Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I don't have a title for this post.

I've met all five of my classes now, and they all seem like they're going to be a pretty good bunch. By far the class with the most personality is my late class on Tues/Thurs. They were rambunctious but very good-natured. They promised to bring me food if I let them out early on Thursday for the football game that starts at 6:00 (our class normally ends at 5:45).

I am suffering from a blocked right ear. All I hear all day and night is a constant "whoosh whoosh" of the blood rushing through my head. This has been going on for over a week but has gotten worse in the past couple of days. Now my back teeth on the right side are starting to hurt. I have an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist tomorrow. I sure hope this is something that he can clear up fast because it's about to drive me crazy.

I don't really have much else to talk about today--just wanted to let you know that I'm still here.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Reflections Before the Start of a New Semester

On Friday I attended my department's annual faculty meeting and was pleasantly surprised. I was not really looking forward to the meeting because it usually drags on for a couple of hours with a few people talking about issues that affect only those few people in the department. The rest of us are left to sit and sigh and wait for it all to be over. But this time, the meeting ended after a short 45 minutes with no discussion of irrelevant issues. I hope this is a sign of good things to come this semester.

As I was leaving campus, I passed by some of the residence halls. Friday was move-in day for campus residents, and they and their parents were busy carrying in all the things that college students need to survive dorm life. Boxes and boxes of different types lined the sidewalks waiting for their contents to be placed into service in their new homes. Some boxes were obviously second-hand aquirements from the grocery store, once used to carry bananas but now pressed into service to haul books, linens and towels, and stuffed animals. Other boxes were brand new, shiny, unopened packaging for inexpensive pressboard furniture waiting to be assembled. I did notice, however, one box that stood out from the rest--it showed a picture of an electric chainsaw. I certainly hope that this box was recycled. I don't know how those dorm rooms are going to contain all the stuff that was sitting on the sidewalks yesterday. I suspect that some parents had to haul some things back home Friday evening.

The first week of classes always contains some light chaos. Some students will experience some sort of scheduling problem and will react as if the world is coming to an end. Other students will find that because they paid their fees late, they were purged from all their classes. They won't appear on my class roll but will insist that they had been previously enrolled. "You may very well have been on my roll last week, but you aren't today," I'll tell them. "Therefore you are not enrolled in my class. Good luck finding another one," I'll say with encouragement, but I'll know that this semester they won't be able to take English.

During the first couple of weeks when work is still relatively light, my officemate and I will occupy the free time between classes tracking hurricanes online. We do this every year with relish, keeping each other updated on the latest developments. Last fall with Katrina and Rita, we had plenty to keep us busy. I'm not sure why we do this, but I suspect it has something to do with reminding ourselves that there's a life off of our campus and concerns wider than comma spices and sentence fragments.

We'll also catch up with our faculty friends that we didn't see over the summer. It'll be almost as if we hadn't had nearly four months off. Three and a half weeks into the semester, we'll be saying, "God I'll be glad when this semester is over!" And that'll be the truth!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's the End of the Solar System As We Know It!

When we hear someone mention the name Pluto, we now don't have to wonder whether he or she is talking about the dog or the planet. Pluto is officially no longer a planet.

I'm going to have to adjust my entire way of thinking.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My New Freshman Writing Assignment

Over the past few years, I have noticed that freshman college students have many different reasons for attending school. Some know exactly what they want to major in, and some have no idea why they're there. Some don't want to be there at all. With this in mind, I have devised a new writing assignment for my first-semester freshman students, and I want to get your input on it. Here's part of the assignment sheet:

For some reason, you are a student at [this university]. Have you really thought about why you are here? I mean, for example, before you even applied to [this university], did you think long and hard about what you want to do for your career and how [this university] could help you to achieve that career? Or at the opposite end of the spectrum, was the decision to attend [the university] sort of like your decision to attend 12th grade: It was just the next expected step in life, the 13th grade.

I want you to take a long and honest look at why you are here. Some students are here because they know exactly where they want to go in their career path, and [this university] is a stepping stone on that path. [This university] may offer the perfect education for your career choice. Maybe [this university] is just the place where you plan to complete your general studies courses before moving on to your university of choice for your major courses. Some students don’t want to be attending college at all but are here because of a deal they made with their parents. Other students didn’t even get to make a deal and don’t want to attend college at all but are here because mom and dad are making them come here. Some students even come to college with the intention of failing all their classes so that their parents won’t make them come back.

Whatever category you fall into, you have a reason for being here, and you need to be honest with yourself about what that reason is. For your first writing assignment, you will explain to your readers what you hope to do as a career, how [this university] fits in with your career plan, how you came to be attending [this university], and how these three facts will shape your actions over the next few years.

There's more to the assignment, but this gives you the basic idea. My goal is that the students will honestly examine themselves and their motives and make a choice to take responsibility for their own education right now. They consider themselves adults, so I want them to start now to think like an adult.

