Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Great Novels I've Read (or always meant to)
Slate interviews various authors about the Great Novels they just never got around to reading (article). I think I am doing fairly well in comparison.
Great Novels I Have Read, and a very short review of each
Ulysses (incomprehensible without a reader's guide)
Beowulf (lots of fun to read Heaney's translation and pretend that you are actually reading the Old English on the facing page)
Middlemarch (could have used an aggressive editor)
Slaughterhouse-5 (my first Vonnegut; I expected it to be about five tough guys in some sort of gang, and never dreamed it would be about aliens and time travel and POWs)
To the Lighthouse (my third attempt at Woolf was finally successful; this is a really wonderful book)
The Sound and the Fury (I read it in high school and hated it; read it again as an adult and hated it all over again. Written dialect just enrages me for some reason.)
Crime and Punishment (part of my dark, moody Russophile phase)
Anna Karenina (ditto)
Frankenstein (not as frightening as I'd been led to believe; also way too much talking. Show, don't tell!)
On the Road (roadtrips can be tedious, just like this book)
Most of Dickens (my favorite is Barnaby Rudge, a lesser-known novel filled with plenty of the snarky humor he is famous for)
Most of Austen (her mood and themes are surprisingly changeable and she is often very funny)
Great Novels I Have NOT Read, though I expect to any day now
Anything by Hemingway (I tried once... I just couldn't do it)
Don Quixote (my bookmark sits halfway through and has for years)
Remembrance of Things Past (or anything else by Proust)
War and Peace
ETA: There are currently 96 books on my Amazon wishlist. Am I alone in feeling terribly sad that I probably won't live long enough to read everything I've ever wanted to read? Movies I can do without, travel I can take or leave, but unread books are a true tragedy.
Also ETA: I finished The Last Full Measure. The North won the Civil War. Who knew? When I was in 8th grade, my friend Joanne and I had to do a Civil War project for history class. Nearly everyone did a trivia game, Trivial Pursuit being insanely popular at the time. We opted instead for a map-based board game in which rolls of the dice determined the outcomes of each battle. The title, which my mom came up with, was The Uncivil War Game.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Apropos of nothing
Something just reminded me of a photo op I missed several years ago. "Self storage" buildings have always cracked me up, suggesting places where you can just stick yourself when you aren't sure where else to go. There is an Acorn Self Storage building north of the Kennedy a couple of miles from here. Until a few years ago, right next door to it was a building bearing the sign "Concrete burial vaults". Talk about competition!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
In honor of Halloween
Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven, and probably the best reading thereof I've ever heard: The Raven as interpreted on The Simpsons.
Quoth the Raven: "Eat my shorts!"
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Observation from grading exam 2
1) After looking at about 100 tiny sketches of South America, it starts to look like a pork chop.
2) The bonus question asked students to identify the newsworthy animal that is in a yard in Beloit, Wisconsin, a thousand miles from its home range. If my students can be believed, poor Beloit is being overrun by panthers, African wild dogs, turkeys, and garter snakes. (the correct answer of course is the sperm whale)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I am now ethical
Took the Illinois employees' online ethics "training" today. Last year, my name appeared on a list of Evil Unethical Employees who finished the on-line ethics training too quickly and therefore had to be publicly humiliated via email, pick up a packet of ethics materials from the department head, read (or not) the packet, and sign a form attesting that I had read the packet. This is how Illinois protects its taxpayers from corrupt elected officials, contract negotiators, and TAs. If only George Ryan had spent more time perusing the training vignettes. Note that I've taken this or some other government ethics training every year since finishing grad school in 1995, and in recent years the exams were exactly identical so of course I finished quickly. Also, the quizzes ask no-brainers like "Should you solicit campaign contributions during business hours?" and "Should you give a multi-zillion dollar contract for a new superhighway to your brother-in-law?" Most annoyingly, the training offers nothing specifically relevant to academics, such as plagiarism, proper use of grant funds, making undergrads fetch lunch, etc.
The training was changed this year but still any person with a bit of common sense would get little out of it. The quizlets are no longer graded, so the state gets no evidence that I learned anything or internalized the lessons. Here's their evaluation method:
"Warning – Although we are confident that the overwhelming majority of state employees take seriously their responsibility to complete this training, the time that you spend and your activities in completing this course will be monitored. This will allow for an assessment of whether you have followed the instructions to carefully read and review all of the program’s subject matter, while online."
