30 August 2008

This is for Minnesota Matron

This was emailed to me recently. And that's all I'm gonna say here.

28 August 2008

Pop Quiz #2

Today's quiz will be in geography.

From: marketresearch@ets.org

Subject: ETS Invites You To Participate In A Focus Group Session in NEW DEHLI
Date: August 28, 2008 6:39:38 PM EDT
To: THEFIRECAT@xxxxxx.net
Reply-To: marketresearch@ets.org

Educational Testing Service is conducting a series of informal discussion groups with students around the world about their experience taking standardized tests for graduate admissions purposes.

A two-hour discussion group will be held in the NEW DEHLI area on September 23, 2008. Individuals selected to participate in the group will be paid at the conclusion of the session. Light refreshments will also be provided.

If you would like to participate, you must complete a brief, 10 minute survey. Since space for the discussion group is limited, we encourage you to complete the survey within 24 hours of receipt of this email. The survey can can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

[link removed]

If you cannot access the survey by clicking on the link, please copy the entire link and paste it directly into the address bar of your web browser.

Are they serious?? I can't even fly to the informal discussion group in 24 hours. The only way New Dehli is even remotely close to New Jersey is on an alphabetical list. And even then, New Hampshire, New Hanover, and arguably Newt Gingrich are between them, depending on how you file.

And these are the people who graded the test that will decide where I get my PhD. Shudder.

27 August 2008

Living the Questions

A former student was given an assignment by her English 101 professor to ask a teacher the following questions:

1) How do you feel about writing?
2) Why is writing important to you?

Following is my response:


Ok, I'm back. Here goes. It gets a little weird, so stay with me. The simple truth is that most people think I am a lunatic when I tell them how I feel about writing. I recognize that normal people aren't wired this way, but I feel about writing the way most people feel about, say, air. Or skydiving. Or the mountains, or hot fudge sundaes, or God. No, not God exactly, but religion maybe. I knew when I was five years old and used to play with my sister's little blue plastic manual typewriter that I was going to be a writer. It's not that it was the only thing I could do (though there were pitiful times in eighth grade gym class when it felt like that) but I always knew that it was kinda my secret superpower. The world could be the most messed up place, my parents could be fighting, the boy I liked could tell me to drop dead, I could have no friends, my cat could barf all over my homework, and when I opened a notebook and wrote about it, everything got ok again. For Christmas in eighth grade, my parents got me a copy of "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, and it changed my life. Suddenly, I was allowed to write, and allowed to write about anything. My parents, and the book, had given me permission. Writing was comfort at the end of a hard day, a way to keep me sane in school and in my own head as a teenager, and it was freedom. I could be anyone. I could be me (whoever that was). I could try on all sorts of things, and not get in trouble. I could work out all the stupid things that people said and did, and fix them. I could tell a story the way I wanted it to end. I could get the guy, run away from home, climb mountains, hop freight trains, go to college, solve mysteries--all while sprawled across my bed with a black-and-white marbled notebook. (The green ink thing also started in eighth grade, as a way to piss off my English teacher, who already disliked me because I was smarter than she was....but that's another story.)

Writing for me now is a ritual of peace and centering; a way to touch base with myself, my emotions, whatever divinity exists, the world. It's a way to keep track of where I'm going, not to mention where I've been. It's a sort of road map. Still, if the world or my marriage or my health threatens to fall apart, I can open a black-and-white notebook and uncap my green fountain pen, and everything will seem all right. If I didn't have that--and there have been times I have been unable to write, either physically or emotionally literally unable to write, for whatever reason--I would be a most unhappy sight. It's not pretty. If I don't write, I get cranky. My husband once threatened to lock me in my writing room until I had written enough pages that I got out of my funk! (the threat itself made me laugh so hard it did the trick, but I went and wrote for an hour anyway). If I don't write, I can't figure anything out. Why I think something, why I feel a certain way, or sometimes even what I am feeling or thinking in the first place. I am not the world's best debater with the spoken word--my thoughts get tangled up unless I have a pen in my hand. I express myself so much more clearly in writing than I do out loud, in part because I used to be self-conscious about the sound of my voice, in part because you apparently use entirely different parts of your brain to write than you do to speak. Who knew? Sometimes I have to go back to one of my old journals to prove a point in an argument. If I've written about it, I'm usually right (and sometimes I'm word-for-word right, which pissed my husband off no end). If I didn't write about it, I may forget entirely. I probably will, in fact. My brain can be a notorious sieve. Without writing, nothing makes sense. Certainly not this weird life we're in.

This is probably way more than you bargained for, and not even close to what your professor is expecting. But he should have known better--he's a writing teacher, after all.

Be well.


