Sunday, September 30, 2007

Exciting long-range planning!

I've just booked myself a self-catering flat in Paris for May! For two weeks! For a research trip. I started looking at apartments this morning and figured that I should get on the booking now, if I actually want to secure one of the less expensive ones, because I know that spring in Paris is going to book up quickly. (Less expensive is important because I probably won't get the SSHRC bucks, and I need to try and make my meagre start-up funds cover as much of this trip as possible.) So I've found a sweet studio in Montmartre, and it is RIDICULOUSLY inexpensive - like, shockingly, for Paris - but also has many, many glowing reviews from previous visitors.

I cannot wait! Even though it's eight months away, it provides me with a lot of light at the end of the tunnel of this year.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friendship gush

I can feel that I'm coming down with something. Noooooo! Not surprising, given how run down I've gotten this week.

You could have had the joy of dealing with an enraged rant from me, earlier today. (Yes, more negativity from Hilaire.) Dudes, you would not BELIEVE the ignorant cows who live in this house and with whom I share my laundry facilities. But you were saved from me unleashing my fury on Blogger, because the phone rang - twice! - bringing me in rapid succession the voices of two good friends from across the country, one in Home City and one in Fun City One Province Over.

And now I just feel happy, and I want to talk instead about friendship.

The second caller was my friend M, whom I've mentioned before, like here and here. Other than GF, he's the person I talk to the most. Tonight he called me because he was feeling lonely. We talked for two and a half hours. And when I hung up, I had such a feeling of contentment and peace. I felt deeply, almost spiritually grateful for him. This man is a gem. More than that, our friendship is a gem. It's certainly rare that, as an adult, you meet someone you know will be in your life for a long, long time. He's one of those, for me. I know this, even though I have only known him for, really, less than 18 months.

My favourite aunt, F, introduced us. (M and I have talked about how she is owed a big thank you from the universe. If we ever manage to be in M's hometown, where my aunt lives, at the same time, we need to take her out for a wine-soaked dinner to thank her - I love wine-soaked dinners with F.) He and I have similar paths, both being academics in the same general field, and we're about a year apart in age. That's not enough to make a friendship, though, of course. But there is an almost uncanny affinity between us on a personal level, and it is only enriched by the academic connections. I think our friendship is so strong because of a deep interest in and respect for each other. Those sound like such dispassionate words, but they're not, not at all. They are the ground of our friendship. I've almost never felt such interest and respect, in either direction; in a way, my friendship with M shows me what those words can really mean.

And, lest that sound all too buttoned up and respectable, let me also say that M is one of the only people I talk about sex with, and that these are fabulous conversations in which we both laugh a lot and think a lot. (In fact, he laughs so loud I always worry about him pissing off his neighbours.) What's better than that combination, laughing and thinking? And that my New Year's Eve last year, spent drinking champagne with him, was one of the more fun ones I've ever had.

It just hit me tonight how really quite precious our friendship is. I had to share it, because it touched me. And I feel full of the love, blogfriends! Awww.....

Friday, September 28, 2007

Consequences of fun

My week is sort of over. I had a productive day today - spent all day at the office, working my way steadily through a long to-do list. The most important part of it? I submitted my SSHRC application (well, submitted it for the rounds of my Chair's, my Dean's, and the university's signatures). That puppy nearly killed me. I easily spent 80-100 hours on that thing. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see the end of it. Though it's a little odd to think of 80+ hours spent on it, and me incredibly unlikely to reap anything from that. (Last year's success rate for the New Scholar category was 22% - though it was apparently closer to 50% at my uni, which is something.) Feels like a bit of a futile exercise.

The weekend is going to be a workfest, as all week has been. There were serious consequences to my mother's visit. Although I did some work every day, it wasn't enough. I got so behind that this week was easily the most stressful I've had in years. I did that awful thing, waking up at 5 in the morning - having worked until 11 the night before - because I hadn't finished my prep for the day. It's when I do things like that that I feel like life sucks.

That's fucked up, right? That we -and it's not only me, I know - face the consequences of having fun?? After all, I did in fact do some work every day. And yet that wasn't enough. There's something seriously out of whack here. And next weekend - Thanksgiving - my friend Kim is coming to visit for four days. I won't really be able to work during those four days: Kim is a very organized and efficient lawyer; she is so organized that, thought she works the crazy hours of any lawyer, she is also able to schedule time off and enjoy it with reckless abandon. That's what she'll be doing here next weekend. And all I can think of is the awful consequences of me spending the weekend having fun with her. Again - the consequences of fun. How ridiculous.

