Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Divers sujets sans rapport

  • Does the French make more sense than the German did?  I continue to labor in the dark here with translations of "Random bullets of crap."
  • I made a purchase that I cannot easily defend in any way except ego gratification and, potentially, an extra goad to fight my way into a tenure-track job: I bought my own regalia.  I'll just admit it: I really hated wearing loaner robes at commencement.  Since I'll be wearing this get-up several times a year for the rest of my career (if my luck holds), I figured it was worth buying an outfit that suited me.
  • In a new low for my life skills, I no longer appear capable of reading the funny-looking numbers at the bottom of my bank checks.  In consequence of this, I mistyped my own account number on my tax return filing, causing all three refunds I am due to be electronically sent to a non-existent account.  After somewhat frantically calling around, I confirmed that this just means that the deposits will fail and automatically bounce back to the various revenue departments, who will then mail me paper check refunds instead.  Sigh.
  • It says something about the instant gratification that the internet breeds that I am so frustrated about having to wait a month to get my refunds.  Remember when you were happy to get them that fast, because there was no choice?  No doubt, my causing this delay by my own idiocy makes it more irritating.  (And before you say anything, I was totally sober when I filed!)
  • I was not totally sober last evening, though, when I was editing my manuscript.  This is for the best, I think: it's so annoying to go line by line correcting fiddly little bits of formatting that a nice Manhattan makes the process more bearable.  Obviously, this is not the more important part of editing, but I noted a few good ideas of stuff to follow up on as I pored over the pages.
  • Speaking of good ideas: I am finally starting to understand what it means to have teaching influence my research.  A quotation that I hadn't thought about too much before suddenly leapt out at me yesterday, since it fit right into material that I've been flogging in both of my topics courses.  It occurred to me that I should spell out the importance of that quotation to readers just like I would spell it out to my students.  The light dawns!
  • I'm actually toying with the idea of giving this particular bit of my book to one of my topics courses, to see how it reads to reasonably smart undergrads with only a little background knowledge.  That's nowhere in the syllabus, of course, so I thought I might offer them a few points of extra credit on the final grade if they gave me constructive criticism.  Is there a need – and, if so, a practical way – to make sure that they tell me something useful, rather than either suck up to me or just phone in something meaningless?  Or would this be a self-selective assignment?
  • Ah, the syllabus.  Why do I even bother printing out syllabi?  Half of my students clearly do not read them.  They don't even know my office hours sometimes, and that is given at the tippy-top of the first page.  The flurry of boneheaded questions I have endured lately is getting on my nerves.  Is this how it is everywhere nowadays?  Do faculty at Harvard and Amherst also facepalm over their students' failure to consult the syllabus?
  • I long ago decided that my body was not intended to display tattoos or other body modification.  But man, if I ever were to get a tattoo, it would be in Times New Roman, 72-point font, bold and all caps:


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Verschiedene Themen ohne Kohärenz.

