Archive for January, 2007

And then the condensed version of the rest of my life

Also from the last few days:

– had a super great meeting with christy to talk about translation, thesis stuff, science fiction, feminism. She’s a person from my dept. at Daly City State University who was a year or so behind me & we have a lot of intersecting interests… and she also writes snarky cool articles for local magazines and is about to go to Colombia on a long trip just to do it, and is like some kind of eco warrior, and writes stories and a novel or novella which I liked very much… and there was more, but I’ve spaced it out a little… We are going to do a translation workshop day in the summer with my friend Nora (who she also knows from school ) and I also want to invite yellowjellybean and Mark P’s friend Anna… and there was someone else… For some serious sharing/reading and working through of each others’ translation projects!

– fun date for lunch w/ xoxy by the touristy bits of town – we didn’t care what we ate and looked at sea lions when not making out heinously in public even more than we already have. could talk forever both ways. feeling of instant click & comfortable openness, etc. continues faster than full speed ahead. I am too shy to blog about it. but it is part of what is making my life feel so awesome and great right now.

– worked incredibly fucking hard on my translations to finish them up and do everything correctly. and I need to do more yet b/c there is one I’m missing so I need to go to Staffnord library and get that whole project out of the way (as much as possible – they will send me proofs and there will be 2 rounds of edits and I will have to also do that with the author in Chile, so that is 4 rounds of edits for me really, in the middle)

– talking about new game campaign a bit with Rook. I need to pick an area to research/document and do some work on it with him! and I want another player wiki for this game! Poor rook got into a fight with the owner of a wiki related to the book we’re using for the game… it was really gross! so we need our own.

– talking wiki stuff with Quilter. need to write some emails etc. for that.

– last week got suddenly super pissed at c. and sent spazzy emails. WHILE just getting my period. It wasn’t pretty. I am embarrassed I got so irrational and pissed off but we did get some communication around some of those things. And I then said that if I felt that mad or needed to process in the moment i would ask someone else to listen to my anger/sadness – not her – and yet in the interests of honesty and openness would let her know what was up when calmed down. I am not used to/ good at anger or conflict when it is personal conflict. I don’t feel comfortable or safe expressing it… And was astonished that C. did not just blow me off utterly. She pointed out she was specifically committed to not blowing me off and that she is the all time master of blowoffyness, which is 110% true… and that if she were out to do that, it would be quite uncomplex and obvious. I felt suddenly a lot fo things come together for me – especially stuff Rook has taught me about being at least a tiny bit emotionally reserved and the value of that (he is a lot, i am not at all, but learning.) IN the last couple of months I have felt like I am really dealing with and accepting our breakup, and even approving of it (though it is still quite painful at times) and that I believe in our friendship as a good thing. I think that up to late Nov. I was still crying every day and sometimes waking up crying from specific nightmares. That’s all I’ll say about that, but I feel specially dishonest on this blog for not having at least tried to summarize that that’s been going on for me.

– worrying a bit about Rook and trying to be supportive of him in work heinousness.

– My stomach problems are acting up a little bit again, like last fall. It’s not horrible, or too painful, but I have lost my appetite, feel a little bit blurrrrrgh like faint nausea or hollow pain or like i’ve overeaten when i haven’t… and can’t seem to eat as much as I should. And any sort of rich or greasy food is right out – I can barely deal with milk or cheese at all and I really like milk & cheese. (Must start on having no alcohol, minimize coffee.) I think it was stress over starting the class. But now I feel very confident I can handle teaching and will learn how to do it efficiently w/out overworking myself.

– did assloads of laundry, dishes, the usual – bought 2 pairs of jeans new – same as my favorite pair with the hole that needs patching – levis 515 stretch straight leg, fyi, size 6 short. Scrounged clothes for Moomin from 2 friends with taller kids.

– signed Moomin up for school after-care for 3 days a week. Next week I’ll dive happily into working for ST and will go to their hackathon thing.

And now I am going to go do a science experiment with Moomin at his request… we’ll pick something out of a book. C. and I are meeting tonight to have serious talk about boundaries and our friendship (dinner?) and to see Pan’s Labyrinth which everyone so very highly recommends to me. It also sounds like the kind of movie I will want to see again with Rook.

