Wednesday, November 22, 2006


    >> 4:50 PM

"A day without Depeche Mode is a day wasted." -- local radio dj

    >> 4:33 PM

Hmmm. Tomorrow is Turkey Day already. What have I been doing all November?

    >> 7:29 AM

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This morning, I saw the postman wearing shorts. It's a heatwave up here!

I've whiled away the afternoon without getting much work done. I got to campus in time for the luncheon meeting I had to attend, only to be waylaid by three students (two current, one possible future student interested in the Asian American literature course I'm teaching next semester). I got to the lunch late, ate a moderately better vegetarian meal (the last time they had plain white rice and vegetable lo mein which was essentially plain, unflavored noodles), and then came back to my office. I met with a couple students in the past two hours and ordered a book via interlibrary loan but have done no reading, grading, or lesson planning as I had hoped to do.

In a half hour I am interviewing an applicant to my alma mater.


That's about it.

    >> 4:04 PM

Monday, November 20, 2006

I don't know if I'm more turned off by Tim Wu's disparagement of Raku, one of my favorite pan-Asian restaurants, or his ascribing of innate characteristics to various ethnic groups (Cantonese are "clever" and Koreans are "intransigent") in his article, ["It's time for a dumpling revolution"]. I mean, yes, there are definitely dumplings that are yummier than others, but he doesn't have to make his argument about improving the quality of American dumplings the way he does.

    >> 11:36 AM

[UCLA plans outside investigation....] An update on the UCLA incident. Sigh. If you watch the video, you can see that there are dozens of students in the library at the time. I wonder how many of them were asked for identification. Of course, it is one of those situations that could have been avoided if the student had provided identification upon request. Or if he had left quickly upon request. But why should he have been asked to do either is the big question.

    >> 10:50 AM

[This post] has a pretty awesome picture of a doggie munching on a baby's feet.

I am eating dark chocolate M&M's and drinking coffee this morning. I get to sit in my office all day talking to students one-on-one. I rue the day pedagogues in English studies decided conferences were a good idea though of course I agree.

    >> 10:40 AM

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Holy shit: [Community responds to Taser use in Powell]. A UCLA student gets stunned by police with a Taser multiple times. The article has a link to video footage of the incident.

    >> 1:59 PM


Oblivious to the dog's demands.

The Dairy Queen across the street.

    >> 1:35 PM

Oh woe is me. I can't stop sneezing. Is this the onset of a cold or something else?

    >> 12:29 PM

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"I thought I told you no more coffee shops!"

    >> 10:55 AM

It just occurred to me this morning while I was lying in bed, pre-physically getting up, as yesterday's thoughts bounced around in my head, that there already is a gender-neutral, singular pronoun. Duh. "It." It seems like people are loathe to use it when describing humans because of the necessity of ascribing gender to persons. (Witness the difficulty people have in pronouning trans people.) But why not? How did our (American? what do people in other English-speaking countries do? in other languages?) collective brain decide that "they" would be better than "it"? I would much prefer the sentence, "The student walked home alone even though it was afraid of the dark." It has a creepy ring to it. Plus, people have no compunctions referring to animals as "it" even if they have male and female forms. It's as if gender is a particularly human quality.

But really, I'm not advocating the use of "it" in these situations. My simple solution has always been to use the female pronoun form. Because women rock way more than men do.

    >> 9:42 AM

Friday, November 17, 2006

At the restroom of the church (concert venue).

The concert was wonderful. I loved how the orchestra breathed together and how the conductor seemed to be dancing with the sounds that came out of the instruments. The performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 was especially exciting. My favorite moment in the piece, played to perfection by the orchestra and pianist, is the transition from the second to the third movement, when the melody hovers softly and sustains this almost unbearable tension before the piano crashes into the playful rush of the opening measures of the third movement. Unfortunately, but only slightly, the pianist flubbed the middle chords in that opening run. His performance was delightful and playful otherwise.

