Thursday, March 31, 2005


My clapotis, c'est finis.

It's huge, and purple, and I love it.

And now the weather is guaranteed to warm up. 70 tomorrow, no kidding.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


deleted that duplicate post. sorry!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

why I don't watch TV

So over the weekend my sister was watching Andi's panel on BookTV, and she said she felt like she was in a time warp--Rhoads (and some of his interlocutors) sounded like something out of the early eighties. (Didn't help that many in the audience appeared dressed in fashions of the times...) And that was kind of hopeful, right? Rhoads is a throwback, these attitudes are really on the way out (or all the way out), etc.

Maybe. But last night I watched Everybody Loves Raymond. I've never actually sat through an entire episode before. (And really I didn't last night, either. I was doing laundry and knitting and just wanted company on the tube, all right? Just so you don't think I really watch this stuff...)

Anyway the premise of the show was that the wife (Deborah? Debra?) had PMS, but wouldn't admit it, and that Ray was trying to deal. OK, so she was a screaming shrew, in front of his friends (unforgiveable, of course), and he tried to get her to admit it, and take some OTC meds ("with St Johns Warts!" he said) and feel better. Oh, it was awful--every stereotype in the book. Ray's father counseled him to take action, on the theory that what's now a mood later becomes a personality.

I was getting all incensed at the stupidity of it all, when there was a moment. Ray's feeling all put upon because Debra went out shopping, leaving him with the kids and dinner and baths to take care of. Debra really lets Ray have it: she does this every day, after all, and he's having problems with just one evening? And then she goes on: he's a slob, she picks up after him, watches the kids, cleans up after them, etc., etc., and why shouldn't she be pissed off? I was really on her side here. She wasn't even shrewish as she went through her litany. It seemed pretty reasonable to me. Could it be a little feminist moment on CBS here?

Well, no. In fact that passed over almost unremarked, and in the next scene Ray is reiterating that Debra goes a little crazy on her "ladies days" (!) and pulls out a tape recording of a rant about the lint trap to prove it. The only ray (sorry) of hope was seen in Ray's parents: Ray's dad tries a similar thing with the tape recording but it has only picked up his mad rants. But poor Debra ends up pilloried for her mood swinginess, Ray is the good guy, the end.


I know, anti-feminist crap in pop culture should be no surprise. But still, it was.

Monday, March 28, 2005

best houseguests ever

We hosted the best houseguests ever this weekend, and I'm not just saying that because they're a) related to me and b) likely to read this. Really. They arrived Thursday morning on the red eye, just in time to watch Nick for me (he had a cold, I had to go to work). I spent a long day in the office, and they cooked dinner. (Remember, they'd come in on the red eye. From the west coast.) They brought presents, including this. They brought chocolate.

Visits with my sister involve lots of cooking. Together or separately we made chocolate guinness cake (which was just as good as Becca said), trifle (from this cookbook, very easy!) , strata (we made basically this recipe, only tried some variations with plain cheese, artichoke/mushroom, and fresh spinach instead of the frozen called for here), and lemon linguine (another Nigella favorite), just to name the linkable recipes. Much of the cooking is ad hoc, though, and since they are vegetarians we end up eating better or at least more interestingly than usual. Maybe it's not because they're vegetarians; maybe it's just because they have a different repertoire. In any event, it was fun.

I had too much work to do, and there was too much else going on, for it to be one of those long, lazy visits that are so satisfying. We did that last year when we shared a beach house for a week. This time, though, it was Easter, and Mariah's confirmation, and an Easter brunch for a group, and way more church than any one weekend should be required to bear, and lots of coughing and sniffling (everyone had some kind of cold thing going on). Still, it was fun. And I was actually prepared for class today, against all expectations. But now I need some rest.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

just like my day

click the pig

(Thanks, Susan!)

fun with generalizations

So Andi Buchanan was on BookTV the other day. Really! (Click the link to watch it. It cuts away briefly for an emergency senate session, but then comes back--just fast forward for a little bit and you'll catch it.)

Her post really tells the story, but I want to add my two cents here. My favorite part is the guy (maybe a plant?) who asks Andi's adversary if women don't actually have all the power in the world because they get to make decisions about when to have sex, have children, etc.

Umm, right.