In other words, click on every link, and every once in a while click to another window and read some blog articles to pad your time. The truly irritating part is, I do actually read all the material, or at least enough to get the point. I do not read the contrived "dialogs" because they insult my intelligence. I also have never done anything to cause the university to accuse me of unethical behavior. And yet, I was treated like someone who clearly must have cheated on an ethics exam, truly the lowest of the low.
And I'm not alone in this, either. Articles by John Gravois in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 12 and Feb 16 2007 (not pasted here because I only have access via my university account and it would be unethical to share that resource...this is not covered in the training, incidentally) indicate that "several thousand" state employees like myself passed the quiz at the end of last year's training and then received letters that they were noncompliant due to excessive speediness. Two professors from SIU went so far as to sue the state because signing the "Yes, I read and understood the paper packet" form is akin to confessing guilt on the earlier offense.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The driver of the #7 bus hit on me yesterday. WTF?!
Experienced the joy that is Founder's Dirty Bastard scotch ale last night. Holy crap that stuff is good, and now I just have to figure out where to buy it without trekking all the way to Grand Rapids.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Tired of thinking up titles
We put on the first coat of paint in the bedroom yesterday. It's rather dramatically different, going from cool gray-blue to warm tan (and temporarily clashing horribly with the blue carpet). As the paint went on it looked like latte, but it dried much darker and I actually started panicking privately because I thought it was entirely the wrong color, too yellow-ish brown. Then I retrieved the new khaki-colored bedskirt, which in its plastic package in the guest room looked nothing like the bedroom paint, and held it against the bedroom wall, where it blended in like the carbonaria morph of the peppered moth on a sooty tree trunk. This is a complicated way of saying our eyes play funny tricks on us, the guys at our paint store are awesome at matching paint colors, and our bedroom is going to look very cool when it's done. Estimated time of completion is around Thanksgiving if all goes well. Exciting!!
My stupid email client just redownloaded 3500 email messages that I've received since June. This despite the fact that I interrupted the download, logged into the mail server, and deleted my entire inbox. Where were those emails coming from if not the server?
Finally uploaded all of the pictures from my field trip into Flickr. View them, singly or as a slideshow, here.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
1) Apple crisp with ice cream! I am a domestic goddess. Plus, we can eat it for breakfast without guilt because it's fruit! I was forced to make a double batch of the topping because apparently I am not capable of counting 11 tablespoons of butter.
2) Sat next to a guy in a sweatshirt on the L this morning. He watched me pull my gloves off and said, "Is it that cold outside?" I shrugged and said, "I thought so." He immediately hunkered down and pulled his hood over his head. I wasn't sure what to make of that.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Oh, Peoples Gas, you make me laugh
Our gas company recently entered the late twentieth century and made paperless bills a magical reality. I signed up as soon as they announced it, and just now received my first e-bill. "You Have Bills." the subject line intoned despondently. Boy, do I ever. Thanks for understanding my pain, Peoples Gas.
I had bake-sale chocolate cookies for breakfast. It was for a good cause, I'm sure, though I didn't actually look to see what the cause was. Hopefully I didn't support the Young Republican Fundamendalist Christians for Teaching Creationism and Kitten Torture in Public Schools Society (YRFCTCKTPSS) by accident!
Mystery bug bite reaction: Still spreading. Still itchy. Still embarrassing, but caring less because scratching feels *so* good.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I have received six of these emails in the last two days:
"Seller Notification: Your Order Has Been Shipped"
Now I just need to finish slogging my way through Middlemarch. Actually, it had a sudden burst of plot today; Bulstrode, agonizing over how to deal with the one man who knows his terrible secret, sort of neglects to tell a caregiver that the man should not be allowed any alcohol ever. The man dies the next morning after a healthy dose of medicinal brandy. Hooray! (The terrible secret has something to do with a past remarriage and inheritance and blah blah blah, the usual Victorian social atrocities)
We are almost done redecorating our bathroom, and have begun work on the bedroom. Ceilings are not fun to paint. I don't remember it sucking so much last time, but Mark reminded me that I was 12 years younger at the time. I'm so old. :(
Got a tetanus shot yesterday. Both UIC and U Chicago have sent me emails with dire warnings: Get your tetanus shot or we'll stick you with a rusty nail! In other health news, something bit me in the throat last night and I have a huge red painful itchy spot right on my larynx. It's not a mosquito bite, and I hate to think what else it could be. People are quick to blame mystery bites on spiders, though I've read that most spider bites are in fact just staph infections. All I know is it itches and hurts and makes me want to claw at my throat.
