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Wow...I'm really not using this thing anymore, am I?

Here it is, halfway through 2011. How did that happen?
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Back here I introduced a Western Civ assignment that had yielded some great student gems.

I think, today, they have all been outdone. Not because of anachronism or inappropriateness, but merely for pure humor.

And yes, the name sadly fits.

For the Athenian: Ubermanlius
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I'm at my parents' house, doing some prep work for class tomorrow and helping before my parents have guests over to celebrate the new year (Rosh Hashanah).

A moment ago the phone rang. It was my mom's first cousin, calling with very bad news. Just hours ago, his older brother suddenly passed away. He apparently hadn't been feeling well for a couple days, but fairly abruptly had severe trouble breathing, which was assumed to be asthma. Rushed to the hospital, he was put on breathing support. The doctors couldn't revive him. He was taken off life support as quickly as he had been put on it. The funeral is Tuesday.

Joel had been a quiet, unassuming rock for his family. The middle son of three, he had stalwartly been, with his wife, the longtime caregivers for his aging parents (his father, whose unveiling was just last month, died last fall), my mom's aunt and uncle. His older brother, a highly respected university professor and dean, had had to relocate away from his native Milwaukee many years ago for his post. His younger brother, somewhat of a playboy, has lived here and there, but has never felt a sense of responsibility. Joel, a hardworking husband and father, had put aside his own dreams in order to "do the right thing" and take care of his parents. My parents, who were in Milwaukee for the unveiling and who had had a wonderful visit with Joel and his family, were just beginning to appreciate what a warm, gentle and good man Joel was and were looking forward to many more visits (ironically for happier occasions). Now they are planning another trip to Milwaukee, but for a funeral instead of a reunion.

To say we are in shock doesn't even scratch the surface.
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I never believed adults when they used to tell me that the older one gets, the faster time goes. Unfortunately, I am finding out that they were only too right. Case in point? My summer. Tomorrow is the first day of August. And dammit! I have to go back to work in August.

The summer started with so much promise. I had a lovely three weeks after my spring term ended (final grade tallying and submission, convocation, and all) before hitting the grind again with a short summer session. I think I spent most of that time sleeping in, cleaning, and a bunch of not much that now I'm hard pressed to remember.

Then summer school. Two hours a day Monday-Thursday for five weeks. I can teach Western Civ in my sleep, so it was a really easy way to earn some extra bucks. Granted, not as many extra bucks as I'd expected, because Uncle Sam really took more than what I thought was his fair share. Oh well...I should get a chunk of that back next spring. I know I didn't do as much else besides summer school as I'd liked, but at least it still mostly felt like summer.

That ended about a week or so before my birthday. My big goal for that time? Tile the kitchen backsplash. It had been several months since the kitchen had been finished otherwise, and the very pretty travertine harlequin mosaic tile had been sitting in my living room for about a month. So, I duly rented the wet saw, bought a paddle attachment for the drill, and set out to do my first tiling job since I helped my mom with our kitchen about twenty-five years ago. With the exception of a few grouting touch-ups, I'd say the backsplash came out great! Touch-ups will have to wait until I get off my butt and get a grout bag at Home Depot.

I am teaching two new courses in the fall: The Ancient World (a course already on the books but which has not been offered in at least 4 years) and The Vikings (a new course I proposed). That meant that I had a ton of prep work to do, including the creation of syllabi, blackboard pages, and assignments. July has been "course prep month". By the end of today, the syllabi and blackboard pages will be completely finished. The assignment sheets will be tweaked during the term as I see how students are doing with the material. So, yay for staying on schedule with that job!

What's allowed me to be so productive with my prep is that I finally broke down and replaced my computer. The old trooper was nearly ten years old (I got it upon getting to Toronto for grad school), and was definitely starting to die. It was actually more of a hindrance than a help in the last week or so before I replaced it, causing me much aggravation. So, I took advantage of a very nice deal at Best Buy, and, voila! A computer that actually works! I'd forgotten how nice a fast computer can be. All I need now is a digital camera and an Ipod and I can truly enter the 21st century!

