Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Finally, A Vacation--sort of...

Yep, it's the calm before the spring storm--um, I mean, semester! Grades are in, I've actually had a couple of days at home (and one day at the bookstore, which I'll get to in a minute), and I've actually managed to alphabetize my cds, dvds and vhs tapes, which I haven't been able to do since I moved into my house. I woke up Sunday and just decided to do it, after sitting on my hands (really!) to keep from trying to work. I've been in work mode for a year and a half, so not doing something is difficult for me.

And, after bending and stretching to get things into place, I felt as though I had been on a stairstepper at the gym. When I went into the bookstore to work on Monday, I was sore, as though I'd been through a tough workout. And, of course, standing for eight hours didn't help work out the kinks. I'm still feeling sore, but I'm sure I'll recover from that just in time to go back to the bookstore Saturday (hopefully, not for the entire day).

My daughter and her boyfriend are heading this way for Christmas, so I'll have company for a few days. That will be nice, since my family 45 miles north thinks it's too far to drive to my house. My daughter is driving from Austin to Arlington, TX, and then to here. I just don't think my family has a good excuse--after all, I drive the distance and back nearly every day of the semester.

This will be a lean Christmas, what with rising gas prices, new tires for the car this summer, and price increases on everything. So, I've done a great deal of knitting, especially slippers, because they are fast! I think I've got most of my gifts covered, and I know my family members love handmade gifts. Slippers, plus cookies, plus biscuit mix, plus muffins=satisfaction!

I hope everyone has a great holiday, whatever you celebrate! I plan to sleep as much as possible and get ready for the new year.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sometimes, You're the Bug...

Yesterday was not a good day, overall. I'm sure, in retrospect, it wasn't worse than any other day I've had in my life, but it's not one I want to linger over.

There's the whole "end of semester" craziness, of course. Students who panic now when they should have panicked a great deal earlier--they are driving me nuts. How many times can I say, "Don't talk to me about grades during dead week," or "I won't read late work" before they listen? So, all this late work that I won't grade piles up, and they wait until now to mention it. Too late! I have enough to do right now; I don't have the time or the inclination to grade work that should have been graded a month ago.

So, yesterday morning, I went to the grocery store to get what I needed so I could hibernate this weekend, stay in and grade papers and catch up on things I need to do. I'm the "I'll take my groceries out myself"-type of woman; it's not that I don't want to tip the bag person, or anything. I just know he/she won't be carrying my groceries in my house for me.

As I'm signing my name to the receipt, the sacker starts putting my paltry haul into bags for me. I only had two light bags and a big bag of cat food, so I knew I could carry those out. When he asked me if he could take my purchases out for me, I said, "That's okay. I can do it." I came around the end of the check-out stand, picked up my bags, and proceeded to trip over the two boxes the guy had dropped at the end of the stand.

I didn't see the boxes; I didn't know he had dropped them there because I was not watching him while I was signing my name. He did not say, "Watch out for those boxes."

I went sprawling on the hard tile floor.

I guess we react to something like this the same way we react to a car accident--slow motion flashes of our lives up to that moment. I fell on my left side--my butt, my elbow and hand, and my left knee hit the ground in succession. I sat there for a few seconds; everyone and everything in the store stopped. I was soon surrounded by most of the employees, all of whom left whatever they were doing to make sure I was okay.

Well, I was in some pain, but I was more embarrassed than anything. "Are you okay?" I must have been asked that twenty times. No, I'm not "okay," but nothing is sprained or broken, except my ego! I limped to my car with the sacker guy carrying my bags. When I tried to tip him, he said, "No, ma'am. You don't owe me a thing!"

When I tried to get out of bed this morning, I swear I could hear my body creak. I was stiff and the bruise on my knee is purple. My left arm hurts, and I can't type for long before my pinkie and ring fingers go numb. Maybe I should call the store and ask the manager to file an incident report in case I need to see a doctor. But, I'm not the suing type, so I'll just take some more ibuprofen.

Okay, so that took care of the morning. I limped through the rest of the afternoon. When I finished grading, reading, etc., all the papers that my students sent me on Thursday and Friday, I sat on the sofa knitting.

Golum (you know him!) came scampering through the living room around nine or ten last evening, obviously chasing something. I was hoping it was a lizard or grasshopper, but then I saw a brown field mouse hop away from him. He brought a mouse in the house. I don't know if any of the cats have caught it yet, but I hope the mouse had the good sense to run out as fast as it could. I hate mice and rats; they are probably the only animals I don't have sympathy for. I don't mind if they stay outside, but I don't want them in my house. And I really don't need the cats bringing them inside.

I haven't seen the mouse since last night, and I don't want to. My only consolation is that I know the cats will get it if it shows itself anywhere inside. Darn cats.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Something I've Learned This Semester...

Grading papers is more fun when I watch "SpongeBob SquarePants" while I'm doing it.

And bird number five flew around my house for about five minutes before my oldest cat, who I didn't put out with the rest of them, caught it and ate it. This was a sparrow, a baby, and I tried to catch it and put it outside, but it wouldn't let me catch it. I didn't put Callie out because she's old, and I didn't think she could move too fast. I was so wrong about that. I shouldn't underestimate the motivating power of a bird, even on an old cat.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Killer Cat

I have a cat named Golum (Frodo's nemesis from The Lord of the Rings) that I took in as a favor for a professor at the college (allergies). I've written about this cat before, and somewhere on this blog I probably have a picture of him. He's a beautiful cat, agreeable and sweet, but he has his peculiarities. He doesn't want to eat out of the food bowls, for example; he wants to eat out of the container where I store the food, so, at least four times a day, I have to open the pantry and the container and let him eat until he's through. A pain, yes, but each of my cats has his/her own peculiar behaviors, so he fits right in.

He has one other annoying habit--he catches and kills birds. Well, he catches and kills rats, too, but I don't mind that. I always hope I have at least one good mouser/ratter. But killing birds is another thing.

This morning, I woke up around 8:30am and stumbled to the kitchen to start the ritual--make the coffee, fill the food bowls, open the pantry for Golum...but, no! Kill number four was flopping around on my kitchen rug, or, rather, Golum was tossing it around the same way the character Golum slapped the wriggling fish around in the movie. Little fluffy underfeathers flew around the kitchen (took quite a while to sweep them up). I grabbed Golum, who was growling like a dog with a bone, and put him out the back door. I watched the other cats circle him, and, I imagine, Golum continued growling, even as he wolfed down the bird, feet and all.

He hasn't whined for the food container tonight, so he must still be full.

I understand, to some extent, how nature works. Worms eat dirt, birds eat worms, cats eat birds, and, once in a while, a coyote comes on the property and eats a cat, or a stray dog runs a cat to death (not necessarily to eat it). So I'm not naive enough to think my cats won't do what they instinctively know they should.

My cat's behavior, though, makes me wonder how much of human behavior is programmed in--murder, war, love, sex, lying, whatever. Do I do what I do because it's coded into my DNA? I can't count the number of times I've done things without giving a thought to them. But, sometimes, I stop and ask myself, "Why did you just do that?" and I can't give myself an answer. I don't know for sure, but I hope I'm not living by instinct.

I came across a poem by Mary Oliver (one of my favorite modern poets), entitled "When Death Comes," and she reminded me of the importance of conscious living--always approaching the world with amazement and wonder. Here are the last lines of the poem (but find it and read the whole thing!):

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I was asleep last Sunday, the morning that DST took effect, when I felt a stinging along my right arm. I figured a mosquito somehow survived the cold snap and was siphoning some blood, so I stuck my arm under the covers. A few moments later, I felt the same stinging on my shoulder. I brought my left arm from under the covers to swat at the "mosquito" and, instead, touched a soft ball of fur.

As is my usual habit on the weekend, I usually don't go to bed until very early in the morning--say around 2 or 3am. So, having been up very early (or late, depending on how you see it) on Sunday morning, I anticipated sleeping late on Sunday, at least past 9am.

But, no. Thanks to DST, the sun was up, the time was 7am, and my cats were ready to roll. My puppy cat, Buddy, nips at me to wake me. That's the signal for food and an open door. So, I found a line of small bruises on my arm where he had nipped me--obviously, those bites didn't register enough to wake me up. I swear, if I die in my sleep, my cats will eat me.

Once I threw the cats out, I crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over my head to block out the sun. I need to get some darker curtains!

So, how long have we been falling back and springing forward? I feel as though I've been doing it all my life, so I'm wondering where this started. I found a website that pretty well explains it. I don't mind the fall back part, but I hate the spring forward part. And it really screws up my inner clock. I went to bed at 2am this morning and woke up at 7:30am. I think I need a nap.

******
I have been working on my family's genealogy for years and have made some significant advances this year. I finally found my great-great-grandfather and his father, and I found a great deal of information on my great-grandmother and her parents and brothers, stuff even my mother didn't know. And I made contact with someone who is my great-great aunt's granddaughter by marriage. This "relative" sent me pictures of relatives I've never met. That's so cool! I've also published a family website (private) that has everything I've found so far. It's huge, with over 350 people on it. And I have pictures, too.

If I'm not careful, I get so wrapped up in it that I lose time. It's as obsessive for me as knitting, so I'm torn. I can either knit or surf the web looking for anscestors. So I split my time when I'm not grading papers between those two hobbies. At least I'm not out running the street!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Time Change isn't Saving Me

Yep, here we go, setting our clocks back again. For me, it doesn't make any difference. I'm still going to stay up until three in the morning looking for my ancestors.

