Merry bah humbug

Dear heaven, it really is the holidays, isn’t it? Parties here, there, and everywhere: last night, tonight, tomorrow. No wonder I can’t get anything done. I keep having to bake, and buy things, wrap things, ship things, acquire more things to eat both to take to various parties, and so there will be things to eat on Saturday when everything is closed. And so on and so forth.

My university’s library is closed, which is another reason I can’t get anything done. I need books to look up things that need to be changed/corrected in an essay that’s been accepted; the necessary information is not available online. I could, of course, be working on that overdue revise-and-resubmit, only I have it firmly fixed in my mind that I have to do the corrections first. Furthermore, the R&R is about Chaucer, and after reading [refuse to think of number] student essays on Chaucer [refuse to think about quality, as quantity is bad enough], I really don’t want to have anything to do with another essay on Chaucer, even if it’s my own.

My sense of this time of year, clearly, is still strongly shaped by my single years, in which it seemed I rarely got invited to anything. I hunkered down with my cat and got a lot of work done, and I managed to plan and get the books I needed (as well as some fun reading) in advance of any library closings. Or maybe the library was open more hours, before the current budget crunch. In those days, any party that did come up was a delightful chance (even for an introvert) to interact with live! human! beings! Now I would welcome a little peace and quiet. Oh well. I suppose the editors are dealing with their own holiday chaos, not refreshing their e-mail every ten minutes to see if I’ve submitted my work yet.

Possessive mnemonic

It’s very simple.

It’s simple, he’s simple, she’s simple: subjects plus the verb “is” drop the “i” and add an apostrophe. He’s, she’s, it’s.

But his simplicity is his, and hers belongs to her, and its simplicity belongs to it. His, hers, its.

This Public Service Announcement brought to you by your friendly neighborhood pedant.


I’ve finally succumbed to the Moleskine Empire: this is what I couldn’t resist. So little, so cute, so many colors. I’m still trying to find the right calendar for me, and at the moment, I’m sure I have too many. I’ve been using a 2-page-per-week calendar that I made up myself; I still have my PDA; I have a blotter-size desk calendar showing a month at a time; I now have these little monthly notebooks for 2011; and I have a 2011 page-a-day calendar that lists times from 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., which I intend to use only for recording what I have actually done, rather than listing things to do. I’ve fallen out of the habit of tracking my time, lately (well, since at least the middle of the semester, to be honest), and I want to get back to it.

I think the organizational experts recommend that you have just one calendar so you don’t get confused. But having two or three works for me, because the multiples help make time more concrete for me. Seeing the same dates and lists in different formats is helpful. I keep hoping that someday I will find some unusual layout or format that turns me into someone who truly believes in time as a concrete and manageable concept.

My sense of time really is much like my sense of basic mechanics: I know that I have to deal appropriately with time, just as I know that the table has to exert an upward force on the object that rests on it, to make the mathematics work out. But I’ve never really intuitively grasped that force, and I do not have an intuitive grasp of time. I trust the equations, and I play with my calendars, and things mostly get done in a more-or-less timely manner. And now I have lots of lovely new leaves to turn over on the first of January!


I’ve turned in my grades, despite continuing cat drama. All but one of the darlings has been to the vet in the past week. One went twice. Another will be going again.

There are things to write, things to read, things to prep for the spring, and things to buy, make, order, wrap, deliver, and/or send.

But I think I’m taking the rest of the day off.

Wonderfully different? Wondrously pissed?

I “heart” all you people who are pissed off by that prompt.

Still crossing fingers, but I think the cats are doing better today.

I don’t have much idea who my “followers” are, but I did notice that I recently lost one. Too much cat blogging? Too much whining? You can’t please everybody, all of the time. Thank you for going away quietly, without telling me what’s wrong with my blog.

And now, back to grading exams and surveilling cat poop.

No, really, cats!

And the Shakespearean Heroine had to go to the vet in the afternoon. Cat-people, please.

As for the student-people: the final exam was yesterday. Yes, I know I made a mistake on the syllabus. I am sorry about that. And I made that announcement in class every day the last week of classes. And you were there. Despite what you may have written down, I did not say it was on a day that was neither yesterday nor today. I can’t take notes for you; please try to transcribe announcements on the classroom whiteboard accurately. Or check the university website, which is up and running and contains the entire final exam schedule. Haven’t I been enough of an absent-minded professor to make you realize you should check on such things?

