Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Random Midweek Musings

They are fixing the roof of our place, again. Now I know that roofs occasionally need to be fixed because they occasionally leak, but this has been days and days of pounding right above my bed, punctuated only by a few days of quiet. Between the pounding and the dog barking like crazy it is has become a bit difficult to get some work done. I know that many people, none of them reading this blog, but many people would argue that I can not possibly do work in my fuzzy slippers, but the fact of the matter, and the bane of my existence, is that I do in fact do my best work in the aforementioned slippers.

Anyone who is in fact an educator (much of my family and my in-family) understand that the scant time spendt in the classroom is but a third of the work that actually goes into my work. Not only do I teach class, but someone must prep that class, and then grade the work that comes in. This means that my evenings and weekend are most often filled with Jeff and I slouched around the house with green pens and a plethora of paperclips and staples. This is what many people don’t understand, that in fact I must work at home, if I did not I would hardly get any work done. Add to this mix my online class, where all of my time is spent in fuzzy slippers and the work for my diss and you will find me a busy girl indeed. Yes I just had a week off for break, yes I have a month off in Dec/Jan. and yes there are weeks off before and after summer classes (usually). But often these breaks are filled with grading and syllabus preparation and trying to live any part of my life I could not squeeze in during the semester.

I know this, the people I know and love know this, so why do I actually feel guilty when people show up to fix my roof that I look like a lazy bum? Maybe this is my blue-collar guilt coming to the surface. I grew up with everyone I knew working very hard for a living, often in very physical jobs. I, on the other hand, dress up (or not ) for work. My job is mentally taxing, but not physically (unless I have to carry a lot of papers from the classroom to my car, and then my back hurts). And the only outward sign I have is a rather crusty and painful writer’s bump on the middle finger of my right hand. But when the revolution comes that will not help me. Actually when I think of this sad bump the picture in my mind is the scene from The Killing Fields when the Khmer Rouge checks the hands of the peasants to see if they have been working hard enough. I am actually terrified that someone will take me away when they see I have no calluses. And I am almost ashamed to mention the fact that for most of my life I observed this hard physical labor with distaste, I knew that I never wanted to do that, I wanted to do something else, something that would allow me some freedom, change often because I get bored, and let me do something to change the world. I believe that I found that job, but I carry with me a work ethic that does sometimes make me guilty that simply working all the time is not necessarily working hard. But this is my own problem to deal with, and right at this moment the pounding has stopped, so I will try to get in some work before it starts again.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ella's Guest Blog

I truly believe that the click of opening my laptop is like a siren call to Ella. As soon as she hears it she is next to me, even if she had been lounging somewhere downstairs. She rubs on my legs, and then jumps up next to me, rubs on the computer and then makes her move. She will try to walk across the keyboard, lay her head on it, and bat at the cursor on the screen. At first I thought that she was just being annoying. As a cat she has an uncanny ability to know when her attentions are least welcome. But I have now come to another conclusion, are you ready for it? I think that she wants her own blog, or maybe she just wants to be a guest columnist on mine. Unfortunately she lacks a few things necessary to accomplish her will, namely opposable thumbs and higher thinking skills.
Of course she would probably argue the latter, she will concede the former. And so, today, as my brain begs for spring break to hurry up and get here, I will attempt to channel Ella and allow her to post some of her thoughts. Hopefully she can shed some light on some of her strange behavior, I think that after falling off of the banister she had an epiphany and would like to communicate with us as a means of improving human and cat relations. Hence I present to you Ella’s post, where I will scribe for her dictation.