After the concert, I waited around twenty minutes for the cars to clear out of the parking lot. I hate dealing with traffic of any sort, especially when there are also pedestrians involved. The drive only took 25 minutes each way. I guess the Twin Cities metro area really is quite compact. This church was two suburbs out of Minneapolis in Eden Prairie, but really 25 minutes is nothing when it comes to travel time in major cities. I'd definitely make the trip again for another concert.

. . .

[Cat-dog a reality?]

    >> 10:52 PM

Today I had a moment of feeling like an old fuddy-duddy who wants hard-and-fast grammar rules. Most of my students are spelling the possessive case of singular James as "James'." It just looks wrong to me, though. I think virtually all singular nouns in the possessive case should be made so with an 's (i.e., James's). But it seems that this is one of those cases where there is variation in style sheets. And some styles allow singular nouns ending in "s" to be made into the possessive case with a simple apostrophe rather than the apostrophe plus "s." Grrr.

At least that doesn't irk me as much as the use of "they" as a gender-neutral, singular pronoun (or "their" for the possessive case).

And now I am off to venture into the deep suburbs (Eden Prairie) for a Beethoven concert by the [Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra]. I hope I don't get horribly lost.

    >> 6:37 PM

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Today was full of disappointments. Well, this morning was fine. The dog park visit, a trek to campus to meet with a student, a talk by a colleague on representations of Victorian women in the British Medical Journal, and meeting the director of Women's Studies at my campus -- these things were all good. But then I left campus and somehow started hating everyone.

I first checked out Common Ground Books, the new bookstore opened by Garrison Keillor. The store was cool but really tiny. I didn't browse long. I went upstairs to Nina's Coffee, and I think that's where my mood shifted dramatically. My experience there was perhaps colored by my coming across [this review] of the place before going. The baristas were somewhat incompetent, taking a long time to make my latte and filling the orders of people who came after me first. They also gave me an overflowing mug (easily solvable by dumping out some coffee before handing it to me) which I then proceeded to dribble all over the coffee shop out of spite. I am quite mean-hearted, and I hate that about myself. As I sat there drinking my latte, a man with an annoying voice sat nearby talking out loud to himself. I wanted to kick him.

And then it was off to the U of M campus for a lecture by Adrian Piper. As I was driving to Minneapolis, I was thwarted at every turn, on every block, by a number of annoyances like the squadron of school buses discharging their passengers, the people in parked cars along the road swinging their car doors WIDE open into the lane, pedestrians blocking traffic for no apparent reason, broken-down cars in the middle of the road, and so on. I finally got to the U and parked next to the building for Adrian Piper's lecture. I got there a half hour early, and already the room was beginning to fill up. By a quarter till the starting time, the room was overpacked (I wanted to call the fire marshall), and the organizers were vainly still trying to squeeze more people in though the crowd straining at the doors was clearly far too large. At half past the starting time, the room already heated up too much with all those pressed-together-bodies, the organizer announced that we were all going to move to another space across campus. We trekked over. The room was a dining hall with horrible sight lines to the screen.

And then Adrian Piper was disappointing. Her presentation was called, "Passing Beyond Passing," but the work she presented was nothing new. She showed a few video clips -- the Rodney King beating video with a Marvin Gaye song and some audio clips of Bush sending in the National Guard; one video loop of children dancing in front of a store with three Billie Holiday songs playing; the video installation of Piper addressing a white viewer about passing; and six clips from Hollywood movies with characters who variously deal with the issue of passing and being black -- and then read for awhile from a piece about blackness that reiterated her decades-old video installation piece's argument about white privilege and the stakes of inadvertently passing as white. I hoped that she might address some things like growing movements of multiracial identifications or cross-racial solidarities (not that new as an idea, really). But she didn't. And from the Q&A session, it seems like she really just doesn't care to consider changes in conceptions of "passing" in the past couple of decades. She just keeps forcing everything into a black-white system with no nuances (one of her points is that all other non-white groups quickly become white in the American racial hierarchy).

And then I went downstairs to the U's bookstore only to find it closed. In despair, I had to get myself another latte even though I had already had two coffees earlier.

And then because of all the delays, I ended up having to pay $8 for parking instead of $4. Grrrr.

