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Kipling's Prose

Another one from the papers-of-yore files. I wrote this one in spring 1998, the semester after I graduated. I ended up taking a year off between my B.A. and starting my M.A. program (fall of 1999), and I took three courses in spring 98 as a non-degree-seeking student in an attempt to stay sharp.

My assignment here was simply "write a paper about Kipling's prose." Before that, I had to write a paper about Thomas Babington Macaulay, which I don't have in electronic format. I don't know where the hard copy is either, actually. But yeah, Kipling's prose. I read SO MUCH Kipling for this paper, which is good, but the paper is pretty lousy. This is why broad topics aren't such a good idea. But the professor I had for this course was excellent -- one of my favorites -- and I think his goal for us here was breadth rather than depth.


An Undergrad Paper, Posted to Amuse

Below is a paper I wrote for an Advanced Composition course my senior year of college. It won the Phi Kappa Phi Student Scholars Forum Award at my university, and having just read it again after nearly 13 years, I guess it's an OK paper. "Short paragraphs much?" I want to ask my younger self.


I manage to use both "objective correlative" and "negative capability," make a boatload of mentions of "society," use "ironically" when "coincidentally" is the correct word, avoid the first person entirely, and provide plenty of other groaners ("Awareness of a problem in society will hasten its solution. She is simply taking the first step toward a solution: she is 'defining the problem,' as the first step in the scientific method states.").

My would-be GraphJam submission

One Room a Day

I've said this before, but I read a lot of productivity blogs wherein the writers strategize about bringing order to chaos, moving projects forward, that kind of thing. On one of them, I read about a "one room a day" approach to cleaning. The idea is that you do whatever basic subsistence-level cleaning needs to be done (dishes, laundry, cleaning up spills and Goldfish cracker crumbs, etc.), then you focus on deep-cleaning one room for about 15-20 minutes. Here's what we're doing:

Monday, kitchen
Tuesday, bathrooms
Wednesday, bedrooms
Thursday, living room
Friday, garage and cars
Saturday, dining room
Sunday, hallways and laundry room

I'm very happy with how it's working so far; I just hope we can keep it up. I'm much less stressed in a clean house.


  • I really will be rebooting the blog soon. It will be a New Year's resolution; I've had a lot of success with those in the past.
  • Today at church, one of Henry's Sunday School teachers told me that during their little birthday party (for Jesus), they'd given the children gingerbread cookies. Henry took his over to the nativity scene and put it in the manger. I relay this anecdote simply because it is SUCH a Henry thing to do. He is ALWAYS stashing food in little cups and boxes, even shoes. It's cute, but yeesh.
  • I'm almost finished with my syllabus for next semester. I'm teaching English 501, a.k.a. the T.A./pedagogy course. The last time I taught it, I had a pretty good setup going; each week we'd focus on one particular approach: process/post-process, cognitive theory, critical pedagogy, collaborative learning, etc. But now I've switched books; before, I used Cross-Talk and the Guide. Now I'm using only the Norton. I love the other books, but we decided to make the Norton a central text for our comprehensive exam reading list for rhetoric and composition, and I like for my 501 course to be not only a good preparatory course for teaching writing but also a solid survey that will prepare students (who choose to major or minor in rhet-comp) for our exam. The challenge, then, has been twofold: first, I want to keep a similar organization in which we focus each week on a certain type of pedagogy, which -- while still doable -- is not quite as easy with the new book. I think the weekly theme was helpful for the students, and I got a pretty positive response to my syllabus on the Writing Program Administrators listserv. Second, of course, is the fact that I'm due to give birth on March 26, so I'll have to compress a lot of material into not as much time. I've decided to devote the last few weeks of the class to field work; students will go and observe meetings of writing classes and keep a journal about the experience. I feel strongly that observations need to be a part of this course, as most students have not taught before, and this semester it makes sense to have the observations in the last few weeks.
  • On a somewhat related note, I have a confession to make. I have now been teaching writing and studying composition theory for just over ten years. Over the years, I have come to realize that I have no strong opinion one way or another about How Writing Should Be Taught. I honestly think that students can learn useful skills in an expressivist course, a rhetoric-heavy course, a writing-about-literature course, a current-traditional course, a cultural studies based course, etc. I can't decide if this makes me a terrible writing program administrator or an excellent one.
  • Wait, I'm going to be having a baby girl in three months? SRSLY? I feel so unprepared, even though we have everything we need and more. So much is a wild card, though: will her crying interfere with Henry's sleep? Will he be extremely jealous? How will she sleep? Will she be breech like her brother? Will I have to have another c-section? WHO KNOWS...

Doom Matrix

The following is the dream I had last night. Two immediate thoughts: 1.) definitely one of those vivid dreams associated with being in the family way; and 2.) I would totally watch a science fiction movie with this as its premise. Screenwriters, if you want the idea, have at it; see Creative Commons license.

I was in the future – around 2030-2040. I hadn’t aged, though; in fact, I think I was a few years younger and had been brought in from the past. The city I was in looked like it had gone through a disaster of some kind. Houses were partially burned, boarded up, or splintered. Rubble was everywhere. But there were some inhabitable buildings, and I lived in relative comfort.

For entertainment, people salvaged old technology from the 1990s and 2000s and played it, mostly old voice mails found on some cell phone companies' hard drives. People would listen to voice mails left by strangers for other strangers 40-50 years prior.* I listened to a message from someone inviting someone else to go to a Bible study. Another message I heard was from a woman letting someone know she had made "dime chicken," a low-budget but tasty and healthy dish, and that the person was welcome to stop by for dinner.

My job consisted of being sent into old dilapidated houses to take out an installation of equipment called a "Doom Matrix." It was a huge setup of projectors and computer processors, kind of similar in function to the holo-emitters (holodeck) on Star Trek. They had been sold as video game consoles. People had gotten addicted to them, and the machines had become self-aware, destructive, and murderous, like Skynet in the Terminator franchise.

I had, apparently, been summoned to purge the houses of these machines, which had been temporarily disabled by bombs and power shutdowns. They needed people who had a proven and utter lack of interest in playing video games, as I do. Others they had recruited for the job had been too curious about the Doom Matrix and had turned it on just to see what it was like.

* Actually, if voice mail had been available in the 1950s and 60s, I would definitely enjoy listening to old messages. I can imagine "http://oldtimeyvoicemail.blogspot.com" quite easily.

Picture it:

A car like this, going down the road...

only more beat-up with improper body work, along these lines. The car is plastered with the following bumper stickers:

"Socialism: a good idea...until you run out of other people's money"

"You can't blame Bush anymore"

and my absolute favorite:



The Semester Begins

Almost a month without a post...that may be a record. I will try not to make a habit of it.

Classes start Monday. I didn't get as much done this summer as I had hoped, but there's nothing I can do about that now. This semester I am teaching one graduate course (a composition pedagogy practicum) and, for the first time in two years, a first-year writing course. I finally feel like a credible composition scholar again. I know many may take offense to that; sorry. Of course it's not as if you're only as credible as the recentness of the last time you taught first-year writing. Many people have taught basic writing and first-year writing for decades, but haven't taught it in five or ten years, for example. It's just a personal point of view I have; I will have more confidence in my scholarship about pedagogy if I teach first-year writing regularly. I'm class-testing They Say, I Say and am interested to see how that will go.

In other news, Henry will be sixteen months old tomorrow!

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