Monday, December 30, 2013

When does the good part start?

Back from Hometown.  Applying for jobs.  Drinking coffee and rye.  2014 is on track to begin the way so many others have: another one of the worrisome years.  What the hell, I'll wish for a better year anyway.

See you all in 2014.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Walking far from home

This morning, I finally finished grading my terrifying stack of essay exams for the Intro to Pseudology sections.  Heartily cheered by this, I rewarded myself by listening to the album I just bought a few days ago, Iron & Wine's Kiss Each Other Clean.

Several hours later, while attending to sundry job application matters, I made myself look at the pseudology job wiki.  Established that I have been rejected by some twenty-five of the fifty or so jobs I've applied for — probably more, in fact, but not all of them are listed on the wiki.  Made myself coffee spiked with rye.  Swallowed my pride and began adding one-year VAP positions to my spreadsheets (one for me, and one for my referees). 

And in moments of both triumphant pleasure and defeated sorrow, I took solace in this song.

Wish me luck making it through this winter.  It looks like I have to keep walking far from home for another year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


The downside of a chili party being cancelled because of a fast-spreading stomach bug: I don't get to show off my chili-cooking prowess to my friends until some unspecified date in the future.

The upside, however, is that I got to reacquaint myself with my chili-cooking techniques, as well as experiment with a few small changes to my basic recipe.  All in all, it turned out well, and I anticipate much carnivorous celebration when everyone involved has a settled stomach.

Extension of previous observation: the one real flaw in my technique here is the "one for you, one for me" philosophy of adding a can of beer to the pot of stew.  As I learned to my chagrin tonight, when I pour myself a pint of beer to sip while stirring the chili on the stove, I have a distinct tendency to let my attention drift to the fucking awesome music showcased on another blog, become obsessed with memorizing the lyrics and parsing the harmonies, and then suddenly become aware of a burning smell coming from the kitchen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

RBOC: Liveblogging the final exam

I'm proctoring.  I'm bored.  So.
  • There is a noticeable scent of Axe body spray in the air this morning as CBU students begin their exam week.  I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the boys are putting it on as a talismanic gesture in preparation for an exam, but the smart money is that they stopped showering days ago and believe that a rampant chemical stench will cleverly disguise their poor finals-time hygiene.
  • It fascinates me to observe the varieties of boots that students wear for winter weather.  This can be broken down in several ways:
    • Men very rarely wear boots.  It is sneakers, loafers, or bust around here.  How they avoid pneumonia is more than I can say.  (Of course, I write this with some decidedly non-boot oxfords on my feet, so maybe I should shut up.)
    • Women are all about the boots here.  Sure, there are the usual Uggs and Bean boots, but there's an impressive array of alternative styles on display — most of them, to my eye, fashion boots rather than actual heavy-weather gear.  (I sure hope you waterproofed those nice leather boots, sweetheart.)  
    • Speaking of the Bean boots, I am amused to see how many of those look absolutely, flawlessly new.  And expensive.  You don't get hot pink or fur-lined duck boots cheap.  (To say nothing of hot pink and fur-lined.)  I wonder if the owners ever actually walk in such fancy footwear any further than the distance to the dining hall.  I mean, yes, the shoes are cute, but wear the damn things!  Buying something with a lifetime guarantee motivates me to test its endurance, not baby it.
  • Given how lazy time-inefficient some of the students have proved at semester's end, and how much I've heard colleagues grumbling about catching plagiarists of late, I'm really glad that the heavily weighted final assignment in my intro classes is an in-class exam.  It's simply not possible to plagiarize such things without flat-out cheating like a first grader.  In my grading rubric, even a disastrously failing exam earns a positive integer of some kind, which makes even flaming idiocy earn a higher grade than dishonesty.
  • My, it's warm in this classroom.  My stylish professorial four layers are perhaps a bit of overkill in here.
  • Including the awesome red lambswool sweater I'm wearing.  Have I mentioned that I've been stocking up on nice grown-up clothes ever since Black Friday?  I'm aiming especially to vary my color palette, since the dark greys and browns are starting to depress me.
  • Oh man, I have to go to the bathroom.  It's just unavoidable after my morning coffee, you know?  But can I trust all of these students not to whip out notes the moment I step out?  Probably not.  Oh dear.
  • A miracle! Out of bladder desperation, I ran to the men's room for a few minutes, and when I returned, no one was cheating!  They didn't even look like they had frantically dug out their notes and then thrown them back in the bag as I walked in.  SO relieved, for multiple reasons.
  • I'm a little surprised to see how long this exam is taking my students.  I had estimated one and a half to two hours to complete it, but most of them look on track to take the full three hours.  Good student and poor student alike seem to need more time than I expected to write the whole thing.  Unprecedented.
  • This probably has something to do with the fact that this is the first exam I've ever written without any multiple choice questions at all, and heavy emphasis on essays.  They really get to show their stuff on this exam, and with no softball questions, they have nowhere to hide. 
  • Somehow I find it distasteful to see students chewing gum as they write exams.  It always reminds me of the scene in The Bird Cage when Nathan Lane disparages a gum-snapping dumb bunny of a dancer.  But it's just not appropriate to say to a student, "Sweetie, you're wasting your gum."
  • Fifteen minutes to go, and half of the class is still writing.
  • OMFG why haven't they finished yet?  Why can't I go to my office already?  I think time itself may be bending around some kind of black hole created by the energy of my students' brains working on overdrive.  What if they reach critical mass and we're all crushed to death by the pressure of the implosion?
  • It would really suck to be crushed to death in a black hole before I've had my lunch.
  • Oh, students, I see you turning in exams with questions left blank. *facepalm*  Don't you understand that you're sacrificing at least the possibility of points that way?  Nothing comes from nothing.  It frustrates me to see good students screw themselves that way.  Is it a point of honor for them that they don't try to bullshit?  I supposed I understand that way of thinking, but surely they can see for themselves that this is mathematically damaging to them.
  • Then again, considering all the boneheaded questions I endure every semester about GPAs and maximal final grades, maybe they're even worse at math than they are at pseudology.
  • DONE!!
  • Now I have a full ninety minutes to enjoy before I have to do the whole fucking thing again for the other section of Intro to Pseudology.  Sigh.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Office hours in opera form

