Friday, October 31, 2008


This Samhain I am feeling much better than I was last year. It was lovely to be healthy and able to celebrate with my people. We handed out candy and had a nice ritual replete with apples, pumpkin ale, mullein, and elderberries.

The night was cool and pleasant. We all dressed with a little Spanish/Romani flair and listened to Romanian Gypsy Music. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let's Form a Committee

I talked for a good while with Betty Campbell about my thesis project. I had been thinking about who I wanted on my committee and in looking through the staff pages I found that she has an interest in botanical elements in literature. This had me excited. Our talk was lovely and very productive.

Just one more member to go... the search continues

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hysterical Translations

So for giggles I ran my recent spanish essay through a translator. These translators are so funny because they sort of know what is being said but thet arrange things in an insane way. Here is what the translator made of my paper:

Me Life This text is a window present life. My life this ventured but is not pleasant. I am called Julie and I been 30 years old. In the past I lived in many states but now alive in Corvallis, Oregon. Alive in a house “Witham Hill Oaks” is called. I share my apartment with handcuffs to me, our Jan friend and our dogs Freyja and Moose. We are a very contented family. Our apartment is very small, but it is sufficient for me. I like to live circa on the University. I am instructor and student of English. I like to teach. Desire to teach in the future also. Work and study much. Every week work and study in a demanding way. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to very early wake up and way to me to the car shutdown bus. I teach to classes of writing to eight and the ten. At noon I visit me wife and ways the coffee by lunch. Two I attend the Spanish class. I like Spanish, but it is very difficult on long time of English writing and Literature. I need much concentration by the orations easy. The nights I cook food by my family and mirro CSI and The Colbert Report. Tuesdays and Thursdays I attend a class of Willa Cather and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This class is favorite me. Tuesdays I help to teach new instructors. I do not have long free time but I like to work in my garden Saturdays and Sundays. Now culture the peas, brócoli, onions, cucumber and lettuce. My life is similar garden, always money changer and to bloom.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cold and Confusion

I'm sick...not really sick, just sort of sick, but sick enough to be a little more brain dead than usual. The good news is that I've finished my grading.

Now it's on to drafting up my ideas for a seminar paper on Cather. still reading O Pioneers, which is almost as awesome as The Professor's House. It actually bares many disturbing similarities to a novel I was writing about Nebraska... odd... tis the season for odd...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Summer Strikes Again

Our allergies have been bad and the temps high. It's lovely here in the Willamette Valley. I potted up about 18 lettuce seedlings yesterday and they're looking good. Bird and I moved the cukes out back, and we noticed a little spotty mildew on the leaves, hopefully the better air circulation will help keep it under control. There have been red and white breasted nuthatches, mucho chickadees, hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers too. I hate to go back to school with the weather so nice... eh

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Grading Portfolios and Such

I've been diligently grading my student's work for the past few days. It is an emotional roller coaster of sorts and I will be glad when it is over. I'm trying to formulate the top five issues I want to address in class. So far I only have issues two that I am sure of addressing.

So far my number one issue is Second Person Voice / Narration.
Despite the fact that I pointed this issue out in class and in conferences, about 80% of the papers I've graded contain some second person. It is making me crazy. I've avoided being overly punitive about it, but I am annoyed.

My second biggest gripe is formatting.
I'm not talking citations or works cited, I am talking about simple format. This includes margins, spacing, and font. I am almost sure that my students are tech savvy enough to figure this stuff out, so why are they choosing not to? Laziness is the only thing I can come up with.

I am weighing the pros and cons of attaching heavy penalties to the violation of these particular issues for paper 2. I don't know... 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thesis Thursday Strikes Again

Meeting with Betj today to discuss the thesis. I've been entertaining thoughts of adding Cather to the mix, but perhaps I won't. I don't know. I am feeling some confusion about the whole thing. I've started looking at Dana Phillips' Truth of Ecology again, and I am really enjoying it. So far the book sticks it to Buell and most ecocritics, accusing them of being more interested in their own personal revelation than in either ecology or literature. It is hard for me to hear this in some ways because I'd been willing to call myself an "ecocritic".... however I don't share these views or methods. I think the "pastoral" in literature and life has been a mess. People deluding themselves into deepening the illusory divide between humanity and nature... I see no such divide. 