But now I'm home. And it's warm and comfortable inside.

    >> 7:18 PM

Giles trees a squirrel.

This morning, we took our morning constitutional at the dog park. Or, more accurately, I took a walk around the park while Giles did his best impression of hell on wheels, limbs all helter-skelter as he dashed around at top speed. We entered the park with a pug named Rupert. Rupert was quite confused about what this thing was that kept dashing by him. Giles was a good, spazzy puppy. He didn't try to fight any dogs. His hackles went up a bit when he was surrounded by a couple of big dogs. But I called for him, and he came running towards me away from them. Giles was a little slow following me to the gate when I was ready to leave. He wanted to stay for sure. But he did follow me to the gate and sit to let me put the leash on him. When we got home, I gave him a dental stick treat. He ate it before I left the apartment, which was not really the way it's supposed to work. Also, he gobbles those things without really chewing, which is really not how he should be eating them. Oh wells.

Giles licks his lips.

    >> 10:54 AM

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PS Giles would like to assure his canine and anthropoid (he doesn't really distinguish between various primates, sorry) friends that he is alive and well, though perhaps a bit blurry and bored due to lack of sufficient attention paid to his furry highness by the lowly servant duck and frog. Ahem.

    >> 11:27 PM

It must be my masochistic side or perhaps dissociative disorder that has lead me to a teaching career. (Blogger's spell check doesn't recognize "masochistic" or "dissociative.") Those of you who teach know how much of a performance it is and how incredibly dependent a career in academia is on the ability to socialize with colleagues and other assorted fauna of higher education. I was just out walking with Giles to the video store to return They Came Back*, and it dawned on me again that of all the careers I could've chosen, teaching seems the most unmatched to my personality. This isn't to say that I'm regretting my decision at the moment though of course I have my moments of doubt quite frequently. Actually, I am feeling very good about my job these days. Perhaps it is only the lull before the storm, the quiet couple of weeks I've been having with no papers to grade (and none flooding into my office for another week). But things really do feel quite comfortable now except for this glaring fact that I can't just hide away in a cozy cafe or library with a book all day. Sure, I still do this occasionally; but huge portions of my time are spent in classrooms confronting twenty expressionless faces, in my office talking one-on-one to students, dashing into the department office to ask questions of the very helpful staff, watching fellow faculty debating curricular issues in department meetings, "networking" (for lack of a better term) with other new faculty across the university at biweekly luncheons, and talking to other scholars at conferences and seminars on other campuses.

On days I've had an extraordinary amount of contact with people, I'm always very exhausted, even if I haven't been thinking hard or working on complicated projects. One could probably chart my level of energy on a graph in inverse correlation (is that the correct term?) to the number of people I talk to each day.

Is this so unusual for a bookish academic? It's hard to tell. I have friends who assure me my experiences are common. But these are often friends who are the life of the party and who are extraordinarily outgoing in organizing people for events (both formal and informal). It's less convincing when someone like that tells me she feels the same way I do.

The question I usually end up asking myself, though, and answering in the negative, is: Should life decisions be about harmonizing "personality" with work and play? As I've noted often, I'm often actively placing myself in situations where I'm socially uncomfortable when I could just as easily have hidden myself away. And in other ways, I've usually made choices that deliberately grate against this solitary side of me. Is it because I hate myself? Is it because I want to punish myself? Is it because I enjoy the anxiety? I wish I had some answers, or in the mode of critical thinking I love, I wish I had some other questions to ask -- one's that might get at this whole, stagnating topic of me and social life in new, transformative ways.

On a tangentially related note, I got to repeat the word [epithalamium] many times in class today as we were discussing Hisaye Yamamoto's short story "Epithalamium." Such a curious word, and in the context of the short story, such a provocative title.