Whirlwind of the last few days; teaching eats my life

I spent hours freaking out and working like a dog at grading and prepping for class – way too intensely, I think, but it was still good. I overestimated the amount of stuff I’d need to fill one class period. (By, like, times 3.)

First class: a lot of stony, then cautious silence. I babble.
2nd class: Way more participation! Giggling! Looks of mutual disbelief exchanged between students at my antics – all right and good.

I felt that the class really came together today – they gelled – they laughed at my jokes – they raised their hands and talked. Mostly the same 6 or 7 people out of 30+ but still, it was great.

Two things right off. One is that overwhelmingly (except for JM) I got told that I would not like my students and would be horribly disappointed and disillusioned, and they would be rude, and awful. This was a huge lie. I love them already, they’re awesome, they worked super hard for me already, they pay attention and are participating and thinking, all their essays were sincere efforts, and I respect them a lot. So, everyone else can go fuck right off, because I like the students.

Part of this is because I like people in general. Part, I suspect, is because other people have messed up expectations of how they need their asses kissed and respect for authority or something and so they stand up in front of a class and act like jerks… and are rude. So yeah they get rudeness back. IMHO I am there to work for them… what a cliche, but, I’m there to figure out what they need to know and how to teach it to them…

SO. The 2nd thing is, I was told by nearly everyone to give a pseudo-final exam the 2nd class. I was going to, but didn’t have the heart and instead had them write on the exam essay for 20 minutes. That will be their (and my) benchmark for where they started and what they learned in this semester. THEN I asked them to tell me what they felt the main topic was – and was going to draw a mind map with their collaboration… IN about 30 sconds I saw that was not going to work. & said, “This isn’t going to work. Let’s do something else” and I think some people died of shock.

Instead, we drew a mind map of the class reaction and feelings to writing the exam essay. (I apologized for the hippie new-age woo-woo factor.) On one side of “Writing the essay” I had a heading in red, “YUK” and on the other side a heading in green, “YAY!” Yuk was for all the mind-mappy stuff that was obstacles to writing, that was negative feelings or difficulties. That side grew very fast with red marker as people called out ideas. As each idea came in, I commented on it and made it a little more intense or added stuff. The “yay!” side was for tools that worked, techniques that helped or that made them able to write and feel confident about writing the essay. That side was not very filled out. So then I pointed out that the entire goal of the class was to move YUCK to YAY and that we would take every obstacle and give it stuff on the other green side, to fix it or to help. At that moment I felt that the class actually began to trust me. That was very cool magic.

I forgot i had my camera and could have taken a way cool photo of that diagram. But I’ll recreate it and post it on their google group.

That exercise led very nicely into my next thing which was a handout and lecture on “prewriting.” I wrote the handout last night, because I don’t have a textbook yet and didn’t like any of the ones I found online.

The other side of the handout we didn’t get to, but will do that next class (on more ideas and tools for writing.)

Then I tried to go meta briefly again and had them tell me what they remembered about last class and what we (I) talked about & wrote that on the board. (Again, should have taken photo! DOH!)

THEN (gasp, more) I passed back the in-class essays (stories) they wrote last time. I remembered a lot of names and the paper-passing and walking around was good to help me learn more names. And I rambled a bit while doing it.

I made them get into small groups and read each others’ papers and try to brainstorm possible main themes/topics of the stories told. For most people I marked one, if it existed, or wrote down possibilities to start them off. The group thing seemed to throw them for a loop and freak them out. But once they started, and I walked around the room and talked to each group briefly, they seemed really happy and were having fun and didn’t seem to want to stop.

This also made me super happy. And they could see each others’ cool work and appreciate it. I teased the cool-looking attitude dude in the very back of the class about his paper, which was hilarious, about a fight during a golf game, and had the moral homily at the end, “Never pee on anyone’s balls.” I was howling with glee at his nerve at writing that for his first essay… Howling…

I also passed out a class roster with emails and what their interests and majors were, to encourage them to email each other about assignments. They seemed really surprisingly happy to get that list.

