“Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner”

  I interrupt this Hiatus with this brief bloggy update, aka Random, Amusingly [well, to me] Related Bullets of….. Summer:

1. Yes, it’s finally summer, after the coldest, wettest spring in Pacific Northwest history (or 117 years).

2. A good friend of mine, who retired last year, is rereading Middlemarch. Sudden recognition that I do not have time to reread Middlemarch, despite having the next 2.5 months “off” from teaching.

3. Related to #2 above, finally visited my physician for both my annual and to see if she could figure out why my foot has been swollen for 2 months (two xrays and visits to “specialists” led to nothing). Three results of interest: one, I am not in the midst of menopause despite a variety of symptoms, highlighting the fact that I have many years to go before I can reread Middlemarch; and two, a bone scan reveals I have a stress fracture of one of those metatarsal bones. And three: I am vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D?  Oh, yes, lack of sun. Got it. See #1 above. Soon to be cured: see #4 below.

So the walking and spurts of running I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, with the encouragement of those doctors who found nothing wrong with me, have not been exactly helpful to the healing process.

4. Related to #3 above, I started taking Deep Water Running classes at the gym last week.  I’ve only tried a few classes yet have discovered that with the exception of another 40 something professional, athletic woman with a foot injury, most of the participants have plenty of time for rereading Middlemarch.   And while I push myself to get my heart rate up (sometimes it works), for the most part, I’m still in the stiffling giggles stage: Despite the name, the classes are basically aerobics in the water, but everyone is wearing hats and sunglasses instead of leg warmers and leotards.  I just can’t help thinking of those scenes in Dirty Dancing (remember, 1986ish?) at Kellerman’s in the Catskills where the women do aerobics by the pool.

And interestingly, the instructors always play music from Dirty Dancing.  Which just makes me laugh more.

Happy St. Urho’s Day

St. Urho welcomes you!

For those not in the know, St. Urho is the Finnish equivalent of that Irish saint: both are credited with chasing unwanted creatures out of their respective countries.

And both require the wearing of the green (though different shades, and with the addition of purple for St. Urho’s Day).

And finally, both saints require the consumption of alcohol as part of the celebration. You know those saints.  Tonight, we should all be  toasting Urho with a Grasshopper, an odd mix of creme de menthe, creme de caocao and cream. Other recipes have vodka or brandy in them.

With a name like Annie, I have Celtic bloodlines running through half of me, but no Finnish. I’m assuming the Finns don’t mind if I celebrate ole St. Urho though: St. Urho’s Day was supposedly invented by a Finnish American who wanted to have two days in a row that encouraged heavy drinking.

Besides, St. Urho’s/St. Paddy’s Days always fall during finals week, a week when even that overly sweet-sounding Grasshopper sounds divine. So, let me be the first to wish you Kippis! which is Finnish for Sláinte!

The Gym Guy

I know: you’re picturing a guy who’s about 6 foot tall, dark wavy hair, high cheekbones or maybe dimples. He’s trying to hide his ass in those baggy basketball shorts, but they only set it off nicely.  Sculptured arms and abs. Long legs. You might be picturing this guy. Or this guy.  The Gym needs such guys if only to provide the necessary eye candy while I run, tediously, on the treadmill for 60 or 90 minutes, trying to get the miles in each week. The ice and snow (more coming tonight) outside prevent me from my usual river trail running, so I greatly, greatly appreciate these men.

But, that’s not the Gym Guy I’m referring to. I’m referring to THIS guy.

No, not really Archie Bunker, but someone very much like him.  He’s probably 70-something; an ex-baseball player (really, he was:  he’s told me about his glory years many, many times); retired from some sort of business that allows him to travel to Europe annually, and to Palm Beach each winter for a few weeks.  Let’s call him Bob.

Well, Bob knows I’m an English professor (ah, small town life), so he loves to ask me grammar and word use questions. Today, as I was nearing mile 7.5 on that damned treadmill, sweating despite the ceiling fans, he motions for me to take out my ear buds so he can ask me a question.

I usually try to snag a treadmill where the neighboring treadmills are already taken to avoid just this scenerio. Obviously, it doesn’t always work.

