Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Funny" Student Tales

Whew! I'm DONE. I finally finished grading all my papers and finals - I will submit my remaining grades on Monday. I must say, I'm a little lost as to what to do next. Work, yes. But I'm kinda stymied...I'll think of a game plan tomorrow.

Other random bullets of crap are:

1) If I had my own personal anthem, it would be "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. The Dutchman is ROCKING OUT to this song in the kitchen while he's doing the dishes right now (and I'm blogging).

2) I'm getting new glasses. I've decided that my old frames look a bit too Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton late-80s vintage. So, I'm upgrading to stylish new specs. They are more rectangular and are silver on the top and ear-pieces, but they have no frame on the bottom. My prescription has changed a bit over the past few years, too.

3) In intend to shop a bit this summer to beef up my teaching wardrobe - any favorites??

4) We're eating leftovers tonight and I'm not thrilled.

But now to the title of this post. I was thinking today as I was in the Grading Zone plowing through the last of my exams about all the different student anecdotes I have collected over the past few years. I've got quite a few from this semester, but one stands out in my mind from a couple of years ago. First, let me say that I have taught at a lot of different schools - visiting positions, adjuncting, grad school, etc. This particular gig was a one semester thing and I was teaching a course at a local college with a lot of students in it. It was a medieval literature in translation course and we were reading a lot of classics - lots of Arthurian stuff.

So, I had one student in the class who was actually developmentally (he had a documented problem) and socially challenged. From the first day, this student responded very strongly to the material in the course and developed a rather serious attachment to me (ostensibly as the young female purveyor of the course material). He would inevitably come up to me after class and ask if I thought about medieval literature all the time and if I fell in love with each story anew when I read and taught them multiple times. I was like, "sure, kid." I tried to be nice, but firm about the boundaries that he was desperately trying to cross on a daily basis. He once told me that he wished he could drill a hole in my head, take all the information out, photocopy it, put the information back in, and then plug up the hole. When I've ever told anyone that, they inevitably say, "well, at least he plugged the hole up!" Sometimes he would tell me that he really wanted to touch my hair.

Around the middle of the semester, he began to share with me his steadfast belief that he was a reincarnation of King Arthur. At first I didn't respond, then I tried to tell him that it was all very interesting, but did he have any questions about the literature I could answer. Then the drawings began to arrive. They were of extremely busty women wearing medieval-ish garb. Think of a cross between Barbarella and a medieval beer wench. When I asked him why he'd given me this rather odd and highly innapropriate drawing, he said, "you don't recognize yourself?" Yep. He was convinced that I was a reincarnation of Guinevere, the adulterous queen herself.

After weeks of asking him to stop, reminding him that Arthur and Guinevere's relationship wasn't entirely auspicious, discussing the issue with the Dean and various other administrative folks, he finally got the message and left me alone.

I've always wondered whatever happened to him and if he developed an attachment to another professor. I never felt truly scared or worried about him coming after me (he was confined to a wheelchair and I lived far away). But it was his feeling that he could and should tell me anything that made me feel weird. He seemed to know that touching my hair wasn't something that he could do - but that didn't stop him from telling me that he wanted to. He was aware of the boundaries and wouldn't cross them physically, but he would acknowledge a *desire* to cross them. I look back on this as a funny story from my teaching past, but for another professor - or with another student - this could have been a very traumatizing scene.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Recipe Blogging - Finally!

I am finally back on track with Friday Recipe Blogging - though I'm still buried under a slightly less dense pile of grading (I told Hilaire that I've been like a little grotto salamander who fears the light) my nose is twitching at the air because the neighborhood barbeques are beginning to fire up. Nothing like the promise of charcoal and a pitcher of pina coladas (yes, I drink them - the fluffier the better!) to make these exams fly by!

Something tells me that I might have blogged this recipe ages ago, but I've been longing for a good hamburger and these totally rock my world. So, if it's a repeat for some of you, my apologies, and if you haven't seen it, then it's new to you (just like those summer ER re-runs)!