I've been doing genealogy for about 15 or 20 years, and I just now feel as though I'm making progress. I managed to get a family site published to the Internet this weekend (sorry, it's private), and I made contact with someone who lives in Maryland who's grandfather married one of my relative's widows. It's complicated, but utterly interesting to me.

But, with every step forward, I take two back. I've been trying to find my relatives further back in Ireland. The earliest one I can find was born in 1765, and I'm not sure he "belongs" to me. On the one hand, because my ancestors named all their children the same from one generation to another, I can find them easily; on the other hand, I have trouble figuring out who belongs to who. I think this is a good excuse for a trip to Ireland (as if I need one)!

And, yes, I know I haven't posted to my blog lately, but, between grading papers and searching for ancestors, I haven't had time for much else. I did go out this morning and try to set fire to the large limb in my yard, but it still doesn't really want to burn. I'm either going to have to bribe my brothers to bring their chainsaws (after deer season, of course), or I'm going to have to buy my own chainsaw and have at it. I'll get someone to take pictures if that ever happens!

But the morning was beautiful, and the small fire I did get started was pleasant, and I had a chance to relax. And, I managed to get most of the necessary work done today (I just have a few late papers to grade), so I had some time to myself this evening.

It all starts over tomorrow, though. Sigh! But the semester's almost over, and I think I might schedule a trip to Austin to tackle the John Twohig papers at UT--I'm trying to find out if we're related to him. He was a first son of Texas, a banker and philanthropist (except to his own family). When he died in 1891, his obit was carried in the NY Times. He left a fortune estimated at (in 1892) $1.2 million. The Catholic Church was supposed to get the bulk of it, but Twohig's family contested the will. The settlement also made the NY Times in 1892. The Church ended up with $200,000, and Twohig's various relatives received about $80,000 each. I'll bet they are burning in hell for that. Anyway, I have a bunch of names I'm trying to track, without luck.

I'm surprised my hair hasn't turned totally grey (oh, yeah, time for a dye job!).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

Windy and slightly cool, one of those nice, early autumn days.

We're about to take off for the Maker's Fair, a huge event hosted by the editors of Make magazine and Craft Magazine. If you've never seen Make, you should take a look at it. You can buy it on newsstands, or you can go to their website (I don't have the exact URL, but you can Google it).

When I arrived in Austin on Thursday, the temperature reached around 91 degrees. But, from Thursday night on, it's been really cool at night, with temps around 60 and daytime highs have hovered in the eighties. I spent most of my time in the car yesterday, which I hate. The worst thing about Austin is that you practically have to drive everywhere and the traffic is horrendous any time of the day or night.

We ate at Mars restaurant last night--that's where my daughter works--and the food was good. We ate out on the deck and it was so dark that I really couldn't see my food, but that didn't stop me from eating it--a Mongolian chicken stir fry. I get tired of the "organic" thing while I'm here, but I certainly eat better than I do at home.

We plan on cooking tonight. Since both of my kids cook for a living, I always eat well here.

I may add more later, but, right now, I'm just waiting for Dot and Pete to get back from the bank/coffee shop. Hope you are enjoying your fall break, too. More later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Early Morning Call Out...

I was up last night until about midnight, reading drafts of student papers and trying to send those papers back to students in our course management software. Unbenownst to me (but I know now), the administrator of our system takes it down at 10pm to back it up. Sure would be nice if he'd let us know this. I spent almost another hour, between 10p and 11p, trying to send the papers back. Another good reason why my students shouldn't wait to send their work to me.

So, I set the alarm clock for 8am (usual on a Tuesday night). I don't leave my house on Mondays or Wednesdays until about 11am, but, this morning, I needed to leave a bit early because I was scheduled to present a talk to another class at 11am. But I really wanted to sleep until 8am; I needed it after a day of reading essays and fighting the computer.

This is something of a digression, but Tuesday was a horrible computer day. I couldn't get into the lab where I usually teach my first class because someone had jammed the door and neither I nor the secretary could get it opened. So, we had to move to another lab. Then, in my second class, the computer/overhead system wouldn't work because the computing services department hadn't signed on to the administrator's computer; whenever they take the campus-wide system down, any computer that needs an administrative login has to be reset. And they won't give anyone in my department the code to restart the computer. But, if I call them to come reset the computer, I'm lucky if they show up 45 minutes into the class. I need the system to work when class begins, not when it's half over.

Well, okay. I had a frustrating day with the people who deal with computers and with idiots who can't shut doors properly.

Exhausted and mentally drained, I went to bed and slept soundly until...

7am, when the sound of chainsaws ripped through my dreams. I looked out the window, and there, in my neighbor's yard, a tree-service company was cutting down a pine tree. I tried to go back to sleep, but the chainsaws just kept working. Finally, at 7:30, I got out of bed, made coffee, and went outside to put the trash at the curb for the garbage person.

I walked to the truck parked in my neighbor's driveway and asked for the guy in charge. I pointed out my bedroom window and explained that I had worked late last night, and why on earth were they chopping down a tree at 7am? Even though I live in a small town, I am not a farmer and I don't get up with the chickens. The guy apologized and said he was working with CLECO. He didn't schedule the work; he just did it when they told him to. I asked him to take a message back to his contacts--if they are going to schedule an early tree-cutting session outside of my bedroom window at 7am, I want a week's notice so I can get to bed earlier.

Maybe I'm just getting to be one of those crochety old ladies who wants everything her way. I don't know. I just know that this has been a frustrating week. I want the universe and its minions to work with me, not against me! Above all, I just want everything to work the way it should.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CSI New Season!

Well, tonight at 8pm, I'm stopping everything to watch the premiere of the new CSI season. Of course, I, like every other CSI watcher, have to know if Sarah Sidle lives or dies. The gossip sites have been mum about this, and I haven't heard that Jorja Fox has accepted any new projects or that her contract hasn't been renewed, so I'm thinking she'll live. Actually, I don't really care whether she stays or goes, but I like the original CSI better than Miami or NY (in spite of Gary Sinese). This is really one of the few "new" shows that I keep up with; I have all last season on my iPod.

And today is my son's 27th birthday. How did he get so old? I can remember when he was a baby, and that doesn't seem so long ago. I'm curious about his new girlfriend--I haven't met her. I think I need to take a trip to Austin soon and check her out. Of course, I'm not that old! How great that my kids age and I don't!

Oops--minor interruption here--I had to grab Golem and throw him out; he brought in a bird he caught; and I've lost my glasses--I don't know where I put them down while I was chasing the cat around the house. D&%* cats! So now I need to go back over every place I chased the cat and see if I dropped the glasses on the floor before I step on them.

This has been a loooong week. And it's about to get longer. I have papers coming in from all of my classes, as well as their weekly work. How did that happen? Of course, in my defense, I gave one class an extension on their papers because they just couldn't get them together. I probably won't get these back too quickly, though I pride myself on turning work around quickly. But I'd like to get this all out of the way so I can keep up with the upcoming assignments. As I tell my students, we don't want to get behind; we want to work ahead. My problem is that my work is contingent on their work--if they don't get their assignments in on time, I can't grade them quickly. I spend too much time backtracking. Of course, the alternative is to just give them zeros and go on--not an unusual or unfair idea!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I Need to Stop...

...and smell the coffee!

I got up this morning (Saturday) around 9am (in my defense, I was up until 1am answering students' questions/responding to their issues). After a detour to the bathroom, I went into the kitchen to start the coffee. Of course, that's the cue for my cats to make their demands. For one, I turn on the faucet; for another, I open the cat food bucket; for the rest, I add "fresh" food to the food bowls--a little, or a lot, makes no difference. The top layer has to be "new." So, my need for coffee took a back seat to their needs to be catered to.

Yeah, I know. It's my fault. Really, I don't mind it. At least I don't have to send them through college and help pay their student loans! A new bag of cat food every two weeks and clean water are small prices to pay for their affection.

But that's not the only reason I'm posting here today. As soon as I started the coffee, I came into my study and turned on the computer. That's become almost a reflex for me these days. Get up, take care of the cats, make the coffee, turn on the computer. I actually had to MAKE myself sit down in the living room with a cup of coffee and watch the news, or I would have been on the computer at 9:15am.

I really do have a life--somewhere. I need to go to the store, to wash clothes, to sweep, mop, vacuum, clean the bathroom, mow the grass, and, yet, I find myself, because of the work that I do, spending hours on the computer; I look up, the sun has gone down, my fingers, wrists and neck hurt from the constant typing, and I reach for the aspirin.

This morning, after I forced myself to stay away from the computer, I opened the front door to let the cats out and realized that the air was dry and crisp; I grabbed my cup of coffee and sat on the front porch for about an hour. It was the best thing I could do for myself.

Yes, I have a great deal to do, but I also have an obligation to my own well-being to stop once in a while. Life is more than work, or school, or talking on the telephone. Life is breathing and taking time to see. I need to do this more often.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

More about the @#$% Cats in My House

As most people know, right now, I have five cats: Callie, a calico, is the oldest; Boudreaux, a large black shorthair, was, at one time, my son's cat, but he's mine now; Buddy, a sweet black and white shorthair, is my "puppy cat." He follows me around; Bubba, mostly black with white, is what I call a "tuxedo" cat; and Golem, a beautiful gray and white cat, came to me from a professor at the college where I work (I'm a rescuer--I have a hard time saying "no." But I'm getting better--five is enough).

My cats have distinct personalities and quirks. Callie likes to drink out of the faucet; Boudreaux, as large as he is, runs away from anything remotely scary; Buddy and Bubba are mostly fearless, but like to sleep cuddled up next to me at night; Golem wants to eat directly from the food bucket--no cat bowls for him.