(And I fully recognize that I've taken much of this craziness on myself, organizing conference panels and initiatives and doing a SSHRC app without thinking about how they would actually play out in the fall.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Adjunct Whore tagged me for a book meme! How perfect, since I have controversially declared this A Night Off - even in the face of all I have to do - and I am halfway through a bottle of really quite good wine, and sitting around thinking about books strikes me as exactly right...

Total number of books owned: Around 500, I'd guess

Last book bought: Caroline Cox, Seduction

Currently reading: Elsa Schiaparelli, Shocking Life. And the current issue of Bitch.

Five Books that Mean a Lot to You (with a bonus 6th because ya'll are doing it):

1. A Room of One's Own. I used a passage from it during the opening remarks at my dissertation defense, which were actually VERY meaningful to me. I got choked up as I read it. I teach this text and love it, for how it can be both such a product of its moment, and somehow so transcendent of that moment.
2. Simone de Beauvoir, La femme rompue. This collection of stories was the first I read - as a teenager - that described the intimate incorporation of oppression. I can't tell you what an impact that had on me.
3. Walter Benjamin, Illumations/Reflections. Illuminations with an introduction by Hannah Arendt. Adjunct Whore has these on her list. They were crucial for me, too. It marked the beginning of a new - and the most important - phase in my intellectual life to date. And the tragedy of it, of him, I found deeply touching. Arendt's introduction kills me.
4. Jan Truss, Jasmin. This was a young adult novel that I read over and over again. It was the story of a young girl who ran away. It is an incredibly solitary story - she's out there alone in the forest. The descriptions of profound alienation were really powerful to me at that age.
5. Carolyn Burke, Becoming Modern. Her biography of Mina Loy. More than any other text, this one is responsible for where I am now. (Ha - so maybe I can blame it for my unhappiness?)
6. Jeannette Winterson, The Passion. The title says it all. I read it over and over at a point when passion really mattered.


I don't like to pressure anyone, though I would truly like to see the answers to this from all my faithful blogfriends. Tell us about your books!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Post visit

My mother left late this afternoon. It was a much better visit than I'd have expected. I was able to keep a lid on myself, for the most part. We also had alone time - I couldn't take five days without doing any work, of course, so I had to be doing a bit every day. And she had some work to do on a couple of days, too. But every day we took some little excursion. Some of those excursions were sooooooo beautiful, my god! Seriously, this can be such an enchanted vacation-land. (Not such a nice place to live, as evidenced yet again by a phenomenal display of racist discourse in today's newspaper.)

What was good about the visit was that my mother is so incredibly easy to please. On Saturday morning, for instance, it was yucky and raining. We went to the farmer's market and then to the mall for boring towel- and sock-buying. Back by 12:30, and that was our activity for the day - a market in the rain, and a big, boring mall. But my mother gushed about what a "great day it has been." Not hard to entertain, see??

Of course, it is this over-the-top sunniness that I also find most difficult about my mother. Everything is beautiful - that's her favourite word. Last night we were out at a Japanese restaurant and she was eating her plain old steamed rice with soy sauce, and apparently that was "beautiful." Because everything is. It's just too much muchness, you know? I am actually quite a cynical person, and this kind of relentlessly celebratory attitude always feels to me like a grating over-simplification of it all.

Why so? Isn't happiness nice? Well, the thing is, we can't just be. I can't just be. There is always gushing over me. It feels like a lot of pressure, quite frankly. The other night, for instance, I was sitting there in my armchair, my legs swung over the arms, wearing some variety of pyjama-like clothes. "You look great in that chair," my mother beamed at me. For god's sake - I'm just freaking sitting in a chair in my pyjamas. Just let me be.

So that's the crux of it. I need to just be, and my mother has invested so much in me, her only child, that I chafe.

But anyway, it was a good visit, overall. I'm pleased about that - it felt like a hurdle. My mother is a very, very good and kind and lovely person. I need to remember that.


