Month: February 2013

  • The Beginning (Almost)

    And in other fun news, Stephen and I have both accepted full-time teaching jobs at [a Happy Little] College in [our future town], Alabama.

    We’re both grateful for the providential circumstances: two full-time jobs at the same place, a college that is strengthening its ties to the church to which it is affiliated, south of the Mason-Dixon line, terrific colleagues (from Duke, even!).

    I’m grateful that I’ll have the first full-time, contract-enabled job of my entire life.  And before I’m forty!

    None of us are looking forward to the move itself (except, perhaps, Theo, who sees almost everything in life as an adventure), but we’re all looking forward to this next stage of life.

  • The End

    I turned in my dissertation yesterday.

    I’m not done yet–still have some citations to clean up and revisions to finish and the defense to go–but a huge, huge step in the right direction.

  • WIP Wednesday

     What am I working on today?


    How ’bout you?

  • In Which I Go All TV Snob While Showing My Mercenary Side

    Okay, here’s the thing.

    I find the writing and the acting on Downton Abbey to be exceedingly poor.  (There are two, and only two exceptions: The Dowager Countess, who gets all the best lines and has pitch-perfect delivery, and Mrs. Hughes, who is an island of quiet sensibility in an ocean of telenovela.)

    The best writing choices they make are the ones where crucial plot points and conversations happen off-screen, because they couldn’t possibly write them as well as crucial plot points and conversations need to be written.

    Still, I am forced to admit: if I were an actor starring in the TV equivalent of the Harry Potter, I would not, I repeat, not ask them to write my character off.  For any reason.*

    I mean, yes, okay, Mark Hamill and poor, poor Bob Denver.  But, still, even if it were my fate to become unemployable after being “that girl that was in Downton” for the rest of my life, I’d take it.  (Specifically, I would take the paycheck and become a real estate tycoon who dabbled in just enough philanthropy to pretend that I wasn’t a poor use of oxygen.)

    I’m not surprised that sometimes people die in the Downtonverse.  (Is that a spoiler?) I’m kind of glad of it, actually.  But I can’t fathom asking to be killed off.

    “Can’t you send us off to check out Lord Grantham’s holdings in India or something?  Just, you know–give me a year or two off.  And then you can bring me back in with a nice diversity-enhancing new valet or a new lady’s maid for the wife or something.”

    * In case my friend Biped is reading: equivalent societal phenomenon, not equivalent literary and cinematic achievement.  Fair enough?

  • Crazy People at the Pizza Place

    Okay, all you people at the pizza place tonight, here’s what actually happened with the nutsoid family in the center of the room there.

    See, the five-year-old–let’s call him Leo–is a little antsy.  Sometimes he can’t sit still in a restaurant seat.

    So sometimes his dad–let’s call him Beaven–makes him sit in a booster seat.  That’s how he gets Leo to sit still.

    Now, sometimes his brother–let’s call him Guy-Jack–gets a little impatient with Leo. It’s understandable, given how antsy Leo is.

    So what happened tonight was this: They were all watching the Duke game.  And all of a sudden, Leo started crawling under the table.  Under the table!  In the restaurant!

    Well, Beaven immediately went to the wait stand to grab a booster seat.  Because, you know, under the table.

    Guy-Jack started grabbing Leo and trying to drag him out from under the table.  Beaven came back with the booster seat and started fussing at Leo.  Leo started screaming, “STOP IT EVERYBODY!”  Everyone’s decibel level was increasing, and even Mom’s (let’s call her Zara) gentle, “Oh, Leo, it’s just so that you can see the TV better” wasn’t having a calming effect.

    Suddenly, Leo screamed, “IT’S THAT FRIGGINDARN BAD COMMERCIAL!” at the top of his lungs.

    It wasn’t quite on the same plane as the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally, but it was close.

    ESPN, in complete defiance of the families who would like to watch some sports with their five-year-old kids, insists on playing violent, suggestive, and just plain wrong commercials during their sports programs.  This infuriates Beaven and Zara, but they’ve tried to teach their kids to look away during the nasty ones.

    Leo, who is capable of occasional flashes of obedience, was trying to be a good kid and hide from the friggindarn bad commercial.

    Bless his heart.

