Professor J's Place

27 September, 2007

Don't Ask Don't Tell, Iranian Style

"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals."

Salon dot com has an interesting article here about the significance and danger of naming things. It reminds me how powerful a thing is language.

Salon article

26 September, 2007

Dangerous and Entirely Too Personal

I was talking to my friend Michelle (an RN) today about how lousy I feel, and she asked me how my blood sugar is doing. "I don't know," I replied, "I ate well today, so it should be fine." Of course, I should know. I should be testing my blood every day. It is, as Michelle reminded me ever so gently, very important for a diabetic to monitor her glucose levels.

And, of course, I should be on a healthy diet. I did take a step in that direction yesterday, when I rejoined weight watchers. This is good. Now I'll go by a pharmacy later today and pick up a glucometer.

So why am I posting this personal stuff? To keep me honest. I made a promise to myself this morning to lose 24 pounds in the next 90 days before Christmas. That sounds like a great deal of weight, but it is an average loss of two pounds a week. I can do that if I work at it. So expect me to post about eating and exercising and all of that boring stuff over the next few months. And the occasional encouraging word would be much appreciated.

Labels: ,

GI Bill--blasting open the academy doors

On my way to work this morning, there was an article on Morning Edition about the original GI bill and the changes it made in America and in individual lives. I was stunned by the sheer numbers of Nobel and Pulitzer winners--not to mention the other great contributions made to our culture by veterans who would not necessarily have gone to college without the bill. I think that is interesting.

Susan and I were talking yesterday about college tuition in exchange for national service (not just the military). Of course, these days we're not even willing to spend the tax dollars on a GI bill of the scope of the old one. We still give money for school, but it is spare, indeed.

Here I go again, willing to spend our tax dollars in yet another way. Ah well. What do you expect?


24 September, 2007

New College Try--NYT editorial

Personally, I favor the idea of two years of college free at state institutions for anyone with a "B" average in High School. But then, I always was a bleeding heart liberal. NYTimes proposal

Labels: ,

Teaching Empathy

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to read a short piece of writing by my young friend Stella (16 I think). It was a little thought experiment in which she explored the idea that plants might have feelings. I was really touched. Empathy is the one thing I think needs to be taught more often. People my age and older often fuss about politeness--but it is empathy that is the root of all good in this world, including politeness.

How does one teach empathy? Does it have to be done early in life? Is it something you are born with? I don't know. I'm just proud of Stella for being that kind of a girl.

Labels: ,

21 September, 2007


It's time to get back to the woods again. I long for a few hours just feeling the honest sweat of a walk on dirt and rocks. I long for the air that somehow feels fresher and more wholesome than that of my suburb.

Unfortunately, I seem to be drowning in papers this weekend, so I doubt I'll get much of an opportunity to walk in the woods. If I'm lucky, I'll get to take the dogs to the dog park or get a walk around the neighborhood. Heck, maybe I'll even mow the back yard (let's not get carried away, here!).

Autumn, come quickly!


French and Saunders--Sex Skit


19 September, 2007

Writer Montage


16 September, 2007

My Liberal Identity

Social Justice Crusaders, also known as rights activists—believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Thanks to Mark for this idea. The test can be found at

Labels: ,

13 September, 2007

reading and time

Well, I have finished The Blind Assassin. Wow. What a book. If you haven't read it, I strongly suggest it. Now I am reading Prodigal Summer and Blink. In the car, I'm listening to Love, by Toni Morrison.

This evening, Susan and I were talking about discipline. Actually, I was talking about the need for me to become more disciplined with my writing. Everybody says that's what you should do--make writing a priority. I get caught up in working and in collapsing in front of the television. I tell myself I don't have time to read or write or think big thoughts. And, I am learning that I believe what I tell myself. I am going to start telling myself that I have plenty of time to work, grade papers, play with the dogs, exercise, spend time with Susan and Morgan, play cards, write poems and essays and short stories, and read. Other people seem to find the time. Well, I have enough time, too.