First and foremost I would like to discuss my food. This is not because I am simply an animal driven by basic instinct, but because I am a foodie, I take great enjoyment from relishing and experimenting with my sustenance, consider me French. I believe that the cat food industry, vets and Hollywood are creating false images and impossible standards of body images that are having a terrible effect on normal cats like me. I may carry a few extra pounds, but I am beautiful just the way I am, I am big and gorgeous and I should have a choice about the diets that I am put on. I really dislike that crappy diet food. The humans mix it with real food, and they should know that I pick out the good stuff and leave the diet food for Louie, or I feed it to that damn Dog. He’ll eat anything. And contrary to what the nice and pretty people who live with me think, it is a big deal when my food is low. It is absolutely unacceptable that I should ever have to worry about the food running out. I hear them mock me, saying that day without food might do me some good. You know if I had a thumb I would call the kitty police, hell if I had a thumb I would feed myself, and rule the world. How would the humans feel if someone told them they could go a few days without food? I mean really!

Now onto my perceived laziness. I firmly contend that the humans are simply jealous. They wish that they could sleep all day, lounging about and occasionally batting at the Dog, just to rile him up. It is not my fault that the good Kitty in the sky decreed that we were to be waited upon by the people on two legs. They drew the genetic short straw, so let them deal with it. I need vast amounts of sleep to conserve energy that is needed for eating, chasing Louie, the Dog and bugs. It is of no use for humans to complain, and it is not necessary to get upset at the times in which I choose to be active. I sleep all day so that I might play at night, some of this may occur on or around your head as you sleep. It would much easier if you accepted it and moved on. And this brings me to my next point, that huge bed that the people on two legs resist sharing. Look, they should really be thankful that we allow them to sleep there, so please stop rolling over on my tail or trying to shoo me away. One would think that they would be happy to share with a higher being such as myself, but no, they are very selfish with that bed!

I am getting sleepy now, so I will finish this post with a final thought. When I have decided that you may pet me, pet me and shut up, you should be happy. Pets lower blood pressure and reduce depression. So really I am doing a lot for you guys, and I must say that I am much underappreciated. That is all for now, I may come back for another post someday, I know that you people desperately need entertainment, but for now I must get a snack and take a nap, preferably in that sunny spot downstairs.
Love and kisses,

Friday, March 10, 2006

You are so Lucky....

Or more aptly, I guess I am a bad wife because I do not cook. If one more well meaning, but utterly clueless person tells me I am so lucky because my husband cooks I reserve the right to initiate a smack down. I know that I am raging against the machine here but come on, it is 2006 so why is it so amazing that my husband cooks and I don’t? People who know me of course know that while I make a mean cake I can not cook, well not well. I forget things are in or on the oven, and when I lived by myself I lived on Spaghettios and microwave popcorn, and, more often then not, baked potatoes from Wendy’s. People, including my rents, would ask often if I needed money because the only staples I kept in the house were coffee, milk and sugar (for the coffee) and copious amounts of Coke. But I didn’t need money for food, I just needed a chef. Enter Jeff. When he and I started dating I think everyone that I knew let out a collective sigh of relief, finally here was someone who would make sure that I ate something more then popcorn for dinner (which hey, don’t knock it until you try it). But as our nuptials approached I began to hear a calling in the breeze, not from anyone who really knew us, but from those people who exist on the fringes of our existence, the acquaintance. It began like this, so the wedding is coming soon huh? Wow now you will have to learn to cook. I had trouble following this line of thinking, so after knowing someone for four years, and having them feed me daily, now that I am promising before God and the state of Illinois to spend my life with someone, I am expected to be Julia Childs. What my ability to cook had to do with a pretty new piece of jewelry is beyond me, and for the record those people were wrong. I have actually started learning some new recipes, but only because I think it’s mean to make Jeff cook everyday, but most of the time he does anyway. I have found that I can not cook while he is home because he begins to take over and sooner rather than later tell me to “get out of his kitchen.” But more importantly, my hubby is a great cook, any one who knows him will testify to that, so why shouldn’t he cook?