Yeah, so I got into my e-mail long enough to get the student e-mails, but when I tried to open the message containing the page proofs that have to be done by Monday, no dice. That server problem is seeming less restful now.

Back to grading exams, I guess. Nobody better need to go to the vet before tomorrow morning.

Oh, come on, cats!

Pull yourselves together.

Now Basement Cat is off his feed, under the weather, etc. Inconclusive vet trip this morning. If he’s not eating by tomorrow morning, there will have to be another (no doubt even more expensive) vet trip, because we can’t afford to ignore the possibility that he might have found some string to eat, even though we don’t know how he might have done that. But if anybody around here were going to manage it, Basement Cat would be the one to do it. At any rate, at this point every single one of our non-human housemates is on twice-a-day medication. Most of them, at least, are pretty good about it.

Basement Cat needs two humans and a towel.

I’m getting a little tired of all the cat drama.

I did finish grading all the papers and got them all back yesterday. Now I have exams to grade, instead.

I found a missing mechanical pencil and am hoping that this might be a good omen for retrieving other lost objects. Not holding my breath, though.

And my favorite news of the day . . . the e-mail server is down at school. Being out of touch is surprisingly restful. I’m sure that when the server comes back, I’ll have a ridiculous amount of mail, but for now, out of sight is out of mind.

Not a good weekend

I brought the grading on myself; I’m not even complaining about that. And worrying over sick cats is a pretty standard part of my life (sorry to say). But there’s more:

My “losing streak” continues. I washed an earring down a shower drain at the gym yesterday. Two libraries are getting unhappy about books I had from ILL. I’m fairly sure I returned them weeks ago (I remember reading one at the gym to prepare to return it, as it wouldn’t renew), but I can’t find either the receipts for them or the books themselves, and I’ve been very good about collecting receipts this year. I may have had some “brilliant” idea about a safe place to stash them, which is so safe that I can’t find it. I don’t think I’ve ever lost a book. I’m more a hoarder of books than a loser of them. I will have to ask the libraries to do a search, but I’m not very hopeful here. I’ve combed my study, my office, and my car.

And last night I got rear-ended while stopped at a stoplight on an icy road. No visible damage to the car, but I’ll have to get it checked out. My neck hurts, but not so much that I’m really worried; it hurts no more than in a collision that was my fault a few years back.

It could be worse. A lot worse. It’s really all small stuff that isn’t worth sweating; if I refrained from writing this post, I might not even remember all this in a year, even in a few months. But I’m feeling sorry for myself.

OK, back to grading. Condolences to anyone else in grading jail. Should we send secret messages and stage a prison revolt?

How Chaucer prepares you for the real world

Would you like a side of friars with that?

To be fair, the sentence did actually make sense as written; it’s just that the first time through I did not parse “a side of friars” correctly. My bad. This time.

When I read a competently written paper, free of stupid errors (surely you should have learned in high school, or freshman comp at latest, that titles of short works, like essays, go inside quotation marks, and book titles get italicized, and that you should refer to essays by the names of their authors, not the name of the editor of the collection? Surely?) and with evidence of actual thought and engagement with the material, I can feel my blood pressure drop. I feel as if my fur has finally, finally, been stroked in the right direction. I get interested in what the paper has to say, when I don’t have to struggle to understand sentences and to figure out the logic (if any) of paragraphs. (I have at least two students who do not distinguish between “logic” and “free association.”) So, yes, there are some good ones; but I am most terribly tired of reading papers that (a) show that the writer doesn’t actually understand the text being discussed and (b) make me work harder to understand the writing than I can believe the writer worked at the writing.

OK, that was a horrible sentence, but you see what this is doing to me. Maybe I’ll go out for a side of friars.

Cat update

The Shakespearean Heroine has recovered very well from her lumpectomy. These tumors are 90% malignant in cats; hers was in the 10% of pre-cancerous. She’s bright-eyed and always hopeful of extra food, these days.

But now the Scot is sick. It looks like we’re going to have two cats on chemotherapy, if the biopsy agrees with the initial findings. That is, the cancer is certain; the question is whether it’s the more treatable sort or the very-bad-news sort. The treatable sort can go into remission for years, and of course that’s what we hope for. The Scot is my favorite cat; I’m really not ready to give him up. Although he’s not a traditional alpha-cat type, his calm, mellow, affectionate personality strongly influences the other cats in this multi-cat household. He’s made friends with everybody, including the Heroine (who just vanted to be alone, when we got her) and Basement Cat.

So, please join me in waving the Scottish flag, so to speak, and rooting for my ginger guy.