    Zara didn’t get a chance to explain this to everyone in the restaurant before she left.

    So, if you were there, she just wanted you to know.  That’s what happened.  Don’t judge me, as Guy-Jack (in common with all his cohort) likes to say.

  • Lotsa Cute

    Whole lotta cute happening around here lately.

    Brothers being cute.

    Widdle baby being cute.

    Cute things being made at school.

    Cute (or something) things being made in the kitchen.

    Cute graduate-student-to-be.

    Hope your weekend has some cute in it.

  • New Fine Print

    In part inspired by a post someone shared on Facebook, I’ve updated the legal language in the right sidebar.

    The first four paragraphs are my attempt to remind people that things like copyright and academic integrity exist even in cyberspace.

    I feel I ought to explain the last paragraph, however, especially for those who don’t know about the economics of “free” content-generating media (like blogs, network TV, and those local magazines near the restrooms in the Barnes and Noble).

    If you’re between 22 and 50, you can stop reading, because you all already know this stuff.  If you’re under 22, you also probably know it, but you should read anyway, because I doubt you’ve ever thought about it.  Anyone over 50 who starts reading and thinks, “I already know this stuff” should pat himself on the back for being more tech-savvy than average.

    Amazon affiliate ads: Amazon affiliates are everywhere.  If you make a purchase at Amazon after clicking there from someone else’s site, someone will get a wee little kickback from that.  It may be the individual writing the content (like me) or it may be the website host (like Xanga or Blogger) or it may be the social media platform (like Facebook or Ravelry). 

    Individuals, sites, and companies with integrity will let you know this.  Ravelry, for example, lets you know every time you click the link.  Bloggers may let you know with an occasional post or by fine print like the paragraph I’ve just added to the right.

    Apparently, there’s enough money to be made in Amazon affiliate revenue that people have come up with strategies to boost their revenue.  Some of these are more frown-inducing than others.  Some people will try to disguise their affiliate links by using url-shortening services like  Some social media platforms and website hosts automatically disable affiliate links and replace the affiliate code (the part of the url that tells Amazon whom they owe the kickback to) with their own.  Some people make sure to write blog posts that give them an excuse to include an affiliate link.

    And then there’s people like me, who don’t make enough in affiliate revenue to justify blogging at all.  If anyone is worried that Amazon affiliate links might make me “sell out” to “The Man,” I offer my solemn vow: if I ever make more than $100 a year in Amazon links, I will include a notice on this blog that it is a for-profit website.

    Amazon only offers this kickback with a purchase: I don’t make any money when you click but don’t purchase, and I don’t make any money simply by having the links there.

    If I understand the terms of my agreement with Amazon correctly, I am allowed to solicit your use of this program.  I might say, for example, “Hey, if you’re going to do your Christmas shopping at Amazon, please consider clicking through this site!”  I don’t recall ever having done that, because it always seemed a little off to me.  It strikes me, however, that it might be a helpful way to educate less tech-savvy surfers.  It might also be a way to be more transparent about how your site operates.  I have a hard time imagining how anyone could be taken advantage of by Amazon affiliate links, but I suppose it’s possible: the piece I linked above talked about a popular blogger who solicits personal donations while claiming to be “ad-free.”

    Google ads are also everywhere.

    Google ads may also generate revenue for the content-producer (the blogger like me or the dad who puts up videos of his toddler’s infectious giggle on youtube), for the website host (like Xanga or Blogger), or for the social media platform (like Facebook).

    Unlike Amazon affiliate ads, Google ads generate revenue on both a per-impression and a per-click basis.  Google counts the number of times someone sees an ad on your site and compensates you a wee tiny little bit.  If someone actually clicks on an ad, Google compensates you a little bit more.

    Unlike Amazon, Google doesn’t have a set, published compensation structure.  There are more variables than with Amazon links, and not all of those variables are published.

    Apparently, there’s enough money to be made in Google ads that people do some naughty stuff to generate revenue; there is a bit wider range of naughtiness here, because the revenue is not limited to compensation for actual purchases generated.  They write robo-clicking programs, they ask people to click their ads, they put ads on pages with protected material (movies, TV shows), etc.