On an unrelated note, I just heard back from the applicant I'm to interview. Not only is he a math and fencing person but also a theatre geek! It remains to be seen whether he is part of the a/v crew, a thespian, or other support staff.
* Incidentally, it was a really good movie though it probably shouldn't be called a zombie movie since it is not really a horror movie in any sense. And speaking of horror movies, if you haven't seen the trailer for Office Space that recasts it as a horror movie, go watch it now on [YouTube]. YouTube videos are appearing more frequently in my dissertation than I expect will be appreciated by my committee. Alas, you write what you know, yes?

    >> 10:29 PM

Dinner tonight: lentils with Tofurkey kielbasa over rice. October was a hellacious month. But now in November, I'm finally feeling mentally balanced enough to make dinner again. Tomorrow, I think I will make some potato-kale soup. Good for the cold weather.

I ran into the new psychology professor on my way home. She lives just a few blocks from me. I want to be friends with her because she seems cool (she has a dog, too, and is vegetarian). But everytime I talk to her, I babble inane things. I don't know what the problem is. She asked me if I have Thanksgiving plans, and I responded with some garbled statement about how the only friends I know staying around are meat eaters who might not be happiest with an all-vegetarian feast. And when she said she and her boyfriend were going to cook up a big vegetarian feast and asked if I would like to come along, I said something incoherent but definitely not an answer either way. Why do I suck so much?

    >> 6:02 PM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

These zinc lozenges seem to be working; they seem to have staved off the cold that I felt coming on yesterday morning. They leave a slightly distracting aftertaste, though.

We just discovered that Giles likes being bounced in Rob's arms.

I rented a French zombie movie, [They Came Back]. I am going to settle into bed with some hot herbal tea (Red Zinger) to watch it even though it is a school night.

    >> 9:43 PM

Cold. So very cold here. My neighborhood coffee shop was very busy so I defected to the corner Starbucks. Mmm.. liquid goodness...

I ate this snowman cookie...

    >> 5:15 PM

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dude, none of my students understood what happened in Hisaye Yamamoto's short story "Yoneko's Earthquake."

    >> 2:59 PM

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Change of scenery.

    >> 4:57 PM

The neighbor cat just ran by outside with a dead rabbit in its mouth.

    >> 4:02 PM

A songwriter I am not. I have been flipping through the binder of material from a fundamentals of harmonic analysis class I took in college. I used to have such a more exciting life. Anyways, I also came across a few bars of music I wrote for the class: [Minuet in A Major (first reprise)]. The comments on the page from my teacher read:

Your counterpoint is just fine. The melody is a little too symmetrical: all of the odd measures have the same rhythm (in the R.H. alone, and taking the two together), and likewise for all the even measures, except the last. It is alright as is, but you might want to try to improve the construction of the melody line.

I barely remember any of the work we did in that class. I wrote a couple of analysis papers, too, and the writer behind them seems like a stranger. In the final paper for the course, which I wrote on Mozart's Sonata in F Major, K. 332, this other Paul wrote:

. . .
While the diminished seventh chords of mm. 25-56 lead to the tonic of d minor, the diminished seventh chords of mm. 29-30 are of a different key, and instead lead to c minor, a seemingly distant key. It is a sudden change, since mm. 27-28 are similar to mm. 23-24 except for an inverted arpeggiation of the left hand. The change to c minor thus creates greater tension in the piece. The upward arpeggiation of the melody line no longer halts and backtracks with eighth-notes. Instead, it flies upward and hits the upper C repeatedly with ease. Yet the harmonies under which the arpeggiation bubbles upward change. First, there is the c-minor tonic harmony in mm. 31-32. Then there is an Ab Major harmony in mm. 33-34, followed by a dominant seventh harmony built upon the Ab Major chord. This technique of building a dominant seventh chord on a previous chord usually leads to the tonic of that seventh. However, Mozart instead takes the harmony to G Major, the dominant of c minor, rather than to Db Major as expected from the given seventh chord. The spelling of the dominant seventh chord with an F# rather than a Gb, however, clues the performer in to the possibility that F# is a leading tone to the coming G Major chord.
. . .
This third phrase (mm. 71-93) stays in C Major and is similar to the first phrase of theme B in its simple chord progressions. The reprisal of the syncopated rhythm of phrase 2 in measures 82-85 leads to a coda for the exposition which extends the tonic and ends with a resounding perfect authentic cadence.
The development section which follows the exposition has a tonal plan that mirrors closely the plan of the exposition. The development starts out in the dominant key of C Major, then moves backwards through the parallel minor (c minor) to d minor, then to an implication of its relative major key, the home key of F Major. In this way, the harmonic structure of the exposition and development is like a palindrome.