So why in the world do people I barely know continue to tell me how lucky I am that my husband cooks? They do not say this because they know that he makes yummy food, they say this because they assume that because I have a uterus, I should be the one behind the stove. It doesn’t matter that I do other stuff (yes Stephanie I do other stuff), the laundry fairy does not clean our clothes and put them away. Nor do said fairies clean the house, pay bills, keep a budget or keep track of important papers in their color coded and cross referenced files. Jeff and I figured out long ago that we should be in charge of the things we are good out, and leave the gender roles at the door, and it has worked out very well. I eat well, and Jeff never has to worry about where that document is, he knows that I know. So I can only hope that eventually the rest of the world will catch up with us, and if they don’t do it soon I may be in trouble for taking down the next person who tells me I am lucky with that look in their eye that I am somehow a bad wife. Until then, everyone meet at my place for lasagna, Jeff’s specialty, and I will make the cake.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You're blogging? You're fired!

Is blogging a fire able offense? It seems to be an epidemic in the academic world right now, one I had heard about but not particularly taken an interest in until I came upon an article about the Phantom Professor, an adjunct fired from Southern Methodist University for her no-holds barred diatribes about and against her over privileged students and the frustrating feudal system that is the Ivory Tower of academia. More searching found even more professors and even administrators fired for what they said on their blogs, written and published outside of class.

Now what do I think of this? Am I worried about my blog? To answer the second question, which is much less complicated, no. I write about my musing and knitting to friends and family back home to keep them up to date on my life so far away. I have yet to write about school or students or administrators, so I doubt anyone would take offense at my knitting trials and tribulations. But that is really not the point. My blog, is in no way connected to my job, they neither pay for the space I use, the time in which I write nor the computer that I use to write with. And yet is my reluctance to write about my students that will ultimately save me from any problems. Because I never write about my classes, my students or the administration I am not likely to see any trouble. But what if one day I get all riled up, which is a fair worry, and set out my frustration in my blog? It is quite possible, when I get all kinds of irritated I usually find an outward expression, and with the lack of the grad student support group, which always convened at the pub, my need at expression could take a dangerous route. And it is dangerous because while I could contest anything that would happen to me, my adjunct status does not hold any type of job security.

But this is not a problem that I foresee. Why? Because I would not partake in the kind of blogging that gets people fire. The Phantom professor described her students most intimate secrets and problems, getting her information from office hours and emails which she cut and pasted with relish. I would be hard pressed to do this. As teacher we are in a very strange position of counselor and therapist. Students tell me and email me things that even I don’t want to know. They show me medical printouts, bring me Mass cards and tell me about their emotional breakdowns and learning disabilities. I know way too much about my students, who, I would argue, tell me these things with an understanding that they are private. I respect that privacy too much to send it off into cyber space. Have I ever gotten together with collogues and over a few pints vented about students? Yes. But using the internet as your far back booth of the pub is something altogether different.

Now I will admit that I went to the Phantom Professors blog and read it, and laughed and enjoyed her barbed comments on the Ivory tower. What she discusses is relevant and real. But the way in which she delights in deconstructing her students and their behavior seems, well, mean. It smacks of a vindictiveness that is not the clever observation of one adjunct, over worked and underpaid. Somehow it seems like she is bitterly jealous of her students, their opportunities and their youth. I have had students who were given all and never appreciated it, and occasionally I wish that I had a daddy who paid for my education so that I wasn’t looking at 30 years of student loans, but who wouldn’t. The fact of the matter is that while I think Phantom Prof is someone who I would like to kibitz with over a cocktail, she might not be someone that I would like to send email to. Did I think that she should have been fired for her musing? No, what someone does on their own time can not be controlled by their place of employment. Do I think that what she did sometimes was ethically questionable? You betcha. As an academic the world is filled with gray areas that aren’t necessarily forbidden, but, I would argue, ethical landmines. This is the same way I feel about professors dating their students, while it is not usually outlawed, it shows some questionable judgment, even when that students is no your student anymore. That power relationship is sticky, and should no be exploited. This is the same way that I feel about the Phantom Prof. While I don’t think that she should have been fired, I do think that some of her decisions were questionable, and they make me uncomfortable in the same way that a prof standing at the buffet table of a party with their undergrad girlfriend would.


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