Phillips writes: "ecocriticism ought to cultivate an attitude of wary impartiality, which should be the best way to avoid what Buell calls the "environmentalist's dilemma of having to come to terms with actual natural environments while participating in the institutions of a technological culture that insulates one from the natural environment and splits one's allegiances." This is a dilemma that Buell say the pastoral "anticipates," and I agree, because I think it's a dilemma that by anticipating the pastoral first helps to create, then sustains and exacerbates. The pastoral does this when it buys wholesale the distinction between natural environments and "technological culture"" (19).

Oh yeh, I'm with this. This idea is pretty much at the base of my thesis. We'll see how the day goes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Library Day Part 1

Today I held my 121 classes in the Willamette Room of the Valley Library. Today's class was designed to familiarize students with the Library of Congress system, help them figure out where a good book for their paper might be, and determine (at least superficially) if a specific book will be useful for them.

I started the lecture with a brief intro to shelf reading. I drew some "books" on the board and had the students figure out how to order them properly on the shelf. This went reasonably well. I'm sure that not everyone was completely following, but enough of the students seemed to get it, and I am certain that none of them had been exposed to this information before. In fact none of them had ever taken a book out of the Valley Library before.

I followed this lesson with a brief overview of where books are located in Valley. They each brought three call numbers they'd looked up the night before, and wrote down the floor where each book would be located next to their call numbers. I then showed them some floor maps and gave them navigation advice. After this, they were turned loose to hunt up some books for 20-25 minutes.

When they returned with their quarry we went over how to use the table of contents and index to get an idea of how useful a book might be. I assured them that a book can be counted as a source even if only a few pages relate to their paper. This seemed to make them feel some relief. Most of them checked out a book or two.

We will be using those books that they checked out in class on Wednesday. During that class we'll get into MLA for books, and I'll set aside some time to address some more specific questions about Summit and ILL which we touched upon only briefly today.

Lesson of the day...Make it UBER EXPLICIT that the ILP/Paper topic cannot be changed after ILP 2. Some student today was trying to make a case for changing his topic because "there isn't enough information". Frankly I know this is a lie. He doesn't know it's a lie, but it is. Almost any topic imaginable has been considered by enough people to make a suitable 121 Paper 2 topic.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Saturday Morning with Georges Bataille

Today I got started on my Ciceronian project for Betjemann's class.

Since we were invited to make this a visual project I thought I would take the opportunity to paint something. Back in the day, 2000-2003, I was in love with abstract art. I painted for hours on end in my parent's garage smoking clove after clove in the wee hours of the morn. Lacking a garage this project is a bit less "animated" but is still coming out well. 

I have so many other things to work on, but spending Saturday morning rendering my understanding of Georges Bataille's "The Solar Anus" in cheap acrylics is delightful.

in parting...a little Andre Masson pour inspiration

Friday, October 17, 2008

ILP: Day Two

Today we worked on ILP 2 and 3. My morning class attendance was surprisingly sparse, but their involvement in the activity was good. I had them quick write a question or two that they still had about their topic, something that might be a good opening research question. My example was "How does hip-hop promote or negate misogyny?"  They were then instructed, as they are in ILP 2, to come up with some good search keywords from their question. For example "Hip-hop", "misogyny" and perhaps "promote" or "negate". 

When they were done with this I had them get into small groups of 2-4 people and share their questions and keywords with one another. They were supposed to offer any additional or alternative keywords to their partners. Then each group selected one person, preferentially the person having the most difficulty coming up with keywords, to come to the front of the class and share their info. During this part of the exercise the whole class and I offered new keyword possibilities. 

We then talked about how with a list of 5 or more keywords a person might want to use different combos of 2 or 3 words when searching. They seemed to understand what I was getting at, and many seemed interested in the journal databases which is cool.

After all of this activity we talked about formulating multiple research questions and why questions are better than claims of policy. I am not sure that this really got through, but I am strongly hoping that it did. Papers that start out as questions are always more interesting and exciting than those that are born from trying to prove an already held belief. 

