Wednesday, November 28, 2007

- I'm busy. Again.
- The cold is starting to lessen up, so thank God for that.
- I like holding conferences with students better than I like teaching in front of the whole class. Do most teachers feel that way?
- I had forgotten how good oatmeal cookies can be. Ooh, yummy...

Monday, November 26, 2007

- Is it a bad sign when you wake up to the song "Don't Fear the Reaper"?
- I got in the car this morning to find the gas gauge on empty. I drove the car all over town yesterday and didn't notice at all. Scary. I was afraid to be late and so wasn't planning to fill up on the way to school, until I was driving and noticed the needle dip down to the black region below empty. How many miles can you drive a car when it gets to that point? That might be an interesting experiment for Mythbusters. Not for me on a Monday morning, though. I finally stopped at a gas station. $43! but that's another story. I've never run out of gas before. That would have been embarrassing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The NY Times explains the high cost of health care in America:

Almost all economists would agree that the main driver of high medical
spending here is our wealth. We are richer than other countries and so willing
to spend more. But authoritative analyses have found that we spend well above
what mere wealth would predict.

This is mostly because we pay hospitals and doctors more than most other
countries do. We rely more on costly specialists, who overuse advanced
technologies, like CT scans and M.R.I. machines, and who resort to costly
surgical or medical procedures a lot more than doctors in other countries do.
Perverse insurance incentives entice doctors and patients to use expensive
medical services more than is warranted. And our fragmented array of insurers
and providers eats up a lot of money in administrative costs, marketing expenses
and profits that do not afflict government-run systems abroad.

The editorial goes on to give some surprisingly nuanced solutions for changing the health-care system based on actual research. Imagine that. I still think a single-payer system is the way to go.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I woke up to a beautiful snowfall this morning--fat spiraling flakes, a thick blanket of white covering everything. Last week temps were in the 70s. El Paso weather is definitely crazy but I like it. The first thing I did was go out to take pictures. In my pajamas, even. The snow continues to fall furiously outside the window. I'm amazed. Pictures will be posted soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A lull

So somehow I've arrived at a lull. No papers to grade, a couple of reading assignments, but nothing major to turn in. I cleaned the house last week. I'm reading for fun and watching DVDs and blogging. Ah, this is nice. I even made cookies yesterday. I bought a cookie mix that requires only adding a stick of butter and an egg. I'm not against taking a few shortcuts in life. They tasted just like cookies made the regular way.

I'll tell you all a secret: I don't really like Thanksgiving. I'm a Scrooge when it comes to holidays in the past few years. When I was a kid I used to get excited about holidays, but I honestly can't remember the last time I really looked forward to celebrating a holiday. Maybe because I dread having to make small talk with family members? Or because I think most holidays are overhyped and lacking in meaning? The exceptions being things like Veterans' Day and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. But Happy Thanksgiving, anyway, to anyone who's reading this.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My new favorite song, heard for the first time driving to school/work this morning.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Capturing the now

It has been awhile since I've really reflected. Not completely true, I guess, since I can spend a good hour writing in my journal when I have the time, trying to make sense of things. But it's true I haven't updated this space much lately.

Things are very different since I said good-bye to my old job. This is a healthier way of life, I think most would agree, now that I don't have to stay up until 2 a.m. every day. It's definitely a more social way of life. Where before, I'd do my job mostly in solitude, I now work in an office with about 20 other teaching assistants. Most of us are around the same age, and we're all in classes together or have been in classes together. This is probably as close to college dorm life as I've ever gotten, or a season of the Real World--it's a great mix of whites and Hispanics, girls and guys, introverts and extroverts. During office hours, while not grading papers or meeting with students, we talk about books and philosophy, race and culture, our students, and our classes (there is one in particular which we are united in hating and can spend hours bashing). We go out to lunch and talk about our life plans, our significant others or lack thereof. It's a group that likes to talk, and a group with the brains to make conversation interesting. It has made this semester far different from the previous ones. A blast, really.