Medieval Woman Burgers
- 1 to 1.5 lbs. ground beef
- 2 tbsps finely shredded onion
- 2 tbsps finely shredded green pepper (I use the mini-food processor for these)
- 1 garlic clove mashed
- 2 tbsps. finely chopped parsley (I use dried)
- season with a bit of salt, pepper, paprika and a bit of crushed thyme

1. Mix all this stuff together with the meat in a bowl - make sure the onion and green pepper are really finely shredded or the patties might fall apart easily.
2. Make into patties and grill the suckers!

Quick Tip: When you make the patties for the grill, make a dent with your finger along the top of the patty - that way, when the patties expand during cooking, they'll still be pretty flat rather than spherical.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


So, Furball #2 is totally healthy - apparently I grossly over-reacted, which is nothing new. (The picture is of her telling me, "I told you I was fine!") After I finally got her to cooperate with her "sample" yesterday evening about 10 minutes before the vet closed down, I heard back from them today that everything was completely normal. I feel a bit sheepish in the light of day - kind of how you wonder if you were a total idiot when you were drunk at a party the night before...

In the next few days I'll finally finish grading and then I'll need to finally turn to my article research. I'm a little interested as to how this will go, actually. It's totally new research for me on a group of texts that I've never worked with. It's also my first "article on spec," i.e. it will have a definite home as soon as it's finished (by the end of the summer - but actually way before then because the end of the summer will be too crazy with me starting a new job). But this semester has seen me doing absolutely NO research whatsoever, so getting back into it will hopefully be like riding a bike.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Whew! Exams are over. Now all I need to do is grade them, but this is so much easier than grading papers. I've had the usual flurry of emails from students complaining about the way the TA graded their papers and asking me to overrule the grade within the next 24 hours before they go back home for the summer. How many ways can I say, "It ain't happening"??

So, aside from grading, grading, grading, there have been some difficult things going on the past week of largely bloggy silence (other than the existential crisis I had when we returned from grad school city).

1) My 48 year old cousin has been diagnosed with an incredibly rare kind of cancer in and around his pancreas. It's spread into the ducts that connect to the liver as well. It's so rare, in fact, that only 2500 cases are reported in the US each year. There are only two places that can treat it in the US - Johns Hopkins and the Mayo clinic. He's been at JH but they can't figure out exactly what kind of tumor it is so they can set the chemo properly. So, now he's on his way to Mayo for a couple of weeks. The survival rate for this kind of cancer is less than 2%. His son, my second cousin, is the one who goes to school at Virginia Tech, so they were talking to the doctor about my cousin's cancer when they found out that 30 people had been shot at their son's school. It's not raining but pouring on our family right now...

2) In a less dire but closer to home (and probably psychosomatic on my part) situation, I fear that something is wrong with Furball #2's kidney. Some of you might know that she only has one and has had for about 5 years now. We've always kept an eye on it (bloodwork every 6 months and more recently a urine analysis every 6 months or so) and both kitties are on a special kidney diet food. But she lost a couple of pounds recently and I think she might be drinking a bit more water than usual.

Now, in January she weighed a whopping 15 pounds - the heaviest she's ever been (butterball...) and now she weighs about 13, which is where she's usually at. Of course, I read that weight loss as a potential problem rather than as a rectification of what was an unusual weight *gain* on her part. This might explain why the vet looked at me like I was crazy before we went on vacation. Furball #2 is notoriously reluctant to cooperate with anything medical and when I tried to take her in to get a urine sample before break, she refused to give it to the vet and actually shredded her arm a bit (she was scared and was trying to jump down - it was an unintential back-claw episode rather than an intentional front-claw thing. I should also mention that I'm not very fond of this vet because I think she has a shitty bedside manner and she doesn't take my tiny bit of panic a bit more seriously - I'm not in there all the time! I just want to keep her remaining kidney healthy!!! The vet was this way before the claw episode, by the way). So, today I have F-ball #2 in lockdown in the bedroom with a box full of non-absorbant litter pellets and we're in a waiting game.

At any rate, I've just been very over-worried and hopefully for no reason, but I majorly over-react about these cats. I acknowledge this about myself and I'm willing to spend the money to pay vets to make me feel better about it. Even if the other kidney is not operating 100%, cats can still live for a while, right? If you keep an eye on it?? Her bloodwork was fine in January and she's only 9 - I guess because of her kidney shutting down years ago (it was a kidney stone that got caught in the urethra and ended up causing the kidney to fail - she lost a lot of weight rapidly), I perceive any kidney problem as failure rather than something that is probably what happens to every older cat and is gradual.

