Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cosmos

I dropped a class, for the first time ever.  I registered for Astronomy, figuring (erroneously) that it would be a good science for a non-science major.  I've found that the study of Astronomy requires a level of math proficiency that I do not possess.   So starting on Tuesday, I'll be studying Human Biology.  I have received multiple assurances that this class is ideally suited to the scientific abilities of the English major.  We'll just see about that.  Meanwhile, as always, I have no problems that summer cannot solve.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discernment

I'm reading Middlemarch right now. I mean right now, as I type this post. So don't expect much. (PS--did you know that book titles are now italicized, rather than underlined, according to MLA guidelines?) I don't remember what led me to Middlemarch...I think it was referenced in an essay or mentioned in another book? Anyway, I saw a gap in my reading, having never read George Eliot (I'm sure I was supposed to read Silas Marner at some point, but either I don't remember it or I just flat out didn't read it) and decided to fix it posthaste. I'm 120 or so pages in and I'm all agog.

If you've been all agog at each of my infrequent blog posts, then you'll remember that I spent a good deal of the spring with Mr. Evelyn Waugh. According to George Weigel, Helena, published in 1950, was Waugh’s own favorite among all of his books. Helena is a novel based on the life of St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine. Weigel explains that Waugh found Helena particularly interesting because he considered her a person who “discovered what it was God has chosen for her to do and did it”. As Waugh himself said, “God wants a different thing for each of us, laborious or easy, conspicuous or quite private, but something which only we can do and for which we were each created".

What has this to do with that, you might ask, assuming you're still reading this bilge. Middlemarch heroine Dorothea Brooke is looking for the one thing which only she can do and for which she was created. And so, as it turns out, am I. What I'm doing now, while pleasant, isn't it. And I haven't read ahead, but Dorothea is about to enter into what is sure to be a boneheaded marriage, so her prospects don't look so good either. How did Helena figure it out?

Meanwhile, filed directly under the heading of "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome each time", I have chosen a class based on my nearly certain to be mistaken impression that it will be the easiest of the particular options available. That approach has worked out very well for me, very well indeed. Stay tuned for the inevitable "what have I done?!?!?!" post 3 or 4 weeks hence.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Slingshots and Arrows

A bird flew into my office window today.  We’re five stories up.  The bird smacked the window, and then fell/flew away.  Its fate remains unknown.  Perhaps it thought that I was harboring egg-stealing green pigs in my credenza. 
If you don’t get that joke, then just count yourself lucky.
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We’re at swim practice now, after a very pleasant homework-doing time.  9yo (yes, he’s 9 now.  10 next month) brought home his Scholastic book order form yesterday, and he wants me to order a rather expensive book for him.  I do normally buy a book or two for him, but of the $2.95 paperback variety, not the $30 slipcase-enclosed hardcover type. My normal policy re purchase of unnecessary stuff is “put it on your birthday/Christmas list”, and this was exactly the approach I took regarding this book.  9yo badly wants this book, though, and he spent a good part of the afternoon and evening trying to persuade me to buy it for him now rather than next month when he turns 10. 
Yesterday, we had an absolutely dreadful time with homework.  9yo, who is the sweetest of children, is given to drama and fits of anxiety (yes, I know ALL ABOUT fallen apples and their proximity to their trees of origin), and he extended himself yesterday over long division.  His disposition ruined by the homework debacle, he also complained about dinner, clarinet practice, Lego cleanup, brushing and flossing (he has braces now, so flossing is required) and bedtime.  I was so exasperated by 9 pm that I couldn’t even summon the good humor to play a tune on the world’s smallest violin, which is my usual response to children’s complaints.  Well, that, and the evergreen “life isn’t fair”.  Suddenly inspired, I pulled out the kitchen calendar. 
“See this?” I said. “Tomorrow is May 3.  Your book order is due on May 13.  If you can go for ten days without complaining, sighing, groaning, stomping, or in any way indicating your displeasure with the many injustices of your daily life, I will buy you that book”. 
“I can do that!” he said enthusiastically.
“Not so fast”, I said.   “No complaining means NOOOOOO complaining.  Not when it’s time to wake up and not when it’s time to go to bed.  Not when it’s time to practice, read, do homework, make your bed, take out trash, or write thank-you notes.  Not about what we’re eating, and not about what you’re not allowed to eat.  Not when it’s time to come inside, or to turn off the TV, or to clean up your toys.  I’m talking about absolutely zero complaining for ten solid days”.
“You got it!” he said.
“We’ll see”, I said.
SO.  Day 1 is going very well, very well indeed.  Motivated by the prospect of getting this book which he so wants, 9yo has, since this morning, made his bed, hung up his pajamas AND his brother’s, practiced clarinet, taken out trash, and put away his clean folded laundry.  When it was time to leave the house to come to the pool, he put on his shoes and grabbed his bag without so much as a sigh.  If the rest of today and the following 9 days go as well as this, then I will consider this $30 very well spent. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh, hello...are you still there?