I usually leave my back door opened just a crack for them to go in and out when I am home. I get annoyed when I have to get up a hundred times a day to let them in or out. The open back door has worked since I moved in, until the last two or three weeks. All of a sudden, they want to go out the front door. They'll come in via the back door, but they've stopped going out that way, mostly. I couldn't figure it out. Until now.

We have a little stray gray and white cat that's been hanging around since last year. I never knew the sex of the cat, but I suspected it was female. It would get really fat, then show up skinny. Pregnancy, of course. This cat eats from the cat dish on the dryer in the laundry room, which is right out the back kitchen door.

Two nights ago, I went into the laundry room to put food in the bowl. In my peripheral vision, I thought I saw something move. At first, I thought the possum had returned and was lurking behind the washer, but, when I turned on the light, I saw a tiny, tiny gray and white kitten wobbling on the floor. I almost stepped on it!

It's cute, but will probably grow up feral if I don't grab it quick and tame it. But, right now, it's too small to take away from its mother--Buddy was about three or four weeks old when my neighbor gave him to me, and he suffers from separation anxiety. I am his mother, as far as he's concerned. So I don't want to create another "clingy" cat. But if I wait too long, the kitten will end up hanging around my house, hissing at me when I pass. It's a dilemma, for sure.

Well, that explains why my cats won't go the back door. They watch for the mother cat to leave, though, and dash in through the back door when she goes. They haven't bothered the kitten, but they are curious about it. I'm keeping an eye on everybody so they don't kill the baby. If the baby gets killed, the mother will go back into heat, and we'll have cat fights all over the neighborhood, and, of course, more kittens. I'd like to tame the mother and get her fixed, but I don't think that's going to happen.

Monday, September 03, 2007

On Not Laboring

Is there such a thing? Though this is Labor Day, and I'd like to totally goof off, I can't do it. I've been checking email and my course sites for problems, questions and posts.

On the flip side, I've managed to do all of this while watching The Closer marathon on TNT, culminating tonight in the next-to-last episode of the season. So, I can work and enjoy myself at the same time!

I'm still reeling from the story I saw earlier this week about the mother who let her five-year-old son drive her car. Her three-year-old son was in the back seat, not strapped in; the only person buckled in was the mother, who, sitting in the front passenger seat, was too impaired to drive. When police questioned her about it, she said that he was "a good driver." Yeah. So are my cats!

I know I'm not the only person appalled at this story because the newscasters relaying the story could hardly hide their own bemusement/incredulity/outrage.

What was this person thinking? I'm not surprised her children were put in foster care; I only hope that, when/if she ever gets out of jail, she doesn't get them back immediately. Believe me--I think children need their parents, but, if those parents are impaired (or just plain stupid), the children's best interests need to outweigh the parent/child bond. I hope this woman gets major counseling, or, alternately, a long prison sentence for child endangerment.

Okay, so that's my soapbox for today. Not much else is happening besides the first week of class. Having a holiday a week into the semester throws me off some. I'm afraid I'm going to think tomorrow is Monday and not get up when I need to! I have the clock set for 6am, but my biggest fear is that I will forget to set the alarm. It's happened--not lately--but it has happened. I will be a wreck before I go to bed--almost OCD--making sure I have everything ready to go in the morning.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And Your Bird Can Sing...


but not anymore. Sadly, my cockatiel, Ophelia, died today. He (yes, he had a female name) just suddenly got sick and passed on. I buried him in the Perriwinkle flower bed.


My son and I bought Ophelia for about $35, oh, probably 15 years ago (or maybe longer; I don't remember). The person who sold him to us told us he was female, but female cockatiels have less flashy coloring than males. Imagine our surprise when Ophelia developed the orange circles on his yellow head--he looked as though he put on too much rouge.


My daughter taught him to wolf whistle, which lifted my spirits considerably. Every time I'd come into view, he'd whistle. He developed a game--he'd whistle a certain pattern and expect me to repeat it back to him. If I didn't do it exactly right, he'd screech at me, then whistle, then screech--well, you get the idea! Dorothy also taught him to say "Pretty bird" and "I love you." After a while, he began to put the two together: "I love you pretty bird," or "I love you bird." The cats liked to sit next to his cage--after I used the water spray on them, they stopped attacking the cage. When the cats would sit next to him, Ophelia would talk non-stop until they left. I think that confused the cats. The birds outside don't talk.


We used to have a dachsund named Oscar. Oscar and Ophelia developed a close relationship, so much so that Ophelia used to call Oscar when he wanted a visit from the dog. I'd have to pick Oscar up and hold him next to the cage.


Ophelia was an excellent "watchbird," a trait he shared with geese. Whenever he saw or sensed a person around the house (birds have excellent hearing, after all), he would screech loudly. He also used to scream if he heard sirens.


I'm a bit unsettled. After losing Judas, one of my older cats, and then Ophelia, I'm a bit undone. Yes, they are "only" pets, but I had special relationships with both of them. They have been steady, dependable companions, and their loss is difficult.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let the Madness Begin...

Classes begin in five (count 'em-5) days! Where has the summer gone?

I guess teaching summer school for two months does eat into spare time, as do grading papers and driving 90 miles every day. But the class was good, not stressful at all; I had a wonderfully small class of students who wrote well and were funny, too. So that made the time pass quickly.

This semester, I have four classes--one Intro to Fiction (with 35 students), two Advanced Comps (one of those online--each class has 20 students), and a new class, Writing in the Humanities (this one has 13 people so far). In addition, I'll be teaching an intro knitting class for Continuing Ed for six weeks; that just provides me an excuse to knit and talk about knitting for two hours! It's built-in relaxation for me, a good reason to begin new projects, buy more yarn, and escape from academe for a while. I forsee, however, long days. The good news? I have a semester of three-day weekends again!

I mowed the grass this morning. It's so dry that I may not have to do this again for a couple of weeks, unless we get some rain (I'm not holding my breath!). I complained (sort of) about all the rain at the beginning of the summer, but everything is dry and dusty now. My garden has suffered greatly--first from an excess of moisture, then from its absence. But isn't that nature's way? Always the extreme!

Even the cats feel the heat; they spend most of their time inside (I keep having to clean the litter boxes--they've got an entire acre for a litter box, but they still come inside to do their business!). I would think they'd be out chasing the neighbor's chickens, but even that's not enough to tempt them right now. I can't blame them. I don't even like to go out to get the mail until the sun goes down.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

I Finally Did It!

Two socket sets and almost as many weeks later, I managed to finally change the oil in my riding lawn mower. I banged up my hand trying it, but was amazed to discover how important the right tool is for accomplishing a task. Once I had the right socket and a ratchet extender, getting the oil drain plug off was a cinch! Now that's done, and I can wait for a while before I do this again. And, of course, I mowed the entire lawn. Hooray for me! My house seemed neglected with the tall grass. While I'm not the best mower, I did manage to get the grass down to a manageable height.

So, what else is new? Not much. The summer semester finished up on August 1st, and I've already posted my grades. Now I need to organize and post materials for my fall classes. Looks like all of them will make, but I'm a bit worried. I have one new course that has 11 people in it; I'm hoping that's enough. I don't want to have to scramble to create a new course right before the semester begins.

I think I only slept about five hours last night, so I may have to take a nap. I was reading, and, when I looked at the clock, I was shocked to see the time was 4am. I often lose track of time when I read. I woke up this morning around 9:30am, drank a cup of coffee, and started on the yard. The time now is about 1pm; I'm beginning to feel sleepy. So, yeah, a nap is in order, followed by intense work on my fall classes.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I tried to sleep in...

but my "inner clock" betrayed me! The semester ended yesterday and I promised myself I would sleep late this morning. My body decided otherwise and woke me up at 8am. I stayed up until 2am this morning, and, after meeting my class and working at the bookstore for five hours, I thought I'd be exhausted enough to sleep until lunchtime. But, I guess, since I've been getting up at 7am nearly every day this summer, old habits are hard to break.

The class had an end-of-semester party yesterday (this is the first time I've done such a thing!); if I had known we had so many good cooks, I'd have done it more often! I had fun teaching this summer (though I dreaded it at the beginning of the summer). I had hoped I'd be "off," but I'm glad circumstances conspired against me.

So, maybe I'll take a couple of days off, get my house and yard in order, then work on my fall courses. I'll have three preps in the fall--including one new course and an online writing course--so I have plenty to do. And I'm teaching a knitting class for Continuing Ed. But I don't want to think about that yet. The fall semester will be busy, yes, but I need a break, however short!

Friday, July 27, 2007

The End of the Semester Looms Large...

and, as usually happens about this time, I got a phone call from the bookstore asking me when and how many days I could work next week (which is finals' week, of course!). Since I'm not giving a "final," in the true sense, and since I have until August 6th to turn in grades, I think I can spare a few afternoons to pack books in boxes. Besides, the extra money is good.

So, I'll go in Monday and work for about four or five hours, then maybe I'll go in Wednesday; maybe, if I don't feel like sleeping for two days, I'll go in Thursday or Friday--but I think I'll try to get my grades posted by Thursday. Then, I can run by the school and turn in a printed copy of my grades on Friday and work at the bookstore after that. Sounds like a plan.

My children sent me flowers for my birthday, which was a wonderful surprise, since they've never sent me flowers before. AND they had them delivered to the school (the day after my birthday)! More than made my day special (and the day after, too). I usually celebrate my BD all week, so I don't mind getting a "late" present.