Today’s question: Bob’s friend’s answering machine (yes, answering machine–clearly this crew isn’t into the cell phone age yet) has the following message, and Bob wants to tell him it’s  incorrect usage:  “I can’t answer your call right now. Could you please leave a message after the beep.”  Bob says that the word “could” implies that the caller is being asked whether or not they have the ability to leave a message.  Bob wanted me to confirm that the friend should delete the word “could”.

Of course, wanting to get back to my boring treadmill and get to mile 9 already, I confirmed his opinion (as he knew I would) and quickly replaced my earbuds and raised the volume on my ipod to avoid further discussion.

But people: this happens REGULARLY and it’s quite annoying.  Now, to give Bob credit, he waited till I had run nearly 7.5 miles before finally begging me to hear his question (though he had been trying to make eye contact for at least a few miles).  Really, there’s nothing I can do short of changing the time I go to the gym, something I can’t do.

Sigh. If only this guy would interrupt me on the treadmill. My luck, he’d ask me a grammar question.

A Beach Read…

…if you like beaches with gray sand, lots of rocks, broken bottles, used condoms, hurricane-whipped waves, and rain.

I prefer picture postcard beaches  myself, but since I’m far from a beach, and this spring (summer is not until Monday, right?) has been what I’m calling “the grayest, coldest, wettest spring since I’ve lived in this town” (now 15 years), this book has been the perfect read for sitting on the sofa under a blanket,  wearing winter lounge wear (sweats), and cursing the weather while drinking lots of spiked tea.

Give it a chance: it’s one of those novels that has to gel, and when it does, wow. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon.

But warning: this is NOT a light and uplifting read (not that I consider this  a bad thing).  It’s a novel about depressed people. Serious depressed. It’s a novel about identity theft that goes way beyond someone digging through your garbage for your credit card number. It’s a novel about obsession (not love obsession, naturally, because these characters are too messed up to ever fall in love).  It’s a novel that someone (like M. Night Shyamalan, or the Coen brothers, or recent Scorsese)  will want to make into a movie–for the ending alone.

The NYTimes compared the paranoid moments in the novel to those of the masterpiece of paranoia,  DeLillo’s White Noise. But unlike in DeLillo’s work, there are few humorous interludes.  Stephen King could have written it, but there are no clowns or dead children (ok, there are dead children but only off stage).

It’s a thriller, with some gore, but not that much. There are three pairs of characters who ultimately converge and it’s in that convergence where the gelling happens:

There is a high school history teacher and his student. A father and son. And twins. You gotta have twins in a thriller.

It’s not a beach read, but read it anyway.

I’m also still reading The Lonely Polygamist by Brian Udall.   The opening was so promising: father of 28, husband of 4 wives, comes home from a long drive and really, really has to pee. But, naturally, all the bathrooms in his big house are being used. Eventually, he finds his way into a storage closet with a bucket. Fun stuff. But now, it’s getting sluggish.  One of his sons has befriended what could only be an odd duck, though polite,  with a fondness for bombs.

Last summer, I read a slew of novels about middle aging males making it the summer of Andropause or Aging Lotharios.  This summer is turning out to be closer to the Summer of the Almost Apocalyptic Novel. Not quite, apocalyptic, since the end of the world characters are in the background rather than the foreground. But they are there.

Obviously, unless I wake up Monday and summer weather is finally here, I need some light and uplifting novel recommendations: any suggestions?

The Eye of The Tiger

A colleague and I have been giggling for weeks over this song.  It came up during a faculty meeting, oddly, and he and I were the only other folks who remembered the Survivor tune created specifically for Rocky III: it seems our other co-workers were either not into popular culture 28 years ago, or under the influence, so to speak, and thus missed the fabulous early 80s.

Since that meeting, my colleague and I have heard this song regularly–almost weekly–on a variety of tv shows, the radio, at his kids’ concert. We call each other up every time we hear it and have a giggle over it.   It’s quite discombobulating.

But, tomorrow is the half marathon I’ve been training for, and that song is going to be on my Ipod’s playlist.  It’s the perfect running song.  So think of me running in my  running skirt, bopping along the 13.1 miles and singing:

It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the cream of the fight
Risin’ up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the tiger

Oh, if you missed this song, here ya go:

Summer Reruns

While you semester folks are either finished or nearly finished with the term, I am slogging through week 7 of an 11 week quarter, with those damned miles to go before I, literally, sleep.  So still teaching, still grading, still advising, still committee-meeting, still interviewing candidates (yeah, late, I know, and I have oh so much to say about that—someday), still writing an essay due in 3 weeks, still training for my half marathon (which is the day after graduation—I believe it shall be my annual celebratory big run!).