August is the month of meetings. I have no fewer than *four* faculty meetings prior to the start of the semester! Ugh. Each one requires that I drive my ass up to York, thus tacking on another nearly two hours to the length of the meeting. However, I would also like to spend as much time as possible in the Johns Hopkins library, doing preliminary research for my book, and there's an article I must revise (it's been about three years since I got feedback on it, so it's pretty ridiculous that I haven't gotten to it yet). There are also other house projects to work on. I have already tackled a few minor things around the house, but I need to finish patching, prepping, and painting the den walls. There was the most hideous wainscoting on the wall (which was the victim of my winter break aggression), but the room's looked like a work in progress since I removed it. Which it is, but I'm ready for it not to. Well, looks like August is destined to be quite the busy month!



[Musing postscript] It's amazing how different my summer is from how my summers used to be. I am reading about everyone's trip to Pennsic, and all the Pennsic experiences they are having. I haven't been to Pennsic in ten years, and haven't even thought about going in almost that long. The only camping I do now has nothing to do with garb or feast gear, but has often been the prelude to whitewater rafting, hiking or something of that sort. Reading everyone's posts is making me a bit nostalgic, but not nostalgic enough, I imagine, to go back anytime soon. I don't suppose someone could bring me back some Pennsic chocolate milk, however? :)
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If I'd had any doubts about the 80s making their reappearance, what I saw yesterday at Panera put an end to my delusion. Seated at a table near me were two young women (perhaps late high school or early college age?), one of whom was like a bad flashback. She was wearing lavender, acid-washed, stretch jeans that had ankle zippers (remember those?) because they were so narrow. If they hadn't been low-riders I would have thought that they were 80s jeans carefully preserved.

At least she wasn't wearing legwarmers over them.
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Did you know that the Code of Hammurabi was a "pamphlet"? Neither did I.
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In teaching Western Civ, I try to come up with creative assignments for my students, partly so as to deter plagiarism and partly to make the assignment more interesting (both for the students to write and for me to read!). The students' first assignment has them gathering together representatives from ancient Babylonia, Egypt, Classical Athens, and Hellenistic Pergamum, a la "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", so that they can indicate to me that they've synthesized all the information about each of those cultures, and hopefully, analyzed their similarities and differences. I always expect that some of the more enterprising students will create somewhat fleshed out characters, with names, but I admit that this crop has provided some of the best anachronistic names ever.

For the Babylonian (which takes the cake): Gustav (and his wife, Cynthia); Dwayne

For the Egyptian: Jethro; Mike

For the Athenian: Roberto; Max

For the Hellenistic man: Mickey; Bruce

(One student used the names of the four evangelists...got to give her credit for creativity!)

'Course, all this is doing is reminding me of a fourth-grade classmate who, during our discussion of Mesoamerican civilizations, raised a question using a hypothetical scenario involving "Bobby the Aztec".
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My grandfather died this afternoon. The funeral is tomorrow.

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My grandfather is dying. Cancer. Very fast growing cancer, which apparently has been forming for a while. I have no idea how much longer he'll be around, but it's perhaps a couple weeks at most.

He went into the hospital about a week ago with severe belly pain. The doctors ran all sorts of tests, but I sort of thought, given the symptoms, that it was perhaps a bad case of indigestion or blockage. I was waiting to hear when he'd get better and be back on his feet. It never dawned on me that he'd never recover. The news, which came today from Pathology, stunned me. It was all I could do to go teach my afternoon classes.

I love my grandfather, and have always had a very close relationship with him (and with my grandmother, who died in 2006). I suppose a naive part of me believed he'd always be there, and the news shocked that part of me into a very unhappy reality.

He will never see me get tenure.
He will never see me get married.
He will never meet or know of my children.
He will never read my first book.

I always thought (or at least hoped) that he would be there for those milestones in my life. I can't even imagine what a void he will leave. All I can do now is prepare myself for the inevitable.
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So McCain has chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate.