Finally we looked at the library catalog and talked about keyword and subject searches. They will be done with the ILP by Wed, and by then we should be well into the research for paper 2.

Yeee Hawww... it's the weekend...  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Draw Me A Mesa

So today after Cather and Gilman, Betj and I had a tremendous discussion about The Professor's House (which is fast becoming one of my top three novels).  Our discussions are always enlightening but in the presence of a chalkboard, as our talk was today, this characteristic was heightened. I took a sketch from our blackboard elaborations home with me in hopes that it might yield a fine paper. We'll see.

In other news I've committed myself to presenting my first draft thesis intro within a few weeks time. I guess I had better start working on it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

ILP: Day One

Today we previewed ILP assignment one. It was great fun. 

I've never taught through the ILP before and I am so glad I'm doing it. Usually no matter how much I remind them or update them about the ILP, their reaction always feels vague and sort of disengaged, but the reaction today was for the most part quite different.

I started the day by having them jot down three or more possible ILP topics. They did this and then I collected them for later approval.

I then showed them where to find the assignment online, and let them know how to use the rubric to determine the quality of their answers.  We opened up the ILP itself and I guided them through all of question one. We talked about biases and values, read the Academic Writer and then had a quick write addressing their biases. If they want I imagine they could use this quick write as the answer to question one.

Then we moved on to the other questions.

Number 2 instructs them to go to Wikipedia and look up their topics. In my 8am class I used Manatees as at test topic, then in my 10am I let them shout out a topic. The one I heard loud and clear was Hip-Hop Dance. We Wiki'ed it and looked around. I showed them the discussion and history tabs and we had some fantastic conversation about hip-hop v. rap, and what the relevance of what they learn in Wiki might be to their paper.

We also went over keywords and search terms. This was especially productive in my 10am because the students were amused by "popping and locking" as a potential search term.

Overall I feel really good about the class and the ILP topics they chose. I've gotten back to them all with my input on their topics. There is an amazing array including: woolly mammoths, country music, African languages, hip-hop, sharks, Bigfoot, and more...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I enrolled in a class about Hybrid classrooms that started this week. By Hybrid Classroom I mean a mix of online and in class teaching. This type of teaching is totally my thing. This term I've turned my 121 into a totally hybrid experience.

So far the class has been interesting. I've been able to discus my views on hybrid classrooms with a number of people who seem to be a bit skeptical about online classes and how they might be able to meet the needs of their students through something that seems to appear to be limiting in their view. I've been an online student and I have a different take on it.

In fact I'm getting pretty passionate about the hybrid class, so much so that I'm using this topic as the project for my Comp. Assistant class.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One Big P-Nut Butter Cup and More

So I made cookies yesterday, or should I say one big cookie. Using my powers of experimentation I came up with a giant peanut-buttery-choco cookie of delight.

Today at school it was return to conferences.
Nine students...
Two who brought next to nothing
One who didn't really need a conference

Just five more conferences to go, then Wed it's back to the teaching grind whence I'll be experimenting with teaching the Information Literacy Portfolio, and conducting a workshop for any students who bring in revision (if any do).

We'll see...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Conferences Part One & Tagcloud Thursday

So today conferences for paper one begin. Fifty students in four days...No sweat hahahaha. 

So far four conferences are done. Some were in need of serious help, some were well done, but all of the conferences felt productive.

Twelve more to go today.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Nature, Identity and Force: Cather's Alexander's Bridge

Prepare for rambling...

In our class examination of Willa Cather's first novel Alexander's Bridge (1911), I was particularly struck by the final sentence of the work (pre-epilogue). This sentence reads, "The mind that society had come to regard as a powerful and reliable machine, dedicated to its service, may for a long time have been sick within itself and bent upon its own destruction". 

What is so striking about this idea for me is the way this text, or rather my reading of this text, establishes a close relationship between scientific, mechanic and market forces in futile opposition against nature and identity. 

This final line is tremendously loaded. Following the destruction of the bridge and the death of Bartley (and many of his workers), this line seems at first glance to allude only to the death of the protagonist, but for me it is suggestive of so much more. 