And now my heart feels like it's racing and all I can foresee over the next ten days is unbelievable quantities of work. I worry that I'll make myself sick with the state of stress I feel I'm in. Remind me never, ever to take on this much work at once, again!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mr. K's new favourite thing

Thank you, all who commented that Mr. K would remember me if I sent him a well-worn t-shirt of mine. Above, he is sleeping on the t-shirt, which arrived today. R says that when she opened it up and put it on his bed, he went over to it and took his signature looooooooong sniffs of joy, while wagging his tail furiously. And now, she says, it is already his favourite thing.

Picture me smiling!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dudes, I miss my dog...

R sent this photo of Mr. K recently.
And this week Mr. K himself sent me a card. His hand bears a striking resemblance to R's own. :)
In it, he says, "R says that you're going to be home for Christmas - is that true? I've noticed that the air is starting to change and is getting colder, so I figure that must be pretty soon. I can't wait to see you, Hilaire - I'm going to go practice my bum wiggles now so I can give you a super good greeting when you come."
I miss him so much. I miss what it all feels like. I can't believe I will have to wait three months to see him...I so worry about him forgetting me. I think that would be the saddest thing of all. R always said I was his favourite, but I know that I will have been pushed out of that place after not seeing him for five months.
This week, in reponse to his card, I sent him one back. I also included a t-shirt I'd been sleeping in for a good many days. It smelled, well, slept-in by me, shall we say. I wanted to remind him of me. Maybe even to remind him of good things, like daily two-hour walks to the best parks. I wonder if dogs can have feeling evoked through smell. Probably not, but one can dream.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The urge to flee

Sigh. I signed my name, along with four friends, to a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. We were commenting on an article recently published on the front page of said paper. The article reproduced racist stereotypes in a really shockingly blatant manner.

Anyway, so, five of us wrote a letter to the editor. And now some blinking IDIOT reporter who works at the paper (not the one who wrote the original piece) has written an infuriated and belligerent letter back to us. Not in the paper, mind, but sent to our personal emails. In which she calls us to task, saying that we are "burying our heads in the sand" and refusing to talk about racism, commanding us to, quote, "justify our actions," etc. When the bloody point of the letter is that we must talk about racism. She doesn't even understand the letter we wrote. For fuck's sake. The calibre of journalism in this city is so low that the reporter is practically illiterate. And thinks it's acceptable professional practice to send aggressive personal correspondence to writers of letters to the editor. Oy. You know, this place is quickly losing its Potential and becoming Scary City once again - around the time the offending article appeared, there was an egregious set of political decisions made that just make me sick. The better response, I know, would be to rouse my activist energies.


Anyway. My mother arrives tomorrow. For five days. This will be the longest I've spent with her in years. I remember going away with her for about four days, ten years ago. Otherwise, I've never spent more than a couple of days at a time with her. And we know how I get around my mother. This is going to be challenging. I really don't have time to play tourist with her, but I must do so at least some of the time. She doesn't drive, so she asked me to rent a car. So I must drive us on scenic outings. Eek. It all feels a little anxious - like the fact that I have 90 minutes between my two classes tomorrow, and I must during that time drive to the airport to pick her up, and then stash her in the office while I teach. Well, it shall all be a balancing act, that's all I can say.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not happy. But sometimes, riding home, I see the light

Dammit. This last couple of days has sucked. They have just confirmed how isolated I fucking feel here. For reasons having to do with structure, etc., that are unbloggable (which is really unfortunate, by the way; I'd love a good bitchfest about specifics, and how...).

That, and having fun menstrual and intestinal cramps for almost 48 hours now. Good times, good times. And today I was at the university for ten hours, all of them packed. Rode home as the sun set, getting here at almost 7:30. Knowing I could/should do hours more here. Had no break except for half an hour over my ever-so-virtuous home-packed lunch (when what I really wanted/NEEDED was nachos and whiskey), hearing terrible, terrible stories about terrible, terrible campus politics from my friend D. Yes, I know - not a break. Break would be stretching it. Major, major ugh is what most everything feels like right now.

You know, the one good thing in my life right now is my ride home. I mean, the ride to work is also fine, but it's 40 minutes of an UPHILL ride, and I'm always anxious to get there because I have to teach, etc. I don't stop to smell the roses, that's for sure. I think a lot about my screaming quads. But the way home - well, it's gorgeous. I can look around, can stop and say hi to horses, can pick apples, can look at bunnies, can watch the landscape unfold in front of me as I round certain bends. Sometimes - like today - I leave the campus completely dejected and exhausted and come home having gained a (bit of) lightness I'd never get if I had to drive, or take the bus.