I am beyond disgusted. Not only is she a disgrace to all women, but she also spits in the face of the environment. If McCain really wanted to pick someone who would ensure that Bush's destructive environmental and anti-human rights policies were promoted and continued, he could not have made a better choice.

I am scared.

Now, off to donate even more to Planned Parenthood, Defenders of Wildlife, and the World Wildlife Fund.
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According to one of my students, the name of the Bubonic Plague "comes from the large pus-filled buboes that would grow in the limp nodes of those infected."

Limp nodes...classic.

Hopefully I'll find some more pearls of wisdom as I slog through the rest of the 80 papers that I have to grade by Wednesday.


* Another student told me that the "bad air" (or miasma) on which some blamed the Black Death came from the "bad air of the oil refineries." I wonder if she's from Elizabeth, NJ.
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Bill's mom died Saturday night. She'd had ALS. What a terrible way to go.

Tim called me yesterday to tell me the news. Weird thing is that I'd been having the feeling I ought to send Bill a card, telling him I was sorry to hear about his mother (i.e. about her having ALS), for a couple days. I had put the card in the mail maybe an hour or so before Tim called.
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You Are a Werewolf

You're unpredictable, moody, and downright freaky.
You seem sweet and harmless, until you snap. Then you're a total monster.
Very few people can predict if you're going to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.
But for you, all your transformations seem perfectly natural.

Your greatest power: Your ability to tap into nature

Your greatest weakness: Lack of self control

You play well with: Vampires
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The package I mailed to Oleg last month was returned to me today. I can't believe he never even picked it up. Bastard.
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Notice the difference:

"I took out my make-up case and powered my nose."

"I took out my make-up case and powdered my nose."


I was wondering whether her nose runs on AC or DC power. Or perhaps it's a hybrid.

4 weeks

Sep. 26th, 2007 06:59 pm
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It's been 4 weeks since I last saw Oleg, and I have no idea how much longer I'll have to wait. I have a feeling this weekend will be a bust, and then we're into October. I am trying so hard not to be impatient, but it's progressively more and more difficult.

Poor guy is absolutely swamped at work, and overwhelmed with bureaucratic stuff on top of work. I spoke with him Monday night and at 9pm, he was just leaving his office. He was heading home to make a quick dinner and do yet more work until who knows what time. At least we had a nice chat of 45 minutes or so. He may have to work this weekend, which is why he probably will not be making a trip down to Baltimore, and I probably will not be heading up to NYC. :(

Unlike with Bill, who had increasingly more work "obligations", Oleg's work is not an excuse to push me away. He admitted how frustrated he was with the time he had to put into his research and prep, and that he really does want to see me. I'm sure that he would be very happy to work half as much as he's doing and have more time for travel, visits and relaxation.

I just have to be patient. Sigh...it's not easy.
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Or fairly sacrilegious, depending on whether you care that I've been working on theoretically the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

I've:
  • Worked on job applications
  • Researched schools that are hiring
  • Done gardening
  • Done laundry
  • Prepped for class on Monday
  • Worked on next term's syllabi
  • Caught up on student emails


I just have to remember to leave some work to do tomorrow, otherwise I'll have to figure out how to keep myself busy (i.e. not stressing over Oleg, not driving everyone crazy, not getting into trouble, etc etc etc).
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In the throng of schools looking for medievalists, most are located in the midwest and other areas I'd rather not live, while there are only a few shining beacons, one being the school at which I'm currently teaching. However, today I discovered another, one that would allow me to return (more or less) to my beloved Boston area. It's not really in the Boston area (Norton is about 45-60 minutes south), but cutting the distance and living within a commutable distance (say, Dedham) would be eminently possible.

Oh, Boston area friends, think good thoughts for me! It worked for [livejournal.com profile] gower!
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For job applications.

And the first honor goes to...the University of Michigan, because their deadline is so freakin' early!

Wish me luck for a tenure track position this time round! It would be heaven not to have to revert back to adjunct teaching.
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