Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday, May 14th, 2012 11:00 pm
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For the first time in maybe half a year I actually watched Monday’s TV live. First “How I met Your Mother (HIMYM)” and then “House.”

I have been keeping up with “HIMYM” online but I was mostly bored with it and in the first half of this evening’s episode I switched to HBO and Harry Potter during the commercial and didn’t care to go back. The show seems to mostly stay in place and it is just not interesting anymore. I don’t think I’m coming back for it next season.

I need to catch up to about 4 episodes of ‘House’ and I don’t really care. I do like House and Wilson interaction in the latest storyline but that is about it – the rest, the patients just leave me indifferent. I will watch the finale, of course, and I will probably catch up to the episodes I missed by having them run in the background while I’m doing something else but I’m glad the show is ending. It used to be a must watch for me but I really stopped caring.

In fact, this TV season has the lowest number of shows that I follow or that I watch live. There are only three that I watch as they actually air and that I get excited about: Glee, Community and Grimm. I’m still surprised by how much I got into Glee this year after two years of indifference and occasional watching. Community is the funniest comedy around and Grimm is my favorite new show and I adore it to pieces and it just keeps getting better and better.

Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy are shows I like that I usually watch online after they air. HIMYM is the show I do watch online but reluctantly. And House I kind of watch online now, but not really. I gave up on Bones in April when I realized that I just didn’t care anymore and I don’t miss it at all. But that’s it.

At least summer is coming up with the crack that is True Blood, SYTYCD and Burn Notice. I’m done with Leverage and I don’t even remember other shows. I haven’t even finished last four episodes of Dexter Season 6. (And I will watch Borgias all at once on Demand probably).
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Long day, as usual. I was going to grade in the evening, but after so much teaching and prepping to teach, and office hours, and reading some rough drafts and basically working from 7am to 6pm, I just have no energy. So I caught up to blogging instead and I’m going to read a little more.

I gave a lecture on Mughal Empire in my Global History class. The Department Chair emailed me last week asking if she could come observe me teach, which was not really a question. This is the first time I was observed teaching in years and years, and certainly the first time since I started teaching at Local College a year ago. I also knew very little about Mughal Empire until last week, when I started working on the lecture. But I think the lecture went very well. I did background for India, Babur and Akbar. There was Powerpoint, a video clip for students to watch and the discussion of two primary sources. So good variety. It is not like I was teaching differently or anything – I’m pretty set in my methods. And I don’t really get nervous teaching but I was a little more hyperaware because the Chair was sitting there. And this is my favorite class this semester, which I really did not expect.

So I did order that summer type white dress from that Chinese website. We’ll see what happens. I have no expectations whatsoever.

I didn’t want to watch “House” today. Too tired. So I didn’t. I’ll just catch up to it in a few weeks. I used to look forward to it so much but not lately. And there is only half a season left. I also don’t want to watch “HIMYM” anymore. I think “Glee”, “Grimm,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Modern Family” are the only full season shows I’m interested in anymore. The rest are seasonal.
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It is the end of the semester so that means my weeks are ridiculously busy and I have no time to update. I just make small notes and try to catch up on the weekends. One more week of the madness left.

Today was the last day of class at Local College with just finals left next week. That means I just gave a map quiz and evaluations and reviewed for the final and listened to paper presentation. And graded papers. So a mild teaching day – it is all about grading now. And to that end two amusing and/or slightly eye rolling stories.

1. You know what you shouldn’t do, student who wrote seven pages and needs eights and who therefore changed the font from 12 to 12.5, you should not email that said paper to your professor to print since it was late. Said professor will easily see the change on the Word Document and change it back before she prints. And even if you didn’t, she would still see that the font is bigger. Really, student!

2. Three of my students, who are performing arts majors, decided to “collaborate” on their last paper. Instead of just discussing the readings like you can do, they also sat down and outlined together and picked quotes and pretty much wrote the same paper. They didn’t understand why that is considered plagiarism. I talked to a few other professors in the department and we decided since they put some effort into the papers and seemed to do this out of ignorance, I would give them a C, which I think was a right call after I talked to them. The students seemed genuinely apologetic. One boy was almost crying and another girl emailed me later to apologize again hoping I won’t think less of her as a student since she really didn’t know you couldn’t do that. I did give them a chance for extra credit a bit.

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Happy Birthday, Katya!

I was very happy to go into work today, since I knew the day was going to be pretty low key: office hours with some grading, a lecture on Black Death (which always, always goes over well) and a peer review day in the History of Law class. And this is the week of Thanksgiving, it is my only official workday of the week. I get a very much needed break.