ETA Wednesday morning: Most of my throat is now red and hot and the redness is creeping down towards my chest. The itching is all I can think about. ARRRRRGH! Stupid nature and its stupid bugs!!!
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Mr. Flower Power
I am utterly charmed by the Linnaeus 2007 website. Taxonomy has never seemed so hip! Linnaeus, dressed in stylish gray and pink, poses coyly in a field of orange and pink flowers, and apparently has been given the title "Mr. Flower Power." (Who knew Linnaeus was such a hippie? Since he named Cannabis sativa, he might have sampled some as well. In the name of science, of course.) I also love the logo, with stamens taking off into a starry sky like little pollen-bearing rockets. With Linnaeus' 300th birthday this year, and Darwin's 200th in 2009, it's quite the celebratory time in biology-land. Ain't no party like a biology party, hey, ho.
Funny story that is only funny to me: One of my students wrote about Carolus Linnaeus on a recent exam, but got his names crossed up and referred to him as Linnaeus Pauling. Linus Pauling of course was a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who tried and failed to discover the structure of DNA before Crick and Watson succeeded. Linus Pauling has not been mentioned in this class, but I'm sure his name has come up in chemistry classes that student has taken. I respect his ability to synthesize taxonomy and chemistry, and even to demonstrate the concept of the inviable hybrid. Good job! (Note to my students if they are reading this: you don't get bonus points for making me laugh, but you might get a little smiley on your exam, which is way more valuable than bonus points)
Friday, October 05, 2007
Belated birthday self-gifting
I get myself a present for my birthday every year. This year nothing came to mind so I just never did; after the cancellation of the White Stripes show (which was supposed to be tomorrow night! *sniffle*) the thought of birthday gifts seemed generally unpleasant and liable to backfire somehow. But today after reading this article on the great Chicago novels, I went on a bit of a book-buying binge. Happy birthday to me!
I read banned books... when I remember to
Every year I vow to celebrate Banned Books Week by reading some of the top challenged books of the past year. And every year I fail to notice BBW until it's over. So, let's see, is my current reading material worth banning?
Eliot's Middlemarch. Contains such delicate and oblique references to sexuality that I didn't even notice them until I read the preface and then reread those passages. Can a book be banned for being entirely too long and for having a plot that fails to move forward one little bit for fifty pages at a time? Probably not. Next?
Jeff Shaara's The Last Full Measure. More blood and gore than you can shake a stick at. But how could you ban a book for being a realistic portrayal of a war that actually happened? Next?
Dawkins' The God Delusion. Hahaha, I'm quite sure a few people have challenged this one and all its atheistic brethren. They certainly take shots at it by publishing rebuttals; according to Amazon, attempting to refute Dawkins is a cottage industry in itself.
The most challenged book of the last year? And Tango Makes Three, the illustrated true story of two male penguins given a baby penguin to raise. Loving, caring homosexual penguins! It's an affront to family values and god's plan! Nature should be ashamed of itself!
Monday, October 01, 2007
1) Sign outside the Newman Center: "Jesus is coming. Look busy."
2) Had to skip the big "yay Cubs" rally on Daley Plaza today. It would have taken a couple of hours from the middle of my day, and I just have too much crap to do. Not a huge loss; it's raining. I'll hold out for the ticker tape parade.
3) Did our annual pilgrimage to Edward's Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove yesterday, where we acquired many cider donuts (best on the planet!), ate pie (him with cheese, me the correct way with ice cream), got nibbled by goats, and bought a half pound of of chocolate-peanut butter fudge and a peck of apples (instead of pickled peppers) for apple crisp and carmel-dipping purposes. So much for losing those three extra pounds. In case I'm trying to search for the hours next year and can't find them, they're open 9-6.