Today I stopped by Mr. Lester's and bought two boxes of peaches. I've made two batches of peach honey--when I use pint jars, one batch only fills up two-and-a-half pint jars. So, I have about five pints. I cut up about four pounds of peaches, though, covered them with sugar, and will use those for peach preserves tomorrow. But I still have one whole box of peaches and about 1/4 of another box. These had just been picked; they are crunchy, almost like apples, so I'm not getting many soft peaches out of these boxes; I think I need to let the rest of them sit for a day or two.

I had pancakes for dinner; I haven't cooked pancakes in years, but, tonight, I just decided I wanted some. That's the best part of living alone--you don't have to worry about cooking for anyone but yourself!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"You Say It's Your Birthday..."

...well, it's my birthday too, yeah!"

So, to celebrate, I took myself to see the latest Harry Potter movie. I met a former student there, and we spent the preview time catching up on what's been happening since we last saw each other. I'm envious; she's spent the summer vacationing--not that I'd want to go to Disneyworld--I actually have no desire to go there. But a vacation would be nice.

Before I say anything about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, let me preface my remarks with what most of my friends know about me and how I feel about movies made from books. I generally don't like them as representations of the novelists' works. More often than not, a picture is NOT worth a thousand words.

In defense of film, movies do clarify description. Films can dispense with the overwhelming narration needed to describe a location or a person, for example. But the screenwriter has an obligation to treat the writer's plot carefully. If I've learned anything about fiction, I've learned that writers hardly ever tell us something if we don't need to know it. When a screenwriter, alone or in collaboration with a director, leaves out what appear to be tiny, insignificant details, the screewriter changes the context and intention of the writer. And I don't like that.

Having read all of the HP books, my conclusion is that the last three books--Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince, and The Deathly Hallows--are a set-piece; they must be read in sequence (and together) because each book builds on the previous one. The small details in book 5, Order, become essential to books 6 & 7: the locket, for example, and Kreacher, the Black Family's house elf. The first four books work well as individual pieces; while they explore and amplify the world of Hogwarts and establish the personalities of the major and minor characters, each of the first four books can be read as complete stories. The last three books, however, form the same sort of trilogy as The Lord of the Rings. Skip from book four to book seven and you miss essential information and important plot points.

In fairness to the director and screenwriter of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, it is extremely difficult to shoot a work in progress; at least, when Peter Jackson directed the Rings trilogy, he knew how the story ended. For the Potter series, J. K. Rowling should have had something to say (or should have said more) about what should have been included in the fifth movie. But I don't know that she did; she might not have wanted to leak information about the sixth and seventh books.

The movie is visually stunning. The special effects--the dementors, the interior of the Ministry of Magic, the Room of Requirement--are awe-inspiring and dazzling. But so much of the essential plot is missing from the story that it almost doesn't make sense unless you've read the book. I just found myself becoming more and more agitated that so much had been lost. I filled in the gaps, but the absence of those key points will create problems in the next two films, and I don't know how the directors will overcome them.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is J. K. Rowling's longest book in the series, yet this movie is the shortest so far. It just doesn't do justice to the epic struggle of the young wizard or his friends. I liked the battle scene at the end, but I just wish it had been longer, as it was in the book; it just didn't seem as important as Rowling meant it to be.

I agree, in part, with my daughter, that, at one point, the movie almost seemed to turn into Star Wars--we all have the dark and the light in us, says Sirius. But I just think that Harry deserves better.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another "Harry" Weekend

Well, I've finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but no spoilers here! All I'll say is that J. K. Rowling made this book as compelling a read as the others. Readers who love Harry's world will not be disappointed in this "final" installment.

I started reading the book at the bookstore Saturday, almost as soon as I got there at 8am. I didn't have much time to read it during my shift, though. People started lining up around 8:30am (we opened at 9am), and we had steady lines throughout the day. Nearly every purchase included at least one copy of the Potter book, but I did get a few Potter-free sales. By the time I left the store, I had read the first four chapters. I had to make a stop at my mom's to drop off two copies of the book for my sister (I bought 5 copies). A trip to my mom's has to include food, so I ate dinner and started for home around 6pm.

I finished reading the book around 3:15am this morning (Sunday), and my reading was not without problems. One of my cats, Boudreaux, startled from his sleep, leapt across the sofa and me in a panic. In his flight, he managed to scratch my arm and the page I was reading. He left a nice little gash in the page and several in me. And, of course, all of the cats seemed to have issues, so they constantly interrupted me--one wanted to drink water from the kitchen tap, one wanted to eat food out of the food container instead of the food bowls (and ended up getting shut up inside the pantry! I thought I had a boggart!), another wanted to go out the front door. Cats have their peculiarites, too.

I have to say I was correct on several hunches that I formed from re-reading the 5th and 6th books, but I'm not going to tell you what they are. If you're not a fan of Harry Potter, you probably don't care, and, if you are a fan, you need to read the last book without knowing what happens.

I told my students that I'd be glad to discuss the book/series in my office with anyone who's interested--and that stands. I hate spoilers, so I'm not going to be one. All I can say is that J. K. Rowling tells a great story and she has managed to create one of the most appealing and enduring worlds in modern literary history--maybe not as complicated as Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, but I think her story will stand the test of time. We'll still be talking about this series long past the last movie's release.

Read it!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Car Stuff

The new tires are great. The ride has been smoother, but the noise level has not.

Around Monday of this week, I started hearing a knocking noise. Of course, since I know nothing about cars, I begin to think "brake shoes," "struts," "ball joints," "rod." This only started after the guys installed the new tires, so another logical jump was, "Something's loose around one of the wheels." If I went less than 20 mph, I didn't hear a noise, but, the minute I accelerated, there it was. The noise was incredibly deafening and nerve-wracking.

So, today after class, I took the car back over to Gateway. Turns out, one of the brake shields was loose and knocking about. They fixed it for free (thank you!), and the ride home was so much quieter!

I love technology--cars, lawn mowers, iPods, computers--but I just wish it was easier to deal with. When desktop computers first came out, the user had to do everything. I sometimes wish I still had that level of control. Same with my car. Now that everything runs via computer, one glitch and I'm stuck. I hate being that dependent on strangers; forget Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar Named Desire" ("I have always relied on the kindness of strangers."). It's a nice sentiment, but I'm too suspicious and/or cynical. Most people are not going to help you because they want to. They'll help you if they get something for it. That's not everyone, of course; I know enough to not generalize. But the altruistic person (not to mention, business) is hard to find.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Again with the Mower!

One tends to forget that, with specialized equipment, one must have specialized tools. I set out this morning to change the oil in the infamous riding mower, but, without a wrench, it's a no-go.

I mowed part of the backyard, but stopped when I thought the rain was about to come. I drove the mower under the carport (I moved the car--I'm trying to keep from breaking any more windows!), and let it cool down for a bit. I tried to get the oil drain plug loose, really I did. But, without a wrench, it just ain't gonna happen. So, this means another trip to the hardware store or garden center in search of a set of wrenches that will help me loosen this plug. But, you know, even with the right tools, I may not be able to open the plug. The guys at the factory put these things on with hydraulic tools (same goes for the tires on the car) that make loosening them nearly impossible unless you've got the muscles of the Incredible Hulk. I may have to put in a call to one of my large brothers before I can change the oil. I finished mowing the backyard, anyway, and it looks decent. But no more complete yard mowing until I get the oil changed.

You'd be proud of me, though; I didn't think twice about firing that baby up! And I'm trying to be more creative when I'm doing yard work. While I was mowing today, I drove in figure eights. Who says you have to mow in a straight line?

Right now, I'm a bit ticked off at Symantec. Their Norton Internet Security download program has my computer tied up. I've tried four times to get to Internet Explorer and I can't. I can't stop the program except by shutting down the computer. I'm using Firefox to navigate around the Net while I'm waiting to see what Norton's going to do. Man, I need a Mac!

Yesterday, I baked two loaves of bread and some rolls (same recipe--just divided the dough). It's called "Farm Bread," and the recipe calls for honey instead of sugar. I keep forgetting, though, that homemade bread is much denser than the kind I buy at the store, but the result is well worth the effort!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sourdough Starter and a Simple Bread Recipe

In a comment for my last post, a student mentioned her dad's sourdough starter. I thought I'd pass along some web sites that have instructions on how to create and care for a starter.

Try http://www.io.com/~sjohn/sour.htm. I found some good instructions there, as well as at http://www.countrylife.net/. Follow the links on this one. Or, just do a search on "sourdough starter" in any search engine. You should be able to find an easy recipe for that.

What you need to remember about starters is that (1) you need to feed it regularly and (2) you need to use it once in a while. If you don't do either, it turns into a sour-smelling lump of squishy dough and becomes useless! Trust me on this. And any site that provides the starter recipe will also provide directions on how to use it!

And, since I love to bake bread, let me pass on a really simple bread recipe:

2 2/3 cups Self-rising flour (this is important--it has to be self-rising, because that has the salt, soda, etc. in it)
Stir in any brand 12 oz. beer (doesn't matter if it's cheap or expensive)

Stir in half of the beer (no sipping!), mix well, then stir in the rest. The dough will be wet. Divide into two margarine-greased 9x5 loaf pans; bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, remove from oven and turn onto wire rack to cool.

Tender on the inside, slightly crusty on the outside. It's almost as easy as using Bisquick! This is good bread, fit for company, even!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Instant Karma...and the recipe for Peach Honey

I stopped by the bookstore where I work part time to pick up a couple of monster zucchini from one of my coworkers. I really only needed one, but Neil brought me three--other than make zucchini-chocolate muffins, I'm stymied about what to do with them--they are good in lasagne, though. I'll check on the Internet. I can always find anwers to my questions on the Net. "Zucchini Recipes"--should be a sinch!