    And then there’s people like me, who don’t make enough in ad revenue to justify blogging at all.  If anyone is worried that Google ads might make me “sell out” to “The Man,” I offer my solemn vow: if I ever make more than $200 a year in Google ads, I will include a notice on this blog that it is a for-profit website.

    My agreement with Google specifically prohibits me from encouraging clicks on my Google ads: I can’t say, “Hey, click on my ads so that I can get more money!”

    I’m talking about these agreements here not to draw your attention to the fact that your clicks do generate revenue for me, but to alert you to how the internet works:  The content is “free” for the consumer only to a degree.  You are “paying” for your entertainment by consuming ads along with your encouraging mommy blogs, your news (and “news”) articles, your free aps and Facebook games.

    So.  There we are.  I have ads, and they generate revenue for me.  In my case, it’s less revenue for me than it costs to have a blog at all, but it’s still there.  It may have some hidden effects on me as a blogger: I may write a crappy post, just to have something there so you’ll keep coming.  I may write about every book that comes across my path, not just the ones worth talking about, so that I’ll have an excuse to include an Amazon link.  I may say something scandalous just to provoke activity in the comments section–more activity means more impressions!  I think the effect in my case is relatively small.

    But there may be sites, bloggers, people, industries, platforms for whom the effect is quite large.  It’s worth mentioning for that reason alone.

    Can you do me a favor, if you made it this far?  If you didn’t know how these ads worked, would you mind letting me know in the comments section?

    And I will confess: I’m an amateur at this.  If you know something about my ads that I don’t, would you mind letting me know in the comments section?  If there’s more nefarious behavior that I should be aware of, I would really appreciate you telling me.

  • And With All Thy Getting . . .

    I love this:

    Lehigh alum sues college over bad grade

    I love so many things about it.

    I love that a student who graduated with a masters degree and who found gainful employment because of it is suing because it wasn’t the degree she wanted or the career she planned on.

    I love that a student who received a full-tuition scholarship for undergrad and graduate school, because of her father’s employment there, is suing the school for not adding a GPA benefit to the tuition benefit.

    I love that a grown-ass woman is endangering her father’s career because she can’t hack it in her own.

    I love that Lehigh continued to pay her tuition benefit and to employ her after she sued them, and that she saw no problem with admitting that on the stand.

    I love that, as one of my good friends pointed out, this petulant and vindictive woman is suing to be able to have a career in counseling

    I love that she thinks anyone will want to employ her after this public temper tantrum.

    Mostly, I love that I have such a perfect example to point to when people ask me the difference between getting a degree and getting an education.

  • Memoirs

    Okay, this is going to sound too tepid to be called a recommendation, but it really is meant as one.

    The trouble is, I’m not all that into memoirs.  This is probably an excellent showing in that genre, but it is not excellent enough to make me forget that it’s a memoir.

    Don’t pick it up for the writing.  God’s Hotel is not elegant or well-organized or even (I’m sorry to say) impeccably grammatical.  It sometimes has the clunky feeling of a hurried sermon: “And what I learned from that is . . .”

    And nothing about it is particularly novel or hard-hitting.  No stunning revelations of clandestine political maneuverings or ancient medical secrets, no plan for sale, no new discoveries to report.

    But it is thoughtful and good-hearted, and that makes it worth reading despite its shortcomings.

    Perhaps to call them shortcomings is a little hasty.  The author, an MD who worked at one of the country’s last almshouses while earning her PhD in medieval medical history, does have a genuine contribution to make, and her writing mimics, almost enacts, that contribution.

    Her clinical experience at a hospital for the poor in San Francisco and her research interest in Hildegard of Bingen’s medical practices combine to train her in the virtues of what she calls Slow Medicine.  She finds the efficiencies of modern “health care” (a pejorative term whose provenance and contrast with “medicine” is never fully explained) to be less effective and more expensive than a medical system that has sufficient “give” built into itself.

    She has several stories to that effect–stories of the give, the time formerly built into the practice of medicine.  The story of the knitting head nurse was the sweetest, but all of them called to mind the sort of old-fashioned, idealized medicine that all of us want to have practiced on us but none of us feel we can afford (much less afford to give away to indigents).