10 September, 2007

Teaching with Technology -- GSSW 2007: Tips for setting up a class blog

Teaching with Technology -- GSSW 2007: Tips for setting up a class blog

Resistance in Education

Last week was a good one for me as a teacher--it served to remind me that learning occurs when there is resistance to what is being taught. Sometimes it occurs best that way.

Last Wednesday, in my evening World Literature class, one of my students complained that Gilgamesh was "stupid" and "meaningless." If you've read my blog, you know that Gilgamesh is fairly significant to me personally, so them's fightin' words. It turns out that it was the character Gilgamesh that bothered my student. It was his hanging on to his grief and acting like he was the only person who ever lost another, that bothered my student. I like to think we both learned something Wednesday. I think I learned that sometimes resistance comes as a result of not having the tools to appropriately analyze a text. My student simply did not have the vocabulary to critique; he thought "criticize" and "complain" were synonymous. I was also reminded that our personal response to characters often colors our understanding and appreciation of a text. I remember a fellow student hating the Great Gatsby because the characters were jaded and spent. "But that's the point," I thought! And Gilgamesh deals directly with the issues my student raised. It IS self absorbed and self serving to act as though you are the only person who has ever grieved: it is a lesson that Gilgamesh has to learn. While I learned about patience (which I was sorely lacking) and understanding, my student learned (I hope) that critique and complaint are not the same thing.

Then, this Saturday I had a post from an online student complaining about Shakespeare. I don't blame him. I don't really know how to teach Shakespeare online, but I am learning. In a face to face class, I can always show a video, which surely helps in the understanding of the text. But online, the student is faced with the daunting task of reading a play without seeing it performed. My student's complaint has really got me thinking, though, and I am writing an essay about why we should read Shakespeare. I'm hoping to get it done soon (so that this semester's class might "benefit" from it), and I will post a link to it when it is done.


07 September, 2007

Dog Fighting?

Okay, the portrait of my dog Dinah probably lets you know my stand right away. It is true: I think that the only thing dogs should fight is tennis balls. Some of my students had a heated discussion about dog fighting and Michael Vic. But there is even more to the issue. How about Amazon dot com, which claims a first amendment right to sell dog and cock fighting books and magazines?

Labels: ,

05 September, 2007

What are you reading?

My f2f (face to face) World Lit class is reading Gilgamesh. I first read this when Mom was dying of cancer. Every time I reread it, I am at another level of the grief. Someday, I think, I will write an essay about Gilgamesh as an instrument of measuring grief.

My online World Lit class is reading The Tempest. Sometimes I don't know what to do with the constant complaints about how difficult it is to read Shakespeare. This is especially difficult in an online class where I cannot show a video; it is so much easier to read the play after you've seen or heard it. So I am left wishing we could get beyond talking about the difficulty and get on with the issues raised.

In the car, I am listening to Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. It is difficult to follow listening because it is not linear. But now that I have got the hang of it, I must say once more how I do love Atwood. It is clever, funny, and devastating.

My "in line" or "waiting" book is The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan. It is a compelling story, well told. I am reading it because it is the One San Antonio One Book selection, so it was cheap at HEB--just when I needed a book to read while I got my oil changed.

And at my bedside (and this is my guilty little secret) are the Stephanie Plum murder mysteries by Janet Evanovich. Definitely cotton candy for the brain, but FUN!

What are you reading?

Labels: ,

My New Blog!

I have decided to begin a new blog with a new service in order to broaden my audience.

After all, if I think I have something important enough to say, perhaps it is important enough to have an audience beyond the two or three people who read my old blog on yahoo.

So, here I am at the University of Texas San Antonio (hence the road runner [our mascot]).

I am teaching two sections of Composition I and two sections of Composition II. At the University of the Incarnate Word, I am teaching one section of Composition I and two sections of World literature. It is a FULL schedule. I was thinking about it this morning, and I realized that I am teaching approximately one hundred sixty (160) students.

I remember once pontificating to someone that CLEARLY High School teachers could not teach writing well because NO ONE could teach writing well to one hundred fifty students. Oops. Sometimes you should be careful what you say. Now I get the opportunity to find out if it is possible to teach this many students and to actually teach.

So, what do you think, my academic friends? Is it possible? Do you have any pointers?