My office hours were productive as one student showed up to talk about her research paper and then Abena and I talked about the Global History class we are both teaching next semester. I’m basically using her syllabus but we incorporated some of my suggestions too, like the writing class and the map quiz for the final. We decided on a textbook and that other readings will be online. I think this Sunday I need to sit down and plan my second class in terms of books too. I will definitely rely on her since I’m not as strong on modern Global History but I am looking forward to it – it will be something different.

My students really loved the Black Death video set to Hollaback Girl; they were singing along by the end. And in the other class I had a change to look over students’ ‘thesis’ and actually give suggestions, which works for me too since hopefully that will lead to stronger papers. Although, I always want to bang my head into the desk about the footnotes. I put the footnotes guide online for them and they still don’t bother to look at it and when I physically show them templates they look like it is a brand new discovery. One student actually emailed me asking me how to do footnotes since he never done it. So I emailed back and told him, for what feels like the fifth time, where to find this information. I showed this in class before too. And how to put them in Word. And how footnote and bibliography is not the same. And it is still like brand new information. Maybe they want us to chew the food for them too?


House S8E7 )

On a random note, I’m so excited for theatrical re-release of “Beauty and the Beast.” I saw the trailer today and it just makes me smile.

I got into bed early with my laptop to get into the holiday mood to write my RS Small Gifts story. I turned on my Christmas music playlist and started writing it finally. I know what the story is about and what each scene should be but this story doesn’t want to be written easily. It is not flowing as well as I should like. I have a week to do it and hopefully it will come together.
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I was grading Exam 2 all morning and all the way until my 1pm lecture. But I got them done. Somehow Mondays are most productive grading wise.

My made-up on the spot law lecture based around Manor roll records went over great – they did need a little review after all the lecturing. And it allowed me to really clarify the concepts of different jurisdictions. And in my Global class I gave them an In-Class Exercise and gave my Africa lecture. So productive day at least.

Hunger Games trailer came out today. It looks so perfect just like the book is reproduced on screen exactly how I saw it in my head. I can’t wait.

House S8E6 )


NBC benches “Community” in January for a bit – No, NBC, that is your best written show! I really hope they get one more year.
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Last week was a bit hectic so I'm just catching up.

I started reading Tatyana Tolstaya “Slynx” in Russian. Papa gave it to me on Kindle as my birthday book. I love it so far. It takes place in a future apocalyptic world where the main character is a manuscript copier. I love the language of it – it feels like old time country Russian with the speech pattern and allusions. And there are many funny references which I don’t know if a person not familiar with Russian culture would get. It still would be interesting but this book depends a lot on cultural knowledge and references to literature and fairy tales. But I’m having fun with it so far. I just need time to actually read and not just grade all the time.

Some students did show up to office hours with drafts for Paper 2 but not students who really need it. Still. Good lectures today too. I did a Byzantium lecture and started Terry Jones’ “Crusades” video. And then I did my Henry II and the law lecture – which is a lot of information.

House S8E5 )

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I graded 10 papers this morning, I’m almost done with these Gilgamesh papers. I also gave my Global students their third quiz on the readings and did a lecture on Islam. But in me Law class today was time for something completely different. The class was about ius commune – medieval procedure that was combination of civil and canon law. So I gave them the terminology and a handout describing the steps and then we had a mock trial, reenacting a medieval case.

HIMYM was pretty funny today with lots of parent’s appearances and Wayne Brady and really unexpected and great Weird Al cameo.

Dexter S6E4 )
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Happy Birthday, Misha!

This week is a little easier teaching wise since on Wednesday I’m going to teach my history kids how to write a history paper – so I just have one lecture instead of four. In Global class we did discussion of Gilgamesh today. Most at least read the book and came sort of prepared to discuss their topic. None bothered to actually figure out what the dates in the introduction meant. I did start the class showing the part of “Darmok” episode of Star Trek: TNG where Picard tells the story of Gilgamesh.

In the law class, I talked about Judeo-Christian origins of law and we compared some laws in the Bible to Roman law. So many of my students just pull the reading up on their tiny phone screens.