Even Rhoads didn't buy that one, I have to acknowledge. It was a truly funny moment, though. And I know, there are certainly disempowered white men in the world, ones who have for one reason or another not benefited fully from their racial or gender privilege. Ones who aren't rapists or anti-abortion activists or Randall Terry, either. But to claim that women have all the was really quite stunning.

OTOH, Andi looked great, kept her cool, and made some really good points. Of course she didn't bother to argue about the whole poop smell-diaper changing thing (after the senate break, and well worth waiting for).

Some other time I might post more about why female academics might be likelier than male academics to claim that they like the hands-on work of parenting. But, for the record, I want to say that I did not, always, like the hands-on work of early childhood parenting. I remember days and days of only saying things like "where's your pretty smile?" (in my best "parentese," of course) and really really wanting to talk to an adult about adult things. Even stupid adult things, like what was on TV that day. ANYTHING!

Monday, March 21, 2005

in the news

This morning I had Morning Edition on, as usual, as I was getting Nick and me ready for school. I usually listen with about half an ear while I make oatmeal and coffee, nag him to eat, dress, and brush teeth, make his lunch, get lost in the blogosphere, etc. Usual morning stuff.

Sometimes Nick asks me about the stories he hears. I remember one morning there was a story about expensive concert tickets and he commented that "those tickets better be made of gold!"

Some mornings I'm glad he doesn't ask me. Like this morning. Nina Totenberg had a long story about restraining orders that involved a Colorado women whose three daughters had been killed by her estranged husband, their father. Gut-wrenching.

And then of course there's Terri Schiavo. (Link courtesy of Alas, A Blog) How can I explain this case to a 7-year-old? Mariah and I have talked about it, actually, and she is pretty thoughtful and sensitive. Like Becca, Mariah and I mostly find outselves talking about how sad it all is--how hard it must be to be anyone involved in the case. (OK, except Randall Terry. I don't care if it's hard to be Randall Terry.)

I am glad that hilzoy at Obsidian Wings (linked above) raises the bulimia question. There's not much in the press about this now, though it seems to me central to the whole story: what put Terri Schiavo in this state? But of course bulimia's a "woman's issue," and this stuff, this is serious politics, right?

Yeah, right.

(My token political commentary, here only to prove the already over-proven case that, yes, women talk about politics. (There's more, but that link will get you started.) Though of course not in such a way that anyone would take them seriously.)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

so that's how they do it

I had pretty much given up on this week. I hosted a big event on campus Tuesday and I was wiped out at the end of the day, then taught all day Wednesday. Had an obligation Wednesday night. And another tonight. For tonight, I was supposed to provide bread, which at one time I had planned to bake.

By Monday I had already given up on the baking. It was just not going to happen, along with the midterms that weren't going to get graded, the dinners that weren't going to get cooked...where do all those things go, anyway, those things you planned to do that don't get done? I began to imagine this lovely clean place, somewhere, with piles of graded exams and the aroma of freshly-baked bread wafting through. Mmm.

Anyway. I was coming down with a cold on top of everything else and I was jettisoning responsibilities right and left. And it was starting to feel good. I was starting to think I might get through the week after all, and the kids would still be alive and I would still be married and I would still have a job. And that was really as high as I needed to set my goals.

Then a mail truck stopped at the four-way stop on our corner this morning at 4:40, downshifting as it slowed into the stop. And then it started up again, which is when I consciously heard it.

By 5:30 I realized I really was not going to sleep any more, and by 6:00 I was out of bed. And baking.

Well, bakers are early risers, right? And which would you rather do, grade midterms or bake bread? In a sleep-deprived fog?

It was Irish soda bread, so no yeast or rising time or anything. By 8:00 I had four loaves baked. And the thing is, I feel a tiny bit guilty taking them to this event tonight. Some other parent who didn't wake up at an ungodly hour is going to have brought bread from the bakery (which will, by the way, taste terrific), and is going to feel judged when s/he (ok, I know it's going to be a "she") sees my home-baked loaves. Which were really just early-morning therapy.

I'm sure that other mom has a much cleaner house, though.

Children's Lit Book Group: Wondering About Alice

My new column is up.

Sunday, March 13, 2005 Books | The author's daughter

Speaking of writing things that will embarrass children... Books | The author's daughter

you may have to watch the little ad thingie


I was composing a post much like this one: Half Changed World: Anonymity in my head this afternoon. I'm not fully anonymous, not fully public, myself. And I was thinking today about why that is.