That's probably a lot more than any of you want to know about my cat, but there it is. Maybe the general feeling of worry about all the health stuff in my fmaily and the cats are connected?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bloggy Silence

To all those who might have been wondering if I'd been trapped under a large piece of furniture - I've actually been on a strict low-blog diet for the past week. This means not posting much (I missed Friday Recipe Blogging, but will make it up this next week) and only reading a couple of randomly selected blogs for a few minutes. I'm on my last set of papers, but I have a new set of 30 exams to grade and I'll be getting in about 80 more tonight when I give my other 3 hour final from 7-10 pm on a Sunday! I'm so bringing my Wendy's Big Bacon Classic to this shindig...grumble, grumble...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Speed Grading

One set down! Two sets to go! I'm barely commenting on them!

One exam to give tomorrow morning and one more on Sunday night!

The end is near - I can feel it in my bones...

Or more to the point, my hand... Writing cramp!

I am forcing myself not to read anyone's blogs because I'll get sucked in to the bloggy vortex! Hope all is well - by Sunday things will have calmed down enough for me to leave my burrow...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Random Bits of Emotional Musings and Existential Crises

I've been wanting to post a bit more about our trip to grad school city and the host of emotional reactions - both good and a little tough - that attended our trip.

First off, seeing our friends who are still in the area even after we finished school (and who will be there for years) was so wonderful and it brought home a bit the old truism that school friends are made far more easily than colleague or "grown up" friends. The Dutchman and I have moved around quite a bit over the past couple of years and in my past three teaching situations I was on the fringes of a department and university (i.e., as a VAP and an adjunct). I was happy to have these positions (god knows!) but socially it was a real low point - I naturally wasn't a part of the culture of the department, never went to meetings, and my office was usually off in a different building, etc. The school where I'm at now is slightly different because I made an effort of introducing myself to the colleagues in my field here and it's been nice.

But being back "home" for a few days reminded us of how much we loved being with our friends, who are all in either gone on to academic jobs or other professions in the area but with whom we still have a lot of fun. We don't gripe about the difficulty of grad school and dissertating (as we were wont to do before), instead, we talk about our work, our careers, etc. and still have an amazing connection. Even though most of us "survived" grad school together, that's not even remotely the only thing we have in common. All in all, I guess I realized that I didn't have to go back in time to a nostalgic, sometimes gruelling, past in order to enjoy these friendships. They have continued to develop long after grad school is over and they've survived the intervening geographical distance very well. This is great because I know we'll always have them, but it's tough, because - dammit - I want them all the time!

This brings me to my second emotional musing, which was also brought into sharp relief through this trip: babies. We made the rounds to see all our friends and two of the couples had new (2 months) and new-ish (7 months) babies that we'd never seen before. They were fantastic, lovely little nippers and it was just a giant ball of fun to hang out with all of them - with the adults drinking margaritas and beer, eating velveeta and salsa "cheese" dip, and helping our friends' 4 year old put together a dinosaur puzzle while trying to keep my margarita glass out of grabbing range of the baby I was holding. It was a wonderful time.

Just before we left for our trip last week, we heard that some of our closest friends, one of the Dutch couples we're going to Tuscany with this summer, are expecting a baby in November. This is one of the Dutchman's closest and oldest friends - they got married a month after we did. We were completely overjoyed for them, but after we got off the phone with them, we both cried.

Pretty early on in this last hiring season I knew that I wouldn't have a fourth job market in me - at least not now. As time went on and the options naturally began to narrow, we sat down and gave some serious thought to what we would do if no job offers were forthcoming this year. We knew we could count on a 3-year contract here that would pay very well, but would not be renewable. So, we decided that if the Dream Academy didn't come through, we would stay here for the next few years and start trying to have a family in a few months. It felt good to have a game plan in any event - I stopped trying to think about the implications of my actually getting the job and then *taking* the job. When I did get the job I was overjoyed personally and professionally - in the back of my mind has been the nagging issue that we will be living apart very soon, but to be honest, the happiness of being able to begin my career outweighs that on most days.