What do you think? Do you see any drawbacks to this assignment that I should address before giving it to them? Many of you are parents of college students or children who will one day become college students, so your input is very welcome.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Suffering from Blog Withdrawal, and Wierdness

Very early on Thursday morning, I had just enough time to check my email, and then my DSL service went down. The entire neighborhood lost service for a few hours, but when it came back up, I didn't get mine back. To make a long story short, I finally got my internet service back yesterday afternoon after having to run a new wire inside from the phone box on the outside of my house.

Bellsouth DSL service sucks big time! I've had nothing but problems from the getgo, but it's my only alternative besides dialup.


Mugsy tagged me last week, so here are five wierd things about me. Actually, since I personally don't have five wierd characteristics, I'll include my entire household.

1. Sometimes I like to eat ketchup on my macaroni and cheese.

2. For nearly any situation that arises, my husband or I can quote an appropriate scene or line from either The Andy Griffith Show or the movie Sling Blade.

3. My Jack Russell Terriers' favorite toy is a piece of corrugated drain pipe. One dog gets on one end, and the other dog gets on the other end, and they have a good time tugging on it. They've gone through several pipes over the years.

4. My husband likes make up words to familiar tunes and sing to the dogs.

5. I love my husband a lot when he sings his little songs.

All right, Tony and Jetty Betty, you're it. Consider yourselves tagged.


Edit: OK, I'm an English teacher and I don't know how to spell the word weird. So sue me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Freedom is About to End

It's almost that time again. This summer flew by just like last summer did. In another week and a half, I'll be back staring at the walls of the old, cold dungeon known as my office, that basement room where I have to run a heater even on the hottest days of summer. Thankfully, I do have a window with a street-level view of the parking lot. But for all I complain about that space, when I really think about it, I'm still amazed that I have a place that I can call "my office." Not many people in the world have their own office (actually I share with a cool friend with whom I attended graduate school, so it isn't exclusively "mine"), and even fewer can say that they work--and teach--at a university. Once, a neighbor asked me what I do, and I said that I teach English at the university, to which she replied with awe in her voice, "You're a professor?" It was then that I realized that . . . well, I'm still not sure exactly what I realized except that people view what I do as something very out of the ordinary. The fact that I teach 18-year-olds at a university sets me quite apart, apparently, from those who teach 18-year-olds in high school.

(Technically, I'm really not a professor. There's no official title for those of us in my position at my particular university. We're designated as Full Time Temporary--no noun after Temporary. The most accurate noun would probably be Instructor, but no one has ever gotten around to actually naming us, so everyone just calls us Professor for the sake of ease. Most of the time when people I meet ask me what I do, I just say that I'm an English teacher, but if I'm meeting people who I can tell are sort of hoity toity, or if they're yankees, I'll say that I'm a professor.)

So anyway, yesterday I spent a lot of time working on my class website. Since I've learned how to do things like make my own buttons for links, I'm spending too much time making my site look cool and not enough time revising my handouts. I'll be working on that today and the next several days. I probably shouldn't have put it off this long, but summer break is called summer break for a reason.

It's close enough for school to start that I've begun having those dreams at night where I'm either taking or teaching classes, and I forget to go to one all semester. After school starts and the essays start coming in, I'll dream about grading papers, and it'll be one of those restless kind of dreams where I wake up as exhausted as was when I went to sleep. Thankfully, that particular one happens only once or twice a semester. (My husband still dreams about being in school, and he absolutely hates hearing the back to school commercials on TV, he disliked school that much!)

In a way, I'm sort of looking forward to going back to school, but most of me wishes I could just skip it. However, I didn't win the lottery this summer, so unless I win in the next few days, I'll be looking forward to making the aquaintance of another hundred eager (and not so eager) young adults in a couple of weeks. Actually, I really do like my job, for all the complaining I do. I get to work with some good people, and I really like my students, even though they can drive me near crazy sometimes. Once I get back to it, I'll enjoy it and anticipate going to class. Right now, though, going back to school just means the end of another summer of carefree living.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Yes, I Really Want to Exit Without Leaving a Comment

Could someone please advise me on how to stop the annoying little box that pops up on the comment page asking if I really want to navigate away without making any changes? I can't find an option for it in the browser preferences. I've been living with this forever, and it's finally about to drive me crazy.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Don't Buy Your Toiletries Until You Get to Where You're Going

So because of this foiled terror plot, people can't carry any liquids onto planes. I was just watching the news, and they were showing all sorts of things that are being confiscated from people boarding planes: eye drops, deodorant, chapstick, toothpaste, hairspray. This is getting ridiculous.

The Walgreens stores near the airports will be happy about it.