Not to say being a teaching assistant isn't work, especially on days when I get up around 5:00 in the morning and work basically continuously all day until I go to bed and close my eyes and fall asleep immediately. I have crammed a lot into this semester. Too much, I think--a class on teaching, a research methods class, a service learning project, and most importantly, I'm teaching a class on my own for the very first time. On principle, I am against cramming so much into a four-month period. Ideally, classes should be savored, readings should be thought about, discussions should be deep and meaningful. But schedules being what they are, this semester day to day has been more like, I've got three articles to read and one hour to read them. Realistically, I'm not going to get much more than the gist. Sometimes I don't have time to read at all and I go to class and have absolutely nothing to say. I hate myself for doing this.

This semester has definitely been a case of information overload. It seems up until now there has been no time to think about things, just time to do. So much has happened, and it's like I can see everything spinning around me--the things I've read, the conversations I've had--but all I register is a blur of color, not the shape or texture or symbolism. Undoubtedly, hugely significant things have happened, and I have failed to realize their significance. This is a very different state of being for me, as a person who had gotten used to there being, proportionately, much more reflection time compared to actual things happening. In a way it's fun. In other ways it is just confusing and bewildering. I know that the events of the past few months have changed me, but I haven't had time to register how just yet, which is a very strange feeling. My next post...

Anyway, so now it's getting into that time of the semester where I'm trying to decide about the future (or at least next semester). But how do you decide about the future when you have no time to think about things? Everyone's asking, What are you going to DO?

Are you going to get a Ph.D? No, not planning on it.

What is your thesis about? My God, I don't know, I have a few ideas.

Are you going to keep teaching? I don't know. *sigh*

Ah, teaching. Can I do it? Yes. Do I like it? Well enough. Is it my life's work? I don't know yet. Here you have your lofty goals about making a difference, but are you? What about next semester, and the one after that? Am I going to be happy teaching the same material to another group of 18-year-olds? Or am I painting myself into a corner?

I'm frustrated at the pace of things more than anything. I don't know why everything has to be decided now, why finishing school has to take a year and no more, a thesis project two semesters and no more, why I have to have a ten-year career plan decided on by the end of this semester. But it seems that's what people expect of you. And it scares me to think of this chapter ending, just like the last one did. What will happen then? What will I be doing? Will I be happy doing it? Hopefully I will have had time to make a thoughtful decision by then.

Friday, November 09, 2007

This is the first weekend in a long while when I haven't been overwhelmed by homework and grading. Could this mean a longer post might be forthcoming? It might...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

TIME's Michael Kinsley on Democrats vs. Republicans and libertarians vs. "communitarians":

Libertarians and communitarians (to continue this unjustified generalizing) are different character types. Communitarians tend to be bossy, boring and self-important, if they're not being oversweetened and touchy-feely. Libertarians, by contrast, are not the selfish monsters you might expect. They are earnest and impractical--eager to corner you with their plan for using old refrigerators to reverse global warming or solving the traffic mess by privatizing stoplights. And if you disagree, they're fine with that. It's a free country.

Generally, he says Republicans are libertarians as far as government regulations go, but socially they are communitarians, and Democrats are communitarians in government and libertarians socially. I think it's an interesting and mostly valid categorization, with a few gaping holes. Since when are Democrats lacking in visions of an ideal society (and attempts to legislate it)? And how much are Republicans against Big Government these days, really, in practice? As one letter writer put it in the letters to the editor, "But both parties are for Big Government; they merely differ on how to use it. Democrats would legislate compassion. Republicans would legislate morality. Libertarians would legislate neither."

Which one are you--libertarian or communitarian?

Friday, November 02, 2007

It's Nov. 2 and it feels like a warm spring day...meanwhile, they already started playing Christmas music at Wal-Mart. I'm confused.
From Judith Warner's blog post on The Daring Book for Girls:
“The Dangerous Book for Boys” spent 20 weeks on the New York
Times best-seller list and is slated to become a Disney film. If the “Daring”
book does anywhere nearly as well, then it could mark the start of a pop culture
re-imagining of modern girlhood – one, perhaps, with an emphasis on doing rather
than seeming, on growing rather than shrinking, and on exploring rather than
shutting down.
I like what Warner has to say about "toxic girlhood" and ways to combat it. I think if I had a daughter I wouldn't let her watch TV, except things like PBS and the Discovery Channel. TV = poison to girls' self-esteem, for the most part.