    More effective than any of her stories, however, is a deft little touch that appears two or three times in the narrative.  Learning that something important would happen for a patient at a particular time, she “kept track of the time” so that she could show up.  It struck me that only someone who does not live by the clock, whose every working or even waking hour is not ordered by that mechanical tyrant, notices when she has to remember a particular time.  What a gift, indeed.

    The occasional clunkiness of the writing or the modesty of the thoughts advanced are, perhaps, part of the author’s contribution.  One doesn’t need perfectly elegant prose, impeccable grammar, stunning insights, or shocking revelations in order to have something worth writing about, any more than one needs the most modern equipment, gleaming chrome facilities, elegant artwork, and high-powered specialists to do medicine well.

    So, this is worth a read.  It is thoughtful, though not necessarily thought-provoking; idealistic, but not necessarily idealized; sensitive, but not remotely saccharine.  It is not as engaging or as informative as, say, an Atul Gawande book, but it is a different kind of book.  I think it might be growing on me.

  • Clearing The Air

    I just had a snarl-inducing, non-marital thing come up that had me griping at Stephen for No Good Reason.

    And then I got on Facebook to clear my head.  As I scrolled down my newsfeed, I was reminded of all the things Other People’s Husbands do that Stephen doesn’t.  (No, no–it wasn’t one of your posts.  Somebody else’s.  I promise.)

    So I listed them.  On paper.  (Well, electronic paper.)  There were lots.  I didn’t even hit the biggies, like, Stephen isn’t an axe murderer and Stephen doesn’t have a mistress and Stephen doesn’t do illegal drugs and Stephen can compose a grammatical sentence.  I only hit the ones that my current newsfeed reminded me of.  (Okay, so maybe the grammar one did occur to me.)

    Stephen doesn’t impulse cars or motorcycles or boats or suits or anything that costs more than five dollars.  He has never purchased an inoperable vehicle.
    Stephen hasn’t abdicated responsibility for the cleanliness of our home.
    Stephen doesn’t treat me as if I were an incapacitated dependent or a domestic servant.
    Stephen has never ignored my professional goals.
    Stephen doesn’t snore.
    Stephen doesn’t make me do all the kids’ activities, nor even assume I’m the default activity coordinator.
    Stephen doesn’t have or want a job that keeps him away from us all the time.
    Stephen didn’t abandon the life of the mind when he graduated.

    The list is much longer, actually, but if I kept going, some of you might accidentally think I was talking about your husband.  (And I’m not.  I promise.)

    But, really.  Have you ever made a list of all the things your spouse doesn’t do to annoy you?  (Not all of the ways your spouse annoys you by his or her inaction, but of all the things that you have no annoyance to report of because your spouse doesn’t do them.)

    It’s easy to make the bad kind of list.  And if you work hard enough, you can even manufacture things to put on that list: how easily do things go from the Things I Noticed And Not Because I Like Them list to the Things That REALLY Annoy Me list?

    One really should make this other kind of list from time to time.  Even if you’re not the “grass is always greener” type, it’s helpful to remind yourself of your spouse’s virtues and the places where your personalities mesh well.

    Incidentally, not all of the things on my list were virtues.  In fact, for other women, they might positively be vices.  That is to say, some of the qualities that I praised in my husband, some of the negatives he avoids, are not negatives to other women.  Some families positively enjoy a busier lifestyle than ours, one that would drive me crazy; some families would find our two-working-parents lifestyle insane or even immoral.  Some women, apparently, don’t respect husbands who change diapers.   ( :incredulous stare: )  Some women want to be taken care of and have the burden of decision-making kept from them.

    So this list is as much an exercise in self-knowledge as it is in spouse-appreciation.

    Make this other list.  Today.  Use your FB newsfeed, if you need to.  (But don’t tell your friends.  They won’t appreciate it.)

    Consider writing it on paper and giving it to your spouse, if he (she) won’t read it as a list of Things He (She) Better Never Do Lest You Turn On Him (Her).  (If your relationship has deteriorated to that point, just start with one a day. “Honey, you know, I was reading so-and-so’s complaint about his wife on FB, and it occurred to me that you would never criticize me like that in public.  I appreciate that about you.”)  It might be an interesting conversation-starter.  But even if the conversation never gets farther than “There are a lot of things I really, really appreciate about you,” it’s a worthwhile one.