Notice how I threw in mention of a palindrome there. LOL. My teacher commented, "interesting point -- I never noticed that." For the first paragraph I excerpted, regarding the last point I made, the teacher commented, "Right. Therefore this is exactly a German 6th (Aug. 6th) in C. The c minor was brought in to have the Bb occur naturally, emphasizing the big half-cadence on G (V of V = C Major)." Um. What? Did I understand this at some point?

The paper goes on for seven pages. SEVEN pages of this stuff. Ha ha. And to think my students can't even fill three pages analyzing a novel.

    >> 12:21 PM

The short stories I had my students write in the style of Virginia Woolf were not very successful. Most students got the part about interiority and representing thoughts dispersed with descriptions of impinging sensory experiences, but few of them even attempted a complicated weaving of sentences that makes Woolf's narratives so delicious to follow. I have no idea how to teach students to write such stories. (They got credit for the assignment as long as they turned in three- to four pages.) I have no idea how I would write one. Still, I wonder what I might write (in a very autobiographical mode) in the fifteen minutes or so that most of them probably spent writing....

For a moment, they paused at the door as Paul fumbled with the buttons on his winter coat. Hat, bag, no gloves. Through the storm door, the cold but still outside air waited. "Okay, let's go." Paul pointed through the opening door. Such a beautiful, sunny morning. If coffee, if coffee, then. The dog ran down the front steps, pausing at the end of the leash. He looked back, his body poised to dart further down the steps. Faster. This slowness when all that is necessary is speed. And the wind against your face.
Paul closed the door behind them. Five years ago, he would have locked the door, but now, is it trust? Or laziness? The three-times daily walks, a warm body at home, the quietly comfortable neighborhood, neighbors working in their yards. On such a cold and early morning, the plaid jacket. The man hunched over, drawing some gardening tool over the dirt. Scraping. This early morning. Some would be in church already. The streets were still lonely. The dog darted back and forth from one side of the walkway to the other. His nose intermittently up, then down. The weaving motion drew Paul's hand out from the sleeve of the coat. "Giles, steady. It's cold." He wrapped the leash around his hand twice. A makeshift glove to shield him from the cold air. Five years ago, it was his first time teaching. The stomach pains and the stressful dreams. Were they returning?
They crossed the street and continued along their morning walk. Paul could feel the cold air creeping into the warmth of his coat. For the last year at least, he thought, those stressful dreams were constant. Not always about teaching now. No, not now. More general. Perhaps random. What might they mean? And the dog had taken to sleeping on his legs.

Ha ha. That is really hard to do. And maybe more like Joyce than Woolf. Ok. My congee is ready now. Time for breakfast. Rob was very disturbed by my congee a couple mornings ago. He especially didn't like the wheat gluten and pickled lettuce. One of these days I will get him to try the yumminess.

    >> 9:04 AM

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Just back from the [Minneapolis Musical Theatre] production of Chess. It was fun to get out of the apartment and catch a live stage performance.

I still need to order books for my courses next semester. I've pretty much chosen them but want to sit down and make sure the amount of reading I'm assigning is reasonable before I ask the bookstore to order them all. A few days ago, I asked a friend how people used to put together course syllabuses and choose readings before the internets. I mean, seriously. Though I am mostly assigning things I've read before, it was immeasurably helpful to troll the web for insight into how people organized their courses and chose texts. I also found a few texts I hadn't heard of before.