The vast majority of my open office hours through the semester run pretty much like this:

But this week, mere days before the final exam for both of my Intro to Pseudology classes, my office hours suddenly turn into — well, kinda-sorta* turn into this:

Uno alla volta!

Naturally, after the exams, I have to go into hiding, lest my office hours devolve into this:

* I mean, minus the gratuitous skeeziness, misogyny, and the crazy pantaloons.  I actually dislike this version, but the only staged version on YouTube that I like so far is an old filmed version with Tito Gobbi, and he performs it without anyone else on stage, so you sort of lose my point about being in high demand, and...I've explained too much, haven't I?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

RBOC: Teaching and cooking with a head cold

  • God forbid I make it through the semester without contracting a head cold.  I love lecturing when I can barely breathe.
  • Ditto driving the thirty-mile trek from home to campus.
  • Especially when the forecast calls for freezing drizzle overnight, thus likely yielding black ice all over the roads tomorrow morning.
  • My stuffed-up sinuses and the headache caused thereby also make it extra-special awesome to plan out my final exam reviews, and to prep tomorrow morning's lesson.
  • I could feel this cold coming on yesterday, so at least I had time to prepare with groceries.  I just cooked up a big pot of chicken soup, with an abstemiously small teaspoon (...maybe a heavy teaspoon) of chili powder for sinus kick.  So good.  
  • The irony of cooking this soup with a stuffed-up nose is that I can't be bothered by the raw onion, but this is the only recipe I know in which the onion goes into the pot pretty much whole.  It's a missed opportunity to not tear up while chopping an onion, but then again, maybe it's for the best that this soup doesn't require a lot of knife work.
  • I went to a party the other day thrown by a couple who have a daunting number of dietary restrictions between them, and I was flummoxed for what to bring.  (The host had suggested I bring something savory.)  I'm really low on savory recipes that don't involve a) meat, b) lots of hot chiles, or c) both A and B, and I was worried I'd be reduced to bringing a bag of bread sticks.  Luckily, after tooling around the internet for a while, I found an excellent vegan recipe the ingredients for which are easily found in Cornstate.  I added my own little touch, and voilà, my biggest crowd-pleaser in years!  To wit:

    1.5 lb. Brussels sprouts
    Good olive oil
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Mustard oil

    Slice the sprouts in half lengthwise.  Toss them with a pleasing amount of salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Pour them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out in a thin layer.  Drizzle a modest amount of mustard oil over them.  (NB: DO NOT bathe the sprouts in this stuff!)  Roast them in the oven at 400º for about half an hour.
  • I'm still so pleased with the reception my Brussels sprouts got that for a minute, I actually forgot to feel kvetchy about my head cold.  That minute has now expired.
  • Kvetch.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

RBOC: Mired in the semester

  • This semester may never actually end.  CBU actually lists the due date for grades as December 26.  Fucking seriously, CBU?
  • I just finished grading the papers for my little topics course.  On to the two intro courses' worth.  Oy.
  • Two more weeks of classes before the exam period even starts.  Seriously, FML.
  • On the plus side, I'm still wringing the occasional tenure-track job posting to apply to out of this semester's listings.  This seems more exciting than it really is only because I've already begun to steel myself to give up on the tenure track and apply to more contract jobs.
  • Three weeks away, and I'm already dreading going to visit the folks in Hometown.  At least I'm only going for a single week.
  • This should be the place in the post in which I complain about having to teach a truly pointless January term course, thus rendering my winter break almost non-existent.  But, since that will at least occupy some of my mind and make me wake up at normal hours so I can work, it may well be a blessing in disguise.
  • The wretched Christmas shopping season is upon us, complete with that goddamn music in every place of retail business, including my local bar.  I grit my teeth.
  • Which reminds me: when people here in Cornstate ask you this or that about "the holidays" coming up, and you explain that you don't actually celebrate that holiday, they think you're setting them up for a punchline.
  • Then, when you explain that you're a Jew, they think you're using some kind of profanity in a sick self-deprecation bit gone wrong.  It terrifies me to see South Park come to life in any degree.