I don't tell my students about my blog, but I know at least one of them found it last semester when I asked them to read a piece I'd written elsewhere. And I haven't told all of my family about my blog, though they can click the link at the bottom of my bimonthly column and find it themselves. And I've told more of my internet than RL friends (a distinction I find it ever harder to maintain, but that's another topic for another day). Internet friends already know me in this medium, after all, or one much like it (I've met them on various groups here and there), whereas the folks I have coffee with regularly are not actually my writing community. RL friends with whom I don't have coffee regularly--folks who live in far distant cities and towns but used to be my constant companions--are more likely than locals to read me.

And I was thinking about blogging rules in relation to this. I don't, like Becca, promise to blog every day I'm in town. (I do promise to make up for it by blogging several times on some days...) I don't blog about my marriage, though I do blog about the people in my life. ( I am fascinated and impressed, by the way, by other people's ability to be honest and open about their marriages and other relationships--because this blog is not all that anonymous, however, I'm just not going there. ) (Actually the real reason is probably that my marriage isn't all that interesting to anyone but us, now that I come to think about it.) I don't blog about work politics, though I'll mention my work. I try not to tell embarrassing stories about my kids, though I can't promise that it won't happen. I don't mention people by name unless they say I can. Except if they're members of my family, whose names have appeared here on occasion.

I can't claim that these rules are logical or coherent; they're just how things have turned out here. I'm an ad hoc blogger much as I'm an ad hoc parent, it turns out. I do what works until it doesn't. And so far that seems fine.

But if I know you and I don't know you're reading my blog, I'd love to hear from you! Just because, you know, I'd like to know.

not spring yet

We've had a couple of warm days this week, and a couple of other days when it snowed. This is Virginia, for heaven's sake! Where's the spring?

I'm ready.

OK, yes, to be fair, there are some daffodils peeking their heads up, and some plum trees just about ready to burst into flower. I think they were ready last week and then it snowed and they got confused. I don't blame them. I am ready to put the coats away, to pull out the t-shirts from the storage box under the bed, to stop wearing socks, all that. So ready.

I know, I should stop whining. But it's the end of spring break and I still have midterms to grade (many, many midterms). And, I know, I gave them so I brought this on myself, so I'm whining about the weather instead. Get it?

There's lots of fun with student evaluations floating around, by the way. Two of the ones melinama quotes are actually mine, but I'm not telling which ones. You can figure it out if you're really determined.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


That smell wafting through my house right now? That would be this: FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO CAKE WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE Recipe at OK, I'm not smelling the sauce yet, as I haven't made it, but the rest? Mmmm.

I make half a one, in a 7-inch cookie tin lined with parchment paper. I made one for Christmas and it served 8 people and half of it was left over. And it takes all of about 10 minutes to put together.

fun with mammography

I spent 2-1/2 hours at the doctor's office today for a mammogram. It was a repeat one--I had one about a month ago, on the day when they have no doctor there to interpret results. Usually they put the results in the mail and say, fine, but this time they said, come back. When I called they said it was probably no biggie, so I didn't worry. Really.

But Mark decided to come with me for moral support anyway. I figured we'd be in and out in half an hour. He brought grading, I brought knitting.

They called me in right away. Impressively fast. I was ushered into a cubicle and told to disrobe above the waist and put on the lovely gown with the opening in the back. I was informed that I might wait there, or in the chairs right outside the cubicles. I was also informed that someone would be "right with me." This would turn out to be a lie.

I chose the cubicle. I got out my knitting and set to work.

I knit a lot! I'm back at work on the infamous clapotis. This is actually clapotis #2, for anyone who's been following this disjointed saga, as clapotis #1 had dye lot issues and I had to abandon it. Clapotis #2 is knit of a lovely soft purple-with-flecks-of-other-colors merino wool. I like it very much.

I knit a lot more! It was now over an hour since I had originally sat down in my cubicle. Finally someone called my name and I was ushered into the dark, cold, mammography room. I was pushed and pulled and (mostly) pressed down into plasticky things while the perky technician kept up a running commentary. She was quick, quick, quick. I don't think she took a breath while I was in there. No kidding.

I was then returned to my cubicle to wait some more. But! The technician returned to tell me that she had found a note--in red crayon (she repeated this several times)--to take another view. So I was ushered back into the dark cold mammography room for the other view. Quick quick quick again.