Netflix sent an email today trying to do damage control which really wasn’t damage control but more stupid policy of running the company into the ground. Qwikster, really?! That is really stupid. And it looks like it would mess with the DVD Queue where now I can actually see what is available for streaming so I don’t have to order that DVD. But the two websites won’t be integrated so I would have to check both. Netflix, what the hell are you doing? You just want people to drop one service over the other, don’t you? I think this move might actually compel me to drop the DVD part since that is about $2 a week and worth it mostly for TV shows. So I’ll just keep the streaming once this month runs out. Why is Netflix destroying itself? But it probably wants people dropping their DVD option.

And many think gaming is a waste of time. It solves scientific mysteries .

Fall Season started today. I actually don’t have many full season shows left (3 dramas: House, Grey’s Anatomy and Bones and 3 comedies: Community, Modern Family and HIMYM, and I’m iffy on Bones as it is) and for the first time in a long time I think it is a good thing. Cable and shorter seasons do a better job lately. Or I’d rather watch the whole show at once. I not that interested in new shows at all.

HIMYM S7E1-2 )
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Happy 50 years of people in space, Earth! When I was little I remember how much I loved reading a novelization of Yuri Gagarin’s childhood. Maybe my fascination with space and those early space explorers started then. I do love space and the idea of space travel. It goes hand in hand with my love of science fiction. So in honor or day, and April 12 has always had special significance for me as a date, an article from Yahoo on words that were recorded in that first flight around the Earth.

It is spring outside my kitchen window. I need to take a picture tomorrow. It is rainy and grey but right outside are little leaves and new color and I love spring.

I spent the morning grading 11 papers and afternoon teaching. In one class, we had a discussion on Boyarin which most of the class found boring and having too many new vocabulary words they needed to look up (you know, in college, you should look up words, students. How did they do their SATs?). In my second class we went over Jewish concepts and they were fascinated by the concept of kosher.

HIMYM is really declining in quality. I watch it out of habit now. I won’t miss it when it is done, I don’t think.

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ reviews on Mark Watches started today and they make me want to stick with the series. I watched the second episode today. Again, it has its moments but I’m not hooked yet.

I got wine for Passover today, I can’t believe our Seder gathering is next week already. I need to send out the food shopping list.
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Grading since 6am. 16 papers today. I woke up with a headache but Advil is my dear dear friend. I basically worked from 6am to 5pm, grading and teaching, although I took a 30 minute break to watch HIMYM. A student sent me his draft asking me to check his connections so I copied it for my classes and let them do it as an exercise. Sometimes classes just come together like that.

In the evening, despite being super tired, I wrote Spain lecture, mostly out of Fletcher’s “Quest for El Cid” book – I read those chapters yesterday. It was Spain from 711 to 1099. My favorite part is talking about very slow conversion to Islam in Muslim Spain in the 8th and 9th centuries. Spain was always such a blind spot for me in European middle ages and now I’m discovering how interesting it is. I’ve only actually been to Barcelona, which I love and it is one of my favorite cities, but now I really want to visit more of it especially Cordoba.
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This morning from 7am to really my class, with a break to drive up to school I was commenting on the remaining rough drafts. I can’t believe I actually got it all done and my brain was not fried all the way.

We are starting Susan Faludi’s “The Naked Citadel” in my writing classes today. I read it before but never taught it. I’m looking forward to their responses. The story takes place in 1994 when my students were 2. And the military was at peace. The story is about the climate at The Citadel when the first woman wanted to enroll with the ensuing court battle. The article is really about the idea of masculinity and what that means to these cadets and why they wanted to preserve an all-male culture. There is a lot about gender and performance of it and the whole story is pretty fun. It was published in the New Yorker in 1996.

I watching “How I Met Your Mother” I did the powerpoint for Greece lecture tomorrow and found readings on Hellenism.
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First day of school. I feel I just got done with folder review and here we go again getting up at 6:30.

The morning was really dreadful in weather. First it was sort of rainy, that in between rain and snow sleet that makes the roads icy. It was really hard to walk on campus, especially in the morning. One had to walk very very slowly and careful and sometimes ice skate so as not to fall. By about eleven the roads turned into sludge and the rain kept pouring. I actually preferred sludge to ice. This will not be a fun week.

In the morning I caught up on HIMYM episode (which was moving) and got breakfast before my non-stop day of photocopying and getting ready for all my classes – both writing and history since the University were I teach my writing classes has a better and more accessible copy machine. I bought index card holder to go with my index card where students put their personal information for my easy use. I photocopied syllabi, reading guides, grammar presentation sign up sheets, rosters and notes for tomorrow and some readings to put online for my history class. I had a whole big list which I worked through. I also went to the other campus to finally turn in all the financial paperwork that we have to fill out every semester. (In the sludge. At least another professor was heading there and she gave me a ride. I took the bus back.)

