Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Shades of Damocles

This week is spring break, a time when students traditionally travel to warmer climates to party. I much prefer to stay home, relax, rest, read, and catch up on movies. I'm doing some of that but I'm also doing a lot of grading. This is the dark side of teaching writing.

Here's what makes grading writing hard:

1. It's time-consuming. To do a good job and be fair, I need to make sure I'm not tired and cranky when I'm grading. That means as much I would like to work straight through and grade all the papers at once and get it over with, it's not a good plan.

2. Knowing I have ungraded papers (unfinished work) stresses me out. It's like the Sword of Damocles, or should I say "the stack of ungraded papers of Damocles"?

3. I get no sympathy from anyone outside of academia. If I try to explain why I feel stressed out and cranky my listener inevitably says, "don't assign so many papers." Hel-LO! I teach writing. I have to assign papers. You can't teach someone how to write by giving them multiple choice exams! I wouldn't survive the stress if it weren't for the support of my fellow writing instructors. (I don't think I've said this, but thanks you guys!)

Students usually don't realize how stressful grading is or how much work it is. I know my own workload should make me more sympathetic towards my students, but when they complain about the five papers they have to write for my class, I just point out that for every paper they turn in to me, I have 96 to grade. (4 classes x 24 students each = 96.)

Why am I blogging if I have so many papers to grade, you ask. Well, like all writers, when I'm under a lot of pressure avoidance kicks in. Perhaps you've heard the expression "No one has a cleaner house than a writer with a deadline." The same is true of grading. Also, I'm too tired to grade right now so I'm doing something I enjoy.

I am participating in study this semester on meditation and stress reduction. I'm afraid I'm really messing up the data. I find meditation relaxing if I don't have a lot of work to do, but I can't do it when I have a stack of ungraded papers hanging over my head. Instead of focusing on the meditation and relaxing all I can think about is how many papers I could grade it that amount of time. Finishing my work reduces my stress far more effectively than meditating. Does that mean work is a form of meditation? What a scary thought!

If feel stressed every time I have a batch of papers to grade, why am I complaining this time? Probably because I'm just tired and cranky this week. I don't know if something is setting off my allergies or if I have cold, but I feel under the weather and resent being sick during my spring break! Grading during break I expected and planned for, but being sick, especially during what should be my time to do what I want, annoys the heck out of me.

I'm sure I'll feel better soon, especially if I get a lot of grading done.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Those Darn Box Elder Bugs!

It's February. It's in the 20s with near-zero windchill. Why do I keep finding Box Elder bugs in our apartment? I could understand it when the unseasonably warm temps in December and January might have been responsible for waking them up from their long winter's nap; however, why aren't they napping again? Where are they coming from? How the heck are they getting inside? Whatever their methods, I think they've started to tell their friends they've found a great winter hangout because the other day we found a ladybug.

Do Your Own Pest Control says Box Elder bugs can show up in the dead of winter and that they like to hide in the foundation, especially on warm southern and western exposures. I have no idea what they are living on, especially in the winter, since we don't have any box elder trees! At least we've only seen about one bug a month, so it's not a infestation. It's just a weird annoyance.

Bugs, I have a message for you: this apartment ain't big enough for all of us. The humans pay the rent and this human will squish you like a bug. Yeah, it's cruel, but it's better than being eaten by a Siamese Snowshoe cat. Tell your little buggy friends: move here and you'll get squished or eaten.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Get The Real Thing

All three campuses of the University of Michigan have stopped selling Coca-Cola products because of Ann Arbor students protesting Coke's alleged human rights violations in Colombia and India. Read about it at the Detroit Free Press and UM (Ann Arbor) web sites.

Diet Coke is my favorite beverage in the whole world (regular in the morning; caffeine-free after that). I don't mind bringing my own pop to work, but I do wonder why I can not find any evidence of the alleged human rights and an environmental issues the Ann Arbor students were protesting. Without evidence, this is just a bunch of students getting worked up over nothing and inconveniencing Coke drinkers on all three campuses as a result. I know they mean well, but their protests are unsubstantiated and therefore invalid. If anyone finds any evidence of their claims I want to see it!