About the grading I did of the in-class essays from Class 1: I spent WAY too long on this, because I couldn’t help it. But also because I wanted to be super encouraging and feedback-giving as a sort of kick in the pants right in the beginning. I clearly can’t keep up that kind of pace of detailed grading and commenting, but I think it was the right thing to do for the very beginning of class. The two best essays I felt I had to respond in a lot of detail:

– one from a woman who had the worst actual mechanics/English/spelling in the class, but was the *best writer* and thinker. She wrote a short paragraph in tiny handwriting in shy, light as possible pencil. It was structured, clear, intense, detailed, gripping, and heartfelt.. and then at the end she jumped about 3 levels of critical thinking to grasp something super wise. I loved it. And on her personal info sheet she had said she is a very bad writer… So I wanted to explain to her she is a very good writer as far as composition and thinking. Mechanics is another issue. Which… if she doesn’t improve drastically… she might flunk the exam… I must push her to sign up for the lab and extra tutoring.

– one from a sort of bad attitude dude… who was the only one who left most of the personal info sheet blank… a very Mind Your Own Business message and a back of the classroom sprawly person in big pants. I’m all thinking, hey dude, I also have some issues with authority and trusting it… np… i can deal with that. His essay had structure, had metaphor… a super great one… and again had some critical thinking in there that got me all happy. He had made effort (as only a few peopel did) to go back and correct it and to cross out boring verbs and replace them with exciting verbs. (like turning “make” into “spark”. )

Then assigned them to go home and revise and type it, type in the brainstorm, and type up what they think the topic or theme is. 4 copies, one for them, one for me, one for group members. It will become their paper, which they will fill out with two other stories written in class (next time).

I hope this works!

It’s really really fun. Oh, I’m going to make them blog and it’s going to kick ass. My goals are to have them all pass — (Probably not going to happen but i hope so, and think it possible, aim high, etc.) — to have them come out of this feeling confident and having actual useful tools for school/life — to be thinking critically and — bonus thing not part of class, to be doing it on the freaking INTERNET please… I feel it is crucial and will be empowering maybe not right away but in the long run. Also a bonus goal of teaching community skills, peer group, looking to each other for help and getting it, using each other as a valuable resource, thinking of each other like colleagues.

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Now what? While people are writing for 10 minutes… I’m copying stuff down that i wrote on the board in TRULY AWFUL handwriting… fiddling with my papers… playing “Love Rollercoaster” on my laptop as loud as possible…

Books listed by class as good:
– catcher in the rye
– lord of the flies
– h20 4 chocolate
– romeo & jul

Bad boring books:
Great gatsby (i SO agree)
Lord of the flies
tree grows in brooklyn

Essay topics that are boring:

– quotes you have to write about
– topic you don’t agree with
– compare contrast
– shakespeare. any old dead guys w archaic english

Essay topics, good:
– persuasive writing
– opinion
– about self
– personal experiences

OH it’s rather exciting to see them filing up a whole sheet of paper with story!!!! The powerrrrrr!

And I get to read them!

OMG I already love my students…they’re awesome!

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Teaching prep notes, & what to wear

JM asked me what I’m going to wear. Strange, but I have no anxiety on this count after a lifetime of not having a clue. I think during my time working in programming and tech support, I developed my philososphy of what to wear to work and I stick to it. Reasonably nice jeans or work pants (like Dickies) and a shirt with a jacket over it. I have maybe 2 jackets – the nice black one that is sort of hipster-chick-esque that fulfilled ALMOST all my requirements for clothing (non-fussy, abundant pockets, fits, throw in washing machine.) There is no inside front pocket – its only flaw. I’m not too stressed about what kind of shirt b/c it doesn’t seem like that kind of place — yeah it would be good to wear “shirt with collar” i guess but, i don’t really have any other than a couple of button down ones that I can’t find anyway.

Boots – arm warmers – long underwear – they don’t seem to be able to afford heat in this community college – so the long undies are crucial. A belt.

I figure as long as there is a jacket or some other boob-disgusing garment, a belt, and no holes in the jeans, that should be just fine. I don’t feel any need to try to pass as a nice middle class mall-clothes-lady; it won’t work anyway, because of the hair, and even without the hair and with girly hair, I wouldn’t pass for more than one or two classes until something way too strange came out of my mouth. So, why bother with any prissy ass cable knit sweaters… At the dept. meeting I was thinking, “Okay, a lot of you are nice middle class mall ladies, good on you, i’m not and I can still pull a room full of people, including you, to listen to me and give me props.” If that turns out not to be true, I don’t think a haircut and office lady clothes worn rumpled-ly with kleenex coming out of the pockets (as I surely would) are going to kick me up a notch in anyone’s esteem!!!