I pulled out of the parking lot and started towards home, when I began to hear some kind of "thwack, thwack, thwack" every time the car moved. I pulled over three times to check for what I thought might be a broken belt, though the car was driving just fine. I finally pulled into the Eastgate Shopping Center and checked again. Two strips of rubber/radial had come loose from the right front passenger tire. Those strips were making the "thwacking" sound as they hit the wheel well.

I called Gateway. I could have called my insurance company, for the third time since December, and gotten a tow, or Mazda, which would have cost me too much money, but I called Gateway Tire. The guys who own the company have always done a decent job on my car, be it tires or oil changes. They sent a guy to put the spare on. I drove over, and they installed four tires in about an hour. The price was decent, too, but, of course, I wasn't expecting to have to do this today. Silly me; "new tires" has been on my "To-Do" list since the summer began, which proves that, if you ignore something long enough, it's going to get your attention in an unpleasant and scary way.

I recommend these guys to everyone I know. My friend, David, told me that, when he had a flat tire, they sent a truck to his house to fix it. I don't know too many companies that will do that for their customers, new or long-term.

So, I can cross "tires" off my list along with "riding lawn mower." The last "big" thing to work on is the tiller. Neil gave me a line on a Black and Decker, so I know what I'm looking for.

I finally arrived home aroud 2:15pm and immediately set out to bake the muffins. I also made a "New Orleans Apple Cake"--I found the recipe in the newspaper while I waited for the new tires. And, of course, I had to sample both--not bad!

I just finished cleaning up the kitchen and coming down from my sugar high. Now for some real work!

As per Susan's request, the recipe for "Peach Honey" (which is absolutely delicious on bagels with cream cheese or butter, so I'm sure it will be great on biscuits or toast):

4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
4 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon (or 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon juice)

Combine sugar and peaches in a large saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat (really, the sugar liquifies because of the juice in the peaches) until mixture comes to a boil. When mixture boils, add lemon juice; continue to stir; bring mixture back to a boil and cook until thick (varies from about 15 to 30 minutes). Stir it constantly, though, so it doesn't burn.

Ladle mixture into hot, sterilized jars and seal.

Voila! Peach Honey. It's a bit "runny," but it tastes wonderful. After you open a jar, store it in the fridge and it will thicken a bit. The book this comes from, The Southern Country Cookbook, is vague on cooking times, etc. I wasn't sure if I should process the jars in a hot water bath after sealing them, because that wasn't in the directions, but I noticed that the cookbook tells the cook to do that with some recipes when it's warranted. I didn't process my jars after I sealed them, and they look fine--the jar lids sealed.

As for quantity, I used smallish Ball jars, and I ended up with about five half-pint containers the first and second time I made the honey, with a couple of very small jelly jars extra; the third batch, I ended up with one pint jar, two half-pints, and about a half of another jar. I refrigerated the partial jar. Oh, and, on the third batch, I added some fresh, sliced ginger to the sugar/peach mixture at the start. I tasted the syrup and it's good!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Peachy Day

When I woke this morning, the sun was shining--finally--and a cool breeze blew through the backyard. I drank my coffee and made my list.

Mr. Lester's Farm was my first stop. Unfortunately for me (fortunately for him), every other person in the area had the same idea that I had. His produce stand was packed and a photographer from Southern Living was on hand, snapping pics. I bought a cabbage for my mom, a jar of local honey, and a box of peaches ($14.50 a box--cheap and delicious!).

The grocery store was my next stop for some needed supplies, including some canning jars. Then I went to the Ace Hardware store to get lawnmower oil (I have to go back; I needed 48oz of oil and the two bottles I bought only add up to 40oz. I should wear my glasses! I'll go back tomorrow--then I'll change the oil in the lawnmower).

The entire trip took less than an hour. When I got back home, I opened up my copy of The Southern Country Cookbook, which I've owned since 1973. The last chapter of the book has recipes for jams, jellys, preserves, etc. I made something called "Peach Honey." It looks similar to preserves and it just consists of sugar, peaches and lemon juice. Cook until thick, ladle into sterilized jars, and voila! Great Christmas gift with a jar of muffin or biscuit mix.

And, since I'm overrun with tomatoes at the moment, I made a lasagne with tomatoes, yellow squash and zuchinni. Yum-my.

What I must do tomorrow: (1) change the lawnmower's oil; (2) mow the grass (if the rain stays away); (3) general housekeeping; (4) catch up on schoolwork.

Now, I'm off to read and grade papers and assignments. And, later, I'm going to try out my new blender and make a fruit smoothie!

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Very "Harry" Holiday...and More Rain Than I Can Stand!

Well, I had a six-day break from school (and I AM counting the weekend!), and, instead of doing much work, I re-read the last two Harry Potter books and watched the third and fourth movies. The Order of the Phoenix movie premiers on July 11th and the last book comes out on July 21. I'll be working that day (NOT for the midnight party--I've only worked one of those and that's all I needed to work), so I'll pick up the five copies I've pre-ordered. My sister in Houston gets one copy, my sister in Bossier gets two, I get one copy and I'll send one copy to my son in Austin. I plan to spend most of that weekend reading the new book; I read The Half-Blood Prince in two days, so I should be able to finish this one (which is considerably shorter, I've heard) during that weekend. The Potter books are great birthday presents for me--they usually come out a few days before my birthday, so I celebrate by buying myself a copy.

My biggest point of contention right now is the rain. I spent nearly $1000 on a riding lawnmower, and I haven't been able to mow the grass for almost two weeks because of this rain! Today, I drove into school early for an advising appointment (which the student cancelled at 7:45am--she called my school phone. That was about the time I left my house). Driving was fine until I hit the Caddo Parish line--then, the sky fell open. I could hardly see, the road flooded, and I had to reduce my speed considerably to avoid hydroplaning (but some idiots passed me doing 80, at least!). Only five students (out of 12) showed up for class, but we had a good talk. By the time I left the college, the rain had stopped in Caddo, but had moved south to Red River Parish (of course!); I drove home in the same rainstorm. Go figure!

I'm tired of rain. My garden is saturated; the potted plants overflow; the cats are going loony, running around the house to expend their energy. But I've discovered that they calm down if they have boxes to sleep in, so I've put boxes in several rooms for them. What is with that?

If the rain ever stops, I'm going to try to mow my grass, which is knee-high right now. I guess this is better than 115 degrees (Viva Las Vegas!), but I'm not so sure!

Stay dry!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sixteen Tons, again!

I worked at the bookstore for four hours today and managed to pack about 27 boxes of books to send back to publishers. Most of the boxes were small, around 10 pounds or so, but I managed to clear most of a bay of books. So, I got some work done.

Then I went to the grocery store. On my list I had "Coffee, cat food, toilet paper." So how did I spend $64? Well, I decided I needed bird food for my cockatiel, and for the wild birds (they really like black-oiled sunflower seeds, and I can't find them in the town where I live); I bought marjoram (I ran across a recipe that uses it); I bought six Lean Cuisine dinners (they were on sale--six for $10--a good deal); and, of course, I needed ice cream and a cheese grater (I can't find the one I had), and then I bought some Cheez-Its.

Do you see a connection between any of this? I don't, and I can't figure out how my brain works. It never takes me to the beer or wine aisles; I totally avoided the vegetable section and the canned goods' section. I had a list. So how did all the rest of this stuff end up in my basket? It's a mystery to me. But at least I have a good balance between the "diet food" and the junk food; I also have tomatoes and squash from the garden and a stockpile of frozen veggies to go with anything I choose to cook.

Besides reading student papers (a given), I have a few other projects to work on (Norton Oral History Project, Fall courses, mowing the grass at some point, weeding the garden), and I'll be working at the bookstore on Monday (8am to 5pm--a whole day--yikes!). I won't be idle on my "vacation," that's for sure!

I hope all of my students have a relaxing break! I've tried not to load them down with too much work!

Update on the Budster: We (the vet and I) think Buddy may have gotten into rat poison--what's called a "rodenticide anticoagulant." It's a poison that thins out the rat's blood and eventually kills it. If Buddy ate a rat that had eaten poison, or eaten some of the poison, that could have caused the "spontaneous" bleeding. The vitamin K pills seem to be working. Bud's doing fine, except when I have to give him his medicine. I have to wrap him in a towel to give him the meds so he doesn't scratch the hell out of me. He goes back to the vet in the morning to have his stitches removed. Hooray!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Buddy's Home!

And seasons 1 & 2 of The Closer came today, so I'm typing this, watching The Closer, and holding Buddy. He's needy today. I have to read/grade student essays, and will get on that in a minute.

Dr. Jeff told me that Buddy had been doing fine, but, when Dr. J. went to check on him Sunday, Buddy had blood in his feces and had hacked up blood, too. So, Dr. J. started giving Buddy vitamin K shots to help his blood clot. I have antibiotics and some vitamin K to give the cat, and we'll go back to the vet's on Friday to have the stitches out. As soon as Buddy heals from this, he and Bubba are going in for sex-adjustment surgery (They need to be neutered; snip-snip). Then we start the shots for everybody.

I'm glad I've found a local vet; I'm really glad Buddy's home, and I think the other cats are glad, too. Last night, I was sitting on the couch, surrounded by cats. I think they were afraid I was going to take them away, too, so they tried to cozy up to me.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Muffin Day

I love to bake. I especially love to bake when I'm angry or upset because I can work out some of my frustrations mixing and chopping. Today, I made about four dozen muffins (most of which I will give away--if I ate all of them I'd gain way too much weight)--strawberry-banana, blueberry-orange, and the best of all, zuchinni-chocolate. As the cook, I had to sample one of each, of course! The zuchinni were the best of the bunch, though each flavor has its merits.