But when we heard about our friends and saw all the babies, I remembered in a very visceral, emotional way that another part of that game plan was also being put on hold indefinitely - having a family. Now, intellectually I know that I'm still young, I have lots of time, and that it's much better for me to start my career now rather than divert it in a significant way. With my new job I have options and security and the opportunity to teach and conduct research in my own field. Staying here with a 3-year contract means teaching a lot of courses I'm not really trained to teach and hitting a brick wall in the near future.

The trip last week combined with the news from our friends hit both of us very hard with the realization that we can't start a family right now. Ironically, almost right at the moment we both decided that we wanted to try for a baby (literally in January), I got offered the job a week or so later. [*cue Alanis Morrissette's "Ironic"*] Hopefully we can in the near future, but it could take years for us to live together again - it could also take one year. Who knows? Either way, we're not able to do it now and it saddens us both.

Why couldn't one of us have wanted to be a real estate agent? Or something we could do just about anywhere??

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Happened While There and How We Got Back

Post Part the First - The Trip:

We got back last night from a five day trip to grad school city - the Dutchman had a conference to attend there and we combined it will the opportunity to see all our old friends (saw JB, who agreed to let me indulge one of my fern bar vices!). We had an amazingly wonderful time! We saw all the new babies, consumed a startling amount of food and alcohol, laughed until we were hoarse - I told the Dutchman at one point that it was like swimming in friendship. And that's exactly how it felt - to be with all of them again on various days at various meals really drove home how much I miss them and miss grad school city - even after two years of living elsewhere.

I'm sorry I've been terribly remiss in updating my blog from the road (or in keeping up with others), but the computer at the hotel was right in the middle of the lobby. Not only was there a perpetually long line to use the thing - making me realize that I could only check email and put out the two dozen student-involved fires - but that anyone and everyone who was checking into the hotel, would read your email over your shoulder. However, the hotel WAS FREE because the Dutchman's conference paid for the whole thing - we only had a $44 tab to clear up when we left and that was because I ordered room service and a pay per view movie one day (Deja Vu - pretty good thriller!).

Post Part the Second - How We Got Back:

Some of you might have noticed that the entire eastern seaboard got hammered by a nor'easter on Sunday and Monday. We got caught in that. For various reasons, the local airport had to close the next day (Monday) and our flight out was canceled. They bumped us to Wednesday morning, which was the earliest we would have been able to get back. WELL, I have exams to write and continue to put out student fires - that won't do! So, the Dutchman and I rented a car and drove it the whole long way back (about 11 hours given the weather) - we drove through the nasty part of the storm that was still happily clinging to the Northeast - a blizzard in between two major cities that you've heard of - going 40 miles an hour on the highway (while the trucks go 80) at night! But we're now safely home and it's back to work for us both today. In the end, we're getting our plane tickets partially refunded and that will more than pay for the cost of renting a car, so we'll save a few bucks when all is said and done.

One thing I was particularly happy about was that the car we rented had Sirius satellite radio (which meant all 80s all the time), but it also had NPR all the time - we were able to keep updated about the horrible Virginia Tech shooting. My cousin goes to school there and we heard from his mom that he was safe, but in lockdown in his dormroom. I don't know if he knew anyone who was hurt or killed in the shooting...

I will post more on individual loveliness with friends, etc. as soon as I finish these piles of grading and write these stinkin' exams! It'll all be over by Sunday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Checking in from the ether

I'm still alive! I still exist! And I still....don't have much to blog about or much time to do it!

Classes = over tomorrow - hallelujah!

Leaving on Thursday for 5 days in grad school city - will see JB while there, yay! It's all about the cheesecake...

End of term papers? Haven't even looked at them and I've already had one of the THREE sets for a week. I'll dutifully bring them with me on my trip, but something tells me they won't be done.

Finals = not written.

Laundry = half done

Cat box = scooped

Hair = highlighted (Oh, wait...I forgot my usual answer...."yes, I'm a *natural* blonde"...)

How are you all bloggers??

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Snowy Easter

Gimme a Cadbury Cream Egg or expect a hairball in your shoe tomorrow morning before you teach...

(keeping those easter blogging traditions alive!)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Friday Recipe Blogging

This is my first official recipe blog at my new pad and I want it to be a yummy "company dish" as Medieval Mom would call it. This is also a bit more on the lighter side than the cream-laden, deep fried recipes I usually blog (but fear not! Next week will be BBQ Ribs).