Back again. This time I decided to sit in the chairs. I got my knitting out and watched people. Mostly they seemed fine. One really attractive woman worried me--somehow she seemed to be expecting bad news. She left before too long. Two women sat down. Evidently they were sisters--one chatty, one not so much. The chatty one told me she'd been knitting for a little while, too. An eyelash scarf. We bonded over knitting. She confided in me that she had several grandchildren and, though she had always wanted daughters and had had only sons, she was now finding that she enjoyed the grandsons more than the granddaughters. This seemed to disturb her. Then she went and had her mammogram. Then her sister did. Then the chatty one was told she could go get dressed and go home. Hmm.

At this point I began to invent scenarios. Something was obviously terribly wrong. Someone would be coming to get me soon, to talk to me with a sad and serious face about my options. Mark would be called in from the waiting room. I would be scheduled for surgery next week. We would probably cancel our dinner party (see above). I would take a medical leave for the rest of the semester. This was starting to sound good. Who would finish my grading for me? I didn't much care, as long as it wasn't me. I couldn't do it, I had breast cancer! (Yes, I know this is sick. But, in my defense, I really do have a lot of work to do right now!)

Only, of course, I don't have breast cancer. Which is, of course, good news. Before long (before, for example, the non-chatty sister), I was given a piece of paper that said, good news, come back in a year, and told I could get dressed and go home.

The End.

Monday, March 07, 2005


I haven't been adding books to the reading list if they're just novels I'm re-reading for class, and that's shortened the list considerably. But I did read March: A Novelover the weekend, and I'm still mulling it over. I like the genre, if that's what it is, of "the other side of the story": Wide Sargasso Sea was probably the first one I ever read, but there are many others now: Foe, Mary Reilly, etc. This one is the story of Mr. March, off being a chaplain in the Civil War while his four daughters are being Little Women. It's brutal--as, of course, the Civil War was. And it's got some gorgeous writing. And it deals with Marmee's anger, something I've often wondered about as I've re-read Little Women over the years. (Brooks doesn't come up with the same explanation I would, but that's ok.) Something bothered me about the novel, though, and I haven't quite put my finger on it. I've got to ponder for a while.

Shockheaded Peter - Little Shubert Theatre

Mariah and I had a blast at Shockheaded Peter. Think Edward Gorey, Tim Burton...maybe a little Lemony Snicket, some high camp, and great puppets.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Bitch. Ph.D.: Spoiled students, part 3; or, what kind of student was I?

Here's a great entry by Prof. B. on elementary (and later) education. Bitch. Ph.D.: Spoiled students, part 3; or, what kind of student was I?

I was a very different kind of student than Prof. B, and maybe I'll go into that later. But I do feel we're providing the kind of education for our kids that she got--and a little better, as we've mostly managed to avoid the nightmares of middle school that she mentions. We had some of that with Mariah, pulled her out into private school (gasp!) for two years, but she's back in an integrated, very diverse high school. And I mean diverse in every way: racially, academically, economically, etc. She's learning about power, believe me.

So, more on this another time, I hope. But now I'm off to the big city for the weekend, and maybe some blog-worthy experiences.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Small Crime

Check out this piece by Susan Ito. And thanks to Kate for reminding me about it!

Actually, this whole site (VerbSap) is really cool. I notice a lot of names I recognize from Readerville there. I used to spend a lot of time at Readerville, and then life intervened, or I started blogging, or knitting, or something. Anyway I don't hang out there much any more, but it's nice to see the names again.

I know other people write about virtual communities and the internet, and some day I'd like to learn more about them. I have several small virtual communities online--two writing groups and Literary Mama, as well as the blogosphere, where I mostly still feel pretty marginal (by choice, I hasten to add). I still feel a certain unreality about these communities, though one of my writing groups now comprises some of my closest friends, less than half of whom I've met in person.

Ah, I've come a long way from the piece I started out by linking to. As a professor I once TA'd for used to say, I've opened an associative vein and just let it bleed all over the screen (he used to say paper, but, well, you know...). Time to stop the bleeding and go read something now.

commonly confused words

I'm an English Genius, apparently:
You scored 100% Beginner, 93% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 88% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

So, good thing I went into English, I guess.

You can take the test here: OKCupid! presents: The Commonly Confused Words Test

Link from Diane, who aced the test, too.