(Might go poof, as they say...)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday taking stock

I haven't been posting much of substance lately. I've not really had the inclination to reflect on things, strange as I feel right now. Which strangeness I think will last quite a long time.

But today I feel as if I can ask myself, how am I?

Well, I'm okay, I guess, thanks.

My classes are going great! Especially - and I can't believe I'm saying this - especially the large first-year one. They are a bunch of chatters. I ask questions of the lecture and get twenty raised hands. More importantly, they are asking questions like crazy. Even on the more ostensibly boring stuff, for which I expected a snore-fest on Thursday; they are completely engaged. The upper-year class is also lovely. So that is grand, and I'm very pleased about it.

My office feels as if it's a site of anxiety, though. I can't really relax in there. This has to do with a number of factors. For one thing, my back is to the door. I can't get over how much this bothers me. But it is anxiety-producing. (If I configure things differently, there is, like, no room in the office; it used to be different, and I was uncomfortable for different reasons.) And then because of the way my schedule is, I spend a lot of my time in my office either keyed up waiting for class to begin, or keyed up on adrenaline between classes or after the last one. There's a lot of anxious energy circulating in that small space. And then there's the lighting. Somewhere along the way I lost my own stand-up lamp that I put in my office, so now I have to rely on the bright overhead lighting. Which I LOATHE. Must change this by getting my own lamp!! I feel as if I need to also add plinky spa music and pieces of purple fabric draped around to make it feel soothing. :)

The research piece is good, though it's also a lot - too much, what with two upcoming conferences, two abstracts, the big grant application, an article recently submitted. I finished the first draft of my SSHRC application a week ago and sent it out to two people to look over for me. They're both about to send it back with their comments so that I can edit it. This whole exercise feels somewhat futile, since my chances are so low. But it's been actually quite good to have to write ten single-spaced pages detailing my project - I've nailed it in more detail than I ever have, and figured out exactly what I'm doing. Unfortunately, it's also a little disheartening to realize how different it will have to look from the picture I've painted, because I will very likely not get a grant and the tens of thousands of dollars that represents. The project could REALLY use that money.

The piece of the Teaching-Research-Service holy trinity that I am completely unenthused about is the service. Because I am spread too thin. Unfortunately, this job entails a huge service piece, what with developing a program. I couldn't even bring myself to think about it in any concrete way until yesterday, when I finally looked at some documents and mapped some things out. The thing - besides the fact that's there's too much else going on - is that I feel really unsupported. There's supportive talk - I had been led to believe that there would be help - but it is really clear that I will be doing all of this myself. And - meh. I realize that I like collaborative work, in lots of ways. Things like envisioning, which is what a lot of this work will be about, are much more fun when they are done with at least one other person. So that you can feed off each other's ideas and build some enthusiasm and momentum that way. In this case, when energy is hard to come by, given too much being spent elsewhere, I have nowhere to derive that momentum from.

Otherwise? Sadly, there's not much Otherwise. I have not much life. This concerns me. And it is certainly not what I have been before this. I always had a very rich and full life outside of work - partly because I was dancing and had that whole other universe to orbit in. Here, most people are work people, and most time spent at social occasions is talking about work. There is no escape. I did plough through the first season of Queer as Folk - a great pleasure, I found it - but that was in a really kind of over-the-top, come-home-exhausted-and-collapse-in-front-of-the-series-for-four-hours way. Balance must be found!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mystery solved, friendship renewed

I began to suspect that the mystery flowers came from my best friend, S, since his name was the one associated with them. I realized that this week - the second week after Labour Day - marks 20 years of friendship for us. And wondered whether that might be why he would send me flowers out of the blue, when we have been out of touch for the first time in these twenty years. Never mind that they originated at a florist in Random Canadian City, and he lives in London, England. So I checked with him - and they did indeed come from him. He says he spent twenty minutes painstakingly dictating a note to them over the phone. Obviously these are incompetent florists, since they butchered my name and they couldn't get it together to attach the note.

