing down toward the end of the class period. I need to reorganize to make sure I'm filling my time effectively.

The morning class today was pretty quiet, not a lot going on (doesn't help that I was lecturing on all new material, and cautiously at that.) The afternoon class has real promise. They responded well to my "I've done this lots of times" portion of the lecture. Hard to tell this early, but I don't sense any major personality issues yet.

My third class, the one on my specialty, is tomorrow afternoon. Wish me luck!

To do:
  • Firm up plans to carpool with dept. member (yay! Environmentally friendly life-plan!)
  • Finish benefits paperwork
  • Sign up for retirement account
  • Create gradesheets out of roster material
  • Plan in-class writing workshops???
  • Reorganize lectures!!!
  • Keep it together.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Anxiety Attacks R Us

Classes start on Monday. Spouse reports that a couple of nights ago, I sat up in bed and yelled "Staples!" at him. Office supply nightmares? How depressing.

And then last night, the acting out of perhaps my biggest fear: first day of History of Everything I cover pre-history, the Neolithic Revolution, the invention of agriculture, all that jazz. In my dream, one of my students informed me that all this is bunk because the world was created in 4004 BC. The Bible says so.

I wish I remembered the dream well enough to see how I reacted.

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Friday, September 14, 2007


You may have noticed I haven't been blogging. Simple explanation: I've started the new job. We've been orientating all week, and on Monday, classes start. I'm learning tons (especially which small town along the way has the cheapest gas) and look forward to sharing some of the juicy highlights with you.

Until then...


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Damon Factor

Matt Damon is infiltrating my life in all aspects... not that I'm complaining. This is way better than when Mobutu was chasing me around!

  • We've Netflixed the first two Bourne films, in anticipation of the unlikely event that Spouse and I will actually make it to the theater to see The Bourne Ultimatum. This spurred of course by seeing the preview while out with K-lyn (herself a Damon fan if only for the Red Sox connection), when I mentioned that "nobody carries a backpack like Matt Damon." She responded, "He's bringing sexy back. Pack."

  • The kids are currently into Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, narrated by none other than Matt Damon. If it weren't for the painfully earnest Bryan Adams soundtrack, I'd give it a good recommendation.

  • He recently guest-starred in an episode of Arthur, which is fast becoming the most tolerable children's program out there.

  • There was considerable discussion (and much sighing) over Damon as "feminist crushworther" over at Shakesville not too long ago. It is politically correct to adore that boy! Plus, if he took you home to meet his family, you might run into Howard Zinn. Always a plus.

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  • Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    Alpaca fleece hat

    With slightly silly tassles. Very soft but very sheddy. Too small for a 2 year old. Too big for a newborn. Recipient to be determined.


    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Pre-Orientation To-Do List

    • Finish up History of Everything I syllabus
    • Finish up History of Everything II syllabus
    • Post syllabi and course intro messages on Angel
    • Finish scholarly book and lecture outline.
    • Put readings on reserve at library
    • Get campus ID card
    • Finish moving into office
    • Email students who have contacted me with various questions/requests
    • Confirm with Julie the plans for our rendezvous
    • Get a damn alarm clock (5am departure time on Thursday)

    ETA: Off I go! See you in two days.


    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    Back to School

    So as I mentioned, there's a week until orientation. During that time, I'll get to do a quick visit with Julie, which makes me quite happy. But I'll also need to crack down and get things going. Is it time to reintroduce the remarkably effective for me (but tiresome and boring for my readers) to-do list blog posts? Maybe.

    I'm teaching 3 classes this fall. Two are filled, one still remains quite small in enrollment. But unlike when I taught last year at the non-trad suburban U, this college has no enrollment problems. More importantly, two of them are classes outside of my major field, and I've never taught them before. Of course, if Elle can crank them out with almost no prep time (and bad textbooks) that she's been given, I should be able to keep my head above water. Or maybe I'll just have an even greater appreciation for the fantabulosity that is Elle!

    In all honesty, except for the daunting commute, I'm extremely excited about this. It really feels like the start of my career. I've been received wonderfully by everyone I've come into contact with on campus, and now the student emails are starting to trickle in, which adds to the excitement. I've even got some ideals percolating for next year. (Horse first, cart next. Sorry.)

    The kids go back to school on Wednesday. We've had a wonderful vacation, but I'll be glad to get back into the routine. WB especially needs some damn structure in his life. And with the new job, that structure includes waking them up and getting them to school by a specific time... something we've never done. (Ah, the life of a grad student!) Wish us luck with that one.

    Finally, to all the parent-types and student-types and teacher-types out there, have a great semester. And as Rodney Dangerfield says, "Call me when you have no class."

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    Random Buttons of Back from Family Time

  • I had in-laws in the house for 3 of the last 4 weeks. And I survived.

  • We took 2 trips to the beach, including a two-day visit to the central Cascadia Coast, where we saw sea lions, a lighthouse, and sunset over the Pacific.

  • The kids learned to fly kites.

  • We did a couple of waterfall trips. Saw the big one twice and at least 4 littler ones.

  • One trip to the mountains (but not the volcano, despite WB's demands that he wanted to see the volcano).

  • 3 extravagantly good restaurant meals, and some wicked-good homemade Indian food.

  • I'm now a week from the beginning of orientation at the new college. Am I beginning to freak out? A bit.

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