Why was I angry/frustrated? I've just spent an extraordinary amount of money to find out that my little cat didn't have a blockage in his stomach, as the emergency vet insisted. In fact, Dr. Jeff said that Buddy didn't have anything in his stomach. No bird's head, no feathers. Something irritated his stomach, but, whatever it was, it wasn't there when Buddy got to Dr. Anderson's. The matter in Buddy's intestines resembled a black peppermint stick, according to Dr. Jeff; basically, he gave Buddy an enema--the doc flushed out his stomach and his intestines. A very expensive high colonic, if you ask me! Anyway, Buddy's recuperating at the clinic over the weekend. Dr. Jeff wants to make sure that Buddy's over his vomiting episode.

So, here's the lesson I've learned. Cats are cats. They will eat stuff they shouldn't and, while bloody vomit is scary, caution is best. Next time, I'll just lock the cat in the bathroom for 24 hours and let his digestive system calm down. If he's still sick after that, he goes to Dr. Jeff. No more emergency vets. That's the same as using the emergency room for a cold. Dumb!

So, I think I'll bake some bread later. I need to punch something, and dough is, at least, safe.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cat Tails/Tales?

Well, I should find out tomorrow, but I'm thinking the sparrow's head is in Buddy's stomach. He threw up blood Thursday afternoon, so I took him to the emergency vet in Shreveport (my second round trip of the day!), where I paid almost $500 to have the vet tell me that Buddy had a blockage. Duh! So, at 1am, I was driving the highway homeward. I went to bed around 2am Friday, got up around 7:30am, and took Buddy to the local vet. I taught my class, went to lunch with a former student, then drove back to the vet's office.

I like Dr. Anderson. He's a large and small animal vet, which means he deals with horses, sheep, cows, as well as dogs and cats. I love sitting in a vet's office--I've met some wonderful animals and their owners in the last two days. At Dr. Jeff's (that's Dr. A's first name--that's what everyone calls him), I met a Rat Terrier named "Shorty" who was in for a toenail clipping (which Dr. Jeff did himself), a cat named "Lucy," (an orange-striped tabby), a lab named Jojo, who loves to have her head scratched, and a Jack Russell puppy named "Gigi," and her human, who's name is "Daisy." Last night/early this morning, I met a Cocker Spaniel named "Petunia," a Rat Terrier named "Abby," a miniature Shnauzer named "Abbie," a lab named "Hunter," and a lab named "May." No other cats, though.

Dr. Jeff took the time to talk to me about Buddy--is he prone to eating hair scrunchies, rubber bands; does he throw up often? Answer to both questions: No. Buddy likes to play with scrunchies, rubber bands, and yarn (yeah, he's such a typical cat), but he knows the difference between toys and food. He and Bubba will tear the hell out of a catnip mouse, but they won't eat it. I told Dr. Jeff about the sparrow and the missing head. He said he checked the x-rays from the emergency clinic and said he planned to do an exploratory surgery on Buddy and keep him overnight. I expected the doc to call, but he might have had a large-animal emergency. (And I found out that, at night, he only deals with large animals. So he doesn't come in for small animal emergencies.)

I trust him--even though he seems to be rather youngish (but how do I know?). Dr. Jeff is personable, asks interesting questions, and seems to know the animals he cares for quite well. He wants to know and he treated my concerns seriously, even the money question. How much? About $150, unless he has to resect a bowel! Next time, I'll just wait for Dr. Jeff's office to open to take in a sick animal. But now I have a local vet to vaccinate my cats and treat them when they swallow birds' heads whole!

But the question that's plaguing me now is "How much is an animal worth?" If I had to choose between paying $1,000 to save my cat or $1,000 to save my child, of course, the answer is obvious. But my children are grown; my cats are my companions. They share my life and complete my home; I couldn't imagine living without them. I think that, because I lost Judas to the dogs, I'm particularly vulnerable right now. I've raised Buddy--he wasn't more than six week's old when my neighbor handed him to me. He's my puppy-cat and follows me around. I would hate to lose him, especially when I can do something to prevent it.

I can't wait to get him home. But I think I won't let him go outside for a while!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another "Gift"

When I sat down to read my students' second drafts today, I noticed feathers. I looked closer and found the body of a sparrow, sans head, on my desk. The last time one of my cats left me such a gift, I received the head and tail feathers of a Cardinal. So I guess I should be happy I didn't find the body of a red bird on my desk. But, really, these "gifts" are annoying. I'm still finding feathers in the nooks and crannies; I'm really afraid I'm going to find the head, too. (reminds me of the famous scene in "The Godfather"--the horse's head in the bed! Yikes!)

I love my cats, but this is too much. And, to top this off, Buddy, one of my younger cats, keeps throwing up--food, water, grass. I'd blame it on hairballs, but he doesn't seem to shed much. I'm thinking he ate something he shouldn't have. I'd blame his gastrointestinal problems on the food, but none of the other cats are throwing up, so he might have gotten into something he shouldn't. I need to find some homeopath remedy for this. First, though, I need to keep him away from food for a day or so. I think I'll lock him in the study (that's one way to keep the others from leaving me dead birds!).

I welcomed the thunderstorm tonight. I thought I'd have to go out and water the garden in the morning so it would get its one-inch for the week, but I think it will be fine for a couple of days. I picked quite a few tomatoes tonight and a squash. I'm still not sure when the peppers will be ready, but I may just have to pick one and try it out. I had a salad for dinner and threw in a couple of the cherry tomatoes. Yum!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A (Mostly) Mowed Yard!

Hooray! I (sort-of) mowed my grass today with my new riding mower! Of course, I flooded the engine once, and it backfired on me and scared me to death. I rode the clutch. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get the brake all the way down, but I did it! Hopefully, the next time will be better. At least I mowed down most of the really tall grass. But the cutting job is erratic--I got so wrapped up in getting the tall grass that I skipped some of the other parts. I have cut sections and not-cut sections, but I'll do better once I'm more comfortable. I'm hoping I haven't stripped any gears or blown any gaskets! I only took two hours to mow, though, instead of two hours a day, five days a week.

Mechanical gadgets, while fascinating, still scare me. Driving a lawnmower is very much like driving a car, but I didn't realize that speed is relative--when I was riding on the mower, I probably wasn't going faster than 3 to 5 miles an hour, but without doors and a roof to protect me, I felt totally vulnerable. But I also felt empowered--I can do it myself, so that feeds my sense of independence. Since I can't rely on my brothers or my father to "take care" of me, I need to be able to do these things myself. Scary--yes--but also quite liberating.

I did visit briefly with my dad today for Father's Day. His birthday is Wednesday, so I brought two cards. I chipped in with my siblings to buy him a custom golf club for Father's Day, and I got him an American Express gift card that he can spend anyway he wants. I also had a chance to see my brother Mike, his wife Linda, and his daughter Katie. That was nice. I don't get to see them too often since they live in Monroe, LA.

When my children were still living at home, they used to give me a card for Father's Day! I kind of miss that.

I hope all you fathers had a good day! Mine was excellent.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cat Sagas, Part Deux

My elation at discovering that Boudreaux was okay was short-lived. I woke up this morning to the sound of dogs barking again, and, by the time I made it out the back door, I discovered the largest of the hounds standing over the body of my cat, Judas. She, unfortunately, was dead.

So, at 7:30 am, I was once again digging a hole. The ground was fairly soft, but I need to put some more dirt on top of the grave to keep the varmints from digging her up. To say that I am sad is an understatement. This cat has been with me for about ten years. My daughter brought Judas to me from Austin. Dorothy had moved into a new apartment and couldn't keep her.

Judas was a one-person cat. She hated every other cat in the house and rarely let any of them get within three feet of her. When the weather turned warm, she would go outside and not come back inside until the temperature cooled significantly. I think that's what caused the problem--I couldn't get her to come inside to eat. I had to put food out for her, which, I think, encouraged the dogs to visit the property.

Judas was part of a litter of kittens that a wandering stray cat had when my daughter was living in an apartment with four guys. They named the mother cat "Mary" and named the kittens after the Disciples--Judas got her name because she was the only black cat in the bunch. Dorothy and the guys didn't care about the cat's sex; they named them randomly. So that's how I ended up with a cat named "Judas." Not a name I would have chosen.

When I got home from teaching today, I called the police department. I let them know about the dogs, that one of them, at least, had killed my cat. We do have leash laws here, I found out, but we don't really have any way to enforce them. We don't have a dog catcher or pound, so abandoned or wandering animals can't be taken anywhere, even if the police do catch them. I asked the officer what the solution was, and he told me that the officer can "dispose" of the animal if he/she considers the animal vicious. If the animal attacks the officer, the officer can shoot it. I think that's what he meant by "dispose." I'm not in favor of killing animals--any animals--unless they pose an immediate danger. These dogs are vicious to cats. Does that count? Anyway, the morning shift is supposed to keep an eye on my property. I am going to try to keep the cats in tonight. They've been in most of the day, anyway, because of the rain. I think I'll go count, now. If they are all here, I'm locking the door.

************
Oh, and, as an aside, I'm now the proud owner of a bouncing baby riding lawnmower! Alas, I can't use it because the ground is saturated. I probably won't be able to cut the grass until Tuesday. I hope I can figure out how it works by then!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cat Update...

I worry too much and I forget that cats are crafty. I started filling food bowls this morning and Boudreaux was first in line for chow! I gave him a quick twice over and he seemed to be fine. He ate and perched himself in his favorite spot on the sofa for a good cleaning and a nap. No doubt I will find him in the same place when I get home later.