Crab Stuffed Flounder

- 1 1/2 lbs. flounder fillets
- 1 cup crabmeat, drained and flaked (you can get this from a couple of cans)
- 1 tbsp. finely chopped green bell pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- ground pepper to taste
- 3 crushed saltine crackers
- 1 egg (separate yolk from white into two bowls)
- 6 (total) tbsps. mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tbsp. dried parsley

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (200 C). Rinse the fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Combine crab meat, green pepper, mustard powder, Worchestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and the crushed saltines.
3. Combine the egg white and 1 tbsp. of the mayo; stir this into the crab meat mixture.
4. Brush the flounder fillets with melted butter; place them in a lightly greased (or Pammed), shallow baking dish.
5. Spoon the crab mixture over the fillets and drizzle with any remaining butter.
6. Bake the fillets at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
7. While the fish is baking, lightly beat the egg yolk in a small bowl. Stir in 5 tbsps mayo.
8. Remove fillets from over and spread this mixture over the stuffing; sprinkle with paprika and parsley.
9. Increase oven temp to 450 and bake until golden and bubbly: about 6 minutes.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hopped up on vino...

But you don't really mind, right??

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Random Bits of Fluff

I've been highly remiss in posting over the last few days - I've been back in the grading ghetto (actually, my time in the exercise yard is almost up - I need to get back to my cell).

My teaching week is over now and today was great because my T.A. taught both my courses! I got another set of papers in today and two more next week - I need to figure out why I decided to assign so many frickin' papers this semester...

I just poked my nose outside and saw that it's snowing, which is truly perverse because it's supposed to be April.

I haven't been keeping up on my blog reading - I hope everyone is doing well! I'll catch up in the next couple of days!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

It's that time of year...

...for evaluations. I'm giving mine out the last day of class which is next week (not this coming one). This time of year, I start looking at my classes a little bit more closely - noting their reactions to things more (grades, chiding about turning work in on time, coming to class on time, etc.). It's not that I'm clueless to them for the rest of the semester, but it's just that I start to think about the usual griping in the class (both theirs and mine) as fodder for evaluations. There's not enough time for the petty annoyances to wear off and the ones that have been brewing all semester (and there are more than a few with so many students) are coming to a head.

Like most of us, I'm sure, I usually get good evals overall, but I've also been absolutely eviscerated on a few. When the student obviously takes that opportunity to systematically annihilate your teaching skills, your knowledge, your class policies, your wardrobe, you name it. The other day in the student center, I was killing time before class and I heard these girls at the next table absolutely ripping on one of their professors - it was like a scene from that tacky (yet oh so enticing) movie "Mean Girls." Finally, the ringleader said, "none of it matters because we'll still pass the class and we're all going to totally take that bitch down in her evaluations!" I choked, tried desperately to keep Coke Zero from coming out my nose, and ran away, sprinkling holy water over my shoulder, and thanking whoever's up there that this little chick was not one of mine.

Now, these uber-snarky and completely over the top evals (the Dutchman would call them "statistical outliers" to be discarded from the data set) are obviously just a few students' passive-aggressive displacement about what is ultimately their own poor performance in the class. Some of their complaints hold water, but if they hold water, they usually aren't snarky, just honest. As this semester winds down, and my mind has turned to evaluations, I've realized that I'm in a unique position this year (and even for the last year or two) because none of these evals will ever be placed in my tenure file, etc. They're like 4 semesters of "gimmes" - I've read them and I've learned from many of them and chafed at a few of them, which is basically what they're intended to do (I think the unofficial purpose for evals is to make profs grow thicker skins - mine gets a bit thicker every term). This semester, I'm particularly pleased because I'm teaching all classes I've never taught before, that are not in my area of expertise, and one of which is not even in the English Dept. If there was ever a year to "try classes out for free", it's this one.

What I'm wondering, though, is about other people's experiences with evals and tenure cases or pre-tenure review cases. When I look at my evals, it's painfully obvious to me which comments form an actual pattern of something I need to work on or something I did right and which ones are just individuals being nasty or being totally glowing (but I'm always happy to get tons of the latter). Do promotion and tenure committees overall make this distinction? Or is it just completely different given the institution/committees?