So, mystery solved. No stalker in the picture. :)

This makes me happy. I've felt quite sad about what has become of us since my visit to him and our trip to Paris in February. We've had one email exchange since then - in the early spring. One. We haven't talked once. I felt estranged. I'd kept him in the loop - informing him of my move and new addres, for example. And had heard nothing. I felt as if the weirdness that came between us on that trip might actually permanently destroy us. And "us" is the only thing I'd ever felt certain about - that we'd be friends for the rest of our lives. Feeling the potential loss of that was huge.

As is his wont, he is flaky when it comes to more mundane communication, but he comes through with the big gestures. Like remembering the anniversary. (I had forgotten about it.) Like, when I turned 30, putting a shocking amount of effort into an incredibly cool and thoughtful gift.

I'm so glad he's back. We're going to schedule a phone chat for this weekend. It makes my heart lift, honestly. I didn't realize until now just what was missing from my life, without him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A mystery

Update: After I posted this, I realized that I do, sort of, know one person in the city where the flowers were ordered. My new landlord. Who doesn't live here; he lives there. I met him person when he was in town two weeks ago, working on the house - he's a good landlord that way. But then he left, and that was that. And the florist found out that the order had come from a guy named [Name.] Which happens to be the name of my best friend, S., but he lives in London and wouldn't be sending me flowers out of the blue from a random city. The name has, well, the first three letters - and thus the same general sound - as my landlord's last name. So 50/50, it's him. The florist did, after all, completely mangle both my first and last name. Maybe they can't spell. Or hear.

But I damn well hope it's not the landlord - I'd find that a little creepy, noteless flowers. So today I emailed my landlord a friendly but distant note asking if the flowers were from him. I haven't heard back. My cell phone did just ring (it never does; I don't use it anymore), showing a number in the City of Flowers. I couldn't bring myself to answer it - and they didn't leave a message. Ah well, the drama continues.

I have received a delivery of purple flowers. With no card. It's not R - I checked with her (making her mildly jealous). I can't tell you how weird I find this.

I called the florist to ask whether they had a record of who ordered them. She told me that all she could see was that it came through a florist in [Canadian city].


I don't know anyone in that city. I once did, but they were the family of my ex - with whom I broke up six years ago.

So the florist is going to see if she can trace them. With no guarantees, of course.

I have to say that I find it a disconcerting feeling - something like being watched. There's also an element of discomfort because I don't know who to thank - and we are, of course, we good girls, meant to thank people for the flowers they give us.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Advice on student associations

So though the program I teach in is barely a program, and my job as the ONLY person in the program is to build it up into a major, etc., there is someone - a colleague's kid, who's in my Intro class - who wants to create a student association. You know, the Undergraduate Geography Students Association kinda thing. I know this because her parent, my colleague, emailed me to ask about it.

Now, this makes me kind of tired, I have to say - I have an awful lot to do, and I don't have time to add "helping to create a student organization" to my list of duties. On the other hand, of course such an association would be great to have. I need to encourage interest and momentum around my program, and if someone else is feeling the love and the desire to do work on that, well, that's wonderful.

My problems are these:

- I was never involved in a discipline student association myself, so I have no idea what they do. I mean, I know they have movie nights and other such things - events. But what is their purpose?
- I went to an enormous, urban university where faculty never had any involvement in student organizations, so the whole concept is foreign to me. I don't know what my role would be. (In fact, for this reason, at the Uni where I was teaching two years ago I found myself quite annoyed when I was pressured by other faculty to get involved with a relevant student organization - this was entirely bizarre to me, and I thought, "Isn't the whole point of a student organization that it's for students?" I now see the assholishness of that sentiment, but anyway...)

Anyway, colleague is sending his kid my way, and I have absolutely no idea what to suggest to her about getting such a student association up and running, and about what they can do. I can envision going to a first meeting with them, helping them out with room booking, helping them brainstorm about how they see themselves, etc. Is that what one does, as a faculty advisor to a student organization?

Also, where do these kinds of student organizations get money? I know that at this institution, at least some of them do some fundraising, but are there other ways they get money, sometimes?

And help would be much, much appreciated.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why, why?

Is there some law of the universe that phone/Internet companies - Canadian ones at least - have to be incompetent? I am just. so. sick. of making confused phone calls to phone companies about completely incomprehensible billing, to name just one thing. And I hear the same frustration from almost everyone I know. What is it about these kinds of companies that makes them so colossally freaking DAFT??? Good god - they do all sorts of complicated things with communication technologies and all that - can't they apply a frigging ounce of those smarts in their bloody accounting and administrative departments???