To My Silent Readers

I know you're out there. You stop by every couple of days for a minute or two to see if there's anything new. You stay long enough to read the comments, and then you leave again. You leave no traces that you were here, yet you return again and again. I hope you are returning because you enjoy the conversation that takes place here. I have come to think of the people who comment regularly here as my friends--good friends that I could count on in a crisis--even though we've never met in person. Perhaps that's why you keep coming back, because you see people who really seem to like each other, and it's refreshing to hear (read) a conversation where people can agree and they can disagree and still like each other.

I'd like to invite you to become a part of our conversations here. This circle of friends has room to grow larger, and I'd love to hear what you have to say. I know that you are reading from various parts of the country, and since I've never been out of the South, I would really welcome getting to know you.

I know you're out there, Providence, Rhode Island. San Jose, California, I see that you've been here. And all you Texas people, hey, Texas is already being represented here, but you're welcome to join in too! (Texans must really like blogging. Or is it just that there are a lot of Texans?)

But even if you decide not to comment, know that I'm glad you're here.


I just thought of something. Maybe you keep coming back just to see what sort of drivel I'm going to come up with next. That's all right too!

Hope to hear from you!

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's Good to be a Heathen

I really like not being a regular church-goer. If the opportunity of a fun outing offers itself on a Sunday morning, I don't have to pass it up, and I don't have to justify to all my church friends why I missed church last week. It's also good to have friends and family who either aren't church-goers or who don't mind at all missing church in order to have fun with friends and family.

This Sunday afforded us the opportunity to take a canoe trip down the Caney Fork River with family and friends. (The friends are church-goers, but apparently they felt compelled to miss without guilt this day.) We put our canoes in at the Center Hill Dam and floated nine miles downstream to Betty's Island, stopping for lunch at Happy Hollow. We had our coolers strapped to a float that we pulled behind one of the canoes, so we were able to carry more than just a sandwich and bottle of water apiece. People who see us always comment on what a great idea it is, as if they couldn't have thought of it themselves.

Everyone we met out on the river was friendly and considerate. You know that commercial with the boaters waving to each other? Canoers and people fishing do the same thing, but we can chat because we don't have loud motors going. Actually we did see a couple of canoes with motors, but they weren't loud enough to keep us from exchanging pleasantries. And we saw some interesting things too. Before we saw the guy, we smelled his weed. He was sitting in a fishing boat not fishing--he said he'd already caught his limit. I guess he just hadn't smoked his limit yet.

Out in the river, away from the distractions of daily life, everyone is pretty much in the same boat, pun intended. Everyone speaks to each other as equals; no one is better than anyone else. You can be friendly with the guy who's getting high just as easily as you can with the game warden. The journey along the river and all that the journey brings is more important than reaching the getting out place.

We had a good time just floating along, laughing and talking, seeing wildflowers and cows, and stopping every now and then to put our feet in the cold water. If you think you'd have a good time enjoying God's outdoor church some Sunday morning, you can go with us next time.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It Begins

As I knew would happen, Hilleary and Bryant have already said what a great senator Corker will be. Puleeeze!

Corker seems to have already come up with a mantra: "You have a choice between me, a (fill in the blank), or a career politician from Washington; me, a (fill in the blank again), or a career politician from Washington.

By the time November arrives, I'm gonna need some Head On applied directly to the forehead. Head On applied directly to the forehead.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I Approve This Message

I'll be really glad when Friday gets here and this primary election is over with. I am sick of hearing these republican candidates for senate slinging mud at each other and giving each other down the road over who lies and who hires illegals and this, that, and the other. The really ironic thing about it all is that on Thursday night when we find out who has won, the two losers will say how much they support the winner and how he's the best man for the job and a whole bunch of other BS.

Yesterday I finally figured out whom I'll vote for for county mayor. There are three guys in the race, but one of the guys has a commercial that makes it sound like there are only two people running. I heard on the news last night that the one candidate has spent $300,000 and the next guy has spent $130,000. The other guy (the one who doesn't count) has spent only $5000 and won't allow anyone to contribute more than $100 to his campaign. I'm going to vote for him.

Another good thing is that after tomorrow I'll get fewer campaign flyers in my mailbox. Every day I receive flyers from at least four different candidates running for something. Yesterday I got one from a guy who I think I went to high school with. It started out, "Dear Republican Friend," and it said, "Put a Reagan Republican on the State Executive Committee." That one went straight into the garbage. But at least this guy let me know what party he is affiliated with. Have you noticed that almost no one in the local races is coming right out and saying whether they are democrat or republican? Are they ashamed to say which party they are with? That speaks volumes about how people feel about our two main parties.

Yes, I'm looking forward to the end of this election cycle, but I'm afraid that it will only get worse before the general election in November.

Go out and vote tomorrow, or don't. It really doesn't matter because no matter who's elected, it's going to be the same old crap that it always has been.

I'm JMG, and I approve this message.