Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I feel the earth move...

I was awakened at 5 a.m. to the sensation of a swiftly moving bed. Groggily, I wondered if I was alone. I quickly realized that the house was shaking, assumed it was weather related, and went back to sleep.

There was an earthquake last night, and while it wasn't anywhere near dangerous, it was certainly different enough to have the media folks chattering away on the tele this morning. Nothing harmed, nothing broken, not even a picture hanging in the wrong way. That was enough excitement for me.

And as for the rest, Emily Dickinson said it best, I think:

#254 ("'Hope' is the thing with feathers –")
by Emily Dickinson

"Hope" is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I've heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.

Monday, April 28, 2003

On Mondays I tend to look at the week ahead, the week behind, and the week to come and think "now, what the hell have I been doing with my time?" Of course, it doesn't help that I also look at the To Do list and realize that I've done little to none of the weekend's tasks, opting instead for movies and knitting (I watched A Streetcar Named Desire this weekend...what took me so long?).

In a way, I'm happy. But in other ways, I'm very sad today. I realized that I've never really "settled" into a place where I intended to live for a long time. It's starting to wear on me. My landlord asked to put a "For Rent" sign in my yard so that she could get some sniffs on another house she's got on the market. And I said yes because that's what I do. And for some reason it's just got me thinking about moving. Again.

Heavy sigh. I'd better run outta here before I get too maudlin.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Today I finished my first sweater.

Now, I know what you're thinking.

"Don't you have 2 papers to write?"

And yes, I do. But I really wanted to finish this sweater before I started. Now I feel like I've accomplished something that I thought would be impossible. And I did it on my own, with no outside help. After learning that new skill, writing two papers (which I've done many times) should be a piece of cake.

If only I knew what I was writing about. :-)

Otherwise, things are going swimmingly. No more Regent's Exams to grade, so I can anticipate the nice little honorarium that comes at the end of the semester. My break is already looking like it's going to be busy, and I won't be leaving Athens at all.

Maybe I'll teach myself how to make socks.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Still grading Regent's Exams. Mind is swimming in bad essays, dreaming of new and creative ways to answer the questions that are asked. I think one of the most under-answered questions is "Should prostitution be legalized?"

I really want to read an essay that argues for prostitution's legalization on the grounds that sometimes you just want to get laid. Not that I necessarily agree with that argument--I just think it would be fun to read an essay like that. Yesterday I read one where a girl said she wouldn't want to be a man because she wouldn't like the feeling of a penis dangling between her legs. That refreshing level of honesty can really break up the monotony of grading these essays.

I will be glad when this grading is done. The money is good, but reading bad essays saps my will to write.

Monday, April 14, 2003

I believe in love.

True Confession time: For the last month and a half I've spent every Monday night watching "Married by America" on FOX. When the show was first announced, I was certain that it would be the most vile thing I'd ever seen.

I was somewhat surprised.

If anything, the show really reinforced the importance of knowing your mate before getting married and of not letting your idealistic, romantic feelings overrule your good sense and intuition. The significant role that family and friends play in the success of a marriage was also underscored. And while the whole thing was WAY over the top with the melodrama, I think in the end it restored my faith in commitment.

And in the efficacy of conducting your private life in private.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Catching up on the ranting...ashamed to be so far behind.

More Regent's Essays yesterday. I've come across what I believe is the worst question ever:

What makes one college course more enjoyable than another? Explain.

I hate this question because it assumes that to valuable a course must be "enjoyable." And the consideration of enjoyment casts us into the realm of the entertaining, not the edifying. The assumption that this question makes is that the most valuable aspect of a course is its ability to entertain, to create a "fun" atmosphere, to engage students in "playtime."

Most of the answers to this question center on the instructor's ability to make the class "fun." While some students, admittedly, write about their "joy in learning" because of sound and engaging teaching practices, far too many focus on arbitrary factors, such as the dryness of subject matter, the presentation style of an instructor, or the grading practices employed in evaluating performance. But I have so far been able to live with this, because the focus was at least on the teacher-student-material relationship, which at the very least implied that student "enjoyment" of a course was tied to the actual content of the course and their relationship to that content.

And then, yesterday, I read the worst one of all. The criteria for the "enjoyability" of the class revolved around personal, physical comfort. A class was deemed more enjoyable if it was in proximity, physically, to the other classes a student was taking. So, the student had to take a bus to get from one side of campus to another for a class, thereby making the class unenjoyable.

I was speechless. Shocked.

Vile. Absolutely vile.

I'm grading another round of these this weekend. I'm praying that I don't read any more essays about the "enjoyment" of college courses. Why couldn't the question have been framed in a way that was academically meaningful, like "What makes one college course more educationally successful than another?" I know these are just exercises to gauge student ability in timed, structured writing, but this question reveals a tendency in the academic world toward increased consumer orientation. And that is inevitable, I know, but something we should constantly be aware of.

Enough of a ramble for the day. Off to read something "entertaining."

Monday, April 07, 2003

On Saturday we graded Regent's Essays. These are essays written by Georgia undergrads as part of the Regent's Exam. All public university undergraduates in GA have to take this test to qualify for their degrees.

The essay topics are always bizarre, and students tend to choose the most bland ones because they're generally the easiest. Questions like "If your house were burning down, what three items would you save?" and "What makes one college course more enjoyable than another? Explain." tend to set my teeth on edge. Of course, the grammar is usually questionable and I have to control the urge to mark papers, converse in the margins, and, generally, grade the essays. But then a lightbulb appeared above my head as I thought "why not use these topics as grist for your little web mill?" Keep your eyes open; you never know when one of those topics will inspire me to rant. If you want to see the list of potentials, check out this site.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Already I see the pattern. I'll never do this every day. What was I thinking?

Last night I got yet another reinforcement from the entertainment world about men and women and why they can't be friends. It's too messy. The friend of the opposite sex is just a place holder. And that's about as useful as a potholder.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Home. Long day. It's hard to keep motivated at the beginning of the end of the semester. Dr. Phil is on, talking about the war with kids and family members. The war. Doesn't quite feel like war, doesn't quite feel like anything. The only thing I'm feeling today (besides the still dull ache in my back) is a bit sticky from the pollen outside. I'll bet I'd glow if you put me under fluorescent light.

I think it's time for us all to reflect on the t-shirts that George Michael and Andrew Ridgely wore in the "Wake Me Up" video.
It's 8:42 a.m. here in Park Hall. I have a horrendous pain in my lower back. Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.