23 August 2008

Operation Alphabet Soup, Fall 2008 Edition

This time last week, I was prepped to teach five classes at two different colleges, and ramping up for my upcoming GRE. I took the GRE once, to get into my MFA program. Fifteen years ago. Since GRE scores are good for a maximum of five years--though some schools have shorter windows, as if our intellect, like sour cream, gets rancid after sitting around unused for extended periods of time--I was due for another set.

Let's just point out that it's been twenty years since I've taken a math class, and the last time I took the GRE, I actually had to use a pencil. Needless to say, "ramping up" roughly translates into "experiencing recurring bouts of unmitigated panic".

First I got a mysterious message from College A, from the new department secretary, saying that the new Dean had given her my resume and wanted to know if I was interested in an adjunct position at College A. This mysterious message was quite troubling mostly because last time I checked, I have an adjunct position at College A. In fact, a syllabus from no fewer than three classes was likely in the new secretary's inbox as she dialed. One of them turned out to be utterly useless because COM101-M4 has a late start date, but that's another post altogether, and not worth getting into.

Two days later, one of the part-time assistants from College A also called, wanting to know when I was going to email a copy of my current syllabus to the department. After pointing out that the answer was, indeed, "two weeks ago" I asked to be transfered to the new full-time department secretary. The one who had tried to give me my own job, as if I should be grateful for it.

Eventually, we got things straightened out at College A, blaming most of the kerfluffle on the new Dean.

Then College B called.

College B is notoriously wonderful. It's a small, Catholic college; it engages in service learning on a regular basis in which even the College President participates alongside freshmen and volleyball coaches, bends over backwards to accommodate my particular insanities, and just generally has its shit together on a pretty consistent basis. In short, I often want to kiss College B on the mouth. Sadly, College B was calling to cancel ENG104, my favourite class of all time, for the second consecutive semester due to underenrollment. The department chair and I spoke at length about our desire to see this course fly, and plans are underway to revamp some other things in the department requirements (including a core course that is much less effective than planned) to resurrect this class. Presumably so I can teach it. It is, after all, the class they originally hired me to teach in the first place.

That was Tuesday night at supper. Thursday morning, I was sitting on the front porch drinking an enormous mug of tea when the phone rang again. Again, it was College B. I tensed, thinking they were going to take ENG101 away from me, even though there are 20 students enrolled and no full-time professor in his right mind wants to teach ENG101. That's why there are adjuncts in the first place. Well, that and the lack of office space on campus.

But no. The department chair was calling to see if I could teach ENG210, something I have not only never taught, but haven't particularly studied since I left my undergraduate institution lo these fifteen years ago (see paragraph 1). I allowed has how I really couldn't answer this right away, because I was leaving to take the GRE in thirty minutes, and I can't freak out about two things at the same time, so I was tabling this discussion until later that evening when I could freak out about it properly. In the meantime, could she send me the syllabus and other useful information (like when does this class even meet?) so I could make a more informed, or at least slightly less hare-brained, decision.

By the way, did I mention that ENG210 apparently has no syllabus, just a basic outline of how to teach the entire history of theatre (which is only about as long as the entire history of man walking upright) in fifteen weeks? And that the textbook that was ordered by the professor to take this class in between its original creator and me does not actually match the textbook followed by the syllabus? And that class starts in 72 hours? Yeah. Not kidding.

Still, being a sucker (we are, after all, a service-learning based institution) and intrigued by the glitter and  glamour of getting to teach a 200-level class, and also possibly still riding high on the fact that I had totally rocked the GRE, computer algorithm or no, I caved. Said I would teach it. Even though it now doubles the number of days per week I have to drive to College B, and trebles the number of times I have to commute directly from teaching at College B to College A, which involves driving on an toll road that ends in the word "Turnpike" through a notorious Eastern city in midafternoon.

Now where did I leave those amphetamines?

08 August 2008

Pop Quiz

Today's pop quiz will be in architecture. There will be  one problem. You will have an unlimited amount of time to solve this problem.

1. What's wrong with this picture? (Hint: it's not the location of the back door.)

Yes, I seriously saw this whilst perusing Craigslist.

07 August 2008

FireCat Takes One in the Ass.

(No, not up the ass, in the.....oh, never mind, just click the link.)

Behold, denizens of Derfwad Manor. The mighty Mrs. G. has spoken.

And the puny, approval-craving FireCat has responded.

Yes, the short news is that I've been cleared to run again, in slow, teeny little prescribed increments. For the past two weeks it's been fifteen minutes every three days, or about as often as I spend on personal hygiene. Beginning Monday, though, it's bumped up to a whopping fifteen minutes every two days.

Can't ya just hardly stand it?

The good news: even this little bit keeps me from going entirely mazurkoid over research for a critical paper I need to have done by December. There's only so much Thoreau a girl can read before she has to go pound some serious pavement. Or, in my case, packed dirt and gravel, as roads are off-limits except during races.

The bad news: fifteen minutes is about all the aerobic activity I can handle now, just  twelve short months after a splendid 110+ mile August log.