When I went outside to look for him last night, I noticed the bugs around the security lights in my neighbor's yard. I searched for bats--they are drawn to the bugs. I'm pretty sure we have bats in the country, but I don't know that I've actually seen any. But, while I was looking for the bats, an owl swooped through the yard and perched in one of the neighbor's trees. Good! Another helper to rid the area of rats. (I really, really, really HATE rats!)

Anyway, Boo is fine--and that means I'm fine, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Cat Sagas

I mentioned this morning in class that I saw three big dogs this morning that had something cornered under my neighbor's car. I thought it might be one of my cats, Boudreaux (Boo). I haven't seen him all day, and I didn't see anything under the car when I got home. If he's hurt, he may be under the house, or (and I really hope not), those dogs may have come back for him. I threw a stick at them and chased them away, but my neighbor is not the friendliest person. If my cat died under her car, she probably threw him in the trash or on the burn pile in her back yard. I know that sounds terrible (it does to me); I would prefer that she yell at me to come get my cat. I'm holding out hope that Boo is just hiding and will come out when he feels safe. I have been looking for him and calling him, but he hasn't shown up yet.

The newest member of the group, Golem, caught a rat in the backyard this afternoon. Well, think about it--bird feeders, tall grass, and chickens/chicken eggs across the ditch--a rat's paradise! And, of course, the rat snakes indicate that rats live around here. Golem dispatched the rat in short order, leaving only the head (in the grass; I closed the back door to keep him from bringing it in to the house). The other cats displayed typical cat curiousity and tried to get a look at his snack, but he wasn't sharing. I need to thank the professor who gave Golem to me; he's a good ratter.

I'm going to call for Boudreaux again. I'm hoping he's just chilling somewhere--he does that every once in a while, even though he's neutered; my cats stay close to home, but they'll go on short forays, mostly to chase chickens. I'm hoping that's what Boo is doing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In High Grass...


Okay, that's it. I'm not spending one more minute trying to mow an acre with an electric lawn mower. I went out yesterday around 11am; the temp was already near 90 degrees, and I managed to mow a square of lawn before the sweat blinded me. Tomorrow, I'm going to Lowe's to buy a riding lawnmower. The temps won't get any cooler, really, and this is only June. Besides, I don't really have 10 hours a week to mow the grass. I can only go for an hour or two a day before I collapse in a puddle on the living room floor--I'm useless for the rest of the day. At this rate, I have to mow some of the grass every day. And, of course, after a week, I have to start over, so it's a never-ending chore. At least a riding mower will help me dispatch this job more quickly. The picture shows part of the backyard; walk to the right, and you'll find more. I took this picture to show the fence my neighbor was putting up.

I have a long list of "needs"--a tiller (I want to plant a ton of flower beds and enlarge the garden, and I can rent it out to my friends!), a wheelbarrow, a ladder. I just keep adding to the list of necessities. When I bought my house, I had forgotten about all this. When you rent, you don't worry about cleaning out the gutters or sweeping the pine straw off the roof; you might have to mow the yard, but the yard's usually not that big; and, generally, the landlord's not overly enthusiastic if you dig up half the yard for a garden.


I'm also wondering if I should buy a chain saw (it would need to be extremely light-weight so that I could handle it) since I'm constantly dealing with large limbs that fall when the wind kicks up. I mostly drag those to the burn pile, but some of the limbs are too much for me to drag, even.


Women with power tools! I love it! I can remember how excited I was when I bought my drill/electric screwdriver. I couldn't wait to try it out; I went all through my house hanging curtains! I love to master tools. One day, I may actually buy a table saw and start building my own bookcases.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Yard Full of Cardinals and One Big Turtle!


The rain brought all of the birds out, but I counted at least six Cardinals--mostly female, though I did see (I think) two males. These guys seem to have a harem between them!


And this was just a fluke, but, while I was looking out the back door, I saw this HUGE turtle lumbering across the yard towards the ditch. I at least had the presence of mind to take some pictures. Here's one. He sat still while I crouched down in the rain to snap his pic! And anyone who says that turtle's are slow didn't see this one booking it across the yard! He/she was really moving. The picture doesn't do justice to it's size--it was at least 12 inches long. Amazing! And very weird that I just happened to look out the door at the precise moment it decided to make a run for it!
Nature offers all manner of sights if we just pay attention! Along with the dog, the snake and the birds, I have an abundance of distractions to occupy me.
I've picked five yellow squash from my garden, medium-sized, not really huge. But I ate some for dinner the other night and they were yummy! I'm just waiting for the tomatoes and peppers now.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass...

or, as I have to tell my students, a snake. I noticed that the stray gray and white cat who hangs around was tossing something in the air yesterday, so I decided to check it out. The snake was long, but only about an inch around. Flies buzzed it, so I figured it was almost dead. Wrong! I keep forgetting that some snakes "play possum"; they figure the predator will lose interest and leave them alone. I used a stick to pick it up and throw it on the burn pile. I figured it would die, for real, or it would go away. It wasn't there this morning, so I'm guessing it slithered off. I'm glad I wear my grandmother's boots when I'm walking through the tall grass.

The snake was blackish-brown with a white underbelly. It had a narrow head--not triangular, as with most poisonous snakes. I figure it was a rat/corn/chicken snake. Not too many markings on its back; since the neighbors have chickens, I'm guessing it came from across the ditch. But, who knows? Snakes ignore boundaries; it could have come from the woods behind my other neighbor's house.

Cats like to play with snakes, but I'm worried that they will get bitten. Even a rat snake will make them sick, so I keep a lookout for snakes and work to keep the cats away from them. This is only the third time I've seen a snake in my yard, but, in the country, they're always around somewhere.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Dog

I'm sorry to say the little dog I found didn't make it. I feel terrible about that. She (it was a female) must have been out for a while--the condition of her coat suggests that--and she was obviously seriously injured. She died sometime between midnight on Tuesday and 7:30am on Wednesday. I decided to call her "Matilda"--the name just suggested itself to me. I buried her--no mean feat for me at 7:30 in the morning, before coffee. And, while that solved my dilemma, I can't help feeling sorry that some family has lost a pet and doesn't know it. She didn't have tags, so I can't notify anyone about her death. That makes me incredibly sad.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Found Dog


I'm on the horns of a financial and ethical dilemma. I found this dog in my backyard today. It's hurt and extremely dirty and I have no idea what to do with it (I say "it" because I can't tell if it's male or female yet). It's in my bathroom at the moment, sleeping in the shower.
I went to the store earlier today and went into the house through the back door; the dog wasn't there then. I tried to go outside between rainstorms and the dog was blocking the storm door. I tried to get the dog, but it crawled under the house. I was afraid it would die under there, so I waited until it came back out, wrapped it in a towel, and brought it in the house. At least, if it dies, I'll be able to get to it.
I'm guessing it was hit by a car, but I don't know when or where, or how long it's been in my yard. By the looks of it, the dog has been out in the tall grass for a while--it's coat is full of burrs and grass seed. If it survives, and becomes less touchy, I may try to bathe it, but I'll need a tub for that. Otherwise, the dirt and hair will clog my shower drain.
I just don't know what to do. I really don't want a dog--they take too much time, which I don't have, and need a fenced yard, which I also don't have. Besides, I have cats and a bird and don't really want to try to integrate a dog into the menagerie. I can't afford to take this dog to the vet right now, but I also know that, if I take it to the Humane Society, they'll probably euthanize it. This is not my dog, but I'm thinking it belongs to somebody who might be looking for it. And I don't want to be responsible for having someone else's pet put to sleep.
I'll have to think about this. I'm working all day tomorrow, so I'll just leave the dog in the bathroom with it's food and water (I did, oddly enough, have dog food--Golem, I was told, liked dog food, so I bought some for him; he only eats cat food now, though) and call the Humane Society in Natchitoches on Thursday to discuss this with them. I did call the local police, and the operator told me they couldn't take the dog because they didn't have a facility for animals here. We do have a leash law, I discovered, but no provision for dealing with animals without identification.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Please Come to Boston...


Well, I went. And it was HOT, hotter than Louisiana. I walked to Chinatown from the Westin Copley (a looooong walk) and back, and the temp was 93. I, of course, brought layers, anticipating 70-degree days. That didn't happen, so I only needed jackets for the hotel. Altogether, though, I had a wonderful time. On my way back from Chinatown, I ducked into Trinity Church to listen to the Friday organ recital. It was lovely. We also ate Italian in Little Italy (the North End), and that was exquisite. Our sessions for the American Religion and Literature Society were well-attended (20 people at least for each session), and I met some wonderful people.

I also wrote a poem (the second in a month). I'll probably revise it still, but here it is:

Going for Italian in the North End

I left home in summer
expecting winter here
but found the thrum of heat and sweat
that proves that where you go
is where you left.
And the walking takes you
to narrow stacked streets,
shops full of cheeses and cannoli,
St. Jude posters with dollars
pinned at the edges.
Diners' voices explode off walls,
spill out the door.
In the Peace Garden,
a rat skims across the sidewalk
and we continue to the T
to rock our way to sleep.


Not totally finished, but something to work on. And I might have an outlet for the Hawthorne paper I wrote in 2001! I'd love to see that published, so I better get to work revising it.

Summer school begins on Friday and I don't feel ready. I have my Moodle site organized, but haven't opened it to students yet. I may do that tomorrow or Tuesday. Wednesday I'll work at the bookstore, but I need to stop in at the college and file the paperwork for my trip to get reimbursed. Too much to do, and I'm about to have even less time.

The garden is flourishing; I hope to be able to harvest some vegetables in the next week or so.