Then I got lunch and went to teach my two writing classes. I do have a nice group of students and I can already tell that I will like my second class a bit more; they are friendlier and the room is better. For the first class, only one person bought the book already so we couldn’t do a reading exercise I wanted. I let them go early. For the second class, I made photocopies of the pages I wanted them to read so we had a better discussion.

So I’m assigning that Jenkins article on Harry Potter wars and the intersection of the old and new media. In each class, maybe five people actually read Harry Potter, not that it matters for the purposes of this class. They need to analyze the article in front of them, no matter the context. I just find it weird since they were children right in the midst of the craze.

I also felt very weird and jarring to have to explain what ‘fandom’ meant. I’ve been living in the fan world for at least the last five years and the high percentage of my internet use is fandom related, mostly TV and books. And I did start with Harry Potter although I was a Star Trek fan since my teenage years and went to a Star Trek convention right before I turned sixteen. And I live in my head so much that I really forget that most people use internet differently. But I went around the room and make each figure out if they were fans of anything and then what would it mean to be part of ‘fandom.’ One guy who said he was a fan of Batman found the idea of going online and talking about Batman weird and too nerdy. Hee. I kept thinking of Bear’s Joker animation of “The Killing Joke.” I am looking forward to the discussion of this article to see what they think of this world foreign to them.

Exercise: 30 min on Wii. The Island Run was a bit too long for me – 11 minutes, I get bored easily, I’d rather do the bike I think. But it was nice to do something physical after being so brain tired from work.

Cross stitch: light green today for little bear’s pajamas.
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I read the second chapter of the ‘Silk Road’ book. This chapter was about Roman Empire and its Eastern trading contact in 1to 3rd century CE. I know so much about Roman Empire but not a lot about the Eastern part of it, so it was fun to learn. I’m glad I’m teaching this class, I feel like I will learn a lot myself. As I was reading the chapter I got excited about geography and maps, and I do love my historical atlas. So I worked more on my Powerpoint for the introductory lecture. I found lots of maps online of different ways to view the world, from world map from American point of view, to world map from Chinese point of view, an upside down map that puts Australia on top to Ptolemy’s map to the medieval maps with Jerusalem in the center.

And I will also explain why we use AD and BC and CE and BCE and what that means. Once when I was teaching Development of Europe a student came up to me after class and asked how did the Romans knew to count backwards since all the dates were 30 BC and 26 BC. I explained about the Roman calendar and how antiquarians calculated everything in our dating system. I no longer take that for granted when I teach and I explain this in the first lecture together with what I mean when I say 7th century CE or 7th century BCE. I do have this wonderful book of chronology for English history that really goes over so many dating systems – I get very geeky over things like that.

In the evening I also set up the school website for my writing classes, mostly I wanted access to rosters. I can see the pictures of my students too. One class is 2/3 boys, the other is more even. That will be interesting.

“The Fabulous Riverboat” by Philip Jose Farmer.
My thoughts on the book )

Now that I’m done with the second Riverworld book I will read “The Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle and Marco Polo book. I read the introduction to the Sherlock Holmes volume today – it was pretty funny in its defense of Watson. I also read the introduction to Marco Polo – a very good introduction and I have to remember to tell my students to read it before tackling the book. I’m excited about both. I think I read Sherlock Holmes as a child, I certainly saw the awesome Russian movies when I was little (and I think Russian TV is showing it this weekend which is great), but I don’t remember much.


“Six Feet Under” Over the last month I finished watching the series. Today I watched the last episode. Mostly I had the show on in the background while doing other things and I rarely do that with TV I like. It was an OK show. It had its moments. Certainly the last episode was good. And the acting too. But I’m glad I didn’t watch it before otherwise I would not have wanted to see “True Blood” and that show I love. Mostly the characters here were just not that likable.

Exercise: I went for a walk, about 45 minutes.
Cross-stitch: Yellow was my color today as I did half the head of the ducky.
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Well, my brain is fried. I had to finish grading 9 papers, teach two classes and have extra office hours for four students since next paper is due Friday. So in practical terms, I was working from 6am to 4:30pm non-stop. I’m really thankful for the time change that allowed me to be awake and capable of actual work at 6am. The only break I had until 4:30 was on the car ride to work. I even graded during lunch. I graded six papers before my classes and three in between office hours. I saved the papers of kids who came to office hours to be graded after class so I could give in to them at office hours and maintain an illusion that I had grading under control and finished it all on time. But yay, Paper 3 is finished. I rejoice.