I started reading one of them -- Sia Figiel's where we once belonged -- today. The book is published in the US by [Kaya Press], a pretty cool little press (with, unfortunately, some difficulty keeping up a consistent publishing schedule because of lack of resources). I'm not sure I find the novel particularly impressive, though the blurb on the book positions it as a kind of narrative that should interest me:

One of the most promising new voices on the international literary scene, Figiel uses the traditional Samoan storytelling form of su'ifefiloi to talk back to Western anthropological studies on Samoan women and culture. In doing so, she weaves an honest--and sometimes brutal--coming-of-age story that combines poetry with an unflinching humor to describe the ambiguities of adolescent desire.

There are also glowing recommendations by authors Lois-Ann Yamanka and Junot Diaz. It kind of reminds me of another book published by Kaya Press -- R. Zamora Linmark's Rolling the R's (Dennis Cooper and Eve Sedgwick blurb this book).

I had a cupcake today -- the Cup o' Mud, a delicious dark chocolate covered topped with chocolate mousse and a grainy chocolate topping with a gummy worm sticking out of it.

Giles is being a spazzazoid puppy right now. He doesn't like being left alone at all. He pounced and bounced around for a half hour after we got home before finally settling down.

    >> 10:59 PM

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's snowing! It's snowing!

    >> 9:12 AM


    >> 4:04 AM

Thursday, November 09, 2006

How come no one ever told me about [this web comic with a duck and a dog]?

    >> 9:52 AM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I also realized in Chicago that I no longer have a city person's walking pace. I'm slow!

    >> 6:50 PM

Hooray for election results in Minnesota, mostly! Though I can't believe that evil Michele [Bachmann won] the US House seat. Everything she says makes my skin crawl..... *shudder* And it's sad that Pawlenty got re-elected as governor though not so unbelievably. But hooray for overall Democratic gains in state and US houses!

    >> 5:40 AM

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"I voted" sticker and a mini-pin with a monster holding a cupcake.

Stickers are the best. In some ways, getting a sticker after voting is more exciting to me than the act of voting itself. I asked Parick if this is a bad thing. And he said they probably make the "I voted" stickers for people like me.

    >> 10:10 AM

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I saw [Colma: The Musical] in Chicago this past Friday at the gay and lesbian film festival [Reeling]. The sound quality was bad -- the bass made everything murky. I wasn't overly impressed with the film. In part, I was just in a cranky mood after standing in line for 45 minutes waiting for the theater to let us in. But the story of the film wasn't very compelling. It was definitely very suburban-angst -- what three friends go through after high school graduation, trying to figure out what they want to do and feeling a conflicted need to escape their small town while mourning the end of things as they know them. Perhaps it was because the sound quality was bad overall, but I didn't think the singers were that great, either. The songs were okay.

    >> 9:36 PM

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Best picture ever:

From an article about [dog pets in China].

The article is kinda disturbing. On a happier note, at dinner Thursday, I explained to my tablemates why I am studying the establishment of dog parks. Mae Ngai told me that she has heard of these dog parks in China where lots of dogs live. And what humans do is visit these parks when they want to play with a dog. She said it's like a Socialist version of pet ownership.

Poster for [Gorey Stories], a musical based on Edward Gorey's stories.

    >> 7:12 PM

Service people in Chicago are really surly.

    >> 2:13 PM

Waiting for the shuttle to the airport. Am very ready to get home. Not the greatest seminar experience.

    >> 12:22 PM

Friday, November 03, 2006

Me=geek. Spent 3 hours in the Seminary Coop. Bought two books. Stopped in at the university library. Yay Friday night!

    >> 6:43 PM

This could ultimately be a mistake, but I'm headed to the Seminary Coop Bookstore right now.

    >> 2:13 PM

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ah, Chicago. I have no idea where in town I'm staying. I also am only vaguely sure that I'm waiting in the right place for the bus.

    >> 9:17 PM

The weather forecast for the next few days in Chicago says it will be like ten degrees warmer than here each day. :)

    >> 4:02 PM

Just finished teaching last class for the week since I am flying out this weekend to Chicago for a Midwest Faculty Seminar on Hurricane Katrina and Contemporary America. In the next two hours, I must:I don't think I'm bringing my laptop and might be Internet-less (gasp!) until Saturday night.

    >> 3:02 PM