Now that that's off my chest...

Let me just say a few words about what I had actually planned to post about today.

Which is a reflection on Week One of the new academic year in this here new position. Classes started yesterday.
  • I was surprised to find relatively not nervous I was. I guess two years of full-time teaching has really increased my confidence. Hooray for that - I think back to my first year of teaching, two years ago, and I was eaten alive by classroom-nervousness, for the first couple of months. I think last year, because it went so well, helped to banish that. Not that it's completely gone - I got some nerves just as my big class was about to begin. It's the largest I've taught. But I talked through them and felt comfortable and had them very engaged, by the end. So that's great.
  • I have to say that I'm amazed, even after three days of being on campus and in the fray of the year, by how different things feel on the tenure track than they did when I was on full-time contract, those last two years. I was pretty immersed in the departments, in both years. But here, I really feel as if I'm inhabiting a different plane. This is not surprising, logically, of course. But I wouldn't have expected it to be so glaringly apparent. So yeah, it's the usual TT things, but they make a huge difference: there are grad students wanting me on committees, people pulling me into their offices as I walk by to have talks about "the long-term future of the program," a nearly unmanageable volume of emails about administrative/service things, etc. Of course, I also already tangibly feel the change in status - I feel more respected (which is problematic). It amazes me how incredibly quickly and intensely I felt the shift.
  • It is also very clear to me how much it could overtake MY WHOLE LIFE. I could drown in it all, so for the first time I am making really very conscious efforts to block off time - like, essentially, the whole evening every night this week - in which I will not touch work. I came home so freaking mentally exhausted I couldn't have done anything even if I wanted to. Which is the product, of course, of the body's readjusting to the rhythms, and I know it will not always feel so taxing. But I think it's good/important to institute and guard my down time, where I can. To build that into the rhythms, too.

And today I'm getting back to my SSHRC application. I haven't really touched it in two weeks, and I am surprised to find that I am actually approaching it with relish!!? I think it's because it is making me seriously map out my project, its significance - and that feels great. I'm hoping to have a draft of the grant application by the end of the weekend, and am going to circulate it to a few people for feedback.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy, happy!

OMG - my Chair just walked in with a young woman and said, "Allow me to introduce you to your new TA!" And she's a grad student!!

I had been told that I would get an undergrad, which I frankly was not thrilled with. I designed the course assignments accordingly, and readied myself for grading purgatory in this 90-student first-year class - I didn't figure an undergrad could do the grading of a lot of the work I would be assigning, especially if I hadn't met them or taught them and had no idea of their skills and abilities.

Lo and behold, Chair turned up with a grad student for me. This lifts the grading burden SO much. In fact, I just roughed out the hours that it would take for her to do most of the grading - with the exception of the critical reading responses and the essay questions on the final exam - and she can, I think, do it ALL within her allotted hours.

I spoke with her for a while and she's very smart and cool.

People, I am so happy. I cannot tell you how much easier I will breathe starting today.

And right after that, I went down to a colleague's office because she'd said she had a whole lot of books she wanted to offer to me. I came with two dozen awesome, current, right-up-my-alley, so-helpful-for-teaching books!!!

Also: on Monday I sent off my revisions on the article that was recently accepted, and just today I sent off the article I've been working on recently. In the end, I opted to send it to a "chemical engineering" journal instead of the "haiku" one. This was because, after taking ten days away from it, I reread it and thought it wouldn't really work in the haiku journal - it was too chemical-engineering jargony. It would require too much revision to really make it haiku-suitable. Next time.

A happy, happy day!!!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Today was a bewildering day.

It is time for a curmudgeonly post, focusing on a complaint we've all heard before. But I have to ask:

Why the need to constantly entertain students?

This was Orientation Day. I sat dutifully at a table outside, dripping sweat in the glaring sun, with my Chair, doing a song and dance to students who walked by with sno-cones and cotton candy and free pizzas. All they wanted, really, was the melting candy on the edge of our table. Not to hear about our programs, no, not that! Heavens! Programs? Majors? What are those?

The department next to us was throwing free t-shirts into the crowd. Club music was thumping. Kids were playing whatever that game is where you put helmets on and get into a ring and try to beat each other up with giant, soft...oars...? There were more banks than academic departments there.

