I feel so lucky sometimes

March 12th, 2007

It’s spring, and I’m in a good mood. Winter abruptly ended last Friday and it’s been in the 50s ever since, more or less. I saw the bulbs were up on on the patio on Saturday, although I don’t know how that happened since they were covered with a foot or more of snow up to the day before.
7 more weeks of class – Good Friday = 13 more lectures to write. Yay!

a Trixie Belden for every occasion: disappointments

February 9th, 2007

Life is full of little disappointments, as Mrs. Quimby once said to Ramona. Learning to deal with disappointments is a part of life. When others disappoint us, we must learn forgiveness and how to set limits, both vital interpersonal skills. When we disappoint ourselves, however, we must learn even more difficult lessons: humility, knowledge of our own faults, and how to rise above circumstances. Just as Trixie Belden guides the way in so many other areas of life, she helps us learn to deal with disappointments as well.
Most of the Trixies take place within the continental United States; mainly in upstate New York, but also in such varied locations as Iowa, Missouri, Vermont, Arizona, and Virginia. Only two Trixies take place outside of the U.S., in England and Paris respectively. Thus, the dedicated Trixie reader might look forward especially to these excursions into the great world. Instead, the reader confronts two valuable exercises in that great life skill, overcoming disappointment, in that neither of the books is very good.
The Mystery of the Queen’s Necklace, #23 in the series, involves a somewhat murky plot in which a portion of the Bob-Whites head to England to sight-see and track down the original of a family heirloom necklace, recently inherited by Honey. The gang dutifully tromps around to a laundry list of sights, somehow making the great monuments of England sound significantly less interesting than those of rural Iowa (see The Happy Valley Mystery). For some reason, English people are universally depicted as hostile to the Bob-Whites. The somewhat lame explanation provided for this is that the American young people were just too boisterous for English people. Um, what? When a more youthful version of myself was in England (admittedly not as youthful as the BWGs), everybody I met fell all over themselves to call me “love” and tell me what bus I needed to get on.
Further, the eminently practical and cheery Miss Trask falls for some jerk just because he has a Scottish accent, and proceeds to act mean and dopey for the rest of the book. This total Scottish stranger is allowed to accompany the group as a guide, which is just one of the things the Bob-Whites do which I would classify as ill-advised. Quite out of character for this group, in which even the teenagers act like 50-year-old Senators or something. Well, not senators; somebody really respectable. You know what I mean.
The Mystery of the Antique Doll is #36 in the series, and is therefore located in the twilight of Trixie Belden. By this time, the books were shorter, dumbed-down, and acknowledged by most as not as good as the earlier books. Only Trixie and Honey get to go to Paris, and they’re only there for like 36 hours or something. The author apparently thought a fly-by-night antique store and the interior of an old woman’s home were much more interesting scenarios for most of the plot to unfold. Every character in the book acts monumentally stupid, including an “Inspector Marcel Patou of the Paris Surete,” who is kind of an Inspector Clouseau on smack. Also, Trixie is studying to be in the “Eastern Regional Spelling Bee,” which, if you know Trixie, makes no sense at all.
Finally, says Trixie at one point: “After all, my name wouldn’t be Trixie Belden if I just sat on the steps and did nothing.” Okay, Miss Branding…I mean Belden.
Okay, so it’s fun to be critical; but I have to admit I still enjoy reading these books. Just not as much as some of the others. As disappointments go, they’re pretty minor, and I’ve long since gotten over it.

not too shabby, winter

February 4th, 2007

We’ve had a weekend of heavy snowfall and “extreme cold,” as they say on tv (current temp: 0. There is no temperature!) I went out for a little walk, bundled up like I was going on a trek to the North Pole, to see what winter’s come up with for us.
It’s very white outside. Except for the fact that there were cars driving on them, you’d never know there were paved roads out there. Snow is about knee-deep, adorning evergreens, adhering to buildings, tree trunks, and pedestrians. In the park, the pond is frozen over and covered with snow, and the ducks have left for warmer climes. Snow was still falling, muffling all sounds and rendering shapes more than 100 feet away mere soft, pleasant smudges of their former selves.
It’s days like these that make me long for the life of a hermit, living in a small, warm cabin in the middle of the snowy woods. And yes, the cabin would be magically stocked with everything I need, so that I wouldn’t have to trek out to the store.

something I’ve never understood

January 30th, 2007

Let’s say a particular college class is made up of 20 19-year-old students who know nothing about the subject of the class, and one 45-year-old professor who has studied that subject for his entire life. I would think that the best way to conduct the class would be for the professor to tell the 19-year-olds some of the things he’s learned. But no, the way it’s done is for the 19-year-olds to sit around talking about the subject they know nothing about while the professor sits, nods, and gives everyone As. This is called “learning styles.” I don’t understand.