It's been almost two months since I've posted here.  I was going to link to the post I wrote about citation-writing and then note that I'm now finished that class, but why bother with the link, since it was the most recent post?  Just scroll down if you're interested. 

Evelyn Waugh and I spent all of March and a good part of April together.  It was time well spent.  Now I'm free for the next few weeks while I decide whether or not to take a class during the summer.  I want to finish this thing but I also want the summer off.  It's a pickle.  And I want to blog more often, too, but I'm tired of writing about school.  I might start a book review blog.  I might write a book.  Anything is possible.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I got your citations, right here.

I just looked through my archives at the old blog, and realized, to my astonishment, that I haven't whined about writing citations for OVER 2 YEARS!  Since I complain to myself every single time I write a "Works Cited" list, I can't believe that I didn't share the misery with the internet. 

Did you know that the Modern Language Association has REVISED its guidelines on citations?  No, I didn't either until today, when our instructor helpfully pointed it out, one day before our paper is due.  So now I need to finish writing the paper and THEN familiarize myself with the new and better-be-improved citation style.

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OK, I've just reviewed the new citation style, and perhaps I'm overreacting, as the changes appear to be minimal.  There are two points to make here, however: one, that I wouldn't be me if I didn't hyperventilate over every little thing that goes wrong; and two, WHY, MLA? 

The old way was FINE.  I'd become accustomed to the old way, and was able, for the most part, to correctly write my citations without referring to the Bedford Guide.  That's not to say that I LIKED writing citations, but really, is it necessary to change in any way a system that appeared to be working very well?  Has not the Modern Language Association ever considered the scholarly wisdom of the "if it ain't broke" theory?  I blame Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for this.  Note to MLA: the idea of the new release doesn't necessarily apply to every endeavor.  If it doesn't contain a silicon chip, then 1.0 will probably do the job for the next 50 years.  Meanwhile, I have a paper to write.  I don't have time to be your beta tester.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lamestream

I used to subscribe to some magazines; some frivolous and fluffy and some semi-serious.  Then, I had children, and classes, and all sorts of other busy busy busy things to which languid magazine reading had to give way, once and for all.  So one by one, I allowed the subscriptions to expire (no easy thing by the way...many months of "are you sure? are you SURE you're sure?" attempts to retain you as a subscriber will follow any attempt to cancel a magazine subscription), until the only one that remained was Real Simple. 

Other than yoga and pomegranate juice, nothing could mark me more firmly as a member of the mild-mannered suburban earth-mother-lite class than a copy of RS in my mailbox. But whatever.  I liked the pretty pictures and the occasional appearance of a good essay, and so I would stop whatever I was doing within reason when my monthly copy arrived and would read it front to back. 

Fatigue set in, as it has with every other form of media. I wonder sometimes if it's just me and my gnat-like attention span.  I look at the headlines on Yahoo or MSNBC, and I can't summon enough interest to click through to the story;  some days, my news comes entirely from headlines.  And the top-ten slide shows!  I can't, I tell you, I just can't. 

So Real Simple.  I got the next-to-next-to-last issue in the mail the other day (are you sure? are you sure you're sure?  just send this card back and we'll keep sending you pretty pictures every month!) and when I saw the cover, I just laid down in my snow-blanketed driveway and took a nap.  Superfoods.  I give you my word that there were sweet potatoes, edamame, and blueberries splashed all over the cover of this magazine.  I found myself asking "where is the quinoa?  whence the almonds?", so thoroughly do I know this drill.  And I hate sweet potatoes, too.  Superfood, my ass.  I'm sure they're chock-full of antioxidants and flavonoids (see?  WHY do I even know what a flavonoid is?), but if they were so super, they'd taste good.

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The dashes indicate the passage of nearly a week's time since I started this post.  I'll offer my standard excuse, which is that I'm in the middle of a class, and unless it has something to do with Virginia Woolf or Evelyn Waugh, I shouldn't be writing about it.  Also,  I just didn't have a point with which to finish this, unless it's corporate media domination and again, I just can't.  It's not that corporate media domination doesn't bother me, it's just that whatever can possibly be said about it has been said, and with more economy and wit than I can summon right now.  But I thought I'd better just finish this and post it before the RS cover herein described gave way to three or four months worth of artistically organized home offices and pristine sunsplashed entry halls filled with pastel wellington boots, and the few people who still read this bilge would be scratching their heads and saying "What? That issue was MONTHS ago!  We're over the superfoods!  We're decluttering now!"  I too have some decluttering to do, but it's in my brain, and nothing in print other than the DSM IV is going to help me with that.   Maybe I need to eat some salmon.  I hear that it's brain food.