It's not like I'm down on fun. It's not like I'm against entertainment - hell, I just came home from a long day at the uni and settled down to watch three episodes of Queer as Folk (which I've never seen before beginning Season 1 last night). And contemplated having a drink or four, though decided against opening up a bottle of wine.

But it's as if we are ashamed of ourselves, of what we do, of what a university is fundamentally about. Which is learning. And learning can be fun, dammit. My classes, which are often filled with explosions of hilarity, are some good times. But it's fun in a different way. That's the thing. By starting off the year on this foot, we are not acknowledging the different way of Being that academia can represent.

And it also strikes me that in a way, that's not doing what we're supposed to be doing, which is broadening horizons and encouraging critical thinking 'n' shit. That would require a step away from the entertainment monoculture. And that's a step that the institutions seem almost afraid to take. There's an insecurity, a "please like me," attached to so much of this. I don't know what for. It doesn't seem to me there's any danger of students fleeing the university because it doesn't serve sno-cones.

Sure, I get that we need to "hook" them. But they're smarter than this stuff gives them credit for. I can imagine Orientations that look Fun, that draw students in, but that move away from this branded nonsense. That begin to model, amongst the fun, some of the really intriguing ways of Being that learning might open up for them.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Labour Day: Goals for the new academic year

Labour Day (that most depressing of days, along with New Year's Day, in my experience) seems a perfect time to figure out my goals for the year. It starts this week; classes start Wednesday, I start on Thursday. I am so. not. there. I have been absent from the university for a good ten days, and can't get myself to think in any real way about my classes beginning. I am actually going to spend all day, Tuesday-Friday, on campus, just to try and immerse myself in the feeling of the place and to show my face like a good little colleague...

So, goals for the next eight months:

1. Learn how to teach classes that meet twice a week instead of only once a week, for three hours. I've never done the two eighty-minute sessions thing; I'm a little worried that I've assigned too much reading in both courses. I need to closely gauge all of that.
2. Employ many small exercises in my 85-90 person lecture, which doesn't have a tutorial. (Boo!!) Resist the urge to just lecture; be creative in there. (Suggestions most welcome!)
3. Learn the rudiments of WebCT so that I can "pilot" its use in one of my winter courses (before they roll out a brand new Web program for next year - ha).
4. Make sure, with my Intro class, that I teach every class with goals in mind: goals for both that particular class period, and for how the class will contribute to the foundation of their knowledge in this discipline.

1. Learn how this place works, for goodness sake! It has a very mysterious structure (and one that, from what I have been able to piece together so far, is going to royally piss me off).
2. Advocate for my needs and the needs of my program and its students -- some of which are quite urgent -- in the context of this INSANE structure, while stepping on as few toes as possible.
3. Add four courses to the program, change prereqs, etc., on two existing ones, and change the structure of the first-year course to a two-hour lecture with tutorials. (Good.lord.)
4. Then get a guarantee that I can have a graduate student TA for next year (see number 2, above).
5. Perhaps start the process of turning the program into a major - that will depend on a few factors.

1. Complete major funding application on time and to my own satisfaction
2. Draft first chapter of book project, partly by stitching together conference papers
3. Read in newish area that is very important to overall book project
4. Determine whether to apply for special program at fancy Institute, by January
5. Investigate co-editing a collection of essays
6. Send out article I'm finishing up right now.

1. Run at the rate I'm running right now - 4x a weekish, with one long run per week, and ramp up in January to do early spring half-marathon
2. Do Pilates exercises for core stability (which I began yesterday, yay!)
3. Eat more protein
4. Cut down on sugar (a bit! - one has to have some joy, after all...)
5. Find a good doctor in this city, and get checked for recurrent chest pains.
6. Find a way to dance - some of this will involve traveling to do a kind of dancing I can't do here, but that brings me more joy than almost anything ever has.
7. Make sure I get out cross-country skiing lots in the winter (the no-car thing makes it challenging...)

1. Talk on the phone lots to feel connected to my people in Home City/Area
2. Avoid incessantly talking about work at social occasions
3. Cultivate friendships with people who aren't academics
4. Find a friend here with whom I can sit on my couch and drink wine and chat entirely honestly and comfortably for hours and hours on end (Faux-Girlfriend, I miss you!!)
4. Have lots of visits with my very good friend, C, who has lived in European City That She Researches for years but has landed a Visiting Position in Nearest Metropolis, for this year.
5. Rent videos, even though the video store is a bit of a hike...
6. Blogger meet-ups, dare I hope?