Update Feb. 17: Despite UM's break with Coca-Cola and the alleged human rights and an environmental violations, Coke's stock (and presumably sales) remains steady, so banning Coke from UM has done nothing to hurt the Coca-Cola company. I wonder what the protestors hoped to accomplish?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Michigan Slogans

Today I got an e-mail from brother and sister-in-law with Michigan trivia. It ended with a list of Possible New Slogans for Michigan that was so funny I couldn't resist posting it here:

The one that looks like a mitten, you moron.
Where used cars from Florida brings top dollar.
No hurricanes here.
The Orange Barrel State.
So close to Canada, you can hardly tell the difference.
We know the rules to euchre.
Got fudge?
Two Mystery Spots. No waiting.
Yes, the Porcupines are real mountains.
Soda? We say pop here, buddy.
The Midwestern "M" state without a wrestler for governor.
No riots since '67.
More than just boarded up auto plants.
Casino fever -- catch it.
Sandy beaches without severe undertow.
Happiness is a warm pasty.
Imagine an island where horse manure still litters the streets.
Water enough for any drought.
Visit Hell, Paradise, Christmas and Climax. (Can do it all the same day!)
Birthplace of Meijer Thrifty Acres.
Where Ontario is a shortcut to New York.
Gerald Ford slept here.
It's called snow. Get used to it.
Where the names of high-toned suburbs needlessly end with "e."
Deer processing available here.
Not as flat as Indiana.
Try eating corn flakes without us.
Hardly any annoying lizards or poisonous snakes. Big on flannel.
It's not the heat. It's the humidity.
Smoked fish sold here.
Good people with camping trailers.
We moved American history to Dearborn.
No toll roads and proud of it.
Our biggest bridge makes yours look puny.
Nearly went to war with Ohio once and will do it again if they pull any funny stuff.
Land of snow machines and bass boats.
#@?!* mosquitoes.
We know a place where wooden shoes are always in style.
Where lousy teams get new stadiums.
Speed limit is back up to 70, so move it!
The Red Wings State.

I thought of a couple more:

Where octopus is synonymous with hockey.
If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. It will change.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Superbowl Commercials

The groundhog was right: we got about 5 inches of snow Saturday night. Detroit cleared the snow in record time, wanting to make a good impression on all the people in town for the Superbowl. (Detroit residents: I'd be insulted if I were you! The city has shown they really can remove snow efficiently when they choose to. Their actions are saying that out of town guests are more important than you are.)

Speaking of the Superbowl, my favorite part is the commercials. I just found the Superbowl Ads site where you can watch the ads; some are also available through iTunes. This year my favorites fell into two categories: funny and TV/movie ads.

My Favorite Funny Commercials
* Budweiser. I loved the baby Clydesdale trying to pull the wagon. How adorable!
* Career Builder. We all know the guy who works with monkeys (I love those commercials!); now he has met a girl who works with jackasses. LOL.
* Aleve. Leonard Nimoy can give Trekkies the Vulcan salute thanks to arthritis-relieving Aleve.

My Favorite TV/Movie Ads
* Lost. There were several but my favorite was the guy singing something like "admit it you're hooked on Lost." Watch the Commerical on ABC!
* Pirates of the Caribbean. Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, pirates, swashbuckling -- what's not to like?

Best of all was the 2nd Annual Puppy Bowl (with Kitty Half Time Show) on Animal Planet. We watched it twice. How can anyone resist watching puppies and kitties playing? (Yes, I am easily amused.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy Groundhog Day!

Happy Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting groundhog, saw his shadow this morning, which means six more weeks of winter. Wait, seeing his shadow because its sunny means more winter? And no shadow means an early spring? I've always wondered about that, so I did a quick Google search to learn more. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club includes history and FAQ about Phil and Groundhog Day. (It's another tradition we can blame on the Germans.) Another site sells official groundhog souvenirs.

Actually, I've always suspected this holiday was created by someone with severe cabin fever looking for any excuse to get out of the house. What else could explain taking a sweet, sleepy critter out of his snug, warm den and waving him about in front of a cheering crowd? I've always felt sorry for Phil. I'd hate it if someone woke me up like that. They probably use a groundhog because groundhogs are too sweet to bite under such circumstances.

What I really want to know: since this winter has been much warmer than usual, does Phil's prediction mean that winter will really start now?