So!!! I finished my syllabus. It’s not perfect and I only have a rough outline of the course, with due dates chosen for the major paper and the holidays specified.

For the first class most of it will be syllabus going-over and add/drop and “fill out this info sheet on yourself and tell me your myspace or whatever”

With whatever extra time, I’ll do personal narrative lesson 1. I want them to read 2 short animal fables. One Aesop’s and one from Peter Beagle. My idea is that if I gave them an example of someone’s memoir or story telling, they’d follow its format too closely (at best) So we’ll read the short fables (they fit on one page) and then “write a story about soemthing that happened to you – if you like it can be intense or meaningful – ” sort of assignment (in-class, super short) Then look at them and (not written on the paper) pull out a meaning, a moral, a generalization or abstraction, the “point of the story”.

Class#2 will be a lecture on prewriting (try 4 techniques: mind map, freewrite, outline, brainstorm) and then an in-class benchmark essay – ungraded – using an old exam question. Class#3 we will go back to those first stories and morals/meanings/abstractions, and improve on them, brainstorm/prewrite with them, add description, etc and rewrite for the first real assignment. So that takes me up to class #4 with no textbooks and I can lecture/improvise endlessly and interestingly using all that as anchor points. Brainstorming and mindmapping as a group will be a good icebreaker. Personal narratives, anyone should be able to tell, and the “abstraction/generalization” plus description should kick it up a level in thought/writing quality.

In there somewhere I will go on about “register” and audience, and how talking in different levels of formality is code-switching between different languages which depend on the situation and audience and your goals. That might could be a whole class and would be super valuable. Maybe an exercise of writing the same narrative 3 different ways – tell it to your boss’s boss, tell it to your best friend over IM, then.. maybe take someone else’s IM chat story and tell it formally in 3rd person. We will read stuff by Aung San Suu Kyi (from Letters from Burma (big pdf if you are curious).

I decided to go with google groups for the class’s online component, or at least its most basic manifestation. IN fact I might have to make class#4 in the computer lab and make them all sign up on the list and create profiles and write emails. Hmmm, there’s a thought!

Then I want to move quickly out of personal narrative and into “how to”, summary, synthesis, etc. And then whole 2nd half or 2/3 of the rest will be argumentation and research paper.

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Name pronounciation guide

Got my class roster, and I figure it’s good homework to listen to some Vietnamese names from this handy name pronunciation guide… not that it’s that hard but for 5 minutes of effort, I’ll be that much less of an ass.

Daily Show darth vader

Jon Stewart tries to talk to Dick Cheney in a way he’ll understand in this hilarious clip.

The more I’m working the more I blog

Oh I can’t look at this giant document any longer and must blog or go mad. THE PRESSURE.

So the harder I’m working the more extra thoughts squeeze around the corners… here’s a couple:

Cat in special cat washing machine – Oh my stomach hurts from laughing! Oh the poor cat! But I’m still laughing.

I was thinking of how my friend Jam does this thing of thanking people for stating boundaries and how that’s really cool. He did it for when I’d say “I’d rather do this than that” and he did it if I said “Wait, not like that, like this” or “ouch”. What a concept – giving people props (instantly – in the moment) for telling you a limit or a boundary or a “no” – Because of course it is an honor & a gift – Anyway it seems like a good principle to apply in my own life & in relationships.

Those are two thoughts that just don’t belong together… “ouch” + “thanks for letting me know” plus the cat in washing machine….

Great post on communities, disintegration, Burning Man(TM)

Just quickly because I have a ton of work to do – and can’t do this justice – but a note anyway.

Burning Man isn’t directly my community but I’m peripheral to a lot of people who are part of it and so I feel its effects. If you at all care about Burning Man or that whole sort of thing… Go and read this post on community formation and disintegration by Chris Messina. You don’t have to care about Burning Man at all to understand the stuff he’s talking about, though — the ways that social ties, groups, friendships, collectives, and movements form and when it’s best to move on from them or destroy them… because they aren’t living the vision of their creators anymore. This concept is central to arguments like M. John Harrison’s about rpgs and some of the controversies around fanfic — who owns the grand imaginary – when collectives and communities start creating stuff – at a time with very odd ideas about the ownership of ideas.