Allusion to the mind suggests the scientific energy of the Professor, which is predominantly voyeuristic and taxonomic. Emblematic of the mind and connected with Psychology, the Professor seeks to document, organize, and control the natural force of human thought and behavior just as the mechanical force of Bartley's bridge building and engineering. Furthermore I think other forces are also subtly implicated such as notions of romance, and the forces of the market, which also seem to be reliable forces "in service" of society, yet act in this text to bring about destruction. 

Although by the end of the work most readers seem to regard Bartley Alexander as an unsympathetic character who has perhaps used and manipulated those around him, (as the Professor suggests, "He belonged to the people who make the play, and most of us are only onlookers at best") I think this assessment is deeply complicated by B.A.'s own sense of his lost identity.

A number of times in the text it is suggested that B.A. has progressively lost control of his identity. This suggestion is made explicit in his letter to Hilda. The text also seems to couple this loss of identity with a move away from the west where Bartley was raised. Although this loss is initially perceived as a loss of youth, or a quest to regain the energy and bliss of young love, it seems as though the reunion with Hilda is insufficient precisely because it does not allow Bartley to regress far enough, to a place where he felt he still had command of himself.  

This agency of youth seems linked to nature, the very thing that the protagonist in his maturity has worked successfully to overcome. 

I don't know...just some thoughts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

MAWG Monday

Well, since I need an excuse to blog about the thesis, and by excuse I mean a prompt to keep me on track, I've decided to make this MAWG Monday. The MAWG is a thesis work group that I should have signed up for last year, but foolishly didn't. I'm enrolled in the class this year, and just got done reviewing one of my fellow MA's thesis proposal. It's pretty good, Superman and the American Dream...interesting stuff. 

I never wrote a proposal of this sort, I just kicked my idea around with Peter and went to work. Maybe the proposal would be a clever way of really outlining what I intend to do... Hmm.

Well the MAWG is tonight, I'll be sure to update this post when it's over.

In other news teaching went well today. They're turning in their first drafts on Wed and I am pretty excited about them. I'm even more excited about figuring out how I want to teach through the ILP since I've never done it before. It should be interesting. Hopefully it will help them with not only the ILP but paper 2 as well. We'll see.

For all those who haven't seen me in a while....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sustainability Sunday: Garden Quick Glimpse

I spent a chunk of the day winterizing the garden. I got some cull wood to build a little drainage shelf for some of the bigger plants. I dismantled the tomato plant and put in tulips, crocus, radishes, and broccoli. Things are looking good out there. Now I just need to build a little plastic lean-to to keep the heavy rains off. I'm thinking bamboo and old shower curtains.

The mid to late summer plantings are doing well. We've had a cuke and there are plenty more on the vine getting bigger and tastier everyday. The purple beans have been offering a steady supply. The leeks are still teeny but doing well. The strawberries are booming, and the fuschias are blooming.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I am both loving and hating Spanish class. 

I dislike the fact that I MUST pass this class and two more terms of Spanish... Although I see how the requirement might be useful for a Literature person, especially in Lit and Culture,  I don't think it is ultimately useful for a person studying 19th and early 20th century American Literature. 

I like Spanish though. 

I like Spanish poetry and music. I like many elements of Spanish culture. This class however is sucking out my brain. Although I feel like I understand la professora when she teaches (all en español) I really am no good at speaking. Meh... frustrating. Frustrating because I am failing at it and also frustrating because as a Ph.D. speaking will likely never be part of my need to comprehend the language. 


Thursday, October 2, 2008


Tonight I made pizza and watched the vice presidential debate. It was ok, but nothing stellar. Biden had better (clearer and more direct) answers but that is not shocking at all.  Palin was "cute" as usual, and less blatantly stupid. fire was ignited in my heart. It's still Obama all the way, no shocker.

In class tomorrow we'll be having a little debate ourselves (really more of a discussion of the readings but I sense some tension). I'm trying to figure out how I want to moderate things. I appreciate Betj's super-positive style, but I have a hard time being positive when I think what someone's saying is foolish. Obviously it won't do to call out WR121 students, but I do want to press them into more critical thinking. We'll see how it goes. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I am beat. I don't know how I am going to get any thesis work done. Meh.