That's plenty to think about, no? So, here I go then.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Can't resist a meme...

Making the rounds, most recently seen at MaggieMay's...And perfect for the end of a day filled first with much too much gravitas and then lots and lots of laughter.

4 first names of crushes:
1. Simone (my first real "love" 16/ of my best friends around then, and for many years after. For a long time, Simone was to be the name of my daughter. Now I know there will be no daughter! BUt she would still be Simone!)
2. Peter (16-year-old giddiness)
3. Lilia (danger - no comment)
4. Julie (a current friend, with whom I started out by wildly crushing out on her...)

4 Pieces of Clothing I wish I still owned (and/or that still fit):
1. vintage green crushed velvet cocktail dress (from some super-skinny days)
2. spring green featherweight long-sleeve t-shirt, which I've recently lost
3. grey nubby wool mid-season jacket - why did I give that to the Goodwill a few months ago???
4. pink and grey, very thin, hooded sweatshirt I lost at dance camp in 2003 (to be precise!)

4 names I've been called at one time or another:
1. MC Ileola
2. Puppy
3. Fucksy
4. Eep

4 Professions I secretly Want to Try:
1. professional dancer
2. novelist
3. policy analyst for an activist organization
4. proprietor of pretty, much-loved urban cafe

4 Musicians I'd most want to go on a date with:
1. Neko Case
2. Lucinda Willliams
3. Feist
4. Roger Daltrey circa Woodstock

4 Foods I'd rather Throw than Eat
1. horseradish (including wasabi)
2. marshmallow
3. custard of any sort
4. chicken (I'm a longtime vegetarian. But not a meat-loathing one. Even when I was eating meat, though, I was SO over chicken.)

4 Things I Like to Sniff
1. sun-warmed cedar forest
2. berry-scented things
3. an orange being peeled when I don't expect it
4. the steam from dryer vents

4 people I tag (but, uh, no pressure):
1. Heu mihi
2. Medieval Woman
3. Squadratomagico
4. Psychgrad

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bye-bye, R.

Hello. I know it's been a long silence. I was really just spending time with R. - aside from the day I went to a research orientation, we were together for eight days straight. I kept up with blogs a bit, toward the end of the week, but really was just oriented toward time with her.

It was mostly just us, too - we had a dinner at someone's house on Tuesday night, and I hosted my first dinner party in my place on Thursday night (and pulled off quite a cooking coup, I must say...) But otherwise, it's been a lot of intense together-alone-ness.

She left a couple of hours ago, and it's a strange feeling. I won't see her, probably, for three and a half months. I cried when she left. But now I feel oddly impersonal and papery and unemotional, again. Ugh.

There is no more clarity on anything, really. I think there is in her mind, but I'm just so reluctant to commit to anything. I don't know what to make of this. I love her a lot - that much is clear to me - but I am so nervous about the differences between us that led to our demise the first time.

When she was here, we talked - as we sometimes nostalgically do - about our first kiss. Both of us remember it so well. It was one of those magic, electrical moments, oh so intense. Then R said, "I still feel like that, you know. I still get that crazy, swirly feeling in my stomach."

And what did I do? I didn't say, "Me too." I grinned at her for a moment, and then said - and I quote - "Can I tell you something about my toenails?" Classy, eh?

The thing is, I don't really have that feeling anymore - that feeling I had in that first kiss moment, or in the first month or two of the relationship. I didn't think that lasted. Christ - not after everything we've been through. Which doesn't mean I'm not attracted to her, or that we don't have a great connection. But it's just that I don't have the starry, silly, ascendant feeling of those summer weeks five years ago. I wouldn't have imagined she did, either. Or that anyone would, after five years of a challenging relationship.

And that makes me feel if I'm failing her somehow.

I can't figure out how much of this has to do with my overall weird emotional space. A lot, I suspect. But how to piece it all together when she's not even here, when I don't even see her for months at a time??

For now, though, I'm just sad. I miss her already, and I will be sad sleeping alone again. And back in my emotionless place - because she did rouse feeling in me, if not as much as I'm used to.

Tonight, though, what promises to be a debauched birthday party. And then a barbecue with my Couple-Crush and D, tomorrow night. Some distraction is good.