The classes went really well today. I read to them an example of C+ paper and A paper and then showed them why the grade was different. They couldn’t tell just from hearing the connection if it was a strong or a weak connection between two authors. In every body paragraph, they need to use quotes from two authors, explain the quotes and then write out a clear connection that they see between two quotes (which is really hard for most of them). So, on the board, I broke it down to baby steps: This is quote one, this is quote two, this was the connection. Are these the best two quotes for this connection? Is connection clear? etc. Then I made them sit in groups and work on their own connections in drafts of their Paper 4. And I walked around and commented too. Overall, I mostly improvised today but it worked out really well and I really hope it will help them. I noticed that this year I’m much more certain when I explain the paper structure to them and the pace at which we do exercises. I think I really settled into teaching this class.

By 4:30 when I was done with the last paper, my brain could not process any more information. I did have to fill out official course request for next semester and then I finally checked my email. Then I went for a little walk since I really needed oxygen. This evening I watched the latest “How I Met Your Mother” online and now I’m just going to read a bit. I need to finish my vampire book since someone at my library has in on hold, so I can’t renew it and I don’t feel like paying too many late fees.

Oh, there is a new “Jane Eyre” movie coming next year .
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I was in the library today again. Not much is going on really. I did have chili and baked potato for lunch and actually looked at the ingredients on the ‘sour cream’ and “butter-like substance” they give with it. Yeah, I’m just pouring the chili over the potato next time.

The Local College scheduled me for the global classes for next semester on their website, so I’m assuming I’ve been hired. I read the chapter on Mesopotamia and Egypt today – this textbook really does not go into much detail, just focuses on the big picture of similarities and differences between civilizations. I will need to find balance between details and connections. I’m starting to make a list of primary sources I want to use. And, film clips. I’ll definitely show the clip from “Darmok” episode of Star Trek: TNG where Picard is explaining Gilgamesh.

“Sherlock: A Study in Pink” This was awesome! And funny – I do expect this from Moffat. He again proves that he can write well. Lots of little references to the books – I haven’t read the books since I was a child, and now I want to reread. (I actually got some references from Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald” short story from “Fragile Things” collection, since I read this much more recently.) Sherlock has a very nice baritone (Yes, I am shallow on some things). Everyone goes straight for insinuating a love connection between Holmes and Watson while it actually doesn’t read like one. The main characters even discuss it. The show is just playing with it all nicely. Women characters don’t talk to each other; it is a boy show. I always like Martin Freeman and he is great here. I so like that I can just watch the show online anytime. ”spoiler” ) I’m now really really looking forward to the next two episodes.

"HIMYM": This is a really funny episode – the show is picking up again. I love Barney and Robin’s speech – that kind of stuff has been missing. Barney, unlike Ted, really loves the whole of Robin, including her awesomeness at not needing a guy to take care of her.
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Jet lag day where I just wanted to sit there and watch TV and not interact with anybody until about 5pm. I woke up at 4am at first and made myself sleep for a few more hours. But for me adjusting back is always worse than adjusting to time ahead, for some reason.

I started catching up on TV shows – “Community” and “Modern Family” finales in the morning and “Bones” and “HIMYM” in the afternoon.

Bones S5E22 )

In the morning, I went to visit my grandparents and gave them their gifts and showed them postcards of Minsk. I was a bit tired and still sleepy for much interactions but I didn’t want to postpone a visit. After, Papa and I drove through a carwash – my first carwash visit, actually, and then we went to a food store.

I caught up on lots of stuff on the internet and just vegged most of the day. I finally ordered Bear’s birthday presents on line. I also found that the subscription to National Geographic was only $15 per year and I couldn’t resist it. I also uploaded the Minsk pictures from the DVD to my computer and watched them all. Botanic garden’s shot is now my desktop wallpaper.

The Kid came over in the evening. She and her brother were apparently checking every day to see when I would be back. I gave them their pencil cases, which they seemed to like. I went over to their house to talk to Laura, their Mom, and then I brought over stuff about Minsk to show them. I showed them my photos. And, on the globe, I showed them where Minsk was. That was a nice social interaction since I was feeling up for it. But still, I was too sleepy all day and tried to go to sleep early.
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It occurred to me while watching “How I Met Your Mother” that this show isn’t as funny this season as it used to be. I’ll keep watching it online as I always do when it is up against “House” but something changed this year. It is still a nice comedy but the characters seem to be standing in place.


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