Think of how “girlpower” is now a saucy thing printed in pink sparkles on slutwear for 6 year olds… From a part of the riot grrl movement… partly co-opted but maybe still on some deep level permeating things. (Not how we would have wanted it to, and the riot grrl movement’s deliberate undoing of itself was not entirely successful in blocking commoditization – nor will any Burning Man attempt be successful in that way no matter how the legal battle turns out, though it could be mitigated. Too late for that!)

The strange thing is that it’s not strange at all to fight about language, community, ideas – it’s central to revolutions & nations – authenticity, authorship and authority. Thus the battle crystallizes in a fight over the ownership of a set of words (the trademark of Burning Man). And in every revolution & movement that spreads, this happens. From bands that break up – to huge-scale politics. Words become hugely important.

Formalities and jobs

Making a syllabus is harder than it seems. I read over my “faculty mentor”‘s giant document and felt it would not Do for me as it was super hard-assed to the point of being impolite and mean. That’s just not my style. And JM’s documents are quite amazing and useful but I can’t just copy them flat out, either. (Nor her pace with the million tiny assignments, no matter how well it works. At least not yet.)

I don’t think I mind at ALL, for example, if someone sleeps through my class. We have to take attendance, so they have to show up — and if they’re there, even if they conk out partway through the class, in theory they might have heard something useful. Who am I to get a giant bug up my ass that it’s “disrespectful”… !!!

Plus, as if I didn’t pass out in many classes, even when sincere and interested! Sometimes from having been dumb, but other times from being sick or plagued with insomnia.

So I think it would be civil and respectful of me to cut the students a little slack…

It’s in requiring them to do the actual work that I’ll be a hard-ass.

The new hire orientation was long & boring (3 hours, no food) but had its interesting aspects & moments… I enjoyed watching the Dean’s face to see her reactions before the other administrators would stand up to talk. You could see clearly what she thought of them and who was going to be slightly annoying or long-winded. The librarian was the perkiest, with huge pride in her new library building and how the students can check out laptops and there’s open wireless and you can handily get to all the databases from home (YEAH BABY YEAH). The records guy was the wonkiest as he explained the MASSIVE OVERHAUL OF HOW THINGS ARE DONE… I liked his nerdy bureaucrat drive for proudly efficient processes and how his voice dripped with bitter loathing as he made fun of the Old Ways last semester when to get your ID card you had to get a form signed, and pay, and get a receipt, and get the photo, and then do something else, in 5 different places. You rule, smart bureaucrat dude who fixes the insanity of the system!

During the union moment I felt unexpectedly fierce and teared up a little bit as it really hit home that I get benefits and a union and that the union fought successfully (in quite recent memory – in the last 7 years or so) to get those benefits for part time teachers. So, I have fab benefits through Rook but given my past difficulties in life it felt amazing and beautiful to have even crappy benefits guaranteed. & that they’re fighting to un-fuckup the whole really bad system of temp-worker faculty. I signed the form to get the free life insurance coverage and of course wished not to die, but imagined that if I did at least Moomin would get this $12 K someday and would know someday how I thought of him as I signed… And wished to protect him forever… And I hoped he would be proud of my working at all the different things I have worked at and will. (When I could be doing more mom-things instead. The times I’ve said “We have to hurry up…” or “No honey, I can’t, I have to work.” or “I was working really really hard and forgot, I’m sorry.”) Sometimes I try to explain what his grandmas do, but there’s no way to convey what that *means*… Until he’s older and will look back and get it.

Sentimental thoughts like that overcame me – it’s been a long time since I’ve had a job and it’s really nice. I have other possibilities too which are super exciting, & we’ll see, etc. Another huge knot unclenches.

Oh and … why yes… I did feel like a huge blot of mohawked punkitude on the face of the be-suited minions… thanks for asking. No one seemed to mind on the surface, but there was a vague air of unsettled-ness hovering… of tension and perhaps the questioning by some people of other people’s questionable decisions. But of course they will find how much I kick ass and all will be well.

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I know you’re up there, blogosphere

IMpression of Bush in fake State of the Union speech by James Adomian – very hilarious – link from Minnie. OMG. Horribly funny.

The French do not have a word for entrepeneur! aaaaa every line is more ludicrous than the next. just like his actual speeches.