I am not funny

January 18th, 2007

I heard on the radio that California is considering a law against spanking children under the age of 3. Penalties could include jail time or fines of up to $1000. I don’t know, putting children under 3 in jail seems kind of harsh to me, and where is a little kid going to get $1000?

one month

January 17th, 2007

Well, since I last posted, I’ve been doing all sorts of exciting things. I celebrated a major Christian holiday, experienced the beginning of an entirely new year, and since then, have erased all vestiges of the major holiday from my living room. Non-stop excitement!
What’s that you say? You’ve been doing exactly the same thing? Well then, I guess I’m not so unique. Let’s see, what else have I been up to?
I’ve started teaching another class–a World History survey. Wheeee! Also, I watched the big 24 season premiere(s). I’ve struggled with the German language in which many dissertation-related materials are written. I have made and drunk several pots of tea, checked my email on a semi-regular basis, and spoken on the phone with family and friends. One day, Andy and I ordered pizza. That was a good day.
Hope you are having a good New Year too!

It’s beginning to look a lot (less) like Christmas

December 20th, 2006

because we’re in California! In some ways it does, although apparently the weather got “cold” for our benefit–it feels like a crisp autumn day and I smile when I hear Californians say it’s cold. Other than the unMichiganlike sunny cheeriness of the weather, however, it’s very Christmasy here. Merry Christmas!

Listen to me! I know the answers! Also, I am better than you (but that’s not saying much)!

December 11th, 2006

Just thought I would try to get with the program as far as 99% of all content posted on the internet goes.
I like to think, and always have thought, that most people are very smart, and the reason that this is not always apparent is that many people prefer using intellectual shortcuts to actually using their intelligence. Such shortcuts are easy, and they make you feel good, and some of the go as follows:
1. I am capable of making fun of X belief, therefore X belief is wrong, people who believe it are stupid, and I am awesome.
2. There is a secret conspiracy to cover up the truth. The proof that my belief is true is that there is no evidence for my belief, and everyone thinks my belief is ridiculous. That just goes to show how deep the conspiracy goes.
3. X group of people is the cause of all the problems in the world. I know this because everyone knows that all members of X group believe or do X thing. They all deserve to die. To say otherwise is (insert one or more of the following) elitist/unpatriotic/just goes to show you’re on the side of the group that causes all the problems in the world.
4. All the evidence appears to point to X, but I once heard on TV or from someone standing behind me in the grocery line that Y, therefore I know that Y is true.
5. If you are a good person, you believe X, because all good people believe X. Conversely, if you do not believe X, you are not a good person. The actual content of your beliefs is irrelevant.
6. My beliefs are rational and yours are irrational. I know this because I am aware of and am capable of evaluating all of the knowledge and experience contained by the universe–including yours! Any deviation from my beliefs, therefore, can and will be attributed to irrationality.
7. I have come up with a cute and derogatory label for your belief–let’s say a “meme” or an “agenda.” Therefore, your belief is false and mine is correct.
I’m not much given to impassioned pleas, but if you are reading this and think any of this sounds familiar and realize that your writings typically conform to any of the above patterns, please, PLEASE think again. The world will be a better place if you do. Just remember, all totalitarian, genocidal regimes conform to one or more of these, and the only difference between your blog and something we typically refer to as a “regime” is a little bit of power.
I do not have all of the answers. In my opinion, there are only two things that I am justified in claiming to know, and I only know them because people smarter than me told me. One of these comes from Socrates: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing”; the other from Paul of Tarsus, “The only thing I knew among you was Christ and Him crucified.” Anyone claiming to know more than this should remember: somebody much smarter than you knows a lot less.
As an added observation for those of you who have read this far: That one guy has pledged every year, for it seems like a couple of decades, to this Christmas–and he gives as his reason, and I quote, to “save [himself] from tears”–give his heart to someone special. Yet every year, it turns out badly. I’m beginning to entertain serious doubts about his judgement regarding romantic relationships.

in defense of it’s

December 6th, 2006

Just had to break blog silence to say this:
“It’s” used as a possessive gives me the shakes just as much it does any other grammar lover. But doesn’t it make sense? If it’s “Michele’s blog” and not “Micheles blog,” why is it “its cherished political beliefs” and not “it’s cherished political beliefs”?
I suspect that ultimately this goes back to Germanic roots, as so many truly important things do.
Back to lecture-writing! It turns out that ancient Roman history contains a number of phrases suitable for shouting aloud at random intervals, to boost one’s courage and strike fear into the hearts of those around you: Sol Invictus! Zenobia! Lex de imperio Vespasiani! Go ahead, try one!

in which I travel back in time to prevent a murder

November 22nd, 2006

No, not really! Rather, I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!