  • Have you ever tried plugging a deeply idiomatic expression into Google Translate, just to see if you could make it work in other languages?  It's a pleasing thought exercise in precise language, since the program seems totally ignorant of even mildly idiomatic phrase.  You have to keep refining the phrase as you think out the exact nuance in minimally referential Standard English.  "Random bullets of crap" takes some real effort.  And, since I can't actually read German, I can only wonder how close to the mark I got here.
  • Dude, the deadline for submitting abstracts to the Big Giant Pseudology Conference is mere weeks away now!  Where has my fool head been about this?  I need to get on the stick, and fast.  I had pretensions of organizing my own panel this year, but that collapsed pretty fast: I'm at a point in my writing and research in which there is no particularly salient concept around which to build a conference panel.  I'd better humble myself and just send in a regular abstract, and hope that it gets accepted.  I'll have to go one way or the other, if I get any nibbles in next year's job cycle, so it would be nice to add a line to the CV as I trudge back into battle.
  • I'm getting faster at grading essays, but it still makes my head hurt.  
  • It also makes my soul hurt to see smart kids with good ideas have to take a low grade because their writing is just that abysmal.  How the f is it possible for someone to be more than halfway through college at a pretty good school, and utterly incapable of putting together a coherent paragraph?  I really want to help them shape up in this regard, since I can already dimly glimpse the gemstones underneath all the dirt.
  • Although my soul is unaffected by this, I'm also annoyed to see vacuous, thoughtless students avoid answering straightforward questions by trying to drown me in verbose bullshit.  Kid, do not flatter yourself that you can bamboozle me.  I read motherfucking pseudology for breakfast, punk.  You'd do better to write an under-length paper acknowledging that you don't yet understand the material and you're just going to give it your best shot than to give me a full-length paper full of awkward sentence constructions and bloviation.  
  • It's also not encouraging to see that some of the worst offenders in this last regard are close to earning degrees in writing-oriented majors.  I'm trying to remember that we all have less-than-optimal students at times, lest I be tempted to march across campus to their advisors' offices and wave the incomprehensible writing in their faces.  Lord knows I wouldn't want to be held responsible for the mediocrity of some pseudology students, once I'd given my best efforts to teach them something.
  • The more I consult with friends about this, the more I am convinced that hard-anodized aluminum non-stick pans and I simply do not get along.  (Traditionally, I'm a stainless steel guy, except for a trusty old glass baking pan.)  A number of people have recommended that I learn to work with cast iron, saying it's not as finicky to maintain as I fear, and that it does a really good job cooking all sorts of dishes.  I've never used cast iron in my life, but the evidence suggests that I cannot get aluminum non-stick to work for me.  Any readers out there care to comment on the relative merits of cast iron, enameled or plain?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

O esoterica

I'm gritting my teeth to dive into some unpleasant work today.  I survived my yoga session this morning, I'm showered and shaved, and halfway through my cinnamon-laced coffee.  Time to get some stuff done, even if I'd rather avoid all of it.

For reasons beyond my understanding, such tasks can go well with strange and esoteric music.  For instance, an electronica-laden arrangement of Hildegard von Bingen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The hell with this

Fuck online dating.  I'm completely exhausted by feeling like we all have to examine each other like products on Amazon, and by having dates that feel like job interviews.  (Even the good ones.)

Either I'll meet someone in the real world, or I'll die single and childless, cold and alone.  I know which I'd bet on right now, but hopefully that will pass soon.

In the meantime, I'm going to curl up in a corner and sniffle drunkenly until this week is over.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I've just finished cooking my dinner, leftovers of which should last through the week.  (The quality has yet to be determined, and I'm a little doubtful about the charred layer of what should have been my braising reduction, but never mind.)  I've more-or-less finished up a project I have to do submit tomorrow, and both sets of notes for tomorrow's classes seem to be in order.

So why do I have shpilkes?  It would seem that I'm suffering a mild attack of antsiness waiting to hear from my dining companion of last evening.  I know it's too early for her to text me back after my little "Had a great time last night" gesture of good textiquette.  But...I kinda dig her.  And apparently I no longer have much cool when it comes to going out with women who make a good impression on me.  It has taken a larger act of will than I would like to admit not to replicate that horrifying scene from Swingers.

Hope this one hangs around for a bit.  Guess I'll find out by this time next week.

ETA: And man, I really hope I'm better at chatting her up than at making gravy.  Tonight's dinner was a serious gravy fail.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Moment of transcendence

This is my most recent listening-on-a-loop musical obsession.  Usually I simply tolerate the videos made to accompany songs, since they often have nothing to do with the text and don't seem to enrich the song at all.  This, though, might be the most beautiful video I've ever seen — certainly the most beautiful one created by and featuring the singer-songwriter himself.  And that's on top of the song being an utterly gorgeous production in its own right.

Radical Face's song "Welcome home son" has been sort of played out over the past few years, but I don't think it can hold a candle to "Always gold."  Introspection beats power ballad for me, every time.