And what's with the gas prices? It's almost not cost-effective for me to drive to work these days. I'm of the opinion that the petroleum companies are out to make big profits, regardless of what it does to consumers. Yeah, I know what they say, but I don't see them investing those profits in refineries.

Off the soapbox! Need to get ready for summer school!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Garden

I've been checking the garden every day, and I'm happy to say that everything is growing. I took some pictures today--the tomatoes and squash are going great guns; the bell peppers are developing more slowly. I also took pictures of the peach tree. It still has five peaches on it, so I haven't lost any of those.

The pictures are probably a bit fuzzy, but the first is of one of the tomato plants. Nearly all of them (I have 12) have tomatoes on them.

Next is a picture of one of the sqash plants. They are also doing well.







And, of course, I have a picture of a peach on the peach tree. I hope it does better next year, but I bought it after it bloomed and the peaches were already on it.






I feel as though I'm turning into one of those old ladies with her cats and her plants. But, this keeps me busy and out of trouble.


I managed to mow most of the front yard yesterday. I left one dense patch of grass--but it's close to the ditch and doesn't obscure anyone's view of the road.


I need to mow the back yard, but I'm a bit fearful of doing that. Last Saturday, I went out to mow the back yard and a rock flew up and broke the back windshield out of my car! I had to wait five days for the window to come in and pay my deductible; but, of course, that meant I had to file a claim with my insurance company, which means my rates will probably go up. I think I'll park the car in the front yard before I begin to mow.
Well, onto other things. I've been working on my summer class, thinking about my fall classes, preparing for a conference in Boston Thursday, and knitting. I've finished the components for a tank top. I'm waiting for the pieces to dry before I sew it together and I'll post a picture of it when it's finished. I managed to knit a hat and fingerless gloves for Boston; the temp there is about 20 degrees cooler than here, so I need to keep warm. And, of course, I have numerous other projects to keep me busy knitting on the plane, if I can bring my knitting needles with me (I think they lifted that restriction, but I need to check).
All in all, I'm too busy for words. I actually goofed off one day this week, if you call it "goofing off" when I knit and cook. One day, maybe, I'll feel as though I really don't need to do anything but eat and sleep, but that day isn't here yet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wake-Up Call...

My friend, David Lewis, and another friend wrote a song with this title that was recorded by John Mayall. If you haven't heard it, you should go find it. It's great.

And, of course, it's a perfect title for my finals' week blog because, once again, I have these students who, all of a sudden, wake up and realize they probably won't pass the class they've been taking with me all semester, or that they probably won't make the grade they "need" to keep up their GPAs.

Well, I'm sorry, but it's too late for most of them. I understand illness, I understand procrastination, I understand "it slipped my mind," but now is not the time to ask for help or consideration. It's not as though I've added any "new" assignments to the schedule. I pretty much have it all mapped out at the beginning, so students shouldn't be surprised when they have work due.

Since last week, I have been grading papers, averaging grades, searching for grades I might have missed, looking for papers I might have overlooked (probably because they were turned in late), and I'm exhausted with excuses. I have one final to give and, after that, I'm turning in my grades. I need a break before my conference in Boston and before summer school begins on June 1. I just do not have the time or the inclination to cut anybody any slack at all.

I made it clear to my students that they were NOT to discuss their grades with me after dead week began. And what do I find in my email inbox? Questions about grades, of course. And, for my lit class, I went over the final exam questions--I read them out loud! And I have students bugging me to email them the questions because they missed the class. NO! If you didn't come to class or you didn't record them, don't ask. Enough already! Next thing they'll be asking me is to take the test for them. Please!

Every semester, I talk about personal resposibility, about being responsible for your own learning and your own success. At times, I feel that students want me to do everything for them; they want me to allow substandard work or give them a free pass if they can't do what I've asked them to do. I spend an enormous amount of time building my course sites--including information to help my students with their work. Half of them don't look at what I post and then get upset when I take points off their papers because they don't do what they are supposed to. How difficult is it to create a Works Cited page? Obviously, it's incredibly difficult because they haven't looked at the document I created and posted that shows them exactly how to do it!

And what's the deal about not asking for help during the semester? If you can't figure something out or have problems writing a thesis statement, why don't you ask the professor for help? It's part of our job. But please don't ask me to read your mind! I gave that up when I became mortal!

Yeah, my end-of-semester rant!

I love the students who hunger for knowledge for knowledge's sake--they're here for more than a grade. I just keep teaching for them.

Now I think I'll go check on the garden. Everything's growing in great leaps, and I can't wait for the first ripe tomato.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jelly Making

I was out in the yard yesterday, burning limbs again (I'm going to have to do it one more time), when I remembered that the Mayhaws should be ready to pick. I filled a bucket about half full, cleaned them, and stuck them in a bag in the fridge until I could make jelly. I did that this morning.

The last time I made jelly was when I lived in Texarkana--I made Pyracanthia jelly. We had a huge Pyracanthia bush that hung over our garage. I climbed a ladder and picked a bucket full, then made jars and jars of jelly.

I went to the store this morning to buy jars and pectin (you need that to make the jelly set), then boiled the Mayhaws down, strained them, added the sugar and pectin and boiled everything. I had to boil the jars and the lids--I bought a case of 12 small jelly jars, but had enough jelly left over to fill up a mason jar! It's beautiful--a pinkish color. The Mayhaws smelled sweet, but, of course, the sugar is what makes the jelly sweet! I'm just wondering how long it takes jelly to set. This still looks too liquid. Oh, well, if it doesn't set by Tuesday, I can try it again. {Note: The jelly appears to be setting! 04/30/07}

Next year, maybe I'll actually get some plums off the mature trees and maybe the new trees will bear fruit, also. And, of course, maybe the peach tree will bear more. So far, the five or six peaches that remained on the tree when I planted it are still there. Hmm, maybe I'm ready for the chickens!

And, help me and all the other farmers out here--turn off your cell phones once in a while so the bees can find their homes! Thanks!


I've read all the final blogs, graded the reading summaries, and made a list of everything I need to do in the next week. Just looking at it makes me tired; really, I do know how my students feel; whether they really believe me is another thing!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Two Quick Observations...

The yellow tea rose that I planted at Easter is blooming, and, today, I saw my first hummingbird for the year!

Spring is really here, at last!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Good Day for Yard Work...




So I spent most of the day out in the yard, burning limbs that had fallen after the last big storms, trying to mow more of my yard ( a never-ending chore!), and planting a peach tree. I've included a picture of the peach tree (it actually has peaches on it, but I don't think they'll survive the transplanting!) before transplanting.


The garden is doing fine. I try to water it every morning, when I can. I've been monitoring it every day. Let's see if I can get a picture of that in here, too. The tomatoes and peppers are doing well; the squash may make it, but the watermelon is a goner. Not enough cold weather to set the plants, I guess.
I've read a set of papers, but I think I'm going to put off reading blogs until tomorrow. I'm pooped! And I'll have two sets of papers to read tomorrow, too. Sigh! But the semester is almost over and I'll be sad when these students move on, so I better enjoy them while I can.
Oh, and I almost forgot--I went to the star party at Worley Observatory last night. It was great. I saw the moon (several views), Saturn, and the Horsehead Nebula in the Orion constellation, as well as Venus. Totally cool! The next star party is on May 19; I think more people should attend, though the Astronomy Club had quite a turn out.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rate My Professor

I love reading the postings that students leave on ratemyprofessor.com. They are so strange and funny. I was just looking at my ratings, which I do every once in a while, and noticed that a number of them are "under review," and I have no idea what that means. The latest entry "under review" was from one of my 215 students who said something about me being "obnoxious and rude" and something to the effect that it was a shame the way I talked to my students. I copied the comment--here it is:

"This woman is so obnoxious and rude. The class may be easy but I had several times where I thought she should be kicked for the way she talked to us. She knows English and has her moments where she is likable, but they are few and far between."

Me? I'm still trying to figure out what that comment means. I think students ought to have to sign their names!

Must be terrible, being a student, feeling as though you have no power. It's so much easier to bash your teachers anonymously than it is to actually talk to them, but few students are brave enough to do that. I'm sorry the student feels that way, but, since he/she hasn't bothered to talk to me, I can't really do anything about it. And, actually, I still don't have any idea what the student is talking about.

Anyway, that's the only comment like that, out of 20 comments. Most of them are really nice and, I think, give potential students a good idea about what they can expect from me and my classes. I appreciate that. I think I'm fair and I try to be helpful, though sometimes I think I am too helpful! A borderline enabler! I'm working hard not to be (an enabler, that is).

I wish, though, we had a "rate your students.com," but I think that would be too obvious. If I rated my students, they would know who did the rating! And I suppose that's what grades are for, though I really do believe students in my classes get the grades they earn.

Rate My Professor is a strange and interesting site. I suppose it gives students a way to vent safely, but I try not to pay much attention to it. If I worry too much about how my students "feel" about me, I'm likely not going to do what I need to do to help them understand whatever I'm teaching. I don't think professors should dismiss their students' feelings, but I don't think that teaching is a popularity contest. It's what I do, and I try to do the best I can.

For the most part, I have wonderful students. They work hard, and most of them want to get the most out of our classes. I appreciate their effort and I try to reward hard work. But, if a student wants an A without putting forth any effort, that student will be unhappy with me and my class. I don't think that's my problem (or "my monkey," as I say). I will do everything in my power to help a student who wants help, but I'm not "giving" grades that aren't deserved.

I both love and hate the end of a semester--I say this at the end of every semester, but I always mean it. I'll miss most of my students--the ones who put forth some effort, anyway!