Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another Day, Another Blog...

The last two weeks have passed in a blur.  All I've done, it seems, is grade papers...with short forays to the Ace Hardware store for paint for my mother and into the yard for mowing.  Other than that, I've been chained to my computer.

I've tried to make time for my own work; I stop grading papers about nine at night, then spend a couple of hours revising a novel.  I have a friend in Kentucky who's willing to swap novels with me, so I feel some pressure to make it as good as possible before I hand it over to him.  And I have a new friend who's asked me and several other poets to help with his manuscript--decide what should stay, what should go, and what might go either way.  And he's asked for help with ordering the poems.  So I have these obligations.

And, of course, November is NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month.  Crazy people like me sign up to write 50,000 words in a month.  I did it last year for the first time, and I wrote 65,000 words--I'm working on revising that novel, and I'm nearly pleased with it.

I don't gripe too much about grading papers, usually.  I know it's part of my job--a big part of it.  I'd love to be able to teach a class without assigning work, but I'd have to find another way to grade students!  I have no idea how I'd do that, but I'm sure my students are full of suggestions!

But, if the weather stays as nice as its been lately, I need a bonfire this weekend!  Grading can wait for good weather!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Shameless Endorsement...

I am not one who usually waxes poetic about companies or products, but I have to promote a company that consistently saves me money, Gateway Tires on S'port-Barksdale Hwy.

The story begins with dinner out on Friday night.  I started driving home in the gloomy rain around 10pm, only to discover that I had no "dim" headlights.  I had hi-beams and fog lights, but no "regular" lights.  Scary, and I'm sure the oncoming traffic was confused, too.

This morning, being the first morning I had time to deal with this, I took my car down the road to a local garage and asked them if they could fix it.  I left my car, walked home, and received a call about an hour later--no, they couldn't  They'd have to take the entire front end off the car and the bulbs cost $145--EACH--and no one in town had them, I'd have to take the car to the dealer, yada, yada, yada.  You get the idea.  Sounded to me as though they really didn't want my business.

So, I called Gateway.  I told the guy my problem and what the garage here said.  He said, "Bring it here first.  We can probably take care of it more cheaply than a dealer can."

The bad news--the bulbs from the dealer would cost $216--EACH--but Gateway could get them for $128--EACH.  Gulp.  Total with tax and labor would be about $328.  And it would take an hour.

I graded papers; I re-read the stories for my Eng. 215 class.  I tried not to panic.  How soon could I get to the bank and transfer money from savings?  Did I really need to go to the grocery store this week? 

I'm ready to start a movement--before a dealer can sell you a car, he/she must tell you replacement costs for every part you might have to replace.  Just about the time I had worked myself up into a full-blown crusade, Craig, one of the counter persons, came over to me and said, "We checked the part numbers for the bulbs, and we think we can use bulbs that cost about $10 or $15 each.  Does that sound better?"

I offered to cook for him for a year, but, smart man, he turned me down.

Total cost for parts and labor?  $84.47!

And that's why I will shamelessly promote Gateway Tires to anyone who asks me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stuck in the Middle with You...

I'm three weeks into the fall semester, and I feel as though my butt has fused to my chair...that my hands are welded to the computer keyboard...that my world has narrowed to a small section of my living room.

When was the last time I sat in one of my living room chairs to watch a movie?  I have a crick in my neck from glancing over my left shoulder to view the TV.  But work comes first...or does it? 

I am probably as conscientious a person as anyone will find.  I take my responsibilities seriously.  Some days, though, I just want to sit on the carport with a cup of coffee and let life drift by.  Once in a while, I indulge myself.  But, then, I remember all the "stuff" I need to do, and the responsible person in me gives me a swift kick and tells me to "get with the program."

I'm trying to lighten up a bit.  I will drive into Shreveport on a Friday to have lunch with friends; I'll drive in to visit my parents and siblings.  I need to do that more often.  Narrowing my world down to the desk and the computer is restrictive.  I can't be a well-rounded person if I'm always fixated on work.

That's not to say that I give myself permission to ignore what I must do.  But I'm trying to find a balance--all work and no play, etc.  I don't want to be dull!  But procrastination doesn't get the work done.

I'm looking for the middle ground...but it's a learning process!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Hummingbird Wars

I realize that, since the semester has begun again, I need to keep up with my blog so my students will have something to laugh at...I mean, "read."  I could recycle blogs, but that's one type of recycling I'm not in favorite of--"The Best of Ms. Smith's Blogs."  I don't think so.

So, today, after I finished reading freshman diagnostics (finally) and grading a quiz for my 215 class and re-reading a couple of stories I need to teach tomorrow, I went outside to enjoy the freakishly fall-like day and watch the hummingbirds duke it out in the back yard.

I learned something about hummingbirds when I was in Colorado.  They make noise.  I don't mean just the wing noise; they make sounds that I'd describe as "twittering."  Maybe that's where the Twitter site took it's name.

What I've discovered during my numerous afternoons of watching them is that they are aggressive with other birds, too, not just their own kind.  They'll go after a Jay or Cardinal if those birds get in their way; hummers will also chase wasps and bees away from feeders, but I haven't noticed them going after butterflies.

Hummers attack each other physically.  Today, during a quiet stretch when the other birds had gone off, I listened and watched as three hummers chased each other around the yard.  They "chest bump" each other--well, maybe not exactly, but they fly straight at one another and try to knock each other off flight.  One hummer hovered around the feeder, and another much smaller hummer flew at him and knocked the large one sideways three times.  And, at times, I thought they must be fighting with their beaks--I thought I heard some "clacks" in there.

I took Middlemarch out with me to read, but I didn't make it through two pages before the hummers claimed my attention.  One of them--the smallest, most aggressive of the three--sat on the clothesline closest to my chair.  I managed to get a good look at him/her, and the hummer sat still for a good five minutes.  It's not true that they are constantly in motion; these guys sit still plenty.

Watching the birds is one of my favorite past times.  It's relaxing and informative.  Of all the birds, the hummers are my favorite.  I wish they'd hang around all year, but I know they have to migrate.  I still keep the feeders out and filled all the time, though.  I can't ever tell when one of them might need a drink before its long journey southward.