So, while I’m scanning the blogosphere daily, and commenting when so moved and in between student conferences, this blog will be quiet for a bit. 

Feel free to read some old posts. If WordPress’s stats thingy is correct, the most popular ones are these:

Search Committee Ramblings:Selecting Candidates

Blogging about the workings of our faculty search committee is so very tempting, but since there is so much I can’t discuss, the end result will inevitably be unsatisfying to anyone interested, including myself

And yes, I know it’s mid April, and hey, all the academic job searching and hiring are done, right? Well, no, not at some institutions, where things happen at glacial speeds, and HR folks go on vacation in the midst of the season, and we have so many searches going on collegewide at the same time (including high level admin searches where candidates are wined and dined for two full days)  that one can’t rule out the possibility that the HR folks at our small college are on mental health vacations (sing the “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” song now)…as should be the faculty, many of whom are on both faculty and admin search committees, while teaching 4 classes.

But, I think I can blog in generalities and still 1. get this stuff out of my system, and 2. appeal to those who are somewhat curious about the inner workings of a search committee.

We did finally, after weeks of file reading (over 200 applications, all online), and  hours of discussion, agree on a group of candidates to interview (and in a few months, I will compile my notes on THAT process, and try to figure out a way to share without breaking confidentiality). All were called and scheduled for their full day of a 1.5 hour interview, 1-hour presentation, tour of the campus, meals, etc, though one declined within a day and another kept us waiting a week before saying no. Neither said they had already accepted another offer: their excuses were instead somewhat flimsy.  So, why had they applied??

We were beginning to think the job market woes were manufactured, or that we were so late in the process that even those applying in mid-March were now magically gainfully employed by other glacially-paced colleges. 

Since we had, out of exhaustion, not entirely solidified our back up list of candidates, we eventually met again to hash that out.  The two replacements were called and both immediately accepted the interview date that was offered to them

Next up: ongoing revision of interview questions in a culture that requires us to ask the exact same questions of every candidate (follow up questions thus are our quirky rebellions).

That Damned “Maiden” Name Thing

I have not found a credible statistic on the number of women who marry and keep their current last names–rather than change to their new husband’s last name (and I know I could have an entirely OTHER posting on gay and lesbian couples—one very close friend changed her name when she married her partner—but allow me to focus on the heteros for now).  The last time I found a credible statistic, years ago, I found that only 4% of women kept their last names.

4 (four) percent.

That still pisses me off.

I’m one of those 4% (though I certainly hope the number has risen).  I had the usual reasons:

  • married in my 30s
  • have several degrees with that original name
  • do not have children

Interestingly, at least to me, my “maiden” name is of a man who did not raise me nor give me any DNA–long story–but since it  is a rather comfortable, pleasant name, one that I simply got used to despite it being a bit odd (let’s say I don’t necessarily have the ethnic “look” of my “maiden” name), I have never had a desire to discard it. 

So yes, in my case it was not only my choice, but it was an easy choice. The only person who has  complained about my decision is, passive aggressively, mom, who sends all correspondence (and checks!)  to Mrs. Annie’s Husband’s Last Name. 

Luckily my bank has accepted this inevitability each Xmas and cashes the checks anyway.

I have a few colleagues who have kept their names (I hate the word “maiden” name, frankly, since I lost any technical maidenhood long, long before I actually married), but we are still a rare bunch. And students are always surprised/embarrassed to realize that yes, I am married to another English professor and no, I really don’t want you to complain about him to me (but yes, go ahead and praise him).

Well, the whole name thing has come up again with a good friend of mine who has just had a beautiful and  soon to reveal her brilliance baby girl.  For months now she has been asked about baby’s last name since she has kept her own last name: will you hypenate? whose name will go first? why not just YOUR name? or will it be HIS name?

Tonight, the mystery has been solved: because her hubby’s mother made the loudest noise, baby will have a hyphenated name with her name first, his name second. And this, alas, to my mind means the baby will ultimately have his last name.  It’s not a bad last name.  But I feel like another battle has been lost.