Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald weather + mild stomach bug = a good day to stay home

I don't enjoy missing class for any reason. However, since Thing Two brought home a mild stomach bug late last week (I say mild because at least I'm not throwing up), I've been couch-ridden since Sunday. I managed to get up yesterday and get both kids off to school, and once on campus I realized that there was no way I could stand in front of my class to lead discussion; I drove myself back home and slept for 5 hours. For more than 24 hours I'd had nothing to eat but Nilla wafers and darjeeling tea. Made Bob's Red Mill Vegi soup w/ some organic chicken broth I found in the pantry, and warmed up some French dinner rolls; managed to eat that without getting sick, and I thought I was better.

Fat chance.

On the way to drop off Thing One, 5 minutes before we get to school, she says "My tummy hurts and so does my head." Oh good. So I decide to keep her with me today--our faculty lounge has a couple of comfy chairs and a tiny TV. We drop Thing Two at his daycare, and head to campus. As I got out of the car, another wave of pain hit my abdomen. Great. Luckily today involved a viewing of the documentary King Corn, so I trudged to the library, got the DVD, and begged my office neighbor to start it for my two classes today. We packed back up, picked up Thing Two, and came home. 

Lucky for me, we have cable internet and I have a new netbook, so I can grade online discussions and have "virtual" office hours while ensconced on the couch and the kids watch The Little Mermaid  for the umpteenth time.

The clouds are gorgeous--multiple levels all racing like maddened horses as the wind tears out of the south. Another front is approaching from Minnesota, bringing cold air--which is why we're under a tornado watch in October. High winds are expected to continue through tomorrow (we're talking 50-70 mph, sustained). The same weather pattern a bit later in the year would have dumped snow by the foot, so I'll be content to watch the sun sneak out in between sheets of driving rain.

So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities...

This cartoon is so true to life in the Humanities that it's almost physically painful to watch. And yet, it's freaking hilarious.

Click here http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7451115/

Friday, October 22, 2010

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth...

...I've just been buried under an avalanche of student writing. As a composition teacher with three sections, I get 24 papers per section every time I collect an assignment, each of which takes at least 20 minutes to grade. I also teach Early American Literature, so I get journals, papers, and now midterm essays to work through.

I really want to write for the Steampunk Challenge but I have to get out from under these piles of papers first.

I have started reading Cherie Priest's Dreadnought in the late evenings the last few days, instead of catching up with "The Big Bang Theory". I am finding it better reading than Boneshaker and Mercy Lynch a more engaging heroine than Briar Wilkes.

That's all I've got for now.

Mamalayne, out.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Steampunk Challenge 1

Today's is the first post for the year-long Steampunk Challenge put on by Rikki Donovan. From October 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011, I will be reading and reviewing works of the science fiction sub-genre known as steampunk.

I am choosing to take it as a fairly broad category; some critics will only call a work steampunk if its setting is an alternate-Victorian era (e.g. George Mann's The Affinity Bridge  and its sequel, The Osiris Ritual) as opposed to a society whose technology is dependent on steam power. Others (myself included) are inclined to be a bit looser, if only because it adds to the pool of cool books to choose from.

Here is my [initial, unofficial, in-no-particular-order] list:
  • Boneshaker and Dreadnought, by Cherie Priest
  • The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
  • The Affinity Bridge  and The Osiris Ritual by George Mann
  • The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers
  • Steampunk, edited by Ann Vandemeer
  • Steampunk Prime, edited by Mike Ashley
  • The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, by Mark Hodder
  • The Parasol Protectorate (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and [forthcoming] Heartless, by Gail Carriger
Each of these falls under the narrower definition of steampunk, though I will also be reviewing Ship Breaker and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (these are set in a climatologically altered future where fossil fuels are gone/nearly gone and the remaining people are forced to improvise). All of them are readily available through Amazon (some are new, some not so much).

My first exposure to the genre came with The Difference Engine, and I have been steadily building my collection. I look forward to reading (or in some cases re-reading) these books and getting into good discussions with my fellow Steampunk Challenge participants.

The first of my reviews (forthcoming, after I've graded my most recent batch of 72 composition papers) will be on The Difference Engine by my favorite SF author bar none, William Gibson (written in conjunction with his co-author Bruce Sterling).

Some Good News!

I have had two poems ("Mutual" and "The eagle in the red pine watches") accepted for a forthcoming print edition of Verse Wisconsin. I'm so excited and happy. The editors are both working poets so I am feeling pretty darned good about having two of the three poems I submitted accepted for publication in the new iteration a beloved Wisconsin journal (formerly known as Free Verse). It is a step in the right direction on my quest for tenure.

I also have a brand-new rubric to use when I finally sit down to grade this weekend. I am looking forward to reading my students' papers--it's always a treat to see what their interviewees come up with in response to the question: "What is the invention that has most changed your life?"

I've gotten papers on everything from canned vegetables (available in the store) to snowplows (!!) to indoor plumbing to (of course) the computer.

Life is very, very good. I love my job.